Two weeks ago I had some more Basal Cell Carcinomas removed from my face.
But, instead of having it done privately here in Hawke’s Bay, I had them removed at Lower Hutt Hospital (apparently it’s cheaper or easier for NZ’s health system to pay for my travel to and accommodation in Lower Hutt than it is to send a surgeon up here).
It’s a trip I have made on three occasions over recent years – taking Mum down for similar surgery, the last time being two years ago.
Dad didn’t feel comfortable making the long drives there and back so I would take them down and take Mum to her appointments while Dad and I would mooch around Lower Hutt and occasionally go into central Wellington.
While Mum always seemed extra-stressed by the imminence of surgery, it meant I could spend some time with her and Dad – something you don’t get much chance to do as you get older. Dad and I, by comparison, always managed to have a good time while in Lower Hutt and I have very fond memories of our trips down there.
Those memories were made even more precious by my appointment being set for just over a year since Dad died. So I decided to make this trip for my surgery a bit of a homage to him.
I left Napier at ‘zero-dark-thirty’ on Monday morning, catching a beautiful sunrise over the Takapau Plains. The weather forecast for the Tararua region had not been too positive for the trip down and sure enough, the moment I left the Takapau Plains (Hawke’s Bay), climbed that first little hill, dropped down into the Butcher’s Creek valley and crossed the bridge into the Tararua district, the heavens opened and the wind roared.
I took a break for breakfast and sat out of the worst of the weather at McDonalds in Dannevirke (a regular stop on previous trips), followed by a stop in Masterton to visit some friends, then over the Rimutaka Ranges, into the Hutt Valley and to my hotel just before midday.
With some time to kill before my appointment and comfort food to stockpile, I walked across the road to Lower Hutt’s Queensgate Mall to get lunch and other necessary provisions (i.e.: donuts, chocolate etc.), before catching a bus to Hutt Hospital and going under the knife.
My surgeon on this occasion was a young Irish lady and removing five of the little BCC buggers took just under two hours.
Feeling a little tender and resembling Marv from Sin City, I took the bus back to Queensgate, before deciding to go for a wander around Lower Hutt’s CBD – Wellington’s notorious, snow-chilled southerly wind providing an uncharacteristically welcome relief on my sore face.
Queensgate had been a “base of operations” for Dad and I on previous visits, particularly our first trip some years ago, when Mum was an inpatient at the hospital for a week and we had a lot of time to kill. As a result I know the place back-to-front – especially where the food is!
Dinner came from a Chinese buffet in one of the mall’s two big food courts, followed by yet another wander around and one of two food homages to Dad.
On that first week-long trip down, Dad and I would have dinner in the food court each night before going back to our hotel. On the walk back through the mall, we would pass a Wendy’s Ice Cream and Hot Dog kiosk. Now I have a reasonably bottomless stomach and Dad would normally complain at how full dinner had made him, but whenever we went past this kiosk, he would ask if I fancied a “Shake ‘n Dog” (milkshake and hot dog combo) with him. How could I refuse? We sat on a nearby couch, ate, drank and watched the mall’s world go by.
Getting a Shake ‘n Dog became our “thing” each night after dinner that week and carried on to subsequent trips, so that was a stop I could not miss.
The next morning was cold and blustery, so I was keen to get on the road and home, but I had one more food stop to make.
Across the road from Hutt Hospital is a café that, due to its location, surely does a roaring trade. They also do a wonderful all-day breakfast of toast, eggs, bacon and chips that Dad and I discovered on our second trip down – this time Mum had an appointment like mine – travel down, in and out of out-patients, stay the night and then home. So, while she had her procedure, Dad and I would enjoy a nice cooked lunch together. It was so nice it became another of our “things”. As usual, it was lovely and I raised my coffee cup in his memory.
To break up the trip on the way home I stopped at the summit of the Rimutaka Ranges road, something I have never done before, for a wander and a nosey. The road really is a wonderful piece of engineering, clinging to the side of cliffs in a gorgeously rugged piece of natural New Zealand.
My next stop was another essential, but just for my wife and I whenever we pass through the region, at Schoc Chocolates in Greytown, followed by a pause for remembrance in Carterton and a visit to a business in Masterton I have dealt with through work for ten years, but never actually met in person until now were my last Wairarapa stops.
Another tradition Mrs In Frame and I have – a milkshake from “Tinkerbell Dairy” in Dannevirke was my last stop of the trip before skirting a hailstorm just north of the Danish-founded town, which provided the most entertainment of the last stage home to my wife and Baby in Frame.
Due to the nature of Basal Cell Carcinomas, I doubt this will be the last trip I make to Lower Hutt. But at least I now have some traditions to follow on the trip and fond memories to keep me company while I am away.