The ultrasound examination was a simple piece of cake compared to my last experience with lubricating gel and finger puppets. This was a simple external check around the pelvic area. Only those trained individuals can make sense of what these blurry and smudge like images seem to mean. It only took thirty odd minutes and the nurse was satisfied enough to say it was completed.
The flow rate test is where you pee into a machine that looks like a portable urinal and measures the strength and consistency of flow. It’s as simple as that.
The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or examination was certainly the most interesting of the tests to date. It is set in a sterile looking all white room, with the MRI chamber, taking up to a third of the room set in the middle of it. This chamber then has a sliding bed for the patient. I had stripped down to my underwear and was given paper underwear and a gown and the do’s and don’ts of MRI etiquette – no metal parts hiding within or a pacemaker just happening to keep me alive. That was pretty much only where real life and TV compare.
I was given some long earplugs and a pair of industrial ear protectors, just like what you would see generous bum crack man digging up the road wearing. The noise in the MRI is like being under shrunk and put under the bonnet of a large speeding lorry. You cannot have any kind of conversation at all and should you have any type of panic attack its you and the panic button, they would never hear you otherwise. Now as a parent I could instantly see the advantages of one of these. The equivalent of Armageddon could be going on outside (which is not unfamiliar with warring kids) and you would be completely unaware. It fact it was so comfortable that I promptly nodded off and I knew it was a deep sleep because of the worried tapping, then vigorous shaking on my foot by the nurse after the procedure had finished.
Where can I get one of these?
It was a few weeks later when I returned to Guys. I was able to tell Dr C that I had asked pops about his prostate. He said he had an enlarged one in his forties, but they put him on medication and it was fine afterwards. Dr C said that the ultrasound and MRI scan had still not given them enough information to make an accurate diagnosis, so I had to have the big daddy of the tests – the biopsy. This time around I had a choice to make, did I want the procedure done under local or general anaesthetic. I toyed with the idea of going for the local as I understood that the recovery time is shorter than if it was done with a general.
For a few minutes there I must have been suckling on crazy juice or smoking something dodgy. Why on earth would I have even considered being awake for the procedure. Nope knock me out mate. Afterwards I looked at the biopsy ‘gun’ that is used for the procedure. It is about as thick as two fingers and goes into your secret place armed with a eight-inch needle, so lucky escape there.
The biopsy date soon came around. As I was not in the least bit nervous so there was no countdown to the operation date. I had fasted the eight hours beforehand as required but what really surprised me was that even if you had chewed some gum or a mint they would cancel the procedure. Annette stayed up to the point of no return and then went off to work. I wanted to walk but they insisted that climb aboard the awaiting trolley to be taken down to theatre (hey might as well get my national insurance worth). Two floors down and after a series of endless corridors we were finally there. Is was not the modern looking state of the art theatre that I had set in my mind. It looked like it was untouched from the sixties with an observation balcony in its ceiling. The anesthetist introduced herself and I needed to confirm my name and date of birth yet again. Once satisfied she inserted a cannular into the back of my hand and said I would feel a little coldness in my arm and I remember saying how I was going to fight it.
My ‘fight’ was as effective as a condom around a cheese grater. I woke up in the recovery ward a few hours later. Within about thirty minutes of waking up I got the OK from the nurse after I had passed some pee. I had been warned beforehand that my pee would be bloody initially but would get progressively clearer after the procedure but that could take weeks while the prostate healed itself. Whatever fears I had about having the general anaesthetic were quickly dismissed, I felt great and ready to go. I had to wait for Annette as they will not release me without someone to take me home. I got home safely enough albeit having walked for quite a distance in the station as the toilets were two floors down and a couple of hundred yards away. I also had to leg it back sharpish as our train was about to leave. That will be the two things they said not to do after a general anesthetic. Oh dear!
Later that evening I went to water the white palace and not five seconds into peeing I had gripped the sink for dear life as out of nowhere I had one of the most painful experiences of my life. The only way I could describe it would be to say it felt like there was a red-hot poker trying to push razor blades out of the king’s eye. I held my eyes tightly shut as it continued, trying not to shout out. It took me a good few minutes afterwards not only to recover but try and understand what had just happened. I found out weeks later that what had actually happened was that I was passing out the blood clots from the biopsy. Thanks someone for the heads up on that one.
With the battery of tests completed I returned two weeks later with Annette to see Dr C about the results. At worse I expected that I might have to take medication for an enlarged prostate as pops did when he was younger than me. The weekend had been lovely so I was in good spirits. After a short while Dr C called us into his office. I sat on the chair nearest to him. I couldn’t resist but I did have a quick scan for that vat of industrial lubrication from London transport but nope it wasn’t there.
“Hello again, how was your weekend” Dr C asked.
“It was OK thanks, not too bad at all” I replied, smiling. In fact, it was better than alright it was my fiftieth birthday and I spent it with the family and it was one of the most memorable birthdays. The family had made it just lovely.
“Well as you know we carried out a range of tests to get a better picture of what’s happening with your prostate.” Dr C said. I sat and nodded with my hands clasped together.
“Well it’s not good news I’m afraid. Of the 21 biopsies that we took 17 were cancerous along the length of the specimen on both sides. Doing nothing is not an option we can take”
He carried on talking for a couple of minutes. I would have to ask Annette later in the evening what he said as it just went over my head. The last bit when I snapped back in was when Dr C said at the end,
“If you wait outside one of our specialist nurses will be able to talk you through the options and answer any questions you may have”
I remember walking to the waiting area on some sort of autopilot. I sat down and tried to focus on anything either physically or mentally but failed on both. Annette held my hand and didn’t say a word.
I had cancer.
I was still blank, still thinking about everything and nothing.
I welled up and then I cried silently for a few minutes. I didn’t care who saw me. Eventually I wiped my tears with my palm and then the back of my hand. It never happened, I straightened up and I moved on.
The nurse called my name.