23. Work, the big talk and a slap in the face

Mic 2

Watson told me what his doctor said to him and I repeated it back to him. I did it so, loud and deliberate. As you know I am not a man of violence but I had to stop the car because I was so mad and at that precise moment I wanted to slap this doctor straight in the chops with a nice full warm catheter bag. It was such an egregious and disgusting lie and I was absolutely livid. If fact I was strangely more upset than Watson was. I began to calm down, slowly.

“Imminent prostate cancer surgery. As yet unknown return date. In my absence please contact Clare…. blah blah” That was the out of office message that I left at work days before the surgery. It wasn’t made to elicit sympathy, far from it. I remember smiling broadly when I left it because I knew it was not the done thing. Even before the surgery I was not going to let this thing win. It was the start of my openness and would save me having to explain where I have been and just say hiya I’m back.

Just to say from the start a massive thank you to my boss Claire who has been absolutely fantastic throughout all of this period. She knew about all the early tests and shared some of the worry and couldn’t have been more supportive. When I was finally diagnosed she sent me tons of info and was there if I needed to talk. She came to see me twice, even bringing me cake. Stuff soppy flowers that die a couple of days after you stick them in a vase cake is that universal gift. You would not be reading this now had she not suggested writing a blog as I had my mind set on a book. I still intend to create the book but the blog has also been really worthwhile and certainly good therapy. More importantly is that it can and has helped others.

On the first day back I didn’t even get past the security desk for fifteen minutes, they were all glad to see me and find out how I had been. One guard in particular knows that he should get tested and really wants to get tested (his words, not mine) but has been trying to build up the courage to do so. It’s a running joke when we see each other that I will ask him if he has done it and he will say that he is going to but I need to keep on the pressure.

Being back at my desk was a bit surreal. A few months earlier, when I was last here, it was just three days before the surgery. I was not physically ailing in anyway and here I am back again not ailing but in recovery. Once at my desk I only spoke about the long recovery rather than where I had been for three months so the out of office message had earned its keep.

The half days were really good. I have been down to a single pad a day for the last couple of weeks so that was a big worry removed. It was also annoying that I had made exponential progress to this point but I seem to have stuck at this final hurdle. I have upped the pelvic floor exercises to four times a day to try and solve it. I was sure to explain the urinary urgency to Claire just in case I had to dash out of a meeting in mid-sentence. My sleep pattern was still up and down, getting up multiple times in the night, but with the half days if I needed to recover it was easy to do.

There was recently a big redundancy cull which removed a number of my old friends. That left my friends Krupali, Carolee, Sandra and Carol all of whom were devastated and really concerned when I initially told them the news. Sandra, whom I have known the longest, was her concerned but measured lovely self. Krupali, who is normally quite ‘conservative’ and the softie of the bunch swore like a trooper which made me smile. Carolee, the hard nut of the bunch, sort of said I would be fine and not to worry. She did show she had a soft side however and was fantastic. Then there was Carol. When I told her she had tears in her eyes. She was so worried and concerned. She organised her church group to pray for me and sent me regular updates. She moved me the most. They were as glad to see me as I was to see them and each gave me a big hug when I caught up with them. To all of you I just want to say publicly how you were all very special and how much I appreciate you all.

No I’m not going soft. Cakes with vanilla sponge are still appreciated.

It was good to get back to a work routine even though I felt a bit rusty. The big challenge will be keeping a good diet up despite the temptations. So far it’s been OK ish. I have kept to the main eating resolutions but some of the other rubbish has crept back in and out. It’s the long term that is the challenge.

At the same time as the start of my phased return to work I made my way back to my church. Ruach City Church is a large multicultural international church set over five locations. These are Brixton, Walthamstow, Kilburn (all in London), Birmingham and Philadelphia in the United States.

The first Sunday of each month is my churches ‘Miracle and testimony’ service where the churchgoers are invited to come and talk about any miracles or special events in their life that have happened that they attribute directly to something God has done for them.  I always wanted to tell my story to the wider church as I had done previously with the men’s ministry but I also wanted to make sure that I had achieved a couple of milestones as well.

It’s normally ‘first come first served’ in that you need to position yourself near the front so that when Bishop Francis announces that its time for testimonies you can get in line as sometimes the praise and worship (singing) part of the service can overrun so they have to limit the number of testimonies they will hear. My friend Richard suggested that I should email Bishop Francis’ PA beforehand, just in case it was one of the services that overran. I did send an email but was told that all I had to do was stay near the front. Unfortunately, this was one of those services that overran, by quite a bit. Bishop then said he was only going to allow three testimonies. My face dropped as I knew this was not to be my time as there were a lot. Bishop called up three people, a senior, Samantha and could have knocked me for six – Peter Ellis.

Here is my testimony….


The first thought that came into my mind when the microphone was handed over to me was the absolute silence and the sheer number of eyeballs staring at me. There were about six hundred people in the church at the time and the service was live streamed to another two thousand. I was a bit annoyed afterwards that I had missed important bits of my story out, such as mentioning pops and that I had gotten the cancer all clear in August. The effect was immediate. After the testimony one man I know approached me in church and whispered that he had been fighting it for five years and told me to keep up the good work, I had no idea. Before I could process that revelation other people I know were coming up to me and saying that they were proud of me and total strangers came up to shake my hand.  I also started to get texts messages from friends from all over the place. I certainly didn’t feel brave, I just told my story.

The next day my friend John sent me a text to say a friend of his wanted to talk to me. I said no problem give him my number. John’s friends name is Watson and he called me, while I was driving, on the Monday evening after my testimony.

He was after my advice. He had gone to his doctors a week or two earlier and asked him for a PSA test. The doctor accompanied by a junior said the following to him,

“You don’t want to get a PSA test. They put a camera down your penis, which is very painful and invasive. They have to do it that way as it’s the only way they can get to the prostate. You cannot get to the prostate from any other way.”

I put him absolutely straight. I have heard of some surgeries and doctors making it very difficult for guys to get their PSA done but this one was the worse case I had ever heard. He said that he wished I could have been there the next time that he went back armed with the correct information.

I told him I was happy to talk to his doctor, give him my number. I was deadly serious.

A few days later Watson came back to me and said he told the doctor what I had said. The doctor was too busy to call me but he wanted the link to my blog apparently. Of course, he is too busy to talk to me but has time to read more than twenty odd blogs. Made me laugh.

Watson got his PSA test and very strangely the same way everyone else has it.

He also has a complete idiot as a doctor.


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