After a record breaking number of views from guest blogger Annette, I asked the only other person to be up close and personal to my journey to say a few words – Boss mum. It was only 7 pm on a weekday night so I knew she was still up. After what seemed like an eternity (It was actually a battle of wills and stamina to shift her from the TV), she answered the phone.
“Hi Mum, how are you doing?”
“I’m OK, how are you?”
“I’m fine thanks. So you know that I am writing a book about my experiences.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that!” (Erm yes you did you bought me my original notebook)
“Well I would like to interview you for a chapter”
“Peter!. No such thing and don’t ask me again because I am not going to change my mind”
Then she promptly hung up on me, without so much as a bye. Click.
Not a slam down of the phone, ‘don’t darken my door again’, ‘you are no longer my son’, kind of termination but a ‘you were silly enough to ask, I answered, stop bothering me now snooker is on the TV’ – kind of termination.
So, you readers are a funny lot. I’m here week to week sharing pain, experiences and unintended humour and it’s business as normal. Stick on a guest speaker and you all come out of the woodwork, tell your friends, read multiple times and make it record breaking.
Not that I’m jealous or bad minded. Not at all.
I told Annette about her record breaking blog and she just said ‘Oh’. I told her the next day that her blog was record breaking for the second day and you could hear her face crack into a shy smile. On day three I told her it was no longer record breaking but her new army of fans were expecting me, nay demanding, a response from me. Cue uncensored throaty/squealy type of laugh – no a cackle from said Annette and a demand for more detail.
I am not a writer.
I am just sharing an extraordinary experience. I left school with a ‘B’ in English language and that is my only qualification to writing. Whereas Annette is a writer and a very good one. She has/had a blog herself that she started years ago. So to Annette’s new army of fans here you go, her blog.
I never thought for a single second even with all the tests going on that I would hear those words from the consultant that I had prostate cancer.
To embellish a saying that a good friend of mine, Paul, said to me a little while ago.
‘Crying is good for you. It’s good for the soul to cry. It you use it wisely you can treat it like a bonfire and chuck some other hurts and/or situations on it and clear the decks’.
Like I have said before I cried like a baby and I didn’t care. Not many people have seen me cry. A couple of exes. My younger brother and older sister. We would frequently argue, and she had the delectable advantage of being able to flatten me in any way possible (which she did with wild relish and gutso) but if I so much as left a mark on her I would get a second beating from mum. Still love you of course sis. A guy in school who battered me to a pulp (I deserved it for being an idiot). Boss mum when she destroyed my small red metal tricycle, with its white seat and white plastic wheels, with a claw hammer. I had accidentally run over a neighbours foot and she decided to play wounded.
Initially I was not going to tell anyone. It was only going to be work and family. Then it changed practically overnight. Something good had to come out of this. But I had to get there in my own time. It did not mean that I wanted to share in the meantime. I didn’t think about becoming a spokesperson for PCUK or starting a blog – they came later.
There is no ‘I’ in prostate cancer.
There is no ‘us’ or ‘we’ in prostate cancer either.
What there is, like many other life changing conditions, is a sometimes spasmodic sometimes lengthy fluid like transition between the two that is generally without rules, routine or timeline.
I don’t make it up. I don’t get up one morning and say I am going to be like this or that. What I do try to do every morning is say I am going to make today a great day, a day better than yesterday. I got through yesterday, today is coming but I’m going to do my hardest to make sure tomorrow is even better. I have certainly adopted a better character than I had before and I am still a work in progress.
What I am good at being is a fraud, a cheat and a masquerader. Pretending to everyone that everything is OK and going in the right direction. I have been so good at it that I regularly fool myself so I have very few down times.
But I do have down times, rare but I do.
I have been turned into a ninety year old man overnight. My life and preoccupation is trying to peel those years back by a year every few days. My successes are as tragic as how little I have leaked from one day to another. The elation of the King growing a centimetre in a month which is generally closely followed by his evil cousin pathetic. Which is then followed by their fat, loud and brash cousin ‘man up’ .
My life now is to be distracted. If I am distracted I don’t need to worry about the here and now, that tomorrow that might not come. So I throw myself into talking, working, writing, trying to spend more time with the sprogs. Lying in hospital I needed to be distracted. Surrounded by patients who were different flavoured nuts, tubes coming out from three different places and feeling thoroughly rotten. Who can really say they would not want to watch other people being bumped off?
I did actually ask someone to ask how Annette was doing. I knew what answer I would have got if I asked – at the same time I never asked as I was too consumed with my many woes. It also turns out that message was never passed on.
I said it privately and now I am saying it publicly to the few readers I may have left after the exodus to the record breaking Annette and her blog.
I am sorry Annette and appreciate all that you have done.
As supportive or full of empathy as anyone can be no-one can really appreciate a life changing event, unless you have actually been through the same thing. It’s like me reading twenty books, watching a couple of YouTube videos and a couple of interviews and then telling a pregnant woman what her birth Is going to feel like. A friend from university told me quite recently that her dad is slowly losing his eyesight and in the next few weeks he will find out that it is permanent. Her problem is that he won’t talk about it and does not want anyone else to know. I get it from both points of view. Women need to talk and quite like doing so. Actually they like talking a lot!
Men can talk, sometimes they do like to talk but we don’t need to talk.
I made the point at PCUK that sometimes its better to read than it is to talk – everyone is different. I spoke to a couple of people and thought that I had a good talk. Truth was I didn’t know what questions to ask. I was to find out the hard way that what I actually got were high level summaries of information that they were happy to share. I didn’t know what questions to ask at the time. It meant that I thought this would be easier than is has been – I was TOTALLY unprepared for what was to follow. Someone said to me at PCUK that I might not want to give the men all of the detail of what they could have to come if they go down the same route as me. Well I tell the men that their objective is not to become like me and get tested and get ahead of the game and if they don’t this is what they have in store. I got a sugar coating and it didn’t help me one single bit.
I was down to a few pads a day and I needed a break. I needed to be something resembling a normal guy again. I booked a hotel room but then decided to upgrade to the luxury room. Instead of sleeping on a hard bed, that I therapeutically needed to sleep on at my mums for the stiches, I indulged in the total opposite. I slept on a linen flavoured marshmallow with six pillows also made of marshmallows. I was the guest in the posh room and could sit in the bar and read and have my every whim attended to. I could go for walks and window shopping where no-one knew what I had been through.
I had been a patient for weeks before then and I was certainly coming back to months of being a patient. For just three lovely nights I was not a patient.
It was a much needed ‘factory’ reset before continuing with the struggle that had only just begun.
I am sorry Annette that I didn’t stop to think of your needs.
There is another word for being selfish (non destructively) or unintentionally, when you are faced with something life changing and you are consumed with .
It’s sometimes called medicine.