64. Her name was Shirley Annus Horribilis

2019 Finger2019 was more than a bad year. It was truly an annus horribilis for me. If it was a blind date it would be where a hairy bloke in a wig turned up, drugged and imprisoned me and made me call him Shirley. In some ways it was even worse than 2018, the year of my operation. In 2018 I only had one big ‘de-prostation’ problem to deal with. 2019 would stand out for practically one major issue per month right up to December.

I recently went to my local timber yard and found out that it will be closing forever. It has been trading in sunny Peckham for over 100 years. Not so much since the kids were born but I was a very  frequent visitor to its yard with my various plans for either furniture or woodwork projects growing up. I was very nearly a carpenter, with my love of wood and furniture making. I even attained an Institute of Carpenters qualification. However, computers would have a stronger pull.

On the same day I saw Mrs Barbara (or just Miss as we used to call her) in the local supermarket. She was every child’s favourite dinner lady when I was at primary school, over forty years ago. Back then she was this very curvy, soft and always smiling lovely woman with big bouffant blond hair. If any of us were upset (or for a quick thinking young dude with the most flimsy of excuses) she was always willing to gather you up into her perfume flooded, amble and all engulfing boobs for comfort.

I needed and accepted a lot of comfort back then.

She almost hadn’t changed. She was well into her eighties now but you could still spot her a mile off. She needed a walker for mobility but the hair, smile and beautiful trail of perfume were the same. It had been a quite few years since I had last seen her but as I stopped her to talk, she recognised me immediately.

All change.

That would sum up my year. Unfortunately, I would struggle to list the good changes or memorable achievements but it’s got to be better than giving any more oxygen to the crap that has happened.

Landed dream job, only to be made redundant six months later. Diagnosed with hypertension which has now returned to something normal with medication. My friends told me they were running the 10K Mo Running event again for Prostate Cancer, which had been inspired by my condition the year before.  I initially said I would be making a decent donation to the cause but instead came off the phone agreeing to join in the run. Up to that point I had only ever managed half of that distance. Six weeks later not only had I completed the run but in a finish time I never thought possible and the team raised over two thousand pounds for Prostate Cancer UK.

I have delivered over twenty Prostate Cancer talks last year. I enjoyed every one of them  with a healthy attitude regardless of how many people attended. If only one man per talk got tested as a result, then I did really well.

I rushed over to the states to see Pops because, on the information I had been given, I believed he was on his last legs. He certainly isn’t having hot coco bedside chats with the Grim Reaper but he does have a comprehensive list of aliments that actually got longer once I had visited.

He has bladder cancer, liver cancer, failing kidneys and needs a hip replacement. Pops and his wife seem to attend these appointments and either don’t ask any questions or don’t ask the right questions. They also don’t relay information. His wife casually informed me over tea, for the first time, that he also has congestive heart failure. I made a point of attending his doctor’s appointments and informed his primary doctor that Pops has liver cancer – something which he never knew. While I was out there, the kidney failure was upgraded to him now requiring dialysis three times a week for six hours a day.

He of course still has the non-medical conditions of selective memory and selective hearing which vary in their appearance, severity, duration and intermingle when required depending on the question or the situation.

I also finally got the final word on his prostate condition, something which had eluded me up to now.

He had a procedure called Permanent Seed Brachytherapy, which is a type of radiotherapy where tiny radioactive seeds were put into his prostate. Each one of these radioactive seeds is the size and shape of a grain of rice. The seeds stay in the prostate and give a steady dose of radiation over a few months. This was confirmed by my dad’s friend who was in the waiting room while the procedure was being done and I spoke personally to his urologist. Dads primary doctor didn’t know any of this until I personally filled him in.

While I was in the states, I missed a hospital appointment that had been pre-arranged. I had tried to change it but its impossible to get through the switchboard. As a result, I couldn’t get my latest PSA result for weeks. In the end I asked my surgery if they could access the result.

They could and the unexpected happened. It went down.

After two increasing readings of 0.06 and 0.07 this reading was 0.06. It’s a tiny change but its my tiny change in the right direction and I’m happy to take it.

I’m happy to take anything that means I can celebrate at year end.

2020 here we come. Got to be onward and upward.

Oh and Shirley, you can ……..

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