You may have played the machine as a child, at the very least you have seen it working. I can remember turning the air blue and slapping and banging the thing in frustration more than a few times. You deposited your coins, the machines grabber moved forward, then left, then right, then you hit the button of no return. The grabber slowly and expectantly descended into the rich sea of mouth-watering prizes. You shouted, you pleaded, begged even but ninety nine percent of the time it did nothing but grab sweet air.
But that one percent was where the grabber actually caught the prize, shook it a little and maybe even lifted it before it slipped out of the grabbers clutches and back into the abyss.
We didn’t know it then, but the machine was rigged. It was mocking us. As we walked off it shouted ‘sucker’ at us or worse. It pretended to give us a chance, hope was filling its greedy money lined stomach. It lied to us. As an adult, we can now tell them all the scientific ways its rigged against us. The grip is weak, the prizes are slippery, the prizes are at deliberate angles. You know, really kill that experience for the sprogs as only an adult can. Boo hoo.
When it comes to lying, there are two really important things to take into account. You must have a good memory to remember and maintain the lie and you really need to be careful who you lie to because you are likely to get caught out. Or in prostate cancer terminology – caught with your pants down.
Ollie was at a wedding and towards the end of it he began to feel unwell. When it got to the point where he could not stand anymore, he told his wife that they really needed to go home, and they left soon afterwards. The next morning, he called his doctor, he was in excruciating pain. The GP didn’t know what was going on and because it was the middle of Covid the GP could only make a best guess and prescribe accordingly.
Eventually the GP decided that Ollie needed to come in. In the midst of the examinations the GP decided that they needed to order some blood tests. Just as Ollie was going out of the door the GP asked him if he had ever had a PSA test. He said, he hadn’t and the GP added a PSA test to the list.
Four days later, Ollie got a call from the surgery. He needed to come back in. They had seen something in his blood but they were not sure what it was. He made friends with the digital rectal examination. He was telling me how uncomfortable it was and I smiled. When you get the 2 for 1 special offer on the digital rectal examination then come and talk to me. Well, they had a good feel and poke about but couldn’t feel anything wrong, so a week later they sent him for a MRI scan.
They detected an abnormality in the scan, but they were still not 100% sure what it was. The next step was a biopsy.
But as the advert says, this was not a normal biopsy, this was to be a special biopsy. Unfortunately, he had not been told what this special biopsy entailed.
Not a thing.
Ollie was asked to remove his clothes, oh but he could keep his socks on as he stepped into his fetching new paper attire. They then introduced him to his new friend the biopsy gun and the chair that he would be sitting in. Oh and that was when they told him exactly where the gun would be going and exactly how and what the procedure involved.
Ollie has a number of underlying health challenges and that was the reason why the consultant decided that he would do the biopsy himself. Now I will say that it wasn’t my friend Mr Cathcart but another consultant who I will not name. The reason why will become clearer later. We shall call him instead Mr Wrongone.
Once Ollie had been treated to the graphic detail of what was about to happen to him he asked the obvious question – was he going to be knocked out.
‘Grand noir numb derrière’ or if you are from North London ‘Big black numb bum’.
He had me wincing at that. I have seen the needle – sorry the knitting needle that is used. I also was given the option to be conscious during the procedure. My response was give me everything you have to keep me under and keep a brick to hand as backup. I don’t care how many people where going to be in the room or whatever industrial machinery they may need to bring in for my biopsy. Mr Cathcart underplayed it beautifully in a typical English manner when he said it was a good decision as ‘patients tend to move around a bit’.
Ollie sat in the chair, and they strapped him in. I mean they actually strapped him in, electric chair leather strap style. They then tilted him upside down in the chair. Yep, you read correctly, they spun him around like ‘Wheel of Fortune’. With the wrong pair of cheeks now being warmed under the rooms glaring spotlights, the consultant and his merry team of three held a mini conference. At this point, if Ollie had said they whipped out a checkered table cloth over his bum and got out the cheese, crackers and Prosecco, I would not have been surprised.
They told him that they were going to give him a few injections, they would sting and he might yell a bit.
Hell yes they did and hell yes he did.
They taped down his King and then he was left to marinate for fifteen minutes with a nurse to keep him company. And that she did, she yapped away to his cheeks telling them all about her recent holiday and all the things she got up to like she was at the hairdressers. Then they came back.
They told him what the procedure for the day was going to be and he was to get a front seat at seeing the procedure on the monitor.
Then he was introduced to the grabber (their words not mine) and Ollie would find out why it was called that. They were going to take samples from both sides of the prostate. He would see it going in and feel as it grabbed and tore at his prostate again and again.
I asked him if a good analogy was one of those fun fair grabber games. He said it was a good analogy but this one didn’t miss. It didn’t miss a total of 23 times. After about 45 minutes it was all over, physically anyway. Eventually a nurse came back and turned him upright. He had to sit there for a further 30 minutes to ensure he didn’t get disoriented.
He wasn’t disoriented, he was traumatized and he felt violated.
The nurse warned him that he was likely to be bleeding for the next three days. Unfortunately, in their non prep they also didn’t warn him to wear briefs as the pad would be playing snooker with his testicles.
Ollie’s wife picked him up and they went home. He would spend the next couple of hours doubled up like a baby in the sofa, the tears ran freely down his cheeks. His wife asked him what was wrong. Was it the pain, the shock, the embarrassment?
It was all three and more.
It was down to his wife to go and find pads for him as he had not been given any by the hospital.
About a week later he got a call from the hospital.
“Hello, is this Mr Ollie?”
“Yes it is”
“I am calling you regarding the results of your recent biopsy”. He knew the voice of his Consultant Mr Wrongone and this was not him but he could tell it was a black man.
“You have prostate cancer.” The unknown admin person replied.
“Sorry?” Ollie asked stunned.
“We found cancer in your prostate”
“What does that mean” Ollie asked trying hard to compose himself.
“I can’t answer that” Mr Admin replied. “The only thing I can tell you is, if we were going to rate this between 7 and 10, then you’re a seven.” He added.
“I said, what does that mean?” Ollie voice was breaking as he asked.
“I can’t tell you because somebody else will contact you and speak to you about this whole thing.”
That was the end of the call. Ollie sat in silence as the tears rolled down his cheeks for the second time. His wife came downstairs and asked him what was wrong. He told her that he had prostate cancer. His wife went nuclear. This was not right. Together they scanned Google for answers.
Ollie knew he had to tell his parents. Nine years ago, he lost one of his brothers to pancreatic cancer.
Have they caught it early? Have they caught it late? He couldn’t answer those questions himself let alone the barrage of questions he would face from his parents. He wasn’t even told what his PSA was. It was in stark contrast to the luxury I had receiving my news from Mr Cathcart in person and getting all my questions answered. Not that the sheer shock of the news I had received allowed me to ask any.
The next day he went around to his parents and told them. His mum was silent, she wasn’t giving anything away. The next day his dad told him she fell apart afterwards. That hurt Ollie deeply. He then told his other brother and sister. The day afterwards he spoke to a pastor he knew that had prostate cancer and then he called and told me.
Myself and the pastor gave him the story of our journeys but he couldn’t process it all as he knew so little about his own. He also joined a prostate cancer group on Facebook. He was listening to testimonials of other people. He was also listening to how other people are dying.
Soon he was getting information overload. Just not HIS own desperately needed information overload.