This was going to be a very different type of talk to the standard Prostate Cancer Awareness talk. This was for a hospital, up in north London and it was for a group that already had prostate cancer. Once I looked at the map, I then realised that it was actually in deepest, darkest, north west London and I would need to take the day off. And so the journey began….
The train journey was 30 minutes, followed by nearly 45 minutes on the tube. Outside the destination tube station, I asked someone how to get to the hospital and he said,
“Bottom of this road, follow the bus station round and take either bus A or bus B. I would take bus A personally.”
Needless to say, bus B came along and I hopped on. What followed was nearly an hour of the most boring and unappealing bus ride ever, a clear 30 minutes longer than bus A would have taken. I had kept the client informed and luckily, I had left out early enough that I was only 10 minutes late. Thankfully, none of the guests had arrived anyway. I don’t know what possessed me but usually when I travel to Guys hospital I would have my mask on. I had my mask on the train and the tube. The bus was pretty empty so I didn’t have it on then and I didn’t put it back on as I walked through the hospital. As I walked through somebody shouted out,
“Mask’s should be worn in the hospital at all times.” Just as I was about to turn around to see who the female voice belonged to, they added,
Much like most of the population I was getting too comfortable. I carried on my way down to the waiting area.
There were about 8 guys in the group and 3 women. The guys were all in different stages of prostate issues, either recovering from or about to have a treatment. One guy was about to have the radical operation and like me he could not find out anything about what he was going to go through. A couple had enlarged prostates and a couple more had had the radiotherapy and hormone treatment. My plan for this talk was to just tell my story and add related anecdotes along the way, something I could only do fleetingly during a normal talk. I have to say it was one of the better talks that I have done. I shared my experiences and they shared theirs. We spoke about how we got our various diagnoses, problems with the medical community, the present and the future. What I thought would be a 30 minute chat was well over an hour. I don’t know if it was just because it was a very different talk to my normal or because it had been such a long time since I had done one, but I would definitely say it was one of my best talks.
The talk was on Thursday, on Saturday evening I had a mild headache. By Sunday, I still had the headache but I was also feeling very week and I had no appetite. I was convinced it couldn’t be the Vid as when I got it before the symptoms were much more severe. As an act of brilliant coincidence, my brother in laws wedding was on the upcoming Friday.
I took the test.
Two angry horizontal lines eventually waved right back at me, the medical equivalent of sticking two fingers up.
I tried to say I could just live in the corner of the living room away from everyone else, just slide plates and cups over to me. It was obvious if I was the cause of anyone not being able to go to the wedding….
Not worth thinking about.
Now a week before pay day, I would clearly not be staying in the Ritz for 4 nights. The midway point was some hotel in central London that I found out later was a merry 2-star affair. The room wasn’t infested or anything, it was just more like living in your grandma’s tiny bedroom with furniture that dated back to a period you had forgotten. Luckily, we had been experiencing warm nights, so I didn’t even have to think about getting under the bed covers and just slept on top.
The silver lining was that I wasn’t living in my car.
It was hard to say who or what I was most angry with. The shortest and best answer was the whole world. Whoever I caught the thing off, the fact that I had to isolate or the fact that it was costing me an arm and a leg to isolate and the collective inconvenience. Take your pick.
Oh, I do actually have another contender. Stress incontinence.
With the covid causing the very occasional coughing bout, I had to shop for incontinence pads to protect against any leakage. I was inpressed that the ones that you buy in Boots are even contoured and have their own little sealable wrapper like womens products. Times are changing.
“For better comfort, why not give the King a cushioned throne. You know he deserves the best!”
OK, I may be embelishing the writing on the packaging a little bit but there you go, a lower point just when you thought you had hit rock bottom.
It could have been worse, I had to keep reminding myself. On the third day there I took another test and Mr two lines laughed and said hello again and informed me that staring at it wasn’t going to suddenly erase a line. On the fifth day, I had now upgraded to a Travelodge. The anger had long since dissipated and the change in quality and scenery were massive. I took another test, just before I went into the shower. I really wasn’t expecting anything different and didn’t even look at it immediately after coming out of the shower. I did a little bit of a dance when I casually discovered that I was finally covid free and I could re-join civilisation.
This great piece of news, coincided with my next hospital appointment, which was only a few days later. This was meant to be the appointment when I would finally get to interview my surgeon the elusive Mr Cathcart. The hospital had changed the first appointment, I had somehow got the day wrong on the rescheduled appointment and this was the latest one.
A few months earlier, I had received the news that my PSA had increased again. It has been on a slow but consistent rise upwards a few months after my radical operation. The last reading, late in 2021, was a PSA of 0.11. Minute in numerical terms but for someone without a prostate it is verging on becoming a real problem. I had learned my lesson regarding mask wearing when I went to the hospital for my appointment. They were not enforcing mask wearing at the hospital but practically everyone was wearing one.
The slippery Mr Cathcart had escaped my interview clutches again as my appointment was not with him but another member of his team. The doctor gave me the news that my PSA had risen again to 0.14 and my next appointment would be with the radiography team. They would be making the decision, ‘when’ and no longer ‘if’, I would need to undergo a course of radiotherapy.
Now I am sure its much more scientific (at least I hope so) but they will give me a course of radiotherpy blasting away at where they believe my prostate was. Well they are the experts and as long as they dont go aiming the thing at my armpit, I have complete faith.
Finding any silver lining in that is a struggle. At a push I could say that at least no-one is talking about hormone therapy and turning me into a flat chested, barmaid, with a goatee called Brenda. That’s the treatment, excuse the pun, that really gave me the willies.
Giving up dairy, red meat, chocolate, sweets and diet coke, collectively did nothing to slow or even stop the PSA onslaught. I am happy to say I have kept off the chocolate completely and most sweet items. Cakes have made a little bit of a comeback. I have been running 5km three times a week since the last prostate cancer charity run last year. Then the other day I took another route and managed to complete 6km in 35mins and 11 seconds, which was fantastic.
Finally, I had a bit of a moment yesterday as it was the first anniversary of pops passing. I didn’t make a meal of it. I tried to find some quiet time but fell asleep. I just remembered the contrast of the first time I saw him, when he picked me up from the airport and was running around showing me off to his friends and the last time when I kissed him on his shiny bald head and told him that I loved him.
The only silver lining I could find was at least me and Haagen-Dazs have rekindled our relationship.
Small silver linings.