101. Love Me Tender November. Part 1

Tender_thumbI had an appointment at Guys hospital to discuss my increasing PSA. The last count was 0.15 and at 0.20 I would need to start the dreaded radiotherapy and all the fun that entails. A few days before it was changed to a telephone appointment as those wonderful train drivers were going on strike again. This time around I got a surprise call from the elusive Mr Cathcart himself. It was short and sweet. My PSA was now 0.16 and unless I specifically wanted to pull the rip cord early, we would leave the radiotherapy until we reached that magical bonus number. I asked him what he thought, and he said it’s something we want to leave as long as possible. That was fine by me, nothing good ever came of pulling that ripcord early other that a swift gust of wind guiding you back up into the aeroplane’s propellers.

November being the men’s month of health I decided to go all out regarding awareness Talks and stands. There wasn’t going to be any chocolate running the early morning streets of Battersea this year for Prostate Cancer UK. Last year, on our 10K run we raised over £5K between 10 runners, I think it was. The main organiser had knee problems and being the kingpin there was talk about still going ahead but it all quickly fell apart like a call girl’s sobriety. Instead, I decided I would be happiest and most productive throwing myself into everything and anything at Prostate Cancer UK as long as it didn’t involve shaking a can, sport and in particular cricket.

I have continued the running however and run 6km two or three times a week. On one inconspicuous early morning I was just coming to the end of my run and just saw something dart out from the corner of my peripheral vision. I looked down and managed to do a quick two step. It took a couple of seconds for me to realise what had just happened. 

A fox had just gone for my heel. The mutt had darted from absolutely nowhere behind me and launched its audacious attack.

I stopped and we now had a 10-foot standoff. I shouted and threw up my arms thinking it was some sort of mistake and it would run off. It didn’t move a muscle. I told it about his mother and father fox, I turned the early morning air seriously blue. I threw every curse word I had in my arsenal at it. The only thing I didn’t say to this mutt was the line,

“Do you know who I am?”

It was not only standing its ground, but it was actually walking closer as I slowly backed off. I looked around for anything I could use as a weapon. Nothing. Not even a bin around. The thing was undeterred and continued to move closer. I was outside my daughter’s school, and they had a row of ‘A’ boards on the pavement by the kerb. I had always wondered why these silly things never blew over in the wind.

I now knew why.

They weighed a ton and were either filled with metal or concrete. I had hoped that I could throw it like a Frisbee. Not a chance. This thing was going straight up and down, with difficulty. Mutt was still watching me and had not moved – almost as if it knew something that I had just found out. I carried on running. It trotted towards me for a little bit and then lost interest.

I got home absolutely fuming.

I made the mistake of telling my youngest daughter.

When she stopped laughing and trying to mock comfort me, she became quite concerned when I said I was going to ‘fix it.’

She went all animal rights/endangered species on me.

I was thinking and dismissing objects around me as potential weapons.

“Foxes are cute, you can’t harm one daddy.”

“They are actually vermin” I spat out at her.

Hammer too heavy. Cabinet hammer too small. Mallet too bulky. Baseball bat too big. Deodorant flame thrower not practical but I like that and may come back to it.

“Why didn’t you just keep running?”

That stopped me absolutely dead in my tracks.

My eyes narrowed and my forehead wrinkled, incredulously I turned to her.

“Are you mad?”

“You were running already, couldn’t you have just kept running?” This was perfect 11-year-old logic. Whatever was left after prolonged exposure to toc tic and a host of other silly apps they feast on.

“You are actually for real, That’s not the point!” I slowly replied with my lip turned up.

I have been doing this run for nearly 2 years without any problem. I see a lot of foxes, the fox sees me and runs off. We have an unwritten understanding, that is the pecking order. Today one of these mutts has the audacity to try and bite me.

“But you can’t harm a fox Daddy, that’s cruel.”

I love her dearly and kept the words swirling in my head from reaching my mouth.

Telescopic baton, now we are talking.

“Do you not think this mutt has gone back to its friends and has now saying”,

“Hear what bredrin, I know where we can get a fresh snack in the morning, we just have to catch it. Whose game? Want to come along tomorrow?” I was jabbing the air, furiously, in front of me now.

“Look, I am not trying to kill the thing, but this thing picked the fight. When did I start looking like discarded KFC?”

“I am disappointed in you!” she retorted with that big doe eye look.

Wooden curtain pole too long and light. I don’t have any metal bars or tubing. My crowbar is too cumbersome to carry.

My other daughter, the eldest, had caught most of the conversation and was about to offer her words of wisdom. Now being four years older than my youngest she has had more time with the Ellis DNA permeating through her. She has a dry sense of humour and has excellent sarcasm skills, when she is ready. Not talking about the student overtaking master but pretty good. I had better hope for what would come out of her mouth.

“Couldn’t you have climbed up a wall or maybe carry some stones so you can throw at it” She was actually serious.

If there was ever going to be a DNA test moment, for the two for them, this was it. Ignoring them I started to fire up Amazon, smiling broadly as I knew they would understand me.

Nunchukas would actually be perfect!

So not too long ago you could get zombie knives all over the place and now I cannot get a fox deterrent, telescopic baton for love or money. Oh, I can get a leather holder to put one in but not the actual baton. Great. I searched over in martial arts, and everything is now flipping covered in rubber. I am not trying to play with the silly thing.

However, I stumbled across something I never knew existed before. It goes by the innocent and completely unpredictable name of ‘Shakespeare Sigma Salmon Priest’. In layman’s terms it’s a miniature fish baseball bat. Angler catches his salmon and with a quick wack, dispatches said salmon to fishy heaven. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering.

Said daughter is now getting really worried. I repeated that I was not trying to kill any foxes but I wasn’t fair game either. The pacifist in me offered a compromise. I would carry a squirty bottle and squirt him first. He could then make a decision if he wanted to compound his mistake. Then we talk def con two.

She liked the idea.

“Yeah, squirting him with water should scare him off.”

“Water? Oh….” I tried to look innocent.

I had in mind some evil drain cleaner/bleach type concoction the mad scientist would be proud of. She read my facial expressions like an open book before I even tried to deny it.

“OK, I will fill it with washing up liquid. It will irritate the mutt’s eyes but nothing permanent. But if it does not take the hint…”

We agreed. At lunchtime I sought out some small plastic bottles. I had also graduated to putting rum in the bottle. Not any old rum but the wonderful Wray and Nephew overproof stuff. This thing is 60% proof and makes your liver wince before you even taste it. I think I momentarily worried the staff in the general store as I made my second purchase and was grinning ear to ear. A small meat tenderiser.

The first talk, of the month, was at a church in south London where they were having a whole day dedicated to all thing’s prostate cancer. Not just a quick presentation or lip service, this church had put on a whole day to present different aspects of prostate cancer. I had to salute them on this as they took my name at the door and handed me a swanky leaflet. I didn’t know if I was manning a table or giving a talk, so I had prepared for both. It was to be my first outing with ‘Bert’. Bert is one of those anatomical cut away models that depicts the male reproductive organs that I found on Amazon. I got the idea from attending a sixth form open day with my daughter. We were in the biology class and various demos were going on and I zeroed in on a model of the chest cavity with detachable parts. Naturally, you feed the urge to take it apart as it looks quite simple putting it all back together. 5 minutes later, with the stare of an impatient and slightly embarrassed daughter burning through my head, I surrendered and sheepishly called over the teacher. A few minutes later the model was still heart and spleen less and we both slowly walked away.

There were already a number of people around the prostate cancer leaflet table. I introduced myself and I finally got to meet one of the new members of the Awareness Talks team from Prostate Cancer UK. Most, if not all of the team that had looked after the volunteers previously, had left in the big cull of the pandemic. It was a delightful surprise to see Lynda, one of the new Awareness Team cohorts, manning the table. I took out Bert from the bag that I had him in and proudly placed him on the table. I explained to one of the prostate cancer volunteers how and where I found him, only to be told that they also had one of the male reproductive system but their one had detachable parts.

Bert may not be coming out again for a while.

Now, if you are going to man a prostate cancer table, one of the really helpful things you can have in your favour is if the people there know that you are coming because they will happily engage with you. If it’s a surprise then it may turn out to be a bit lonely as the prostate cancer table force field activates and they avoid you like a hot, fresh cup of plague. I told Lynda the story about the force field at the Black Business show and she was greatly amused by it. Going back to what I was saying about helpful things to have when you are manning a prostate cancer table – the second secret weapon is to have an attractive man-magnet, called Lynda. I manned the table lonely when it was just me, but the minute Lynda joined me they came over flashing smiles, completely ignoring me and talking through clenched teeth holding in their stomachs while they took leaflets from her. As she moved from the table so did the queries.

Hmm funny that. I kept quiet and smiled, at least they were taking the leaflets – well some of the time anyway.

The first talk was from the hosts explaining who they were and why they were doing the awareness day. It was a partnership with the church and an NHS BME group. They had previously conducted talks on other medical conditions that predominantly affect black men and women. They mentioned, privately later on, that they tried had contacted a number of doctors and consultants and the only one who agreed was Dr Jonathan Noel, a consultant urologist from The Royal Marsden Hospital.

They actually did really well.

If you are going to be de-prostrated then the smooth and easy talking Dr Noel is an excellent bet.  In addition to his well-honed skills, he has this amazing soothing, laid back Caribbean accent and persona. Leaving little for the rest of us mere mortals he is also kinda easy on the eye too.

He was only meant to talk for 45 minutes but he went on for over an hour and he couldn’t answer enough questions. He delivered an excellent, very polished and detailed presentation. Too polished. Whoever went after him was already toast. I was glad that I didn’t get to do my presentation. Cockney Peckham Manor boy wasn’t going to cut it at all. One topic that he had added to his presentation that I had tried but later removed was describing the Gleason scale. I overheard the couple in front of me totally confused. I tried to quietly dumb it down for them by saying it’s two numbers – one that says how aggressive the cancer is and the other is how much there is of it. They nodded in agreement, but I don’t know if they really got it.

The church fed and watered us before giving Prostate Cancer UK the opportunity to talk. Two of the other volunteers spoke first on different topics. The bishop of the church had asked for us to be quick, but they thankfully didn’t listen. I thought of obeying the bishops request but I made that mistake at the panel talk last week so I took a full 10 minutes to give a shortened version of my journey. They told me afterwards that they appreciated my candour and detail.

They had two other speakers, talking about their prostate cancer journeys and then it was done.

It would be a week later when everything was in place. I tooled up and hit the cold early morning road again for my run.

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