When you meet your new GP for the first time, you really don’t expect her to have her finger up where the sun doesn’t shine, within five minutes of meeting her. Mary thought I had been coughing more, I thought my back ached not in its usual back ache place and also the bottom kept falling out of my world with blood; reverse that last sentence and you’ll get my drift without being too explicit. Sorry, if you have not had dinner yet!
Dr Lau, was quite positive and fairly up beat but the words bowel cancer did trip off her tongue; are you ever quite ready for that smack between the eyes? Discuss. One irony of this moment was the bowel screening test kit that arrives in the post, when you get to a certain age, had come two days before and I hadn’t yet completed it. She acted very quickly with an urgent referral to the hospital and, god bless the NHS, within 48 hours I had a phone call to come into Frimley Park and see a specialist a Mr. Nicolay, the following week on Monday. So we arrived and no surprise, perhaps a tad longer in minutes than my GP, but I found myself lying down on his couch with the audible smack of the rubber gloves from behind me! He said I would need a colonoscopy but meanwhile I was dispatched immediately for a blood test; by golly once they get you, don’t they just love doing stuff. The word cancer never left his lips; perhaps years of experience of people having a funny turn in front of him, had caused this hesitaion.
Sitting outside in the blood test waiting area, at least gave me the opportunity to pop into the housekeeping cupboard, where our Radio Frimley Park volume control lies (don’t ask) and turn it up to an audible level. Within about twenty minutes of sitting there a text arrived on my phone telling me my colonoscopy was scheduled for a week on Friday; once more, god bless the NHS but this is probably why Frimley Park Hospital is rated as ‘outstanding.’ This was perfect timing as two days later we departed for Switzerland for six days, to celebrate our beautiful granddaughter Safi’s seventh birthday and calling in to Paris for one night on the way back, in order to see my old chum Mathieu, a friend from my filming days in France with LWT, many years ago.
So here we go for the colonoscopy. I’m asked if I want just gas and air or a sedative. Taking the latter means I can’t drink alcohol when I get home; so obviously that is immediately not an option. A cannula is inserted, with something of a struggle to find a vein, apparently just in case I have a change of mind mid procedure. They tell me I’m a tad dehydrated, the Picolax saga coming up may well explain why. The colonoscopist (?) turns out to be a lady and immediate panic sets in, as this is Valentines Day, should I have brought flowers? I lie on the couch, “in the fetal position please,” like I can remember that far back, and there is a wonderful colour TV screen for me to gaze at and admire the cameras medical fact finding journey. I had taken that morning and the previous afternoon, a sachett entitled ‘Picolax’ mixed with water, whose effects had been almost immediate and prolonged; in that, if I couldn’t be found in the lounge, I was certainly to be discovered in the smallest room in the house. I spent so long in there, I did toy with the idea of installing RFP’s output, to make the experience a little more pleasant. When I finally read the colonoscopist’s report it said “Visibility with Picolax…..fair.” How much of that stuff I would have had to have taken to get a rating of “good” I have no idea! The mind boggles.
You do have to have a sense of humour and a positivity about shite that happens, otherwise you drown in the mire of depression. (Chaucer I think ☺)(Thank you, Keith Green!)
Anyway, back to the TV screen. The camera’s journey went on for some time and on two occassions a colleague’s opinion summoned from another room was sort. He sauntered in with the air of ‘I’m the dude in charge here,’ gave his whispered opinion and then sauntered out again. I watched as the amazing gadget cut bits of me away and kept wondering why I wasn’t yelling, “Ouch!” The very nice lady, who I now discover is called Anne, tells me there and then, when she has taken the eight biopsies, there are two cancers and suddenly I become case number 359894. A big, and I mean really big smack between the eyes this time. She told me to go and have a cup of tea and she would come and chat about where we go from here, with Mary present as well, of course.
I lay in the recovery room, watching people coming and going, for what seemed like an amazingly long time and began wondering just where the promised cup of tea was. Finally someone removed my cannula, told me to get dressed and I sat in another waiting area and the cup of tea and three biscuits duly arrived. Not having eaten since lunchtime the day before and it was now something like five thirty they were very welcome indeed. Mary came in, looking pensive and drawn. “They asked me could I be here in ten minutes, I thought you had croaked it mid procedure!” So the fact that I was alive was an immediate bonus! I felt really sorry for the one other bloke in that waiting area, as I said to Mary, “No, I’m here but I do have bowel cancer in two places.” The poor guys face dropped and I saw him mouth, “Oh god, I’m sorry.” I have no idea what his problems were but I suddenly felt really guilty unburdening myself like that in front of him.
A nurse appeared. Come with me, we need a blood test. I gave on Monday. Deaf ears. Anne appeared, “I’ll see you in a minute! I’ll just let the nurse get on.” Me, “Such a shame those cannula’s don’t have a reverse valve, so you could not only put stuff in but then take blood out.” Not a smile. I went back and joined Mary, after the legalized vampire had finally had her way.
Anne joined us, “So…..” me, “I did give blood on Monday.” Anne, “Ah, sorry, I didn’t know that.” Me thinking, “You really should have done, surely.” Mental note to tell the powers that be. She then went on to explain yes, it was cancer, yes in two places, what they needed to know now was if it had spread at all. So an MRI scan and a CT scan were coming my way. They then would know what they were treating and how to progress. If it was contained to the bowel, two snips and it’s sorted. Go home and have a stiff drink, you deserve it. Now that’s got to be the first time a doctor has said that to me! But what a lovely lady, so professional, so compassionate, a true indication of why Frimley Park Hospital has an outstanding rating.
So that was my fun packed Friday Valentine’s Day 💐 and on the Monday a phone call, ‘would I be available tomorrow for an MRI scan,’ they had a cancellation; does the pope have a balcony?
I have never had an MRI scan and at least unlike the colonoscopy, I didn’t have to take everything off and don strange back to front underpants and two gowns. Another day and another cannula; this one to pop something into the blood stream to relax bits to get better pictures! No, absolutely no side effects but your vision might be blurred and you may experience a metallic taste in the mouth. They then pop two ear plugs into your lug holes and place a pair of headphones over your ears with music blaring out. They then start talking to you! No way can you hear them, perhaps it was the end of a long day. And the machine fires up. It thumps, it bangs, it whistles and got so active at one point I was convinced it was going to self destruct. It took about half an hour and no I didn’t get claustrophobic, just completely amazed at what technology the NHS does possess. A distant voice underneath the music said, “Are you ok?” Silly me, I thought it was part of the soundtrack, but bless them they were trying to talk to me again. 😂 Out I came, cannula removed and clothes back on.
Fade to black and fade up four days later for the CT scan. Ever felt got at? This time in Aldershot, which is an outreach of Frimley Park Hospital. So kind, so caring and so sympathetic yet again. But once again a cannula to pop something into the blood stream that, “May make you feel warm and like you’ve wet yourself!” Gosh, well once again something to really look forward to then! Quick procedure, “Breath in, hold your breath, breath normally.” Repeated three or four times and then it’s all over. Clothes on, sit for a while, cannula removed and you are ‘free to go.’ “Sounds like a release from a prison!” That did get a laugh. And did you get warm and feel like you had wet yourself? Sorry to disappoint but thankfully no.
So that’s where we are at. A visit to the back to the lovely GP, who offered sympathy and support at any time, she having had the colonoscopy results but nothing else. Thank you Doctor Lau. And now we wait, which is fast becoming the worst bit. But stay positive as Anthony Hopkins said, “ None of us are getting out of here alive. So please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There is no time for anything else” and I have adopted that as my mantra going forward and if it’s good enough for Julie Walters, for this wretched disease, then as sure as hell trust me its good enough for me.
More news as I get it, which will come next Monday as a result of a phone call from the hospital. They have a Monday case notes study session and then will call me in.
Watch this space.
Thanks for reading M & M 💉🧪