Tenacious C: “Nothing in 18 months. What am I paying you guys for?”
Agent 1: “Sorry TC. (opens PowerPoint) We’ve had a lot of success with the bowel – 3 tumours in 5 years. That last one really kept them guessing. And don’t forget the collateral damage – treat it as bonus”.
Agent 2: “The heart and voice. And his lungs are radio gaga”
TC: “Yes but what about me? It’s my show.”
Agent 1: “ We tried the prostate – it’s still at Number 1. He had the test – you know …. (wink) …THAT one. But he’s clear. Then we had an idea – why not stay down South?”
Agent 2; “We’re really taking the whot’sis name this time. You’ll never guess. He didn’t.”
TC: “Try me”
Agent 1: “The Bladder”.
TC: “Nice one”
Meeting closes with high-fives all round. As agents leave room, TC presses button on desk and agents fall through hole in floor. (No – I made that last bit up).
I’m in another Cinderella department. Not quite Portacabin chic but a long way from Heart and Cancer. The Urologist is … business-like. My chair is at the end of his desk so I see him only in profile. He’s looking intently at his computer. He sits back, still facing ahead and draws his hands together as if a prayer is imminent. (Oh no – is it that bad?) He stops – hands frozen in mid air: “The first thing I want to assure you is that these symptoms are very common. But …” There’s always a ‘but’.
He explains that I’ll have three tests; “Blood, DRE and Camera. But not all today”. There goes another ‘but’. He checks my latest blood test on the system and it’s fine. Having dealt with his ‘buts’, he turns his attention to my Butt.
I lie on my side, knees up and await the DRE. A Digital Rectal Examination sounds so very high tech. I expect some sort of device prefixed with a lowercase ‘i’ – as in iTouch or iProbe. But this particular digital device is old school. “This will be uncomfortable.” He inserts his iHurt. “That’s fine”. So it’s not my prostate.
“Do you have any questions?” I shake my head; “I’ll probably think of some when I’m in the car”. A faint smile. He gives me a form to hand in to reception on my way out. Then something comes to mind and I ask what the camera will be looking for. He doesn’t look up: “Cancer – Bladder”.
TC’s agents are right – I didn’t see that one coming.
My head’s all over the place as I walk back to the car. Not again – how many more times? OMG1 – what am I going to say to Annie? OMG2 – I’ve just paid the deposit on a holiday for next summer … Mr Optimist chips in; he’s not saying I have cancer of the bladder. He’s not even saying he suspects cancer of the bladder. He simply wants to eliminate it from his enquiries. I think.
I Google cystoscopy as soon as I get home. Another probe – another humiliation. A plea to the paparazzi of the medical profession; you can examine me as much as you like – stick cameras where you want – just let me keep my dignity – and my pants.
I have a lot of respect for my cancer. It’s nasty, clever and tenacious. I sometimes think I may never be totally free of it. It’s a bit like when you meet people on holiday. You never imagine for one moment that when you say, “anytime you’re passing – do drop in” – they’ll actually take you up on it. Let alone visit with alarming frequency, staying longer each time. Your fridge seems permanently empty, there are always dirty towels on the bathroom floor and you no longer have a spare room. Grown-up children returning home have much the same effect. Welcome to my world.
It’s only when I’m home telling Annie all about it that I realise I didn’t ask about the cyst. I’m no longer allowed to attend any more appointments unless accompanied by a responsible adult.
reasons to be cheerful No. 1066
There’s a wedding this weekend. Annie’s eldest, Chris, is getting married to Emma. The bride looks lovely and her mother-in-law looks beautiful. But then I’m biased. Annie has a choice of two hats. She models them for my inspection. I’m never any good at this sort of thing. Me; “That looks nice”. She; “What’s wrong with the other one?”
The first – a simple, elegant, black, wide-brimmed number – was on sale at half-price in a charity shop. Not any old charity shop but one in a small market town in Gloucestershire. It’s the sort of place where the great and good of our green and pleasant land (and there is much of that in abundance) ride down the main street on horseback on their way to purchase unpasteurised milk from the local dairy. I kid you not. Any stranger attempting to buy unpasteurised milk is required to produce two referees, one of whom must be a landowner with at least 100 acres.
We’re here because Emma’s dress comes from a small shop in this small town. To our great surprise so did the dress worn by Zara Phillips. Emma decides to leave the label sticking out. Here she is trying it on:
The hat is reduced from £8.00 to £4.00. Now say what you like about the ruling classes but they do throw out quality gear. And at guilt-free prices. We back out of the shop, Annie bowing and clutching her prize, me knuckling my forehead and clutching my cap, like characters in a Dickens novel. Then we run to the car.
The other hat is also black. It does not come from a charity shop. I have no idea where it comes from. I’m no fashion commentator but I understand it to be a ‘fascinator’. If you’re still in the dark, imagine a blackbird flying through a lawn mower.
I’m an ex-member of the RSPB so I know where my duty lies. And Annie always keeps her bird-feeder full. So the simple, ‘Lady Archer in the Witness Box¹’ hat it is then. Although sadly, to my mind, that image has just done for the hat, what the lawn mower did for the blackbird.