april 2010

The Prodigal Tumour

And a certain man had two tumours; one he called Bowel and the other he called Liver.  And one day Bowel said unto him “father (for the man truly was his dad) – let me be cut free from your body and go forth into the World – for I have a yen to see the inside of a Path Lab”.

And the man was troubled because he knew the Path Lab was not all it was cracked up to be and feared Bowel would end up the play-thing of Medical Students.  And so the man went out alone into his Shed to consult his 10 year-old Jura Single Malt.

And three visions were revealed unto him; Tumours Past, Tumours Present and Tumours Yet to Come.   And when the man saw Tumours Yet to Come he was sorely afraid and cast himself behind his lawn-mower.

And he cried out “ Spirit – are these shadows of what may be?”  And the Spirit answered unto him “If you wish to change the future you must learn and act upon what you have seen.  Bowel is a very naughty tumour; he will sow seeds of discontent among the other organs.  You must cast him out; for as it is writ so will it be.”  And then the Spirit was gone.

And so it came to pass that Bowel left the man’s body and went out into the World.  And the man was distraught and fixed upon his stomach a bag into which to keep all his worldly goods, so that the place where Bowel had been would become untainted and sacred.

And many years passed and the man rode far and wide throughout the country on his bicycle searching for his lost Bowel.  But no sign did he see.  And he became reconciled with his loss and ordered the bag upon his stomach to be removed and passed his worldly goods into the underground pipe-works of the sewage system.

And it came to pass that one day the man heard that his Tumour had returned.  And so he prepared a big feast and ordered another organ to be sacrificed.

And there was much to-ing and fro-ing to the city which is called Oxford.  Consultants huddled in corners speaking in Tongues while surgeons sharpened their knives (for there was to be much letting of blood).  Pharmacists mixed cocktails and Nurses filled in charts saying ‘Nil by mouth’.  And all the man’s friends and relatives gathered around their computer screens to see the return of the Tumour.

But Liver was not best pleased by all this fuss making; “Father why are you preparing to kill the fatted Lung.  Have I not withstood all the chemotherapy, which did shrink me in size and make me a laughing stock among the other cells? And did I not willingly submit to the surgeon’s knife so that my host could re-grow and give you back your life?”

But the man said, “Liver, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.   But we have to celebrate because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  For it is written that if we do not do this thing we are both truly stuffed”.

Friday April 23rd 2010

“I think we’re going to have to start again.”

We were early but the consultant’s secretary was looking for us.  (Whoosh – sound of significance going over my head).  We sat in the room waiting – when he did eventually arrive the cancer nurse came in with him.  Annie clocked this – but me? – Whoosh.

And then he started – “there’s good news – and not so good news”. I’m a bit lost for words.  There wasn’t actually meant to be any ‘not so good news’.  Almost 5 years have passed and I wasn’t planning on coming back.  Just sign me off and I’ll let you get back to your patients – the sick people – the ones with cancer.

“The liver and bowel are fine. (This is the good news).  But there’s something on your left lung”.  (Hmm – is the not so good news?)  We’d like pass a camera down your throat (oh yes this definitely sounds like not so good news) and take a look at it.  We’d also like to take a sample for testing.  It looks like a tumour.  But we can’t be sure”. Doesn’t get much more ‘not so good news ‘ than that.

Where did this come from?  I’m a survivor – people point me out in the street –“he’s beaten bowel cancer.  And it was on his liver as well”. The 5-year anniversary of first diagnosis is already highlighted in my diary – 16th December 2010.  Champagne has been ordered.    A day off work has been booked.

Not a sign – not a hint that there was any chance that cancer would come back.  OK – there was a sign that perhaps something was not quite right – but not bloody cancer.

Go back a few days.  We’re in Snowdonia with Annie’s sister and brother-in-law.  I’m puffing up a track alongside the other puffer.  We stop about half way.  My lungs are bursting. I’m getting out of breath so easily these days.  I notice it on the bike and when I’m singing.  My phrasing’s going to pot.  I put it down to a general lack of fitness owing to the bad winter (poor excuse really).

I’ve also just moved offices to the top floor of my building; I spend the week running up and down three flights of stairs.  Puff, puff.

Thursday 15th April; I get chest pains as I wheeze in to the office and sit at my desk.  Chest pains on the left side, breathlessness – hmm.  It gets worse and in the afternoon I Google the symptoms; OMG – I’m having a heart attack.  Well perhaps not.

Annie and I go for a walk in the evening – the pain is incredible – worse under my left shoulder blade.  I take Nurofen and go to bed.

Friday 16th April – what I expect to be my final consultation.  We have a pleasant chat and finally in answer to the “how are you feeling?” I mention the chest pains.  And the cough.  Did I say I’ve had this cough for about two months now?

He frowns and sends me for an MRI scan straight away – a suspected pulmonary embolism (I wish).  But it’s not, so I’m sent home with a request to return the following week for a diagnosis.

So here we are Friday 23rd April 2010; just a week between hunky dory and cancer.  His parting words – “I think we’re going to have to start again”.


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