Last December I discovered blood in my semen. I rang my GP. He seemed to think that we should get together. We met a few days later. He wanted to check my prostate. He had a poke around, he said my prostate was a little enlarged and that he would refer me to a urologist, but first it would be good to have a blood test.
A few days later I received a text asking me to come in and discuss the blood test results. The GP said my blood pressure was a bit high. He also told me I’d get a text to tell me the date of the appointment to see the urologist.
This text arrived two days later. The appointment, at the hospital where my son was born, was 9 January. On the day, I drove myself over there.
The urologist appointment
The ward looked like something from the 50s. I suppose it was. On entering I was greeted by a young man who wanted to “check my flow rate”. He walked me to the gents and told me to wee in the bucket alongside the toilet itself. I did so. Something whizzed round and he told me this would measure my urinary flow. The print off was almost immediate. He said I was a bit slow – I kind of knew that, it had been getting slower and slower through my 50s.
After a short wait, seated in the corridor, I was called in to see the urologist. He asked a bunch of questions, none of which I could remember a few minutes later. He then said he was going to check the prostate. I dropped my trousers and boxers and assumed the position. Fair to say he was a tad more forthright than the GP.
Afterwards he expressed the view that he wasn’t happy with my prostate. Evidently there was something there that probably shouldn’t be there and he booked me in for an MRI scan.
The MRI scan
The shiny new MRI department at Yarsley* was in stark contrast to the Urology department at Fieldhead*. I was asked to remove trousers and shoes and then escorted to the scanner. The nurse (aka scanner lady) told me it would take about 35-40 minutes. I lay down on my back. Scanner lady handed me ear plugs and then a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. She said it would be pretty noisy. I said I used to fall asleep on the tube, so I thought I’d be fine.
A few days later, I got another text telling me I was going to have a biopsy done. It was slightly alarming to be told these things via text but it was good that things were happening. By now, it seemed pretty obvious that something was not right. Instead of dwelling on the unfairness of it all, I decided to just go with the whole process. There was nothing I could do but put my trust in the good people of the NHS. I was more than happy to do that.
On 1 February, I rocked up at Fieldhead again and was led into a ward and shown to a bed by a couple of nurses.
Every so often, one of us men of a certain age would be wheeled off and 25 minutes later or so would be wheeled back. I had to wait about 2½ hours, but I wasn’t too bothered. I couldn’t do anything about it anyway. I wasn’t going to argue with someone who was about to stick a probe up my back passage.
Eventually, it was my turn. By now, I was in my gown, which I had put on the wrong way. A male nurse wheeled my bed into the operating theatre (do they call it that?), while I strolled alongside trying to give off a casual air. Actually, what I was trying to do was make the nurses laugh. That seemed achievable.
I asked what side I should lie on. Both nurses said, “Oh, on your back” as one. They even had stirrups for my legs. Dignified it was not. The male nurse then told me he was going to tape my “bits and bobs” out of the way. I asked if that was a medical term. They both laughed. Result.
The surgeon, however, was all business. There was a whole heap of something cold applied and then some prodding and probing began. I found this…let’s call it uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to let out the occasional yelp; I am using the word occasional fairly loosely. Every so often something clearly very sharp would connect with a part of me that wasn’t designed to have something clearly very sharp connect with it. After a while the numbness asserted some measure of authority over the pain and my yelps were reduced to pathetic squeaks.
But then it was over and I was wheeled back to the ward. The nurses made me a cup of coffee and toast with lashings of butter and after an hour or so I was ready to go home.
The phone call
My phone call was scheduled for 9 February. I pondered just waiting at home for it, but then decided to go into work as normal and take the call whenever it came. I was in the workshop when my phone rang. My consultant did not beat around the bush. He told me prostate cancer was present. I think I said “Bugger” in the manner of Unlucky Alf from The Fast Show. In truth, although this was disappointing, it didn’t come as a great surprise. I knew something was wrong and I knew what it was likely to be. I was told I was at intermediate risk, the cancer was at the front of the prostate, the options were surgery or radiotherapy and the removal of the prostate was their recommended option.
In my notes from this phone call, I have jotted down “long sphincter”. I forget what the relevance of that was, but I’m pretty sure I said thank you when he mentioned it.
To be continued…
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.