Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace
23rd December 2015 – 3.30PM
23rd December was to be my ‘works’ Christmas night out. An early start, nothing extravagant, five colleagues, party hats, the usual overpriced, hastily arranged, overcooked conveyor belt Christmas meal, a few drinks and early home. I had organised it this year, and later, much later than usual.
We had left it late, too late really so expectations weren’t high, at least it was an opportunity to wear a posh suit.
I received a call (at work) from my GP surgery asking me to come into the surgery later that day. I was slightly surprised but not overly concerned. I had undergone a comprehensive series of ‘tests’, (at least), two weeks previous. It was weeks ago, if there was anything ‘wrong’ they would have contacted me before now? All Good.
23rd December 5.30PM GP Surgery
Hello Dr Brooks, hello Mr Reynolds….
Reverse back in time a bit….
Man Health. Carol, my older (and only) sister had been badgering me for at least 12 months to undergo specific health checkups.
Her husband, Eric had recently died from Cancer of the bowel. Their daughter, Emma (my niece), had since discovered substantial pullup issues in her bowel and was undergoing active treatment, a series of biopsies followed by surgery. Her consultant informed her that all close relatives should be tested immediately and regularly screened thereafter….for life.
Possibly good timing.
I had been experiencing common, male, age-related, bladder ‘issues’ as in – sleep disruption to urinate, latchkey anxiety (wanting to urinate whilst driving, increasing as getting closer to destination), occasional, but becoming more frequent, occasionally some erectile dysfunctionality. I had never for a second considered prostate or prostate cancer.
I am not born from great stock. Both of my parents had died young(ish), my mother aged only 46. My sister is in (long term) remission for breast cancer. I also have several (other) underlying chronic health conditions. 21st century Life and Living.
Early December, after reporting my niece’s consultants (written) advice and discussing my ‘symptoms’ with my GP a comprehensive round of checks and tests were agreed. My GP suggested that ‘at my age’ (56) that we could include (my first) prostate ‘condition’ test. I presumed his meant a prostate examination via my anal passage. I was pleasant surprised that it is a simple blood test. A Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), blood test.
Strike while the irons hot?
I walked straight from the surgery to an adjacent phlebotomy clinic. Tests completed.
Scanxiety. For the next few days I was anxious – Scanxiety, I will revisit this new word I have only recently learned in a later post.
It is impossible not to be anxious about this shit?
After a week I was no-longer anxious or concerned. If there was a problem they would have notified me within a few days, a week tops? Right? No. Not Right.
23rd December 2015 5.30PM – Hello Dr Brooks, hello Mr Reynolds….
The good news is that your blah blah blah (bowel) test results are clear….but
You have a problem with your prostate. Based upon your PSA level you probably have prostate cancer. I am going to need to do an internal rectum examination, is that ok?
Mind – Well No!
Voice – of course, Yes!
Mind racing. BP bursting. Sweating. Flushed ….
have I had a shit today?
Did I shower afterwards or before?
Considering the situation and the perspective (he is a doctor this is his job, this is not just a man you talk ‘cars’ with, he is a professional), However, in reality, in the moment? Good luck with being rationale.
Brace. Brace. Brace. And Done.
It’s over? Well that didn’t take long at all. Clearly, I am not going to bleed-out, I will not be physically scared for life! Psychologically? A man you have known for over thirty years, same age, almost a ‘mate’ but not quite but definitely not a stranger? Has just stuck his finger up your arse? Stupid? Absolutely. But so fucking True and the major factor and reason so many men do not get early (enough) diagnosis?
Seconds later – things take a turn for the worse.
There was no ‘you had better sit down’, no – ‘do you want a cup of tea. a glass of water’? No, ‘do you want to call someone, your wife maybe’?
No, kissing me first….No foreplay, straight to the ruff sex.
‘Based upon your PSA test results and rectal examination you have prostate cancer’.
In a matter of sixty unpleasant seconds we have moved from ‘amber‘ you probably have to ‘red‘, you have cancer. I could tell he was shaken, sorry for me, my situation.
Afterwards, I wondered how many others he ‘gave the bad news to’ that day? I suspect that his feelings had inhibited his ability to manage the scene move empathetically. It was out of control. It just happened.
I literally had no clue what to say or do. He mumbled something……
I think I shook his hand.
I cannot recall anything else that was said. I know it wasn’t much…., something about referring me to an oncologist, urologist. Terror.
I walked 20 or so meters to the carpark. It felt like an out of body experience. Detached. Odd. Like ‘this’ wasn’t happening to me, it was happening to the ‘other’ John. Not me, John.
Automatic doors. No. You need to push the blue button. The big blue button.
A cold rush of fresh air, welcome, a huge slap in the face. It was a bright clear December night, early evening, cold as fuck, fresh, clear sky’s with what looked like millions and millions of unusually bright stars.
I looked up and around me. It hit me. A huge unexpected rush.
Everything looked enhanced, vibrant, fucking amazing!
I felt ALIVE. Every sinew, every atom, every cell of my body felt alive.
For a few seconds I was more alive than I have ever been.
Then I was alone.
More alone than I have ever been in my life.
Thanks for reading.