Thursday, 24 May 2012
Biopsies, and Allied Indignities
On Monday I start seven-and-half weeks of radiotherapy, the sentence handed to me by Dr Jo, my lovely Consultant, for having been caught in possession of an offensive prostate. The prospect doesn’t gladden me, because, although my sweet-talking radiotherapist assures me that the treatment will not adversely affect me, I’ve heard malicious whispers that, should I be among the unlucky minority, unmentionable horrors will be my lot, and as I’m a member of the Unlucky Minorities Association, I‘m worried.
The journey from diagnosis to radiotherapy has taken six months, and has not been without excitement. I have been scanned in every bodily cranny, from dandruff to toenails, and been the victim of two unspeakable physical assaults by two small female doctors who displayed a fiendish touchy-feely curiosity about the state of my defective gland. Both these ladies possessed extraordinarily long, iron-hard, fingers, which, when clad in latex gloves, were thrust up so far inside me that I expected wayward scraps of breakfast to be flicked from the backs of my teeth.
The scans were fairly dignified, because at least I got to keep my trousers on. In fact I almost dozed off during the bone scan, but this wasn’t possible with the MRI scan. “You’ll find it noisy,” said the scanning lady, “so we pipe radio 2 over the top to drown it out a bit.” This treat didn’t work for me, as an Unlucky Minority member, because my scan had not been set to music, but coincided with a phone-in discussion on homosexual rape, which, with the iron fingers in the latex gloves still fresh in my memory, I could well have done without.
Trousers were not an option for the biopsy, as the surgeon required unrestricted access to my nether regions, so, clad in one of those ridiculous rear-opening gowns, I curled myself up on the operating couch, allowed the application of local anaesthetic and awaited events.
I have to say that the NHS, try to make you feel at home in unlikely circumstances. I’d been allocated a nurse to sit and chat soothingly to take my mind off things during the procedure. She'd obviously read my notes, clocked my age as 75 and the ‘GERIATRIC’ alarm had immediately sounded in her brain, so she treated me like a shy nine year-old, asking me, gently, how I filled my days. I thought it best to be polite, and said, respectfully, that I was writing a book, and she feigned excitement and asked what it was about. She seemed a bit surprised when I said the early chapters involved a guy who spent three months chained to a bed, as a sex-slave, by a mother and daughter he’d met in an internet chat room, and I had to stop myself laughing, because by now the surgeon, who’d told me not to move, had his snipper-thing inside me, yanking off random lumps of prostate like he was carving at a hog roast.
I thought, later, that the surgeon and the nurse are the only people, apart from me who know what my book is about, and very likely, will be the only ones who ever will.
For the record the biopsy showed my cancer hadn’t left the prostate and the bone scan and MRI confirmed that, so the radiotherapy, hopefully, will ensure it stays that way for some years to come.
And the unmentionable horrors I hinted at earlier? Still unmentionable, but it’s best to ensure that, during my treatment, I’m never more than ninety seconds away from a toilet.