Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A Not-Quite Disaster

Weekday mornings have taken on a sort of ‘samey’ look lately, and around about 9.30am  you will find me, horizontal, de-bagged, and bashful, on the bed of Linear Accelerator 09 in Cheltenham Hospital, on the off-chance that it might give my prostate cancer a good kicking

I wasn’t going to bother you with this, but word has reached me of the existence of a bizarre sub-culture with an unsavoury interest in harrowing tales of medical misfortune, so who am I to disappoint ? Play it right and it could be a whole new writing genre.

Anyway, the routine for each day is pretty boring, scarcely more exciting than Formula One or Gridiron football,  and requires me to present myself, pre-equipped with a “comfortably full bladder,” in the Radiotherapy treatment room, where two or three young ladies are waiting to arrange my de-bagged person appropriately, if indecorously, on the bed of the machine.

The ladies are caring and pleasant, and I feel great sympathy for them, obliged as they are to witness an endless procession of withered, elderly, and in many cases, redundant, male genitalia. This is a visual experience which they apparently endure with cheerful stoicism, but which must play havoc with their appetites, and I would wager that few, if any of them, ever eat sausages.

The treatment should be a without incident, but, as I have found to my cost, there are pitfalls for the elderly male with ambitions towards incontinency. A “comfortably full bladder” can obviously only remain so for a finite period, so a fifteen minute delay in my treatment the other day, meant that the water I had drunk to fulfil  my “comfortably full” obligation, had done the tour and was now queuing at the exit, clamouring frantically to be let out. Unfortunately, by the time I realised disaster might be imminent, I was already debagged, horizontal, and indecorously arranged on the machine.

The Radiotherapy treatment cycle takes only three or four minutes, but three or four minutes in the life of a seriously panicking bladder might as well be forever. I stared, terrified, at the ceiling, unable to shuffle my backside for fear of compromising my indecorous arrangement, and wretchedly aware that my Personal Equipment, camouflaged beneath paper towelling, was ready, should I have a momentary lapse of concentration, to open fire on the ceiling with all the force of a French water-cannon at a riot. Concentration in this situation also involves prayer, and as the machine moved  around me I prayed, earnestly, respectfully and with sincere assurances to whoever might be listening. that I would be kind, caring and completely sinless for the remainder of my days.

My prayers, of course, were answered, but even as I put my shoes on and rearranged my trousers, I had to balance haste with precision of movement to avoid disaster. I gave the ladies a hurried “Goodbye,” and moved carefully down the corridor to the loo, neither knowing nor caring if they’d noticed I hadn’t stopped to tie my shoe laces.

Seven sessions down, thirty to go. What next I wonder?


  1. Scarcely more exciting than Forumula One?

    Hmmm. It doesn't get much more exciting to me!

    How much will you pay me NOT to Tweet about your panicking bladder?

  2. Replies
    1. I'm excused the novel indefinitely

  3. There is indeed a whole new sub culture that enjoys such things - witness the alarming audience figures for 'Embarrassing Bodies' which is now show 'live' on Tues evening at 8pm on Channel 4 from the Queen Elizabeth hospital Birmingham - or so I believe never having watched the programme myself.... (well not live 'cause I record it and watch when no one else is around - I mean I wouldn't want to upset the cats....)

  4. That reminds me of having a pre-natal scan - same area, same instruction - a full bladder. My youngest "child" is 34 this week so they might have improved the technique by now, but the adjective "comfortably" never goes with "full bladder" in my opinion, especially when a scan operator rubs on gel and then moves a roller-ball all over the area exerting a lot pf pressure. And if you cheat by going to the loo beforehand, they send you to the back of the queue with a bottle of water.
    If it's any comfort, SM, my radiographer sister-in-law tells me they are used to - indeed are prepared for - leaks.

  5. sm, you are HILARIOUS, even in times of what others may see as distress and serious contemplation. You must give those nurses a right old laugh. Thank you for making me laugh out loud too. Helen (TN!)x