THE NEW NORMAL #11 – A CHILD CATCHER BY ANY OTHER NAME

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Due to work and just general life it’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything but that doesn’t mean that things haven’t been happening apace so I thought I would catch you up on what’s been happening in the world’s worst theme park; Cancerland. First of all, I had an appointment with Oncology to talk about the options around Radiotherapy. Now, anyone who knows me will be safe in the knowledge that I love my music and I love my radio so I was pretty excited about the idea of Radiotherapy but my internal monologue told me to cool my jets and not get too excited – I mean, it was unlikely that some scientific breakthrough had found that listening to an endless stream of 90s indie would somehow reduce the chances of getting more cancer. That trusty monologue was right, Radiotherapy appears to be the process of firing tiny, high-energy beams of radiation at the area of concern with the intention of killing off what’s left of the cancer.

Firing radiation at one’s crotch over a period of 4 weeks (once a day, five days a week) does not come without its drawbacks, however. The loss of appetite and diarrhoea I can cope with given my need to lose weight, so far so good, and even the daily trips to the hospital can be survived. The almost literal kick in the nuts, however, came in two individual blows. Firstly, there is a very high chance that this continued exposure of my crotch to radiation will leave me sterile. Firing blanks. Out to pasture. Unable to father anymore young’uns. That’s not an easy one to take on a Tuesday morning and not an easy decision to have made for you. To be fair I’m still processing it but, spoiler alert, I’m going for the therapy anyway. Secondly, and slightly more strangely, I’ve got to lay a slice of lead across my junk while I get the therapy to reduce the chances of me developing the next side effect; testosterone shots for the rest of my life. You see, the nads don’t take kindly to regular zapping and as a result of this there is a risk that I’ll need some chemical assistance to remain manly throughout my remaining years. So in one meeting with a complete stranger I’ve been told I will shortly lose my chance to have any more kids and I may start becoming more feminine as well as losing my chance to compete professionally in any kind of sport without a heavy lawsuit for doping. Dick move, cancer, dick move.

Walking away from the Oncology department and trying to relay this to my significant other on the phone brought things home pretty acutely and for the first time since my initial diagnosis I felt like I’d lost control again. Sure, I had a choice of whether to take the treatment or not but not taking the treatment seemed like opting for the mystery prize and risking having your mortgage paid off and I didn’t fancy gambling with my groin again. The decision to go with the treatment was fairly straightforward, after all a sterile life as an increasingly feminine version of myself is better than no life at all, but it was a little bit like being offered the choice of two dishes for dinner; boiled rat with the fur still on with a side of mouldy Cheetos or the sautéed remains of a badger that has been dead behind the local bus stop for 3 weeks. Either way dinner is going to suck pretty hard but at least you get a meal. There’s another CT Scan to come first but then September is basically going to be driving to the hospital on the way to or from work every day to get zapped which will, of course, make me pretty fatigued and, after a while, will make my skin pretty sore as well. But, and there is a but, this will reduce the chances of local reoccurrence of the cancer from a 1 in 3 chance to a 1 in 5 chance and once the four weeks is up that’s it, no more of that nonsense.

48 hours on from the metaphorical bashing my balls took, I rocked up at St Luke’s Hospice near Mount Batten to get the eagerly awaited compression garment (aka The Stocking) and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Apart from the usual friendly faces and good grace, what I got was a lesson in how to put the stocking on each and every day and believe you me I needed teaching. First you’ve got to put this silk sock thing over your foot (believe me, it helps) and then you have to do the most unnatural thing in forcing your entire leg in to something that feels too small. The foot is OK and even the calf isn’t too bad if you’ve ever been on a long haul flight but the thigh is pretty tricky. Now, the rule of thumb, apparently, is to get it pulled up to just under your bum cheek but not actually touching your bum cheek. Another rule of thumb (specifically for gents) that I’ve come across is to make sure that you’re wearing pants because doing it completely naked leaves you open to getting all sorts of danglys caught in the elastic and that, I can tell you, makes the eyes water. Once on, I’m pleased to say that the stocking makes a huge difference and although my leg is still spongy to touch, it now feels like it has some power again. The idea is that by wearing this garment to push in at my leg from the outside and with my muscles working on the inside, the lymph fluid will be forced to move around – a bit like pushing the last bit of tooth paste up through the tube if your thumb is the stocking and your other fingers are your muscles.

I’ve been wearing the stocking for nearly two weeks now and I haven’t perfected it as it still rolls down or just pings over my knee sometimes and one morning I tried to put in on in the dark as I had to be at work particularly early which resulted in the circulation to my foot nearly being cut off by 9.00am. However, it is definitely a positive addition to my weaponry against the impacts of cancer, one that has now been joined by a horse brush (aka a dry brush). This wiry, scratchy little beast is another tool to keep my skin healthy and encourage the lymph fluid to move back around my body but it feels a little like I’m rubbing myself against a hairy cheese grater a couple of times a day. Other options I’ve been presented with (mostly by Google-happy other half) include a kit to give yourself a coffee enema at home (I’m not keen on coffee but this doesn’t involve drinking it I assume) and the concept of Bowen treatment which, I’m reliably informed, has nothing to do with darts.

On we go to the next phase, then, which has already feature yet another Ultrasound scan as well as a CT Scan number 4 to come this week. Strangely, four weeks of being zapped and treated doesn’t seem like that big a deal but the fact that I won’t get the option to choose to have another child anymore has hit me harder than I thought it would so it’s a bit ying and yang. One last side effect worth mentioning is the suggestion to only have protected sex for six months after the radiotherapy because, on the off chance that I’m not sterile, my sperm may be mutated (direct quote there) so could cause deformities in any potential offspring. On hearing this, my thought process was “So, what you’re telling me is I probably won’t be able to have any more kids and I’ll start to resemble a man less and less but if, by some miracle, I do manage to convince my other half to have sex with me after all this treatment, I need to make sure I wear a condom to prevent my mutated genes sparking off some kind of Westcountry X-Men epidemic”. Sure thing, sounds like a riot. Where do I sign up?

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