THE NEW NORMAL #25 – BREATHLESS

I have been told many times in life that I have an uncanny knack of finding humour in the most unlikely places. One of the ushers at my wedding even mentioned my ability to take a single strand of a conversation and tease it out to it’s most illogical of conclusions in the name of humour in his speech. So, it was no surprise to my long-suffering wife to find me, this morning, in fits of giggles in the waiting room of the Chest Clinic at Derriford hospital. The reason for my amusement was the triple whammy that was;

  • a dated mural of Mickey Mouse, Dumbo and Thumper all apparently about to kick seven shades of Disney out of poor Bambi.
  • The piped classical music suddenly kicking into Carmina Burana in all its dramatic glory.
  • The leaflet rack to the left of my wife’s head that, in amongst all the pamphlets on Asthma and Lung Cancer, had one simply called Sex and Breathlessness – surely that’s just a symptom of doing it right, I thought.

Anyway, this assault on the senses at 8.45am on a Monday morning reduced me to giggles, much to the consternation of the assembled elderly folk joining us in the waiting area who couldn’t understand why someone would find a trip to the Chest Clinic so amusing (bloody Millennials, they probably thought).

We were here to get the results of my recent Bronchoscopy (aka EBUS, apparently) which, judging from the aforementioned leaflet rack, could go in any of about 12 directions with Lung Cancer being the wooden spoon of the lot. Of course, we weren’t left to wait for long until the customary call of ‘Ronald Monger’ came ringing out in a thick Janner accent and we were led into a room where a frail teenager was being enthusiastically encouraged to “blow hard and keep blowing”.

Within minutes I had been weighed, measured and my blood oxygen were checked (they latter is “perfect” – direct quote for you there) before being sat in front of a computer with a nurse offering me a plastic contraption to put in my mouth. This made more sense of the poor girl I’d seen previously as I was instructed to blow hard and long into the hole which sent some kind of signal to the computer via a jauntily coloured pink USB cable. If you want to get a legal head rush of a Monday morning then I’d go for the three lung evacuations treatment (free on the NHS) followed by quickly standing up and going back to the waiting room. It’s a trip.

Now, before we get to the main course of this story, I want to reflect on the series of entrees that led us to this point. You see, 2 weeks of waiting followed by four days of knowing you’re being called in for a consultation in the Chest Clinic (the chest being the home of the lungs and the lungs being the home of Lung Cancer) can make one a tad tense. Throw into that mix a wife who has secretly been reading up on the life-shortening potential of secondary cancer and you’re all set for a weekend of agitated activity. All this nervous energy saw us rearrange the eldest’s bedroom, create some small rockeries in the garden using shells and pebbles, clear out the outside toy box and fill in a tonne of paperwork that had been hanging around for too long. I also managed a few salty words with South West Water who had put a decimal point in the wrong place in their favour. Patients waiting for a diagnosis may well be some of the most productive people around but for God’s sake don’t tell the Tories or they’ll make waiting times even longer to increase workplace productivity.

Ironically, the doctor who was not born of an English-speaking country managed to get my name perfectly correct first time (go figure, eh?) and soon we were sat going through the painfully polite preamble. Mercifully, we got the words “It’s not cancerous” within the first three minutes and wave of relief was palpable but, as always, there was a sting in the tale (c’mon, that’s what you keep coming back for, right?). That’s right, regular readers will know that Sarcoidosis (aka Granulomas aka the Mystery Disease) was a distinct possibility and that’s exactly what I’ve got. Nobody really knows what causes Sarcoidosis and, so, nobody really knows what to do with it but there are inevitable tests to come my way. Bloods were done this morning (that’s the easy part) but there’s still the MRI, heart and more lung tests to come. However, for now, they’re happy to release me from their medical clutches so I can go and enjoy a familymoon in the sun without thinking about the ‘C’ word (unless that word is Corona, Chimichangas or Candy Floss).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s the waiting that does the real damage in all this. The energy, time and emotional stress that goes in to considering every possible eventuality of a diagnosis is utterly draining and, although it is by far the best outcome, a positive prognosis leaves you with a whole load of adrenaline and nowhere to focus it. It’s like getting all hyped up for a big confrontation where you’ve prepared your arguments and got all your pithy comebacks ready to dish out but then the other person turns up with a hug and an apology. You have all this fight pent up and ready to unleash but you have to be all happy and relieved – It’s a bummer.

Right folks, you’ll have to get your morbid fix elsewhere as we’re taking this thing to Mexico or, as the locals call it, Mexico. Let’s all hope I don’t manage to lose a toe, a lung or generate any more moles while I’m there. Seriously, get to hoping.