THE NEW NORMAL #27 – THE LYING, THE RICH AND THE WARDROBE

This was supposed to be the chapter where I decide to screw it all and run off to Narnia where cancer doesn’t exist, and all the tumours are made out of marshmallow that has been pooped out by Mr Tumnus. However, after seriously injuring my eye on coat hangers, I have realised that none of the wardrobes in my house actually contain the link to this mystical, snowy land. So, while I save up the money for a tour of every Ikea in the UK (and maybe a few Oak Furniture Lands), I thought I’d let you know what’s been going on in Cancernia (the shit version of Narnia where Aslan is an arthritic goat and all the mythical creatures have pigeon legs with fleas).

The main thing I’ve been up to since I last wrote is being the late 30s version of a child on a long car journey asking the NHS “have you got my results yet? Have you got my results yet? Have you got my results yet?”. The results in question were from my radioactive PET CT scan experience and the answer to my repeated question was unanimously “No, we haven’t had them yet, there’s been a back log”. Now, I’m a patient guy (get it, patient!?) but when you’re told it will take 2-3 days for the results to come out and you’ve waited over 6 weeks then you’d forgive me for having a bit of a twitch at this point. Finally, I got an email from my key worker the loaded words “I’ve finally got your results in, do you want to give me a call and I can talk you through them?”. I mean, really? That’s like starting a sentence with “don’t be mad but….” and genuinely expecting someone to not get mad.

Anyhoo, as this message came through during a team building session at work, I had to put down my Tunnock’s teacake and find an empty office to make that call. First things first, there were massive apologies for the results taking so long – it appears they had been submitted weeks ago but on paper rather than electronically and nobody was expecting that. This means that every time I asked if my results were in and I was told that they weren’t, I was being lied to and people just couldn’t be bothered to look – apart from one administrative assistant who kept digging. God bless the admin staff. For anyone who’s never received medical results over the phone, it goes a little something like this;

Medical Professional: “We’ve got the results back and there are some things to discuss”.

Me: “OK” [thinks ‘oh shit, here we go’.]

Medical Professional: “The radioactive tracer was taken up by most of your lymph nodes and there is nothing cancerous showing up”.

Me: “OK” [thinks ‘great, but if it’s not cancerous what the hell do we need to discuss?’]

Medical Professional: “There is something that’s shown up on your pancreas that we need to check up on this with a needle biopsy of the…….[insert yet another body part that I can’t spell or locate on a chart of the human body]”.

Me: “OK” [thinks ‘damn, I wish I’d paid more attention in Biology”.]

It’s one of those conversations that should contain more intrigue, more detail and more, well, news but it generally just transpires like one of those 2p shunting machines at the arcade – lots of potential but you end up with just a scrap of change if you’re lucky.

A few weeks ago, I had to attend a lung function test which was not only surreal but also slightly sobering. I was asked to sit inside a glass box the size of a wardrobe or phonebox (for anyone under the age of 30, phoneboxes are those glass booths you see covered in graffiti, dog piss and dried on vomit) and clamp my mouth round a hard bit of plastic before being shut in. I was then asked to blow through the tube until I literally couldn’t breath anymore (much like Inner Circle’s demand that you “sweat til you can’t sweat no more”). If this wasn’t enough, I then started to get light headed – unaccustomed as I am to this amount of breathing at 8.30 in the morning – so it was no surprise that I started to get the instructions of “breath in NOW” and “breath out HARD” slightly muddled up. I still don’t have the results of the test, but I did get to meet the only person who didn’t react to the idea of Sarcoidosis with confusion and alarm – “I see lots of people with Sarcoidosis, nothing to worry about”. Reassuring stuff. Casual but reassuring, nonetheless.

Finally, I ought to tell you about today’s experience with my favourite procedure – having stuff forced down your throat. The endoscopic ultrasound was the order of the day with an appetiser of being nil-by-mouth at work all morning and a starter of sitting in bed naked from the waist down with all your belongings in a late 90s Tesco shopping basket. To clear up some confusion (mum), an endoscopy does not go up your bum but instead you are given a mouth brace, some towel to catch all the inevitable drool and then you have a canula fitted (just the three attempts this time) so that you can be fairly heavily sedated. All this happened while I was genuinely panicking because the man who was about to insert a camera into my stomach introduced himself as Dr Fox. I look around, there was no sign of a Pepsi Chart Challenge quiz machine or a rundown of some shoddy pop music, but I was still unnerved.

The procedure itself was seemingly quite quick and basically consisted of me gagging in a semi-conscious state while a soothing nurse said things like “You’re doing really well, well done”. If only that soothing voice had been there during my student years as I suffered from hedonistic nights out. Soon enough, I was awake in the recovery room drinking tea and eating complimentary custard creams (the king of biscuits) whilst discussing the strange phenomenon of there always being aeroplane magazines in the waiting room with a man who had just had a colonoscopy. We decided that surely it was only the surgeons rich enough to even want to buy a magazine about aeroplanes but we’d both been dealt with favourably, so we allowed it. This new friend also explained that he’d gone to the trouble of buying a new, cheaper watch from Trago Mills (for non-Westcountry readers, Trago Mills is like a Brexit Superstore run by Nigel Farage’s stingier brother) in case his good watch was stolen during the procedure. I’m not sure why he needed to wear a watch during his colonoscopy or why he thought a surgeon would be up for stealing his watch but if you’re going to buy a watch from Trago Mills then you get what you deserve.

The wait for further results (and incessant questioning) continues, then, but in the meantime I’ve been able to see my little boy start school and start to write actual letters, I’ve booked a trip to see a band I’ve been waiting about 20 years to see live and it’s nearly Christmas, so it’s not all bad. Indeed, today I watched as my little boy (the one I am long since supposed to have abandoned according to my GP) had, and I’m quoting here, “the best birthday party in the world ever” with his mates. Sure, it hurts to swallow, I have three canula bruises and the sedatives are still working their way through my body but at least I was around to be battered with soft play equipment, eat a sausage roll and sing happy birthday to a sweaty ginger kid in a Hawaiian shirt. And, as the old saying goes, it’s better to be waiting in soft play than dead. Or something like that.

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