THE NEW NORMAL #48 – RUN, FATBOY, RUN

I have always made a point in life of not running for trains or last orders or, well, anything really. The theory is that if I’m not meant to be on that bus then it’s not meant to be and this has served me well in avoiding at least one tube train bombing and numerous other benefits. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise this week when, during a game of catch, my nearly six year old boy exclaimed “Daddy, I didn’t know you could do that” when I ran to catch a ball. It was a bit of a wake-up call at my lack of mobility in the preceding years but also chimed in with a phone call I’d had the same morning but for that to make sense I need to rewind slightly to catch you up.

Following the good news that my lungs aren’t cancerous, things started to move pretty quickly and before I could even contemplate a celebratory glass of champers I was booked in for major surgery in London. The deal I was presented with was either to opt out of the surgery and hope that immunotherapy or chemotherapy do a job on the tumour currently residing on my pancreas or I can have surgery to remove my pancreas, my bile duct, my spleen, my duodenum and the pesky tumour. Normally, they would remove my gall bladder too but regular readers will remember that I already had that whipped out five years ago so that should save time. I have, of course, opted for the surgery but not lightly because there are a few, frankly, terrifying issues which I’ll list for you here:

  1. Death – it’s a risk with every surgery but this one has one of the highest mortality rates so once I go under there may be no coming back and that really makes you swallow hard. And pee a little.
  2. Surgery – the surgery takes around seven hours and is a pretty gruelling experience for the body so there are a number of tests to be done on heart and lungs before I can be considered ready.
  3. No dice – they could put me under, open me up and then decide that there’s nothing doing with a tumour that is wrapped around a number of complex and important body parts. This would still require a couple of days wait in hospital to make sure I’d been stitched back up properly but otherwise nothing more positive.
  4. The wait – assuming all goes well, I will be spending two weeks recovering in hospital as they check on the removal of various tubes and reconnection of whatever organs I have left. Normally this would be tedious but due to the operation happening in London and this being, well, 2020, I am also allowed NO VISITORS for the entire two weeks (thanks Covid-19, you dick). This will be the single longest time I’ve been away from my family since I’ve had a family of my own and for a man who developed separation anxiety back in 2016 that is enough to make a tiny part of me want to opt out of the surgery altogether.

And that kind of brings you up to date with what’s been going on so I can get back to the running thread of this particular chapter. You see, this particular surgery (known in the medical world as total pancreatectomy which I can only ever say like Bill and Ted) is akin to running a marathon in terms of the pressure and strain it puts on your body. Now, don’t worry, I won’t be dressing up in a novelty dinosaur suit before entering the operating theatre or shitting in a drain like Paula Radcliffe (not again, anyway), but I do need to be in relatively good shape. It’s mainly the lungs and heart that have to have the capacity to cope with this additional pressure so I’m having my tests and hopefully will be good to go. Nevertheless, in typical ‘me’ style I’ll be running this particular marathon (or Snickers for the American audience members) lying naked on a bed, passed out and surrounded by strangers in masks – it’s like Vanilla Sky but less dull.

Sure, there are downsides, but if everything goes according to plan then I will get to cross the finish line of this very personal marathon at the end of August, see the end of summer and see my little boy start a second year of school which is something I didn’t think would happen at the start of 2020. In fact, if things are as good as they can be, then I could be in for a few more years of school runs and parents evenings which I genuinely can’t wait for so I’m hoping to stay match fit. There will be changes to my life such as needing to take enzymes to break down food with every meal and antibiotics every day to cover for what my spleen used to do but these are small prices to pay (unless the Americans take over the NHS of course).

This will be the last blog post before I travel up to London for the surgery and, to be perfectly frank, I’m more than a little bit scared of the whole process and what state I’ll be in when I wake. Or if I wake up. This latter point is something that people will not entertain when I mention it out loud but this is the most serious operation I’ve ever had and, hopefully, the most serious one I’ll ever have so you have to consider this as an option. I mean, if the last thing I ever say to my son is “see you in two weeks, I’ll bring you back a Happy Meal” then that isn’t exactly the lasting legacy anyone wants to leave, is it? On the flip side, how do you say, “maybe goodbye, maybe not” to a five-year-old who doesn’t understand the difference between mayonnaise and yoghurt and who’s favourite two words are ‘poop’ and ‘wiener’?

I guess what I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that this is the bit in Run Fatboy Run where Simon Pegg hits the wall in his race and you’re not quite sure if he’ll make it through (except you are because this is a film and the step dad is, as always, a massive douche bag). The trouble is this isn’t a film. This is real life in 2020 and I think we can all agree that the one thing 2020 is good at is pulling a surprise or two out of the big. I mean, Christ, I liked more than one of Piers Morgan’s tweets the other day, so anything is possible. Anything at all. So maybe see you soon and maybe not, has anybody got a coin I can toss…..?

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