So, good, but hot, doc calls wifey and I into the consulting room. As I’m walking down the corridor, all that I can think in my head is-
“A reg or SHO can tell me it’s all good, and I need to just piss off….”
“It’s going to be bad, she’s the boss. She has most practice at telling blokes they’ve got cancer. She would not leave that to the juniors”.
These two thoughts over and over again, in that ten foot corridor, heading to what could possibly be the beginning of the end. My last hurrah, the final countdown.
We reach the room. It’s massive. She’s the director after all. It is, in fact, the biggest consulting room I have ever seen. Bigger than any room I ever owned in England. She gestures at us to sit. It’s squeaky bum time, as once famously described by Sir Alec Ferguson, erstwhile manager of Manchester United. Although the circumstances were somewhat different. She asks how I was after the biopsy.
Kicked in the tint by your pointy shoes etc etc etc. Get to the point please. Another small talk sentence squeezed in. I forget what about, but please, please get to the point. Hitchcock levels of suspense have built up inside of me, whilst wifey is still blissfully unaware. She admitted afterwards that she expected a formality. Just a quick in and out to get the all clear, nothing to worry about, we’ll keep an eye on things.
Good, but hot, doc opens her mouth to speak again. Time goes slowly, I’m looking at her neck, there’s a platinum ring on a chain, it has diamonds. Must be from her other half, and she doesn’t want to lose it in someone’s insides on the operating table. My gaze drifts over her shoulder to a poster sized diagram of men’s insides. I refresh my anatomical knowledge, as words begin to form. The atmosphere, for me only, thickened by the slowing of time.
That’s how it started. She’s sorry. Time goes slower. Sorry for what? Maybe they lost the samples and have to do the biopsies again. Maybe it was inconclusive. Maybe she’s sorry for keeping me waiting before the appointment. For me, to all intents and purposes, time has stopped. Hypnotised, hanging on her every word. But there are no words. I’m in some kind of mumbo jumbo limbo land, my frazzled brain trying to clench on to wisps of thoughts as they swoosh and whoosh though my mind.
Then in an instant, I’m back in the room, as if a stage hypnotist has clicked his fingers, perhaps after implanting some bizarre idea that will reveal itself via my odd behaviour at a point in the future only known to him. Christ, I don’t really need help with that.
“We found some cancer on some of the biopsies.”
Wifey bursts into tears. Good, but hot, doc jumps up and offers the tissues. Katy, I think, was certainly more shocked than me. I kind of knew I had it coming, but TBH I did think it would be a little later in life. Like at least 10 years later.
When you consider the genetic history bequeathed by ma and pa, and the misspent decade living in a pub. Well not living exactly, I left every day to go to work, before returning for Tina’s tea time special- 2 for a fiver, 3 pints of Pedigree and 10 Embassy no.1. Chilli or Cowboy Hash in a giant Yorkshire pudding, me and Cockhead. We didn’t spend every night in that pub. Yorkshire has a lot of pubs. Sometimes we would manage a frozen pizza at home, before heading off to the Princess, for another three pints and the obligatory smokes. Pubs in those days were smoky. Some days you couldn’t see one end of the pub from the other due to the smoky haze, which was just as well sometimes, as you could only hear the sounds of patrons from the less salubrious parts of town, having it large. Which usually meant smashing a few glasses and having a ruck, because Wayne had a threesome with Christine and Tracey, whilst Mandy was stuck at home with the kids. Kids that were now stuck at home by themselves, as Mandy swung Tracey and Christine around by their hair, whilst intermittently attempting to glass Wayne in the knackers. The northern pubs generally needed no scheduled entertainment, as the clients behaviour was often enough to keep us interested. These blues always seemed to sort themselves out, and whilst they sometimes left individually, it was usually en masse, probably to try a foursome, with Wayne, the silver tongued charmer, coming up trumps again.
We sat the other end, digesting our Findus meal, helped along by the occasional cigar, and maybe a Jameson’s if it was cold outside. Smoky haze keeping us in the dark, safely away from Mandy’s misdeeds. In winter, Cockhead and I, would take the Hippy, our partially trained house mate, to the pub, because we cleverly deduced that having the central heating on, would cost us money, and so a night in the boozer was essentially carbon neutral. That’s correct, we were the early implementers of theories and strategies to counter global warming.
If you are religious, you may wish to consider that the Hippy, could have been chosen to find to Cockhead and I. As if it was written in the scriptures. Two great boy-men could take on a potentially lost cause and offer deliverance to this waif, this lost one, this rather festy human being. Me and CH had a shared house that we rented. We had a spare room, and eventually realised that if we rented out the room, we could use the funds for carousing, frolicking and similar endeavours. In order to gain a house mate, we advertised. We advertised at the University, we had been students there, in the not too distant past, and figured maybe a post-grad or something like would fit the bill. We left our advert on the notice board. Don’t forget that in those times the internet was just for academics and porn. We were very specific. Must like drinking. Smoking accepted. No criminal record. Can pay rent. Not as hot as us two.
The queries came flooding in. It didn’t take us long to go through the applicants to make our short-list as there was one solitary interested party. We decided to conduct interviews. The Hippy attended our abode, where he was entertained with canapés and wine, whilst we drilled him about his habits, and his ability to introduce us to single women. He was tall, with long dark hair like Neil from the Young Ones, but he was fairly chiselled, and lean. Unfortunately he was also pasty white, like a freshly dug up corpse, and had a distinctly cheesy aroma that accompanied him where ever he went. He wore aviators, not the sunglasses, but the actual glasses, smoked rollies, and worked evenings in the computer centre at the uni, whilst doing some sort of computery physics PhD. Which explained the ghoulish appearance. He. Was. Perfect.
The Hippy seamlessly assimilated into our household. When he finished work at 8pm, he would either pick up the smokes and the beer from the off license on his way home, if we were in, and join us in the boozer if we were out. A couple of friends suggested he was a little untrained. He had a few social faux pas that popped up on occasion. He had a slight propensity for groping. He was no sex pest, but he tended to veer to the left of centre on the continuum of gropiness, where sitting on the far right are blind nuns, with no hands, and the far left is occupied by dribbling middle aged men, in Santa costumes with puppies and sweets on offer. One day wifey (who appeared, as girlfriend, at some point during the Hippy era) managed to insult the Hippy, which in itself was an achievement, as CH and I had toughened him up with several months of incessant banter, regarding his odious personal habits, and his inclination to walk around naked. His nakedness, that I’m fairly sure, was some form of psychological taunt, as we discovered his other nickname could have been Meat, from the equipment he was packing down below. Grower, or show-er. Definitely the latter. After the insult, he chased Wifey up the stairs, and as he reached for her lower body, him being a few stairs further down, to tackle her, her trousers came off and she made her escape along the landing. The Hippy, left standing there holding her jeans in his hand, as we rounded the corner, did little to change anyone’s perceptions.
One day, we decided to give the Hippy a makeover. Well, not a makeover as such, it was more of a haircut. It was wasn’t planned. We were at a party. An after pub party. The usual group of friends were there, mainly couples, and the Hippy. A young lady every now and then emerged from the foul stench of the Hippies box room, to sheepishly disappear, but he never seemed to have a girlfriend per se. There were probably about a dozen of us, and there was a brief discussion that the Hippy, was in fact pretty good looking. The basic bones were there, but he was not making optimum use of them. Now he’s no Brad Pitt, but think along the lines of Matthew McConaughey in his last film, Gold, on the right, normal appearance on the left.
It could have even been invented by us that night, but Beauty and the Geek, became a global success, based on the same premise. Check out these examples.
Now the last picture certainly has some resemblance to the Hippy. Imagine this fella with brown hair, no beard, Breaking Bad glasses, Stiltonesque hum, and a rolled up sock packed down his y-fronts, and there you have him. The Hippy. We figured we could achieve the same transformation with a drunken haircut, some borrowed clothes, and a bit of balm round the chops.
The caper was initially hampered, by not having anyone in the group, who had cut someone’s hair before. We soon overcame this by telling the Hippy that a student psychologist (SP) in our group, had a part-time job as a barber, and got her to use a few mind techniques to further enforce this belief. It was so successful, that afterwards, we all became supremely confident in her abilities to do the deed. Although five pints of Lowenbrau and a few whiskey chasers had probably assisted our decision making. Incredibly, the Hippy was placid enough to let us loose on his greasy barnet, and away she went with the kitchen scissors straight to the ponytail. Wifey held it, and SP went at it. Snip snip snip, and faster than a cut price vasectomy, it was off, wifey brandishing it in the air like the olympic torch, the king of trophies, to rapturous applause.
That is where it ended, that night, because immediately afterwards, we conceded that no one actually had any skills to further improve the Hippy’s appearance, and the poor sod had to attend a proper hairdresser to tell his sorry tale, and plead for aid. Luckily for us, the deed was done on Saturday night, so we had the pleasure of reviewing our handiwork all day on Sunday, albeit slightly spoiled by the Hippy’s screwed up face. The piece de resistance being waving him off that evening for his four hour stint on the help desk at the computer centre, where he would be forced to try and leer over the students with his ridiculously coiffured barnet.
On a more serious note, the makeover did certainly improve his appearance, and by the appearance of the large amount of Trojan condom boxes in the kitchen bin over the next few weeks, it facilitated a demonstrable improvement in his love life. Over the years, we lost touch with said Hippy, and no-one knows what happened him………
OK, click click, back in the room.
Wifey stops crying. Good, but hot, doc tells me the story straight.
They took 12 biopsies.
Cancer is in two of the twelve, one only has about 30% tumour, the other has about 95%.
From what they can see, it is contained in the prostate. meaning, they don’t think it’s spread. They don’t THINK it’s spread. That’s probably the hardest thing of all. No-one will ever be in a position to tell you there are no distant seeds waiting to unleash hell further down the line, so you learn to get on with things, worry less, live more for the present. Spend less time at work, more time in the sun, more time with the family. Just in case.
Prostate cancer can, on one end of the scale, be mildly aggressive, and take years to kill you. On the other hand, it can rip through your body and have you deader than Bruce Willis, in the Sixth Sense, in a few months. That’s that movie ruined if you’ve never seen it hahaha.
In order to work out how to treat you, it is best to know how aggressive the cancer is. I will try to keep this as basic as possible, but it’s not that straight forward.
There are several scales, some that measure the same thing, some different.
The most common is the Gleason score. From the biopsy they look at the cell types and grade the cells out of 5. 1 is normal looking. 5 is way off normal. Since prostate tumours are often made up of cancerous cells that have different grades, two grades are assigned for each patient. A primary grade is given to describe the cells that make up the largest area of the tumour and a secondary grade is given to describe the cells of the next largest area.
So you end up with two numbers. For instance, if the Gleason Score is written as 3+4=7, it means most of the tumour is grade 3 and the next largest section of the tumour is grade 4, together they make up the total Gleason Score. If the cancer is almost entirely made up of cells with the same score, the grade for that area is counted twice to calculated the total Gleason Score. This is a bit misleading, because a Gleason score of below 6 is essentially not cancer, and can lead folks to believe that a score of 6 is fairly aggressive. To clear this up, they have recently introduced a new scale of 1-5, which is fairly obvious.
I am assigned a Gleason Grade of 7. Or a new grade of 2. So in terms of aggressiveness my cancer is further down the scale. This is where age comes in, along with the confusion. I thought you died with prostate cancer, not from it. Oh hang on why is it that 3500 men in Australia die from it every year? And how come it is only beaten by lung cancer, in terms of cancer killers of Australian men?
There you go. If most blokes who get prostate cancer are 60 plus, then, depending on what else you have going on, a low aggressive cancer might be something to live with. The incidence of prostate cancer (PC) in 45-49 year old men is 40 in 100,000. 0.04%. Unlucky me.
Now there are no figures for survivability for prostate cancer in younger men, but this table illustrates what potentially could happen. I add that this is with no treatment. So it says what would happen to men with PC if they did nothing.
This is sobering reading. Firstly you can see that the mortality increases the younger you are when diagnosed. If I was currently 55, my Gleason Grade 7 tumour has a 50% chance of killing me in 10 years, and a 75% chance of killing me in 20 years. Without treatment. If we use a similar rate of increasing mortality to estimate my age group, it looks to be around 60% of dying in 10 years, and 100% of dying in 20 years- WITHOUT TREATMENT.
I will have only just reached retirement age by then. Good, but hot, doc also informs me that when prostates are removed and analysed in the labs, 30% of them are upgraded to a higher Gleason Grade, as they can examine the bits missed by the biopsies.
I’m too young to do nothing, is the consensus. I can have surgery or radiotherapy, she says.
“come back in 2 weeks, and let me know your thoughts”
She gives me a blue box, the size of hardback novel. It says “Localised Prostate Cancer Pack” on the front. It contains all the reading matter that I require. We go to the desk, and request a 2 week appointment. The clerk looks at me like I have just asked her to transmute lead into gold, until I wave my little blue box, and she overbooks me in a hitherto unavailable slot, with a sympathetic look. We shuffle through the waiting room, the blue box, drawing knowing looks. Like when you go to the GP and they actually give you some antibiotics, and you joyfully come home and tell whoever, that you are properly sick, endorsed by a doctor.
I take my cancer badge, and get out of there, it’s my youngest’s 11th birthday, and we’ve got to act like nothing’s happened.