Yesterday was a hell of a day. The anniversary of Dr Seuss’s death (27 years), the 70th anniversary of the Honda motor company, and the birthday of the imaginatively named Anne of Cyprus, who is famous for buying the Turin shroud for the princely sum of one French castle. Bargain.
For me, I had five appointments at Super Hospital. 5 appointments! An all day marathon. Gorgeous, but sarcastic wife and I decided that a romantic night out was in order prior to this veritable consultation carnivále. After all, romance is not going to be high on the agenda for the foreseeable future. So we booked in a nice hotel, the plan being to awake nice and refreshed with no stress in the morning, being very close to the hospital, just a short walk down the road. Being close to the hospital- just a short walk down the road…. Where is close to the hospital……..?
Fast forward to 9 am Monday morning. We are pulling our suitcases along the pavement, the baking hot morning sun scorching our white skin, eyes red and burning in the brightness, livers roasting our insides with the metabolic fire burning within. The fire that comes only from a night on the lash. Bowels griping and loose, clammy sweats, acid bile scorching my throat, holding down the greasy bacon and eggs, that I paid for in advance, and so was definitely having, missing the comforts of our own bog and bed.
The Valley was close to the hospital. The dark, sleazy, beating party heart of the river city. The Valley where there are several rooftop bars, several micro breweries, several pubs, several champagne bars, and lots and lots of bars and night clubs, and restaurants. The Valley where a man can go, when he gets a babysitter, with his gorgeous wife, and party like his days of partying are numbered, when his days of partying are actually numbered.
We still arrive at super hospital in good time (The bonus of middle age boozing is that your sleep is ruined. Three or four hours of comatose snoring, followed by being wide awake, so you may as well get up). The waiting room is immense. Think of the Day of the Dead. Now think of your local charity shop. Take off the lovely colourful costumes from the Dia de Muertos, and replace them with the clothes from the charity shop. Add in some younger, but morbidly obese, folks, and you have the general vibe of the space.
We check in and take a seat. Everyone here is going to have an operation of some sort, apart from a few who, by the looks of them, will certainly be deemed too great a risk to even fart near them, let alone let them sniff some anaesthetic gasses. Opposite is a tall skinny fellow. Middle aged. I can’t tell what’s wrong with him from just looking. He brings a sulphurous odour with him. I consider moving seats, but having a quick look ’round, there doesn’t appear to be a viable alternative. Mothballs, sweat, cheap copies of perfumes- Victor’s Secret, Vera Wank, Asparagus Spears, Dolce & Gabanana, Fanny Nights, Estee Nausea, Bleat by Goatier, pervading through the air. I go with the farty smell, and stay put. Sulphurous Steve delves around in the innards of his pack, like a ferret, in appearance as well as action. He emerges clutching a collection of original 1970’s Tupperware boxes. Does anyone remember that Mr Bean sketch where he sits on a park bench and makes a sandwich? Wait, I will link it….
This is virtually happening in front of us. He’s got a pot for lettuce- fancy lettuce mind, a pot of Keeeeeenwahhh, a pot of nuts, a different pot of lettuce- Radicchio this time. OK, not strictly lettuce, more a cultivated form of leaf chicory, either way, he has it. A lump of cheese. I would hazard a guess at a sheeps cheese, maybe a Manchego, but it had the potential to be a pale cheddar, I guess. He finally unveiled the source of my aromatic displeasure, a large pot of hard boiled eggs. I found some small relief here. I had been sitting for half an hour, breathing through my mouth, in shallow breaths, keen not to inhale what I considered to be a constant stream of offensive gas from his scabby arse, and to find it was only half a dozen eggs, was an improvement. My thoughts then turned back to his emissions. If this waiting room banquet is indicative of his normal diet……before back to trying to pair a red with his meal.
Luckily short but sweet pharmacist calls me in. She remembers me from last time. After all, how many forty-something, only 3-4 kilos overweight, not too ugly, charming men does she meet in the course of her day? I am even easier for her now, because I have stopped taking my complementary medicines, my view being that I still have cancer, so they clearly are fucking useless, and that the money spent on them could be better invested in red wine for me and rose for gorgeous wifey. I reel off my BP meds, and I’m out of there.
Back to the waiting room…. Where to sit this time? What criteria should one apply when choosing a seat in a hospital waiting room? I would offer these…
Firstly smell. Try to choose a spot that is free from the bouquet of the unfit, smokers, or visibly sick. That means no one with a stained bandage, no one with a BMI of over 50, and no one who keeps going out for some fresh air.
Next criteria is likelihood to engage you in conversation. Gorgeous wifey, doesn’t mind this too much, but to be honest, I just can’t be arsed. Nothing good can come of a conversation in a hospital waiting room, apart from the confirmation that there is always someone worse off than yourself. A blow by blow account of the various anatomical fragments taken by the medics over the last few decades… “and they still don’t know why I’m putting on weight, despite only eating one slice of cucumber a day…it must be my metabolism or something.” Yes, the something being six cans of Mother and a party pack of Cheezles five times a day in between meals, your ambulatory needs met by a motorised chariot, and your exercise highlight being letting your dog out the back door for a shit in the garden.
Final criterion is likelihood to do something to upset you. This can be wide ranging, and it is therefore, a large category. If they have small children, they are bound to do something to upset me eventually, it’s just a matter of time. Cough on me, wipe their hands on me, cry lots. Once I was at checkout and there was a woman in front of me with two kids of the same age in the trolley. She was unloading, and not looking, when one of the kids, out of the blue, just whacked the other kid ’round the chops. It was a pretty good blow, and the injured kid let out a massive shriek and started wailing. Of course, the mother turned around to investigate the commotion, and looked accusingly at me! When I laughingly pointed out that “that one, punched that one, in the face” I thought she was going to phone the police, and accuse me of all sorts. I even had to do a clandestine check of my trousers to make sure everything was zipped up properly, so much was the venom in her gaze. So I avoid other peoples children now, and I’m certainly not going to sit near some out of choice. Other things that are likely to upset me whilst waiting in hospital are talking loudly. Particularity talking loudly about inane shit. When I talk shit, often I would assume, with me being a man, wifey does not hesitate to tell me to shut the fuck up. Other people don’t appear to have this built in filter, and so they sit in the waiting room, torrents of toss spouting out to whoever wants to listen. I know so much about one blokes teenage daughter and her move to Perth to train to be a vet, that I could assume her identity on-line, buy a mountain of Bitcoin, and toss off the rest of my life on the beach in Thailand. Next up- Eating stuff. That’s why hospitals have cafeterias. If the waiting room was a designated picnic area, there would be fucking picnic tables, rangers and bin chickens! Potential to have an event is another reason to avoid people. If you look like you might die in the next few hours, I’m not going to sit near you. If you have the appearance of someone that might kick off, I’m not sitting near you either. I’ve had enough of calming irate people in waiting rooms in my career, to want to do it on my day off as well.
I have to sit somewhere. We plonk ourselves down next to a young lad with a broken leg who is accompanied by not one, but two girlfriends it would appear. Shortly afterwards, an elderly couple make a bee line for the seats opposite, and upon sitting, she promptly bashes the remaining sense out of her head on a picture on the wall, with an almighty crash. Luckily, I am called again by pretty anaesthetic reg, thus missing the resulting fallout from portrait-gate.
PAR calls me in, has a chat about the operation. 5-6 hours. Wow! That’s big. It’s a little more real now, time is ticking down. They do the operation with you head down, feet up on the bed at about 40 degree tilt. Apparently this is going to make me talk bollocks for a couple of days afterwards, due to all that blood. This position keeps all my guts out of the way when they do the business. I might get nerve damage PAR says. In my hands or feet. Hmm. I don’t know about you, but now I’m weighing up the relative merits of which one to get. Probably foot drop is easier than hand drop, so I pigeon-hole that thought away, in the processed pile. Moving on, I could have a stroke from bleeding or a clot, a clot somewhere else, a heart attack, chunder my dinner into my lungs thus starting a hideous chemical and bacterial reaction resulting in a nasty cough. They might go a bit off-piste and fuck up my bowel, and I could be incontinent. Could get an infection. Might kill me. Might need a stoma for poo. Might need a stoma for wee. Might need a bullet by the sounds of it.
Back to the waiting room. It’s thinning out, there are more spaces as the other guests either drift away or die, presumably. A quick game of Operation on the Ipad, and I’m back in, this time with the nurse again. Same one as before. Can’t remember her name- I thought she was a bit lazy when she wouldn’t swab my nose, but it turned out it was my crack that needed the swab. Fair enough. No swabs this time though. BP still perfect, luckily for me- don’t know how. I can’t remember if I had one, two or none of my meds the night before. I’d had cocktails and craft beer, and was on a promise with gorgeous wifey, so it wasn’t high on the priority list.
Back in the room. Back out again to see medical doctor. Perfect doc. She was quietly efficient, used my name, told me hers, just did everything right. She has a listen to my chest- lungs and heart, tells me a few more things to worry about, whilst telling me not to worry about them, because I’m young. And then we are free! I go and get some bloods done, a tiny bit anxious that they won’t look their best after the night before, but hey ho, as they say, I’m young, so hopefully I can get away with it.
We go for a drink. I have a coffee, Katy orders tea. Drinks come. Tea tastes funny says wifey. She won’t drink it. I google it.
“This signature range offers well known, delicious tea blends each with a unique gentle twist developed by our tea masters.”
Well according to wifey, the tea masters can fuck right off, because they’ve ruined the tea with their unique gentle twist. English Breakfast should taste like English Breakfast, not English Breakfast with a few shavings of lavender scented candle. I paid for it, so someone’s drinking it, and I drink the whole pot, followed by my grand flat white, and we go marching in to battle with the evil elevator kin.
Emerging victoriously having vanquished the EEK’s we make it to Urology, at just before 1pm. We go it just before 3pm. Not too bad, I feel. Not for the fuckers in the waiting room though. Moan moan fucking moan. Rather than my real life observations, which may be reminiscent of one of Dad’s rants, even wifey noted that-
Everyone else, with the exception of one dude about my age, were all at least 65, where else did they all have to be that was more important than accessing free health care, devised to ease their suffering and keep them alive for longer? They were happy to sit and bemoan the amount of time they had to sit and wait, before they could get themselves home to sit and moan about something else instead. One bloke, who was there when we arrived was called in by a nurse for something or other. The waiting room was half full. Another couple arrived and the man of the new couple sat in the recently vacated seat. The first geezer comes out from seeing the nurse.
“That’s a ma seat” he says in his northern Italian/Croatian accent, wildly gesticulating, flapping like he’s trying to take off. Half full waiting room. Other dude just says
“Oh sorry” and gets up and moves! Oh my FG. What are they like?
All that tea and coffee has me sitting uncomfortabley , desperate for a piss, hoping not to have to turn to the hot bath and mothers remedies like my dad in episode 1. The irony of sitting in a urology department, whilst on the verge of urinary retention lost on everyone, bar me. I couldn’t move though. Couldn’t risk the shame of being absent when called.
I get to see the surgeon, I’m at the limit, bladder wise. He is legendary. I have every faith in his abilities, from virtually the minute I met him. Let’s call him Epic Doctor. ED. I tell him my story about Dad getting his prostate cancer, and the subsequent cancers that killed him.
“Bloody hell” says the surgeon, “I need a drink after that” before asking about the UK, and taking the piss out of the North. He fills me in with the gory details of the operation. His bit is about 3 hours, but there’s another hour or so each end with the anaesthetists and team getting you strapped to “the device” – the S&M couch where the action takes place, and then intubated and under.
ED tells me about ED. Erectile dysfunction. 100% of men won’t be able to do it afterwards. For some men it will return. To some extent.
“You won’t be able to hang a towel on it” ED says. He says the cancer will have spread in 15 years time, then will take a couple of years to kill me afterwards, but there’s always a chance it could be sooner. That’s a long time. I’ll be about 65. My youngest will be 28, around the same age my brother lost his mum. Old enough to look after himself. I’ll probably still have life insurance. Financial security for the family. I’ll not have to worry about being poor in retirement.
ED says what ever I do, my life, from now on, will be full of regret.
“Go fast, and go hard” he says. I.e. do nothing, have fun, pray that your tumour grows slowly, but live, knowing your days are numbered, albeit in the thousands rather than the hundreds. Live to regret the decision you took when you could have been cured.
The alternative is to be cured, and to live with the regret that your sex life, and continence is affected for the rest of your life. Definitely the former, and maybe the latter. It will mentally affect you he tells me. You may die of something else, another cancer, heart attack or accident, and the surgery will prove to be pointless. You could delay the surgery, he says. We laugh at wifey, pestered for sex for three months straight.
“But I’m quite young,” I say, “So I’ll recover better now”
“Yes, that’s true, but just longer to regret your decision” ED retorts.
I ask him if he’s trying to talk me out of it. He says no, but he wants me to pick my regret carefully as I will live it for the rest of my life. I am booked for surgery on 18th October. I have two weeks to change my mind, and 2 minutes to find a toilet before I piss myself.
“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught”
Food for thought from Frank.