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  • nbrightside 3:55 pm on September 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    quandry on the MRI scanner 

    Today I visited my friends at the Royal Marsden in Sutton for routine MRI and CT scans. As I completed the pre-flight questionnaire and carefully removed all metal accessories from my person, I laid down on the bed ready to be inserted into the MRI scanner. A nurse injects some muscle relaxant into my right arm.

    Then came the question, I’d been dreading – ‘Would you like any music during the scan ?’ ‘Yes please’. ‘What would you like ?’ ‘Have you got ‘Give Em Enough Rope’ by ‘The Clash’ ? ‘Err no – I don’t think so’. ‘High Violet’ by The National ?’ ‘Not heard of that one’. ‘50,000 Fall fans can’t be wrong ?’  ‘Err – sorry. Never heard of that one either’. ‘Best of R.E.M ?’ ‘Oooh – I do lurve R.E.M but I don’t think we have it here’.  This was getting desperate – time to go for the one of the most popular albums of all-time ‘ Do you have ‘Never MInd’ by Seattle grunge rockers, Nirvana ?’ ‘Julie – any Nirvana back there – try looking in the bottom drawer of Frank’s pedestal’. A slight pause while Julie forages around in Frank’s drawers – ‘Sorry, it’s locked’.

    ‘Ah OK – maybe just tell me what you have got…’ ‘Well we have ‘Now That’s What I call 80s’ and that Pink Floyd one with the prism. ‘Oh no – sorry but I’m not having ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ – that LP was why punk was invented”. Julie emerges breathless but triumphant and offers: ‘Hang on, I think there’s something by Enya’. ‘Not really my taste – do you have any gentle, soothing, calm music of whale noises accompanied by a Irish harp ?’ ‘No – I think The Medical Day Unit borrowed our copy for their Christmas party’. ‘Julie – what else do we have back there ?’ Julie responds ‘I’ve just found a CD disc in the bookshelf – no case but it has a lot of red rose petals on’. ‘Hey that’s fantastic ! ‘No More Heroes’ by The Stranglers. That’s great – please just play that. Thanks a lot’.

    I re-position my legs over the support cushion, get comfortable and adjust my head into the correct position for the 45 minute scan looking forward to listening to a long forgotten punk classic in its entirety.

    The headphones are carefully lowered over my ears and the alarm buzzer is placed into my palm.

    The first scan is imminent – ‘This scan will last for 7 minutes – please remain perfectly still’.

    Then Julie comes on the intercom – ‘I’m awfully sorry, Mr. Brightside – this CD appears to be ‘All Woman III’. Is that OK ?’

     
  • nbrightside 2:40 pm on September 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Low, low, low 

    I have thought long and hard about writing this post. I have avoided writing it for a long time. At times, I thought maybe I just wouldn’t write it. But deep down inside, I knew I simply had to write it. In fact, I knew I had to write it since the evening of Friday 14th December 2012.

    After a slight delay caused by the UTI episode, I resumed chemotherapy treatment. This was exactly the combination of toxic poisons I had been given a year ago but this time, the purpose was a post-surgical sweep to eradicate any residual microscopic cancer cells.

    Before we even started chemo, there was a problem. My portacath had been removed during the urosepsis incident. No problem – I had another one inserted on the right side this time.

    Chemo started but instead of cruising through it, this time was different. I felt tired, I felt lethargic, I felt listless. I felt fed up.

    My 50th birthday came and went in November. My plans to hire a function room in a pub and get ‘I Am Not Left Handed’ to play under a banner ‘Emerging Victorious’ didn’t come to fruition.

    December came with all the forced jollity of Christmas. Chemo sessions came and went every fortnight. I had to carry that damned baby bottle around for 48 hours after each session.

    I felt shit. I felt low. I would wake up and think ‘Only 14 hours until bed-time’. I used to resent my children (both students) slothing around, getting up an 12 noon when I felt compelled to get up normally at 8 o’clock – just to appear ‘normal’.

    Christmas approached. A rendezvous with my mates also loomed large. A year ago, I had opted out of a similar Xmas drink-up. This year, I had been determined to make it; after all, they were all travelling across London to a pub 200 yards from my house just to accommodate me. I felt shit. I didn’t feel like going out – even with my closest mates who I’d known for over 20 years and had been supporting me in recent times.

    I was about to send the email to make my excuses and wuss out. Cancer’s great – you don’t need to justify anything like that anymore. No piss taking, no jokes – it’s universally and instantly accepted without question.

    Before I could hit ‘Send’, a mate from Manchester said he was on a course in Oxford and would love to come down to London for the Friday night meet-up. Bollocks. I couldn’t cancel now – the decision had been made for me. Still, maybe that was for the best.

    Friday 14th December arrived and I felt OK. In fact, I was quite looking forward to it. Steve came and parked his bags. We had a chat, he made the kids laugh and then we responded to the inevitable ‘WTF are you ?’ text message by trudging down to my local at 7.45pm.

    It was fantastic to see them all. It was the best thing I could have done. I hadn’t see some of them since the start of my minor health issue. It didn’t matter – there was no awkwardness, no spontaneous tears, no stilted silences – just ‘What are you having, you old git ?’ and discussion about life, football and Hook Norton. Just like old times, in fact.

    Maybe this was it – the turning point. Onwards and upwards from here.

    I went to the toilet – I checked the condition of my modified waterworks. Fuck me – this bag was leaking. But I’d only changed it just prior to coming out, specifically to avoid this. I could always change the bag here and now in  cramped toilet like a Coke head sniffing white powder off the toilet cistern.

    Fuck it – this was too much. I made my excuses and left ‘Sorry lads but I’ll have to call it a night. I’m a bit tired’.

    Again, no challenges, no ‘Fuck off – it’s your bloody round, Get ’em in now’. Nothing. Just a slight look of surprise and some hurried good byes and Christmas greetings.

    So that was it. 2012 was supposed to be the year of emerging victorious. Instead, I found myself in a pub, with my tracksuit bottoms streaked in piss, wishing my mates ‘Happy Fucking Christmas’.

    I walked back home on the cold December night. I wouldn’t be going for a curry. I scurried home, made my excuses and immediately went up to bed. Half past 9 on a Friday night.

    Suddenly and inexplicably, I just felt quite overwhelmed. I was in pieces.

    16 months since my diagnosis, after all the chemotherapy, after all the radiotherapy, after all the consultations, after all the pills, after 14 hours of surgery, after cyberknife, after all the infections and after yet more chemotherapy, I was supposed to ’emerge victorious’. I had done it. I had beaten ‘Locally advanced, stage 4 colorectal cancer’. I could take my place in the survivor’s lounge. I could go on sponsored walks and give talks to my local Bowel Cancer Support group.

    So that was it – a rather irritating 16 months out of my life but it was now over. Back to normal, back to work. Everything is now over. Finished. Well done, Andy.

    Quite the contrary for me though – I felt very low during that final 12 weeks of chemotherapy and everything seemed to finally snowball and engulf me on the evening of Friday 14 December. Undoubtedly, my body didn’t cope with the chemo as well post-surgery as it had before but it just seemed that, emotionally, everything caught up with me.

    All that pent up emotion, all those scans, the -ostomies, the minor procedures, the major surgery, the district nurses visits, the outpatients appointments, the ‘Get Well’ cards, the survivor guilt – all those emotions just seemed to overcome me.

    It was as if 16 months ago, I couldn’t believe I had bowel cancer, now I couldn’t believe I’d beaten it.

    Paradoxically, when I should have felt triumphant, I felt lower than I’d ever felt before.

    But at least, I’d bought bacon, eggs and sausages for Steve’s breakfast.

     
    • Steve 2:59 pm on September 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      As the said house guest that evening I feel I ought to point out that the fried breakfast was excellent as was the company of Andy’s family the night before.
      I think we all knew you weren’t right that night but by a fortunate combination of beer and our just being blokes we probably did the best thing and talked about football and Vinny Sadler from the armoury.
      Shall we try again this year?

      • nbrightside 3:04 pm on September 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply

        And I thought I had conned you all. Oh well. My shout next time.

  • nbrightside 1:09 pm on September 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    UTI 

    August 2013

    I was at home gradually recovering from my surgery, watching the London Olympics and eating grapes. One morning, I ate my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes as normal. As I watched the triathletes embark on the swim around the Serpentine in Hyde Park, very suddenly and without any prior warning, I was sick. Miraculously, my wife managed to get a waste paper bin under my mouth to catch the output.

    I didn’t think much of it. I felt perfectly OK. Strangely, my wife (for once) didn’t seem overly concerned either.

    The same thing happened the next day – 30 minutes precisely after my breakfast, I was heaving into a plastic bowl. This continued into a fourth day when my wife suggested we called the Marsden to report this exciting development. I was reluctant as I suspected I would be summoned to hospital for a test and not get out. My wife took my temperature. Before the gadget was out of my mouth, she had picked the phone up. This wasn’t a good sign – ‘Hello – my husband is vomiting and has a temperature of 38.7’.

    Before I knew it, we had packed a rucksack, turned the Olympics off and departed for the A&E department of Kingston hospital. We registered and sat in the waiting room with a load of people, who, like me, on the outside didn’t look overly poorly.  This was my first ever visit to a casualty department and slightly disappointing – where were the ‘I had an accident with a chainsaw’ type injuries ?

    I was triaged by a young, attractive nurse. Which was nice. Her eyes glazed over as I gave her my medical history. She led me to another waiting area and took some blood and urine samples. After a while, inevitably, I was told I had an infection and needed some antibiotics. Not just pills like anyone else but IV antibiotics. Into my arm. Using a canula. That took three attempts to get inserted into a vein,

    Eventually, after a couple of hours, I got taken to a ward and shown to a bed. A nurse went to get me a pillow as I was having a sleepover. She came back with a pillow case which looked like it had been stuffed with a blanket. My wife saw this and interjected – ‘Sorry – but is that a pillow case stuffed with a blanket ?’ ‘Err, yes – it’s Sunday you see and we are waiting on laundry services’. My wife (a nurse) nearly exploded with rage (it’s strange what she gets worked up about) and after a lengthy exchange during which I kept quiet, a clean, white pillow was brought to my bed.

    I thought about asking for four more as, at that time, I used two pillows for my head, had another between my legs and two more to prop me up and ensure I didn’t roll onto my back. But I thought that might be pushing NHS resources a little too far.

    After some drugs, I didn’t feel any better because I didn’t really feel ill in the first place. However, they took my temperature and seemed reassured.

    The next morning a doctor came and told me I was progressing well but I being referred back to the Royal Marsden in Fulham Road ‘because of my complex medical history’ and to be seen by the urology team who performed my surgery. That suited me fine as the food was much better and I would have my own TV so I could watch the Olympics and request five pillows with no questions asked.

    So I arrived at Fulham Road and saw some familiar faces, the very same nurses who had waved me ‘Goodbye’ in July. They took some more blood and resumed the IV drip. They came and took my lunch and tea menus.

    The urologist was concerned about the creatinine levels in my blood tests. They were off the scale apparently which meant my kidneys weren’t functioning very well. He wanted to investigate this as a matter of urgency and proposed squirting a colouring agent back through my waterworks. to check the flow.

    The test was duly performed in the X-ray room and the nurse told me ‘Oh – well here’s the problem. Your left kidney is blocked and not passing any fluid at all’.

    I thought I could fix this by drinking three gallons of water and gently squeezing my left side but the urologist seized upon this exciting piece of news as an excuse to subject me to another medical procedure – a nephrostomy. So the next day, I found myself in another small medical consulting room with a doctor inserting something into my back to reach the left kidney and take some photographs of what he saw. It was a short procedure and didn’t hurt too much – a slight discomfort.

    When it was over I got off the bed and said to the nurse ‘Thanks for the sedative – worked really well. Hardly felt a thing’. She smiled and said ‘I didn’t give you any sedatives. I was watching you closely and you seemed to tolerate it pretty well without any pain relief’.

    The urologists looked at the photos and concluded my left kidney ‘showed dilatation at the exit’. Basically, the tube was blocked or narrowed – probably as a result of scarring after the original surgery back in May.

    Great – so now what ? As ever, the urologist had an answer – he would simply insert a stent (a very small plastic tube) to widen the tube, keep it open which would hopefully resolve the situation. And the even better news was – they could use the nephrostomy to carefully insert the stent into position.

    So the next day, I was back in the same small room, staring at the same nurse who wasn’t going to waste any sedatives on me. Doctors did stuff, looked at ultrasound images and inserted the stent.

    Back on the ward, my wife posed one of her pertinent, probing questions to the Professor – ‘Even if the creatinine levels return to normal, how will we know whether the left kidney is, in fact, working again. It could be masked by the right kidney compensating and doing all the work. What if..’

    The Professor who was a world renown expert in his field, with over 30 years experience in urology, politely interrupted with the calm, reassuring air of a man who had seen and heard it all before.

    ‘Mrs. Brightside – you ask a very good question and you raise a perfectly valid concern but there are tests we can run, investigations, non-invasive procedures we can perform…’.

    I didn’t like the sound of this – ‘procedures we can perform’. Couldn’t we simply just check the colour of my urine and say ‘Looks OK to me’ ?

    Before my wife could reply, the urologist said with a smile that he had given to hundreds of medical students over the years – ‘Yes, we can always squirt the colouring agent the other way, you see’.

    And with that, he and his entourage left the room.

    Anyway, I completed the course of IV antibiotics, I stopped puking, they removed the nephrostomy, left the stent in and after another week, I was discharged.

     
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