It's strange, but after non-specific bad news practicalities take over pretty quickly. When a stranger has spent some time foraging around in your holiest of holies with pointy metal things, there will always be a little collateral damage. In short, there was some blood and bum tissue that needed pooing out. I popped to the bathroom, whereupon with dawning horror realised my arse had been sealed up as if it were some dangerous lift shaft. Blue gauze covered my entire bumhole and was taped firmly with a cruel amount of adhesive. Now, my bottom isn't very hairy, but if there was hair to be found the tape had found it and stuck to it like its life depended on it. Several eye-watering minutes later I was good to go. Except I wasn't. Jam-packed further inside was a cruel amount of extra gauze for good measure and shits and giggles.
There's many things you never anticipate saying to your dear wife and 'Hon, can you pull out all this gauze he's shoved up my arse for me?' Is one such statement. Mrs. Nicky took 'For Better or For Worse' seriously, and gamely hauled a wedge the size of a small car out of my much abused bottom. With that, I was discharged the same night, all the time keeping a wary eye on my rear end and any more gauze that may choose to come and say hello.
Without any clear answers life had to go on. My fatigue and intense stomach pain continued but I carried on working. By the end of the day I was physically ruined and would sleep 10+ hours a night. I'd also been prescribed Tramadol for the pain (my understanding is it's used to sedate Buffalo) and a jolly cocktail of that and paracetamol pushed me through the daily grind. My brilliant wife picked up the slack all this time - looking after Ethan where I couldn't any longer, holding down a job with a ludicrous amount of responsibility and keeping the household running. All the while a spectre of serious disease hung over us both.
The Monday after my 'mass' was found my hospital held a multi-disciplinary meeting in which my treacherous insides were one of the topics. It's essentially where all the clever doctors get together and try and work out what's going on with the more complicated patients. Off the back of this my gastroenterologist called and explained I was to have a bunch of tests to try and work out what was going on. I'm glad I've never seen him again because he referred to ruling out 'something nasty' yet again and I'd probably have kneed him in the nutsack or given him a medal for 'Best Beating Around the Bush 2013'.
And so, my long-suffering wife and I embarked on a tour of the South East's medical facilities for a smorgasbord of tests. I shall present them one by one, and dedicate them to our wonderfully understanding employers who granted iso many last minute afternoons off.
CT Scan -Easy Peasy. I think I've had 16 of them now. A business-like nurse makes small talk while they put a cannula in a vein in the back of your hand. A cannula is a thin tube that sits in your vein to allow various liquids to be administered directly into your blood stream. Quick tip: If you want to keep them quiet tell them they're scanning for bowel cancer. Peace at last! Then you lie on a long bed and are slowly slid into a giant polo mint. At times you have to hold your breath for about 10 seconds as it whirs around you and photographs your insides. It's a snazzy X-Ray machine, in essence. Then they put a liquid called contrast in your cannula and repeat the process. Contrast makes you taste metal at the back of your mouth and think you've wet yourself. More interesting than uncomfortable, if you like that sort of thing, you filthy monkey. The contrast highlights anything out of the ordinary as it reflects back in the scans. For example, if you had a hole in your bowel the CT would show the contrast leaking out. The whole thing lasts maybe 15 minutes while you try and sneak a peek at the scans. I don't know why. They look like Roschach tests. Mine showed a sobbing clown.
MRI - A posh CT scan. This is the one that you see on TV and in films - the big tube that you get slid into. For my MRI I got to put on some funky purple Jim-jams (my understanding was that if you had any metal on you the magnet-based scanner turned you in a metal based supervillain. Or something. Maybe you stuck to the scanner and became a man/machine hybrid. Definitely one of those). They put headphones on you to try and drown out the immense whirring sound like a plane taking off (the scan takes an hour) but unfortunately the radio station they had on played Olly Murs twice in that hour. I was rapidly discovering the true cost of cancer. The only discomfort was from lying still in a confined space, but to make up for it you get a souvenir DVD of your ride at the end.
Interventional Biopsy - I don't think that's the right name but 'Crazy Russian stabbing you in the belly with a big needle' doesn't have the same ring to it. For this I went back to my original NHS hospital but because it was under private healthcare I got a few extras such as personal care and attention. I was wheeled into a room that looked like it was curated by an extraordinarily fastidious mass murderer. Super long needles hung from every wall in order of size ready for all manner of poking and jabbing. Jabber in chief was an enormous bearded Russian with a special line in inappropriate guffawing. I liked him very much. He injected me in the tummy with local anaesthetic. This made him chuckle. Then he got an ultrasound and pressed it against my stomach whilst viewing the live feed it gave him of my insides. When he'd presumably found something suitably horrific that shouldn't be there he produced one of the said long needles. Then, as if he were a magician looking for a particularly elusive rabbit in a large top hat, he plunged the needle into me, did a little wiggle of the needle, and pressed a button. There was a loud click-clack and a funny tension in my guts, and out came the needle. As if he were coring an apple, he had taken a section of my diseased abdomen out for sampling. He did this 4 more times (one was for luck) , each time jiggling away like I was a complex lock that needed picking, and each time eager to show me what he found, in the same way my little boy does when he has uprooted a particularly impressive bogey. It didn't really hurt, and all things considered it was a fascinating experience.
They'd finally got all the info they needed. The next week my gastroenterologist called. The poor guy clearly hated giving bad news and now who could no longer use the 'something nasty' euphemism. So he cut the the chase and told me as quickly and quietly as he could that they had found a cancerous tumour. He'd already booked me to see an Oncologist because of how serious this was and to soften the blow he proceeded to give me turn by turn instructions on how to get to the hospital for the appointment. I told him it was OK and we had SatNav about 4 times. The call didn't last long. Ethan was happily watching Old Jack's Boat on CBeebies. Kerry was ashen, staring intently at me. It was 5:52pm on a a sunny Friday afternoon.
Nothing would ever be the same again.
Coming Soon: Chapter 6 - The One Without Any Jokes
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