I Never Saw That Coming

It may seem strange to hear from an individual that is well into his 3 to 5 years – but I have enjoyed the last 18 months. Even ignoring some health scares, one including putting a camera where adults really should not put cameras. The pandemic was a challenge, to find myself with a life-limiting illness and advised to become a hermit was not what I expected when I got my prognosis in 2019. Once the country opened again, I dusted off my suitcase, relocated my Senior Railcard and was off on my travels.

I recently travelled to Glasgow to see the Scottish Model Railway Show. After the show I visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where they have a lunchtime organ recital, I sat there in the spectacular entrance lobby, drinking my coffee and enjoying a pleasant sandwich in the cafe as the organist played the finale from Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3. The audience seemed entranced, savouring every moment.

On the Sunday I went to the church service in Glasgow Cathedral. I had switched my telephone to mute, but, alas, I had not realised that an alarm setting would override the mute, so at 12:00 the phone decides to go off to remind me to take pain medication to control my sciatica. Everybody turned and looked at me. Here comes the bluff. I reached into my rucksack and took out my medication and a bottle of water. Taking the tablets and water in an exaggerated display seemed to satisfy the congregation, and the service carried on without further interruption.

After the service I walked up to the top of the Necropolis. Looking back from the Necropolis you see the Glasgow Royal Infirmary to the side of the cathedral, I have a rather dark sense of humour and thought how clever the Victorian and Edwardian planners were.

I spent a day in London recently, visiting Greenwich, home of the Old Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory. It was a gloriously bright but chilly day. I stood on the deck of Cutty Sark and watched the other tourists, some obviously way outside their comfort zone as they climbed the rigging and abseiled down again. It was obvious some were not enjoying their day trip!

For me the abiding memory of the day was the trip from Canary Wharf to Paddington on one of the new Elizabeth line trains. The train was packed, standing room only. A young woman kindly offered me her seat. Having spent the day on my feet, I accepted the gracious offer and thanked her. Whether I was looking haggard or tired I do not know, but the seat was appreciated!

At times I have not been the most co-operative of patients. When things go wrong, I tend to overreact and need time to get myself together. My medical team has looked after me, but it has taken a while for me to let go and just follow their advice. Since January 2022 my PSA has been increasing. It’s now up to 27 (last blood test on April 19th.), on average going up 2-3 every month but beginning to flatline more recently. Tumours (lymph nodes) are now over 5 cm. in length. It is difficult being aware that something rather unpleasant is growing inside me. Chemotherapy will hopefully shrink the tumours, but once I have had chemo again, under current guidelines there is nothing else in the cupboard. Delaying chemo till I become symptomatic is the sensible thing to do.

I was unsure whether to attend the March KWPCSG meeting at the Civic Centre in Pershore. The subject was the new surgical robot at the Alexandra Hospital. As I was metastatic at diagnosis, my options were limited. A prostatectomy of any description was not on offer, it was straight to Oncology for me. However, the presentation by Paul Rajjayabun was exceptional and full of information beyond a simple description of the new surgical procedures. We saw videos of staff training, starting with placing hoops on top of cones, then having to open doors on a training aid, pick up an object and move it to another location, using only the robotic arms. I sat there in complete silence. It was amazing to see the audience totally engrossed.

We learnt about the future of surgery. Other departments within the trust are now investigating how robotic surgery could help them and their patients. One ironic fact came towards the end of the evening. Other hospital trusts are now only offering robotic surgery for a prostatectomy, so anyone with complex needs was having to find alternative arrangements. Talk about going full circle! Paul talked about Worcestershire’s ageing but active male population, inevitably leading to many men at some point knocking at the hospital’s door for treatment.

I hate to have to rate a meeting, but this was the best and most interesting presentation I have attended since joining the support group. Like most of the audience, I was glued to my seat, listening and learning. As I said at the start, in theory it held no interest for me, but it was an excellent presentation.