Friday, 21 November 2008

Part Thirteen - You Can’t Mistake My Urology

Yesterday was probably the day that the proportion of medical professionals in Perthshire who have seen my testicles finally exceeded the proportion of those who haven’t. These days, it’s a rare occasion when I leave the house and return without having been paraded around a doctor’s clinic wearing nothing but a weary grimace. The latest addition to this ever-expanding catalogue of testicular tales was a follow-up appointment to the ultrasound procedure that I underwent just a few short weeks ago. An appointment that cemented my place in history as the first man to be taken to a urology clinic by his own mother - an act that’s usually shrouded in shame, secrecy and an uncomfortable rash.

At the reception, I was greeted by a woman who had the most harrowing case of a female moustache I had ever seen. It’s just as well she worked in a urology clinic as, sooner or later, she’s going to realise that such an extreme case of hormone imbalance can only be explained by the prescence of testicles and she might want to have herself checked out. Luckily, there was no repeat of the embarrassing incident at the reception desk of the ultrasound clinic where my bold proclamation of why I was there was greeted with a hushed silence throughout the busy room. We were all filthy vermin with something wrong with our spanglers here, and we were all visibly relieved to be in a place where we could scream it from the rooftops without being shunned by society.

In fact, I found the sense of camaraderie between men with malfunctioning genitalia quite heart-warming. For instance, when I was called through to the secondary waiting room I sat down beside a bespectacled old man. After a few minutes of silence, a nurse came through and asked us if we would mind if two young female medical students could sit in for our examinations. As it happened, I did mind - I had had quite enough of medical students using my genitals as a reference manual. I politely declined, a decision which probably made the nurse assume I had an incredibly inadequate penis. However, the old man wasn’t so quick to waste this opportunity. As quick as a flash, he quipped “I’ll show them mine if they show me theirs!” and looked at me with a big, proud smile on his face. I actually found it quite funny, which I think is a depressing indicator that I’m spending far too much time with ill old men these days.

In the clinic, my doctor introduced himself as Mr. Halliday. I was going to question why a man titled Mister had the authority to look at my balls but, to be honest, I’m past the point of caring. I whip them out for any Tom, Dick or Harry these days. As I began to disrobe, he said something which, at the time, appeared to be the most bizarre statement which has ever been uttered to me - “You should wear y-fronts, not boxers”. This seemed like a baffling overstep of all conventional boundaries in a doctor/patient relationship. I had gone to hospital to receive my ultrasound results, and yet apparently I had inadvertently nominated myself to undergo an impromptu rating of my how well I suited my underpants by the NHS’s answer to Gok Wan. He must have noticed the utter shock and confusion of my face, as he quickly went on to explain that tighter pants are more beneficial for testicular health. Brilliant, perhaps I could claim a free thong from the NHS.

As for the results, he said that my testicles “looked great” and I was unashamedly thrilled with this compliment. The cyst that had kicked off the entire panic was, somewhat dismissively, referred to as “tiny” in the report. A wording which makes it sound like I had just found the flimsiest excuse possible to expose myself to as many middle-aged men as I could without getting arrested. He rounded off the conversation by asking if there was anything else I’d like to ask him and, whilst thousands of questions for a urologist swam around my head, none of them were appropriate for a medical consultation. My testicular adventures at an end, he reached out to shake my hand and said “Don’t worry, I wash them frequently!”. Textbook urology humour. He laughed, I laughed and so concluded another cracking day out in hospital.

As far as I’m aware, this spells a definite end to all the testicle chatter as no further action is required, except tighter pants - you lucky, lucky ladies. Where this leaves the blog, I just don’t know - it’s fed off of my genitals for quite a long time now. I could do a hair update next week as it’s taken a terrible turn for the worse. It’s so patchy and rubbish that I now look like a deranged serial killer. I may have even felt compelled to visit a wigsmith by this time next week, so stay tuned.

By the way, the title of this is a play on words from the lyrics of ‘Biology’ by Girls Aloud. I feel I had to explain that for you to fully appreciate it.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Part Twelve - Sitarded

I’ll be honest with you, cancer fans, I have absolutely nothing to write about this week. There is no cancer news, and I was stalling this week’s entry so I could tell you about the acquisition of my sitar which I was supposed to be collecting in Edinburgh today - but this plan has hit a stumbling block. This is mainly because what was my sitar is now a million shards of ethnically decorated sawdust due to my dealer apparently choosing to package the instrument in a casing woven together with sea shells, spider webs and magic. Some people questioned the logic of buying a sitar from a woman who’s best idea for a stab at running her own business was creating a belly-dancing emporium in the centre of Edinburgh, and I will never doubt these people again. If you haven’t yet watched the video of Hilary prancing about her Bazaar, I suggest you look at this all-too-brief excerpt from the ‘Hilary Live’ DVD - now available in all good shops called Hilary’s Bazaar in Edinburgh:

http:// com/watch?v=1Ou_C8udkoY (copy/paste that and remove the spaces that I've put in just incase she googles herself, finds this attack and sues me)

Would you give money to this woman? Perhaps I should be pleased that the deal had to be cancelled before I further fuelled her Moroccan hasheesh habit. Looking back, it was an odd proposition from the very beginning. Her first reply to my email said that she could offer me a £450 sitar for £300 because it was missing a string, but added that she would throw in an entire packet of strings with the deal. At this point, the more savvy amongst you may have begun to question the business acumen of a woman who introduces a 33% discount on an expensive item specifically to save her the effort of putting one string onto a sitar, but not me. I thought this was, without doubt, a cracking deal. However, living on the paltry benefits spat at me by our miserly government, even this offer was out of my reach.

I replied to inform her that I had a budget of about £200 - I wasn’t trying to haggle, I was just telling her in case she knew of any cheaper instruments. However, as quick as a flash, she replied to tell me that I could have it for this exact amount and that it would be in the shop by the end of the week. Having slashed her asking price by half just because I happened to mention a figure, I began to question the sanity of this woman. I could probably have offered her a small handful of magic beans and she would have skipped off, clicking her heels, genuinely believing in her frazzled and bewildered mind that she had made the deal of the century. Unsure as to whether she had the remotest grasp of what was going on, we settled it on a virtual handshake and I awaited its arrival in Edinburgh.

I had mixed feelings when her email arrived. She had inspired little confidence within me, and I was almost certain something was going to go horribly wrong sooner or later. I imagined that I’d probably open the sitar case to find that she had got confused and filled it with hundreds of Hilary Live DVDs. She opened the email with the good news of “The sitars arrived…”, before delivering the deflating blow of “…in about fifteen pieces”. Perhaps overoptimistically, she claimed that it could be glued back together but then dropped the bombshell that it “probably wouldn’t be a great instrument”. The scattered remains of it were offered to me for £30 which I decided was too high a price for what would essentially be an incredibly difficult jigsaw which, upon completion, would make the noise of an arson attack on an Indian restaurant.

Where this leaves my sitar hunt, I just don’t know. I seriously received an email from her this morning that said “I’ll contact you in a week when I’m back from the desert”. Please note the complete lack of humour or irony, she is literally going to an actual desert. With each email it seems less and less likely that Hilary is a real person, and more likely that someone is having a massive, elaborate laugh at my expense.

In less infuriating news, I’m now almost a proper journalist. The Glasgow Guardian - Glasgow’s student newspaper - have given me what will hopefully turn out to be a regular column. I’m not entirely sure why they’ve done this, I misspelled ‘Glasgow’ in my original email to them which is probably the equivalent of turning up at an interview as a potential firefighter wearing a hat that’s engulfed in flames. It will basically be a scaled-down version of this blog, so I’d appreciate it if some of you could suggest what your favourite cancer moments have been so far so I know which ones to reuse.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Part Eleven - Scantastic News

I received my C.T. scan results today, and I think they can only really be described as C.T-rrific. I’m aware that I’ve already used that pun as my Facebook status, but it made me laugh so much that I had little choice but to use it again and it will definitely be said at least twice more by the time that this blog ends. Sadly, that will probably be the extent of your laughter in this blog as it’s going to be very much more medical than any of the preceding ones. It must be bourn in mind that this is a serious medical journal which will almost definitely be passed down through the ages to millions of cancer patients, and I can’t sully it by talking about my balls all of the time. I’ll leave that kind of crude filth down to Lance Armstrong, nemesis of Cancerous Capers, who’s woeful book is called “It’s Not About The Bike” - a fact that should probably be followed up with “Because it’s actually all about my filthy bollocks” in small print. When will the corrupting influence of this smut monger be stopped?

I read all of my blog entries from start to finish earlier on this week because I am a vastly egotistical man and can think of no better way to spend my time than laughing at words that have been written exclusively by me. Shockingly, I realised that I’ve never actually told you what Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is or where about in my body it was affecting me - two things that could be considered quite essential seeing as this entire blog is about nothing but my inspiring battle with this awful disease…oh and my balls, it is sometimes about my balls. It’s with this in mind that I feel I need to educate you before explaining my results. Now here comes the science, as Jennifer Anniston once childishly bemoaned in an advert for VO5 shampoo.

Lymphoma is a blood cancer which manifests itself in the lymph nodes, small organs that you have all over your body which produce white blood cells to fight infection. It slowly but surely spreads from lymph node to lymph node through your blood and, by the time I was diagnosed, I was affected in four areas of my body putting me at a slightly alarming stage three of a possible four. If I had waited much longer it very well could have moved onto my lungs or my bone marrow and made my recovery a much less likely prospect. As it happens, however, things are looking rosy and the doctor expects my final chemotherapy session in January to be the last I’ll hear from the disease. Because my CT results were C.T-rrific.

Of the four places in which I was affected - the lymph nodes in my neck, the outside of my lung, my spleen and my stomach for those of you taking notes - three of them are now considered to be of little significance and the largest of them, the one in my neck, has quartered in size since my diagnosis. On top of this, I’m feeling healthier than I have done for ages which I think confirms what everyone knew all along - having cancer and undergoing an intensive chemotherapy regime is far more beneficial to my everyday health than my Glasgow lifestyle ever was. However, my place in student history is now assured - the fable of ‘the fresher who partied so hard that he got cancer’ will surely be passed down as a cautionary tale to all fresh-faced eighteen year olds who think that it‘s either big or clever to drink Somerfield’s own-brand whisky in pint form and only clean their ensuite toilet twice in a nine month spell. The first being on Valentine’s Day as I’m a big romantic bastard and the second of which being the night before I moved out so that, after they inspected my room, they wouldn’t phone my mum and tell on me. Anyway, I digress - rejoice, cancer fans, for I am well on the way to recovery.

One thing I’ll definitely miss when I’m cured are the fantastically awkward situations that having cancer conjures up almost daily. Almost everyone seems desperate not to offend me, to the extent that grown men can be reduced to the human equivalent to one of those cowering, spindly dogs you see on RSPCA adverts. Amazingly, earlier this week I received a begging call from Cancer Research. Now, call me silly, but if there were one organisation that I would expect to come in frequent contact with cancer patients it would be one called ‘Cancer Research’ - the name is the giveaway. However, this appears not to be the case. “Mr. Ross, do you have any personal experience of cancer?” “Well, mate, now that you mention it…”. The man literally gasped, stumbled over the simplest of words, apologised at least seven times and then comfortingly proclaimed that “less people die of cancer now than ever”. Needless to say, I slept soundly that night with this nugget of information in mind.

It’s not just him either. I don’t know the extent of your knowledge when it comes to CT scanning but, basically, it creates a 3D x-ray of your entire body which shows up odd lumps that shouldn’t be there. This is what makes it ideal in discovering the extent of cancer within the body, and I imagine a vast percentage of people who get CT scans are cancer patients. This fact appears to have bypassed one bumbling CT nurse who led me to the changing room where I was told to remove my clothing and replace it with a hospital gown. “Can I keep my hat on?” I asked. I’m not bald by anyone‘s standards but my hair is certainly getting very thin and, being an incredibly vain man, I now tend to keep it concealed underneath a black Led Zeppelin hat in public. “Why, are you cold?” she replied. Yes, that’s exactly it. You’ve got it in one. It’s not as if I’m here exclusively for a scan, that you personally specialise in, to check upon the effects of three months of intensive chemotherapy which has made me slightly self-conscious about my hair at all. She then no doubt went off making crass suggestions to all number of people in the hospital, asking women in wheelchairs if they were feeling a bit lazy today or reassuring children in the burns unit that at least they’ll get a nice tan when the scarring heals. In fact, you could say that her people skills were anything but C.T-rrific.

Anyway, it’s been a good week. Barack Obama was amazingly elected in the USA, Jeremy Clarkson could get sacked after years of being the world‘s worst man, I’ve been told that I’m making excellent progress and I’ve finally managed to track down a sitar so my new hobby can kick off. It just makes you wonder what absolute shit storm is heading my way, find out next week.

P.S. - If you like this tell your friends or, alternatively, if you think it’s shit tell your enemies to mildly annoy them by wasting a few minutes of their time.

P.P.S. A small bit of advice to every single person on Facebook. Photographs of fireworks are never, ever interesting. You are wasting the internet.