Given the choice of waking up with a hangover or not, I’d choose the former at the moment. The comforting, Bushmills-induced fog of a hangover means you get to coast through the day not thinking about cancer too deeply. The whole scenario seems surreal and hard to believe, effectively parking it for the day. Alas, reality bites eventually and you still have to face the mornings where your first waking thought is “shit, I have cancer!”.
For me, getting my diagnosis on a Friday gave me the buffer of the weekend to absorb the initial impact. I say “initial” impact because there is an aftershock every time a penny drops about all the individual consequences of having cancer and how it is treated. When I said on Day 1 that I would “cheerfully” pay the price of urinary incontinence and/or erectile dysfunction to stay alive, maybe I was overstating it just a tad!
The pamphlets that sat studiously ignored on the coffee table for two days got picked up yesterday. While Grace watched Little House on the Prairie, I started reading up on what lies ahead. Most of it was what Prof. FitzPatrick had already told me. But now my wits had gathered sufficiently for the import of it all to start sinking in. It was not encouraging reading. My PSA level is 9.5 and my Gleason Score (a measure of the aggressiveness of a cancer) is 9 out of ten. Not good.
I am not a betting man but I am a project manager, so risk management is one of the things I do. Risk is the product of impact and probability, usually expressed as high, medium or low. Well, the impact is high – that’s a given. Taking PSA level and Gleeson Score into account, if I was a betting man, I’d be putting my money on the cancer having spread by now.
Already I can hear the medical professionals, family, friends and well-wishers chastising me for indulging pessimism. There is always hope, of course. But it is science and a shit-hot medical team that’s going to get me out of this mess. I prefer to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. If the worst doesn’t transpire it’s a bonus.
If the cancer has spread to my bones and/or organs it may be in isolated hot spots that are treatable with radiotherapy. I’m going to have to wait for the results of the bone and MRI scans for that.
‘Wait’ has taken pride of place at the top of my list of most hated words!
Apart from the aggressiveness of the cancer itself, the pamphlets went into the gory details of what it means to have your prostate removed. For starters, the official name for the operation is “radical prostatectomy”. Not just ‘prostatectomy’, mind you. Oh no – nothing so mundane for moi! My prostatectomy is going to be fucking RADICAL, baby!
I didn’t finish reading the pamphlet, having to put it down after reading about urinary incontinence and before starting the section on erectile dysfunction. There’s only so much hilarity you can take in one sitting!
In the meantime, I simply have to just get on with life. Sunday was a good day, taking Grace and her friend to the Sealife aquarium in Bray. Sitting before the large tank full of sharks and exotic marine life swimming to and fro is therapeutic for anyone but even more so for someone with a tremendous weight on their shoulders. I recommend it.
Returning to work is the first step to resuming some kind of normality. Not many know about my diagnosis, which is not by design. It’s just the way the cookie crumbled and I need to focus on closing out my existing project before I have to start taking time off for treatment. I work with a great bunch of people and there are much needed laughs to be had. Des returned from getting a coffee to say there was a media scrum outside the FitzWilliam Hotel. He asked one of the hacks what was going on and was told that the Hunky Dory girls were about. Imagine his disappointment when who emerged but Dana Rosemary Scallon!
The final event before I head for home today is something you could not make up. Three days after being diagnosed with cancer, I will be attending a focus group that I was invited to a month ago (I’m on their mailing list as a regular donor). It’s hosted by the Irish Hospice Foundation and the subject is a forthcoming initiative called ‘Think Ahead’ – a means for people to register their wishes around treatment in the event they cannot speak for themselves, including resuscitation and funeral arrangements. Now THAT’s funny!