Well what a difference a year makes.
Friday 21st October 2016 I left work for the last time. I didn’t know that this was the case on the day. I expected to return early November.
Sunday 23rd October 2016 I met Rachel for the second time. It was her birthday. Card, wine, chocolates and a walk around Saltaire. I struggled a little with the steps. We shared a coffee. I had a good feeling. A positive online dating experience that came with £55 from Topcashback!
Monday 24th October 2016. The hospital sent a car to collect me for my back surgery. I’d packed a bag with one night’s clothes and my iPad. Wifi in the private ward. Somehow my spine had crumbled in three bones. My neurosurgeon had decided to perform vertebroplasty surgery on L4 I think. Nights of scream level sciatica should be about to end. He told me the good news that he could see nothing unpleasant on my CT scan.
The same morning his anaesthetist came into my room to explain her role. She commented on my eye which had been itchy for a few weeks. Post operation my ability to drink without it leaking out of my mouth on the right side had gone. Two weeks earlier Louise, my stepdaughter, had said something about my face at her wedding but I’d not done anything about it. It later transpired that Rachel had thought my face was a bit wonky. But you don’t really mention it to somebody you don’t know. Bell’s palsy had set in and was about to change for the worse. For many, it quickly distorts their face. For me it took a few weeks. And a visit to Louise a couple of weeks later where she gave me the clear message that my face was a mess. Would it be a little shallow of me to punch the air in joy knowing I “pulled” with my face looking a bit contorted?
Given that steroids taken within three days can fix Bell’s palsy quickly, I’d urge anybody spotting the signs in somebody to say so immediately. And the victim to insist on a same day GP appointment.
A year on, my Bell’s palsy remains. The eye gets sore less, despite remaining open at all times. I’m used to the nose bleeds from the tear caused by one side of my nostrils dropping. But I hate it. And my smile attempts continue to produce a diagonal line.
Late morning on the 24th October 2016 I was wheeled in for surgery. Loud music. Aerosmith. Dude Looks Like a Lady. My neurosurgeon’s approach to distraction apparently common in his trade. And it took my mind off shitting myself at the prospect of somebody playing with my spinal cord. Half an hour later and my dead bone had been replaced or topped up with surgical cement. Two hours later I could move around the private room. And had a desperate need for chocolate was fulfilled by ever attentive staff.
25th October 2016 the hospital transported me home. I’d watched much of Narcos on Netflix post op. Matt my stepson providing access. Much appreciated break to the boredom. Later on my neurosurgeon called and I described the improvement in my sciatic pain but let him know that I still had a pain in the butt. He apologised for not getting rid of all the pains but I was pleased. There was relief ahead. In my view, his surgery has been an absolute godsend to me and my mobility.
Then he made me uncomfortable. “The radiographer has picked something up on your lungs when he checked your scan. Sorry I missed it. I need you to see a Thorasic surgeon”. Conversation over. Google “thoracic surgeon”. Discover their close involvement in lung cancer surgery. Read on to discover that if it is lung cancer, and it’s spread to the bone (or anywhere else) I’ve got six months to live based on average life expectancy.
A week and a half later I saw an oncologist. The thoracic surgeon had presumably told my neurologist he couldn’t save me. In the interim period I’d convinced myself as a non-smoker that I was fine. Just a niggle of doubt. I slept well the days in between. Butt pain remained, and as regular readers know has returned since. I wasn’t aware how evil it was that week though.
It was a week that changed my life. The odd paradox of having my back pain improved, meeting somebody special and getting a warning shot that my life expectancy is possibly dreadful, and burying my head in the sand for a few days over that emerging reality.
It was into November before I started dealing with that reality. Bounced back to the NHS. A room full of people taking notes to prove I’d been told I was a goner. Eventually biopsy and a referral to Oncobabe.
I should probably have been terrified. Perhaps I was. Difficult conversations with the kids. I think I’m more disturbed by it now that drug one has failed. But I’m still calm about my fate. While hoping the ever decreasing chances of long term survival might see fit to benefit me.