Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Its the gravy , its the mashed potato...

I've never been drunk...
I've never had a hangover...
There is no great moral or ethical or philosophical or religious reason for this.

In the same way that I never got the point of Morris Dancing or badminton or self-harming, I never really *got* the point of alcohol.

I've certainly tried any number of drinks but never really found anything that I liked the taste of, or that slaked my thirst.
I used to go to the pub with my uncle and try all of his recommendations including a Christmas Pudding beer. Mostly I took a sip, felt like vomiting and stopped right there. He would naturally finish off the pint for me.
I did once enjoy a Peach Bellini in BA First Class but that was because it was ice cold and tasted of peaches.

I've also never done any non-prescription drugs, not least because I have problems dealing with prescription drugs.
I had surgery a few years ago to repair a nerve in my left ankle that I had injured running.The surgeon was both technically excellent and an old friend.
I remember going under the anaesthetic...
...I then remember being chased through a jungle for hours on end by teddy bears wearing rainbow striped waistcoats and carrying AK 47' matter how far or fast I ran they still pursued me.

So I awoke at about 3am, in pain and thirsty and scared...
...rang the bell for the nurse...
...and again...
...and yet again.
Finally I called the switchboard and a few minutes later three nurses carefully opened the door and eyed me warily.
Apparently I had reacted to the pethidine I had been given at some point and had tried to strangle my surgeon when he did his post op round.
He still doesn't talk to me.

So there I was last weekend, just finishing cycle three of my chemo, on the last bag of 5FU.
It hadn't been a bad admission overall although I really had difficulty eating anything.

At about 18h00 I saw something flapping outside the window...possibly  bat.
By 20h00 I was convinced that there were gargoyles at my window, leering at me and trying to get into my room.
Part of me knew that I was probably hallucinating...
...part of me was scared.

I started to pick at the skin on my abdomen to make myself bleed so that I could check that I wasn't hallucinating.
The gargoyles continued to batter the window.
And then I heard water running somewhere in the room.
I got up , wandered around and checked that all the taps were switched off, got back into bed and still heard the water.
I checked again...
...and again...
...and continued to pick at various lumps and bumps to check I was bleeding and thus still alive.

And then I was aware of someone standing in my room trying to sell me a toasted egg sandwich.

It felt like I was both the director of some low budget horror film and the actor but had no control over what was happening.

I found myself at some point standing in the corridor wearing only shorts with several wounds bleeding on my abdomen and trying to pull out my PICC line.
The nurses were less than helpful...
...around midnight they called the 'hospital-at-night' team who eventually sent an SHO down to see me.

He walked around the corner , looked at me and said, Aren't you Lucien from the Minor Injuries Unit?

I replied that I might be, my paranoia now fully florid.

I thought so, he said, I gave you the anaesthetic when you had your cornea transplant last year.

So they disconnected me from my chemo, - it only had about 15 ml left in the bag-, and he prescribed some Halopeirdol...which didn't work for about four hours...
...when I fell into a deep sleep and thought that I had driven home.
It was a real surprise to wake up still in hospital.

Throughout the whole hallucinatory experience I had a tune running through my head...'its not the gravy, it's the mashed potato'...
...who knows where it came from...
...but its still playing in my head as I sit and write this!!!

I think I need a drink.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

A life on the ocean wave....

I've been having a bit of a clean out...
...not really anything to do with the cancer...
...maybe about 5% to do with the cancer...
...and about 95% of thinking that the mother-of-my-children will roll her eyes and sigh  when she and the kids have to clean out the flat.

Actually my flat has just got too full of rubbish.

In 1965 my brother and I travelled with our parents from Southampton in England to Cape Town , on the Athlone Castle, a Union Castle mail boat, on a trip that took 2 weeks.

I remember being given a glass of warm orange juice just prior to boarding as there had been severe snow storms the day before.
I remember trying (i.e., my mother forcing it upon me) ( and not liking) , 'beef tea'.
I remember , after we had crossed the equator, that we were given endless tubs of ice cream, a rare and magnanimous luxury at the time.

I've found a few menus which today make interesting if bizarre reading and provide a snapshot of what was considered to be 'haute cuisine' , in particular the amount of offal on the menu ; and what parents thought  children should eat.

I cannot imagine ever giving my kids a cream-of-celery soup , even today; I do remember though that the children's evening meal was separate to that of the adults and that pretty much, they gave you what you wanted.

This was the menu for the fancy dress dinner, a highlight of the voyage for my parents.

I'm off to have a jam sandwich.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Is that a cancerous mass in your groin or are you just pleased to see me?

Dear Reader

So about eight weeks ago now, there I was, just woken up one saturday morning,- a day off-, and like every man everywhere, married or single, the first thing I did was check that my testicles were still attached to me...

They were...that was the good news.

The bad news was that overnight, I had developed a large swelling in my right groin...about the size of both of my fists.
I briefly wondered if it was a hernia but knew that it was a lymph node that was swollen, and  for no apparent good reason.

I saw the GP who thought that  it was a hernia and who referred me for an ultrasound...fortunately, the consultant who did the U/S immediately realised that it was a swollen lymph node and not a hernia and referred me very quickly for a CAT scan and then for a biopsy.

The biopsy was interesting...a (female) doctor exposed my groin and then stuck a huge freaking needle into it, several reminded me of my divorce negotiations.
It then took three weeks to get the result.

Which turned out to be something called "cancer of unknown primary".

This is a rare and vicious and extremely  rude form of cancer.
Rude, rude, rude.

And that was the good news.
There are five main subsets of CUP and they thought that mine was probably a squamous cell carcinoma, and so they decided to treat me for the worst type of that cancer.

Now this typically occurs in one of two places :-  the 'head-and-neck' area ....or the rectum.

"Rectum almost killed him'!

In the interim I saw a beautiful young oncologist who asked me to strip naked so that she could 
examine me as there was some concern that I had a malignant melanoma...I've previously had one, some 10 years ago which I beat.
This sort of naked experience usually costs  me £50.
She found a lump behind my right knee and sent me for an ultrasound of that.

That consultant wanted to know the story and then did the U/S.

Thats all good, she said, its something called a Bakers cyst 

"Thank goodness for that...its difficult enough trying to run from the Grim would have been freaking  impossible if I had to hop away on one leg!"

Oddly, she didn't laugh.
I've since discovered that none of the Oncology staff appear to share my sense of humour.

So then the oncologist sent me for  a PET scan.
That was the bad news.

So three weeks ago I was admitted to the local hospital,- St Vulvas-, for urgent chemotherapy.
The same beautiful oncologist came in to talk to me.

Good evening....Its very bad news I'm afraid...

"Uh huh...?"

The cancer has spread to your liver and right thigh and hip and left upper arm...

"Uh my long term survivability like..can you give me a number?"

About four months...

"Geez doc...don't be shy...don't sugarcoat the truth there..."

Well thats without treatment...

"Well....I assume that you are going to treat me though?"

She smiled 

They did.
So they started 100 hours of chemo.

It was very boring.
I had no side effects to speak off except extreme lethargy when I got home.

I saw the oncologist last week and the swelling in my groin has diminished by over 80%...
In her own words, she was "amazed".
Whilst they hope and expect the chemo to work, it typically only works after  two or three this is positive news.
It also means that their guess that I have a squamous cell primary is probably correct and that I am getting the correct treatment for it.

I'm due to have another one or two cycles and then a followup PET scan and then probably three more cycles every 21 days....I'm waiting for a call at the moment in fact.
There is a shortage of beds.

In the interim they will be looking for the primary.

Thats my story.

More later.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

SAA 295 - The Helderberg

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

The emotional fallout for an aeroplane crash is always  much more than simply the sum of lives lost and families devastated.

We  are reminded that we are after all, only insignificant and very mortal humans and not the Gods we believe ourselves to be....not the omnipotent beings that the digital age and its attendant consumerism would have us believe.

Every time I  am  at an airport and see a 747 trundle down the runway, I hear a  voice in my head saying , 'Lift off, we have a lift off'...every time.
Every time I see a plane.
Every time I am a passenger.

'V1' and the nose starts to rise.

'V2' and it heaves itself off of the ground, grasping its way into the air, the wheels leaving the safety and surety of the earth for the impossibility of intangible air.

We can understand intellectually the Bernoulli effect;'fluid dynamics';and Newtons Third Law.
But that's not what we see.
What we see is opportunity.
What we see is in fact evolution writ large - mankind crawling out of the mud, then reaching for the stars.

What we experience is the same sense of awe that man experienced when he first understood and utilised fire for his own benefit - a sense that we are in control of our physical environment and that a brave man can push back the darkness and fear

On that cold December morning some 110 years ago , Wilbur and Orville Wright didn't just make the first powered flight...they  proved that the collective reach of humanity  is beyond that of our simple  single caveman grasp and  they unlocked the door to an unimagined future.

For South Africans, the fire on board SAA 295 26 years ago and the subsequent loss of life remain a mystery.

Against the backdrop of Apartheid , and the iron grip of the securocrats , the loss of the Helderberg , and in particular the questions surrounding its cargo of alleged components of rocket fuel mean that the conspiracy theories are difficult to ignore.

And the  transcripts of the Margo Commission; the various archival footage available on YouTube ; and  the David Klatzow book do little to settle the mind against the charges that the State perpetrated a wilful cover up .

Friday, 11 April 2014

Fracking my prostate...

So at the end of last year I was waiting to have an MRI of my prostate to see if I had any cancer after having had a raised PSA level.
For a variety of reasons, all beyond my control, the MRI never happened...

So it was back to the clinic where after much crying and snuffling and snot and shouts and threats , the surgeon calmed down enough , finally came in off of the ledge when the hostage negotiator asked him, and agreed to do something called a template biopsy of my prostate.

Fast forward to two months later...

The day didn't start well...
...mid-morning , just as I was about to leave for the day surgery unit, a nurse phoned to say that my surgeon was involved with a complex emergency and may not be able to operate on me after all...
...eliciting a mix of relief and irritation in more or less equal parts.
But, she added, stay nil by mouth, just in case they could still operate.

Three hours later I found myself and my raggedy bare arse sitting on a cold metal stool in an even colder and depersonalised exam room.
My surgeon and anaesthetist bustled in, swapped files and started to go through the pre-op paperwork with me.

"How tired are you guys?"

I beg your pardon...?

"Well I was told you had a complex emergency case and that you might be too tired to operate later...
and yet here we are..."

No, I'm wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be...

(Hummh...wonder if that patient is thinking the same thought?)

"Okay then..."

Why...are you worried...?

"Well...truthfully...I don't want any tired knife-jockey or gas-monkey coming anywhere near me and my suspect prostate unless you're operating at 100%...I don't want a slip-up with a penis is already small enough!"

They laughed!

"Look...dokkie...its no good me  pretending otherwise as you're about to see in 10 minutes...when God was building  me, he clearly and I hope,-accidentally-, reached into the box labelled 'Penis-;Midgets, for the use of-;rejected, as being too small' ".

Oh how they laughed.

Dear reader, the surgery went fine.

Three weeks later I went back to get the results.

So...what we did was to take 30 biopsies from  your prostate...


Yes....and they were each 25mm long...or one inch in old fashioned money...

I started to feel faint.

And 1mm wide...

Now I was gasping for air.

" basically you took out 30 inches of my prostate?!?"

Well...yes...when you put it like that it sounds a lot...

"We're talking about something the size of a walnut though?"


Good wonder I had felt like I had been neutered!

Anyway...the result was not as good as I had hoped for, but at least I no longer have to worry about not having sufficient savings to augment my insufficient pension.
And  they have agreed that I can have treatment for my testosterone deficiency.
One thing though...the first available appointment at that clinic is at the end of June!

So at the moment I  am technically, hormonally , a lesbian....
...I already have the sensible shoes and bad haircut...
...but still no woman in my life!

But with a reamed-out prostate I feel more like a ladyboy!


All offers considered....
...why am I pretending...
...all offers of sex gratefully accepted!!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Man bites dog - dog bites back

A busy day again ,  and whilst briefly checking the triage list , I saw the statement about the self administered lethal injection.

Out-standing...the patients aren't even waiting for me to kill them now....
I immediately called the patient through to the Resus Room.

"Good evening...what's going on then?"

Well...what it is...obviously...I'm a veterinary nurse...


And I was putting a dog to sleep this afternoon...


And as I stuck the needle in his neck he moved...


And I injected the lethal drug into my thumb...

" much did you inject?"

I don't know...

"Whats the name of the drug?"

I don't know...

"Whats the active ingredient in the drug?"

I don't know...

"Did you bring the syringe in  with you?"


"Did you bring the box that the drug came in, in  with you?"


"Did you bring the package insert about the drug , in with you?"


"Okay....can you please phone the vet and find out the name of the drug?"

No...we're closed now ...
...this happened at 2:30 this afternoon and my boss  said I could only go to A&E when we closed 'cos we were too busy... we're closed now, aren't we...
...that's why I've come in....
...only the emergency vet is open now...
...its after nine you know...?...she replied smugly.

"Okay....can you please phone  the emergency  vet and try and  find out the name of the drug?"

Do I have too...?

"Well...its difficult to treat you if I don't know what to treat..."

She did.
She found out the name of the drug.

Since she really only had sustained  a needle stick injury...
...and the toxic dose was 4mgs / kg...
...and the syringe only contained 5mgs....
...and she weighed about 120 kgs...
...I decided she was probably safe.

And when the staff at the Poison Information Centre stopped laughing I sent her home.