Under surveillance.

22nd October 2020, St Anthony’s Hospital, Surrey, England.​

How has all this happened in less than 12 months?

I met the professor 11 months ago, when he confirmed that I had penile cancer. I’ve actually been “cancer free” since the beginning of the year, and I’m now on surveillance.

*That’s cancer free in the sense that no new disease has been discovered.

I’m an unusual case I guess,  most people certainly don’t choose a four hour round trip for their scans! But I chose to keep everything neat and tidy, working around the professor’s network in Surrey. 

I suppose you just like what you know sometimes.

Scanxiety is real for me, and my sleeping patterns definitely change. Even if I’m not thinking negatively, my brain is and I’m not nice to be around.

Let’s get this over with then.

I have CT scans with contrast every few weeks. Just a scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, where there’s a chance disease could have spread.

The contrast just makes the interesting bits easier to see, and the machine pumps it into you through a cannula.  Interestingly, it makes your balls fizz hot when it’s being injected.  So that’s a little bonus.  You put a little dress on and lay on a bed. Then, you slide through a doughnut while it makes a little noise like it’s connecting to the internet in 1996.

Everything is a bit of an effort at the moment. Hospitals are so busy you can’t park, COVID controls send you everywhere just to find the right door. Then, it’s airline style check in questions every time you reach a new floor.

“Do you have a new continuous cough?”  “No, your mate downstairs just asked me that, and your colleague that called me yesterday.  And my temperature hasn’t changed since you tested it 90 seconds either”. “Are you clinically vulnerable?”  “Probably, but if I took any notice of the nonsense letters the NHS send me I’d never leave the house.”

Just a sharp scratch, unclench your fist.

I’ve started to get weird about needles, cannulas too.  I’ll grit my teeth and bear it, but something has definitely changed since the start of my treatment.  It’s as if my veins have retreated, and the anxiety of waiting around for scans and bloods tenses me up.  So, as with everything else…  I’ve found a fool proof way to plump my veins right up.

I put my arms in the air and open and close my hands a few times on both sides.  Then, I squeeze and pull each one of my fingers on each hand while they’re up in the air.  Then I put them down by my sides again.  Repeat a couple of times, and you can see all the veins in my arms.  Plump.

Side note: I’ve never been in a scanning room which isn’t freeing cold either. I suspect some bright spark from Siemens decreed that machines break if they’re warm, and nobody questions them.

My blood test results are delayed by an hour, leaving me in a sad waiting room.  In these strange times that means no newspapers or magazines, No drinks. No leaving the building and coming back later either. The days when I could wander over to Sainsbury’s are long gone!

St Anthony’s seems to be the celebrity hospital of choice, I always seem to see someone off the telly here.  OK, I see someone off the telly every time I drop the kids at school, but it’s like Pebble Mill here!

It’s only little things, but every day gets a little bit easier

Bloods were surprisingly easy today, Cannula for the contrast dye was great too. It was painless when the dye was pumped in, my blood clotted fast, no mess, no bruises, no retention.  Didn’t even hurt when they peeled the plasters off, It doesn’t get better than that! Hopefully I won’t be so anxious leading up to the next scan.

For the first time in almost a year, I felt the dye being pumped in. It even made my ears fizz!  It’s a strange and gentle adrenaline rush, a hot, alien liquid reaching all of your nerve endings, it’s almost electric.

One day, we’ll be able to develop incredible artificial intelligence (AI) for medical scanning machines. Simple, immediate results in real time, giving the all clear or refer you onto a human for further investigation.  But in the meantime – it’s a wait for a few days while the experts pore over the details.

For me, this is a strong sign that I’m really getting back to normal.  The numbness is less prominent, wearing socks doesn’t mean swelling and the hair is growing back! (even if it did take a few months)

I’m having a telephone consultation with the professor on Saturday – so we’ll see what that brings!

*I’m not sure why I look a bit squinty in this pic. Perhaps that’s something else I need to get fixed

Dressed in a gown for a CT scan
Me, in a changing room at St Anthony’s hospital, Surrey, England. Prepped for a CT scan