Bucket List Time

There’s an old saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover“. I think I must be a bit like that. Overall, I feel OK. I look fairly healthy, too. It’s a shame that bad things are going on inside of me.

On the outside and the inside I had a really good Christmas and New Year period, although it seems ages ago now. Since then the highlight was my belated retirement drink in mid-January, 3 months after officially finishing work. What an afternoon and evening that turned out to be, far exceeding my wildest expectations in people and atmosphere. It was brilliant seeing so many of the friends who I’ve worked with during my 20 years on the Railway. There must have been about 120 at one point. It got very intimate in the pub! Great bunch that they are they raised £800 to see me off, which I’ve split 50/50 between Prostate Cancer UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

I’m especially pleased about the money that was raised because those two cancer charities do so much good work and have been a much needed source of support to me and my partner, it’s nice to be able to give a little back. Even more now that my “badly behaved intermediate risk” prostate cancer is being a pain in the arse, sometimes literally. Instead of quietly dying after being zapped with radiation the cancer has either had a rebirth or was missed by the radiotherapy. Either way it’s currently chucking out increasing amounts of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA for short).

Considering I should have zero PSA because I no longer have a prostate to produce it, the stuff can only be coming from prostate cancer cells. So I was sent for a Choline PET Scan last week to find out where the little buggers were hiding and the results were back yesterday, just in time for my latest appointment with my oncologist. It showed the cancer has spread to my lymph nodes.

While it was a bit of a shock it was not entirely unexpected as I’d been told that was a possibility. What did shock me, though, was the answer to the question I put to my fantastic Macmillan nurse (I’ve actually got two fantastic Macmillan nurses and I wouldn’t want to leave one out). I asked “that” question. You know, the one we all want to ask, but are too frightened to. “How long have I got?”

I’ve always said I’d rather know the truth but before answering she made sure and, looking me straight in the eyes, asked if I really did want to know and I replied “yes“.

I expected to be told 10 years. Why 10 years? Well, it’s because everything I’ve read downplays prostate cancer. Sometimes I’ve read things that have made me feel like a bit of a fraud compared to someone with a “real” cancer. I didn’t feel like a fraud after she answered my question. Seven years. Bloody ‘ell! She said it could be more, but it could be less. (I’d like to reassure anyone reading this who might now be freaking out. We are all different).

Seven years sounds like a long time if you’re talking about how many more years you have to work before putting your feet up and collecting your pension. With work seven years might as well be seventy. Seven years are absolutely not a long time when it could be all that you’ve got left. It takes on a whole new meaning.

I must admit it shook me a lot. I went cold and I could feel my skin tingling. I had an urge to run, but where to? The bastard cancer would catch up eventually. My partner was silent. I asked him if he was OK. Yes came the reply. Bloody liar. I think my nurse was more upset than me, maybe because the enormity of it was immediately apparent to her.

For me it’s taken longer. I’m slowly digesting this major piece of information. I am very glad to have been given an honest answer to my question as I’d have hated to have been treated like a child and spared the truth.

We chatted some more, me and the nurse hugged. Not sure who was hugging whom. The mood was lifted when nurse number 2 walked in and caught us in an embrace. “What’s going on here?” she asked, so I hugged her too so she couldn’t snitch on us. I was told this is now bucket list time. I think that phrase struck a chord. It’s one you read in the papers about other people, it doesn’t happen to you, except it has. I just wish my mind would clear so I could decide what should go on my bucket list because the only thing I could think of was I’d like to drive a train again one more time. My god, I must be worse than I thought.

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