9 November 2017
Thursday 9 November 2017 wasn't an ordinary day. Ever since getting a redundancy and deciding it was time to quit being a wage slave not many days can be described as particularly ordinary even though none were anything particularly special either. But this day I had an appointment to see a specialist to get the results of a prostate biopsy from the week before. Had to drive into Darwin so got something for breakfast on the way. Surprisingly there wasn't any long wait to see the specialist, probably got shown in a minute or two earlier than the appointment time. Now that is unusual. As I sat down he beamed a broad smile at me and asked "How are you feeling?" In previous encounters with him he had been fairly off hand, even abrupt at times. In hospital after the biopsy he nearly bit my head off for making a comment. So although my immediate reply to his smiling question was "Really good", I had a sense now that something was different and added "Of course that might change depending on what you have to tell me." He didn't beat around the bush, just straight out said "Well, I've got bad news."
They say that at times like this the first reaction is to hide behind some sort of notion that he's talking about someone other than yourself. I don't think that's what happened to me. This whole thing with elevated PSA test results had been going on for years and a couple of earlier biopsies (including "digital examinations") and an MRI scan had, at worst, proved inconclusive. I'd already googled the hell out of prostate cancer years ago. Now the specialist was explaining how I in fact had some non-aggressive and some aggressive prostate cancers. Doing nothing was not an option. I didn't stop to think out a response but just said "I guess I'm on that road now". (The word "road" must have come from all my earlier reading about cancer.) Then I added "Well, it's not over 'til the fat lady sings, and I can't see her getting up onto the stage just yet." He had a surprised expression, had perhaps been expecting a more negative reaction.
We got down to the nitty-gritty of where the cancers were and what options were available. The discussion was very much two sided. I would feed back information he gave me as I understood it so he could either confirm or correct it. He suggested that I'd need a PET scan which would show the full extent of the cancer and whether or where it had spread. The MRI a couple of months back (my second with this issue) was done more to pinpoint target areas for the following biopsy. It had not indicated any suspect areas in the lymph nodes, but the PET scan would be more accurate and conclusive. This had to be done in Adelaide or Brisbane. I opted for Adelaide so he said that would be arranged for me along with transport and accommodation. I was told a cancer nurse would contact me to get the show on the road.
Going home was of course quite ordinary, with my customary calling into Bunnings and a supermarket on the way. It had now, again become a day like any other.
10 November 2017
I've been busy getting some excavation work done on my block. There was a lot of heavy work associated with it which kept me busy. The cancer nurse rang and left a message to call. When I did she got my email address but otherwise not many words were exchanged. I had to wait for an email with further information. More words might not have been of much use anyway. I didn't really know what to say anymore, nor could I think of any questions.
Rang the hospital travel number I was given and got onto the bloke running it. He wasn't exactly bubbling over with information, none of my 'paperwork' had been passed on to him yet. I explained that living out bush I like to make contact early so that things can be organised with no last minute issues or panic. That apparently was the wrong thing to say. He said he'd email out the documents when the approvals were done.
An email arrived from the cancer nurse with general information about PET scans. Later there was an email from the hospital travel desk with a booking confirmation for Flinders Lodge in Adelaide. I guessed that he'd be sending plane booking information later. On the internet I checked on the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Lodge locations. Turns out that Flinders Lodge is Cancer Council of SA. Can't keep away from the "C" word for long. They're on opposite sides of the city but within easy walking distance of each other.
Having worked about 28 years out bush moving in closer to Darwin meant I hardly knew anyone. I'd become a member of the volunteer bushfire brigade and been out to a lot of fires. But I wasn't a drinker so didn't really get into socialising. I was also a member of a native plant society but there wasn't much socialising going on there either. I wouldn't call myself "antisocial" though, but I don't do well in crowds either. I can be quite happy with my own company, which helps most of the time. But not when you want to leave hospital and they insist that you can only go with someone else driving and who will stay with you the first night. Telling them that's not going to happen never gets a good reaction, but I tell them that's the reality so deal with it.
The only person I've told about my diagnosis is a neighbour a couple of doors up (couple of 20 acre rural blocks up) from me. She has recently had a breast cancer removed and is currently undergoing radiation treatment. We'd been discussing her treatment as it had started before my diagnosis. When I got my diagnosis I eventually mentioned it to her. I guess then we leaned a bit on each other, although she has lots of family and a big circle of friends here, and is much more the socialising type than I am.
When mentioning the trip to Adelaide for the PET scan she offered to drive me in to the airport, depending on the time of the flight. She was driving to Darwin Royal daily for her radiation treatment and could drop me off on the way. So when I finally got the flight details turns out there was plenty of time to drop me off and get to her appointment as well.
I don't want to be a 'grumble-bum'. That might come later, who knows, but at this point I want it to feel all rosey. I do sense a bit of a change in my behaviour. Although having nearly always been one to come out with jokes and quick quips, it seems I'm 'pushing' it a bit more now. I don't let any opportunity pass for making a joke out of anything. Not sure if this is an attempt to try and repress any negative feelings, or am I trying to over analyse myself? But still, I seem to get a mostly good reception to my attempts at comic behaviour so probably it doesn't matter. And anyway, if anyone doesn't like my sense of humour, then 'problem belong them'.
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