The old saying ‘Time Flies When You’re Having Fun’ isn’t really applicable to the events of the past five years.  The time really has flown, and a lot has happened, but not very much of it has been fun.  Multiple hospital visits, both by appointment and to the emergency department, and trips to the doctor, usually by appointment for tests etc., have resulted in memories of the past five years being, on the whole, traumatic.

Fun has definitely not been the word.

As a result of all of these events, it has come as a bit of a shock to realise that five years ago today (well, tomorrow really:  it all happened on a Friday but the date is the same – 7 March) I was in hospital.  At the time of typing this (12.52 pm) I had been under the knife for about two hours and I would not be fully aware of my surroundings until c.7.30 tomorrow morning.

The realisation has brought back a flood of memories, mainly bad.  The pain and discomfort of numerous cuts and the tube where no tube should be.  The misery of being trapped in the hospital for three days, although the wonder of Burnley beating Blackburn Rovers 2-1, the first ‘derby’ victory for over 30 years, helped to mitigate the pain.

Five years of repeated tests to see whether the prostate cancer had returned.  Five years of stress every time one of the tests was due.  Now that I am only being tested once every year I think it’s time to look back and see where I am now, see what lasting effect the experience has had on me.

Physically, I’m fine.  Football has given me injuries, some severe some minor, but the prostatectomy has left little mark.  The scars have faded a little, although of course they are still there.  In fact, the only physical side-effect that remains is a slight tendency towards stress incontinence, but as this is supposed to affect both men and women of my advancing years I find this more of an annoyance than an embarrassment:  after all, I have a darned good excuse that beats the more traditional cry of ‘I can’t help it, I’m getting old!’

Mentally, if I am being honest, things are not so good.  In between tests I am usually OK.  When the tests come around, I am a bag of nerves, terrified that the cancer has returned and that I will be going back into the hospital for more extensive treatment. 

But this is only when the tests are due.  At other times, as already stated, I’m usually fine.  Honest!  Well, maybe not always.  The one way that the diagnosis and operation has affected me is that when it comes to illness and feeling  in any way out of the ordinary my first instinct is to think ‘cancer’.  For the past five years this paranoia has been the bane of my life:  stomach ache?  Cancer;  bad wind?  Cancer;  pains in my muscles?  Cancer.  This lack of self-confidence may be dismissed by some as ridiculous, but to me it’s understandable.  I’ve never smoked, I don’t drink much (I’m allergic to cigarettes and alcohol) and on the whole I’ve remained relatively fit and not overly overweight.  So how is it that I can get cancer?  And if I’ve had it once, then I can get it again.

Despite the fact that everyone I know – including nurses – keep telling me that the cancer won’t return, it makes no difference.  That worry comes back, sometimes at the most ridiculous times.  (Ian, you’ve just had cabbage, brussels sprouts and baked beans:  of course you’ve got stomach ache ….)

To put it mildly, when the tests are due the nerves take hold and I become a real pain to live with. Moody, snappy, irritable: even I find it hard to live with myself sometimes.

Mind you, it gives me some new lyrics for the classic song ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath:

“Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind

People think I’m insane because whenever I get the slightest ache or pain I immediately tend to link it to the cancer and start worrying whether it has returned or not.”

OK, so it doesn’t scan, but come on Ozzy and co.  A rewrite is necessary!