It is now – the day this post is published – three whole years since the operation (now Monday 6 May 2017, operation Friday 7 May 2014). I’ve recently been to the doctor to have my latest blood test. Thankfully it came back as ‘no sign’, so I’m still safe. At least for now. Yet my mind still works on me in a bad way. Even though I know there is no prostate left, and even though I believe that the surgeon was competent enough to remove all of the prostate, there is – and probably always will be – the nagging fear that at some point I will go for a test and get the news I don’t want. In reality, the only side-effect or sign of the terror of three years ago are five small scars and the knowledge that I am more susceptible to stress incontinence than I have ever been. Oh, and the reinforced knowledge of my own mortality.
The latter is probably the most stressful. Now that I have been released from the hospital, the tests that are done only have a tolerance down to 0.1. This is a long way above my last test – which went down to 0.01, using a more sensitive device – but it is only if the test comes back higher than 0.1 that any further treatment would be undertaken.
It is taking time to get used to the concept. I hear ‘0.1’ and think, ‘Wow – that’s high’, before common sense reasserts itself and relief kicks in. The test came back at 0.1, so I’m safe. But now that I think I might be safe, I have been taking stock of my life and reassessing my priorities. In response, I have recently applied for a job working alongside Jo. It would have meant either stopping or at least slowing down my writing. Sadly – or not – I did not get the job.
I say ‘or not’ for a reason. After submitting the application I woke up the following morning and suddenly felt apprehensive. As it is, I wave Jo off to work at 7 am. Then Owen off to school at 7.30. Then I get my own breakfast and sit down to start work. The concept of eating breakfast in a rush and then jumping into a car to drive to work, where I would be told by my ‘superiors’ what needed to be done that day, and then be assessed as to how well I had done the job, filled me with horror.
Okay, so I sit in the house on my own for most of the day, reading books on late antiquity, or typing books on late antiquity, or making endless cups of coffee (or undertaking the long trip up the stairs to make room for more coffee!), so my days can be lonely and, I have to be honest, I end up talking to myself. Sometimes I even know what I’m going to say next!! Life could be better.
But it could be far worse.
I like being my own boss, getting coffee when I want, leaving the house and going for a run, or taking a trip to the gym, or working on guitars or figures, or just sitting and staring at the wall. And all when I want.
I play football every Wednesday evening and a couple of weeks before Christmas I was the victim of a horror tackle. Bruised hip and elbow, and cracked ribs. (Yes, it really was that bad a tackle!) As I work from home, I just sat in my chair, dosed on Ibuprofen, and worked. No walking around holding my ribs in pain. No driving to work. No explaining to people why I can’t lift anything heavy as my ribs are in a bad way.
Maybe I should start looking on the bright side? I am still young. (Well, young-ish!) I have my health (Although only just!) I enjoy what I do. (Most of the time!) I have Jo and Owen. I have a lot of guitars and figures – and Jo bought me another guitar kit for Valentine’s day! Really, I am lucky. And very spoilt.
And I have verbally agreed – in principal – to write three more books for Pen and Sword, and am awaiting the contracts for two of them. Maybe I should have attempted to break out for a larger publisher who would forcefully promote my books, making it so that I really can earn a living from writing. But I have worked alongside the commissioning editor for P&S for many years and know that, should anything ‘bad’ happen, he’ll have my back and give me his full support. And at the moment I need all the support I can get.
Actually, there is one other side-effect of the operation, and this is very odd. After the operation I was told to wear hospital-supplied ‘support-socks’ – the type that stretch from just above the toes to the knee – to minimize the chances of blood clots in my legs. Although I took them off occasionally for hygiene purposes, the protection they offered to my legs made my leg hair grow like crazy. But after I finally took the socks off, the hair on my legs was worn off. In places. The hair on my right leg is short. The hair on the left side of my left leg is also short. The hair on the right side of my left leg is very long. And as I’m not the hairiest person in the world this makes my leg look weird.
Thankfully, it’s now winter so my legs are usually covered, and on Wednesday-night football the lighting is artificial so it isn’t very obvious. But how can I walk on a beach in summer with half a leg covered in hair? I look like a strategically-shaved wookie!