“For me, science is already fantastical enough. Unlocking the secrets of nature with fundamental physics or cosmology or astrobiology leads you into a wonderland compared with which beliefs in things like alien abductions pale into insignificance.”
Mr. Campbell respectfully and knowledgably answers the few useless questions that come to mind. Tori would have asked some far more sensible questions had she been there. Having exhausted my questions though I shuffle slowly back to my bed to await further instruction and the evening visit.
Tori dutifully returns later in the evening and is instantly frustrated by my news and the fact that it was finally delivered just after she’s been shooed off. We were hoping for a kidney stone. I know they can smart a fair bit, but once they’re out, that would have been the end of it. Cancer has all sorts of other connotations. I telephone my mother to give her the update. My wife and mother give me a number of positive scenarios to ponder, “It’s probably benign”, “It hasn’t spread so once removed it’ll be fine” and the perennial favourite: “Well thank goodness they’ve caught it in time.” None of which seem to particularly help that much.
There’s one other person however I need to update. Tonight is Winchester Skeptics and this evening’s speaker is none other than Stevyn Colgan, renowned author, artist, QI elf and my old Cornish compadre from Helston Comprehensive. Steve is talking tonight on the implausibility of alien visitations, but more pertinently he’s meant to be staying at my house this evening. We exchange a few short messages and Steve kindly makes some alternative last minute accommodation arrangements. I’m a bit miffed though that I will miss his talk, I was rather looking forward to it. Instead however I have one final evening with my two new gentlemen friends in Downtown Ward. I don’t feel ready yet to tell them my diagnosis so I lie quietly listening to their conversation which unlike my planned evening's entertainment never once touches upon the possibilities of little green men making a cheeky unannounced visit to our pale blue dot. I ponder instead whether once humankind have mastered interstellar travel ourselves whether we might also adopt the same protocols that our alien visitors reportedly deploy when visiting earth. Perhaps when our future space crafts land on distant worlds we too will cloak ourselves from all conceivable credible alien witnesses in favour of appearing in front of an unsuspecting local idiot that no one will ever believe and incapacitate them with a bright light. Having taken our alien subject aboard our ship we could then set about deploying our undercracker removal unit to detach any garments blocking access to the subjects’ lower exploration portal. Once the approach has been cleared our technologically advanced descendants will insert their scientifically enhanced rectal probes into the unwary arsehole of the alien subject. The discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe would be so monumental, what better way could there be to communicate with and learn about our fellow intelligent life forms?
I however have an alien visitation free night and I’m discharged the following morning and I am reminded by the mandatory festive tunes in Tori’s car that it’s almost Christmas. I do however have one week back at Oxford before the Christmas break. Much of my last week at work is spent either on the phone, or waiting for the phone to ring for news on my follow-up appointments and details of the next steps. The next step as it happens is a bladder scan. Just a routine, I’m assured, to check there is no cancer in the bladder as well. A simple outpatient procedure. “There won't be anything there”, the urologist assures me over the phone, “but we do have to check.” An outpatient appointment for my cystoscopy is promptly booked for a few days' time.
I can’t help but be a little weary about my bladder scan. I’m told that this simple procedure requires the insertion of a small camera into my urethra followed by a quick shufty about to make sure everything is suitably ship shape and in the fashion of a large British port in the South West of England. My recent experience however of having paraphernalia shoved up my urethra was far from pleasurable and the prospect of jamming a camera up there next fills me with enough trepidation to open my own locally sourced free-range organic trepidation boutique.
I arrive at the urology outpatient centre and make my presence known by entering a few details onto the welcoming touchscreen that has usurped the receptionist's job. I sit in the waiting room with three other men all anxiously cradling our manhood and rocking slightly in our chairs. No one speaks. I’m eventually summoned into my dressing room where I change into the rather fetching little arseless number that is provided, before mounting the examination table and exposing myself to my assembled audience. John, my urologist for the day is an extremely pleasant fellow. He asks me what I do for a living and a brief chat about Oxford University ensues. After I’m completely at ease he shows me the camera, which is reassuringly small and slips it in relatively painlessly. Compared to the catheter they fitted when they bled my plumbing the other week, this isn’t actually too bad.
Once inserted I move my eyes to the conveniently positioned monitor and watch the view as the camera is pushed along the inside of the penis. The image is not entirely dissimilar to the old Doctor Who opening credits. I wouldn’t have been that surprised if a picture of Tom Baker’s beaming mush didn’t pop up as we made our way down the swirling pink tunnel. Once inside the Doctor Who comparisons continue as the inside of my bladder bears an uncanny resemblance to Lady Cassandra.
The clean white semi translucent walls are crisscrossed with a few thin red tracks. All looks to be tip-top. The only slight imperfection in my magnificent bladder was one small area that looked a little sore. John explains that this is where the end of the catheter tube had rubbed, he also confirms that all is indeed in order and there was no sign of any bladder cancer. So just the kidney cancer to worry about then.
Following my bladder all-clear John informs me that my CT scans have been discussed at the weekly urology meeting and the decision has been made to book me in for a radical laparoscopic nephrectomy as soon as possible. I ask john for a little help translating the term radical laparoscopic nephrectomy. It’s actually pretty straightforward. Nephrectomy simply means removal of the kidney, laparoscopic means via keyhole surgery rather than a gaping incision across my belly, and radical means that they intend to whip out the whole damn thing, no messing about with just the ropey-looking bits.
I received an appointment from Salisbury General in the post the following day confirming that I have been booked in for my Radical Laparoscopic Nephrectomy on the 29th December. Not too bad I guess, I may have to spend Christmas Day shitting myself with anxiety but at least it should be all done and dusted in time for our planned New Years Eve dinner party.
In the meantime however I am under strict instructions to take it easy. That means cancelling a few trips. I had planned to spend my first Christmas back in Cornwall since I left in 1982. My youngest cousin Sarah and her culinary wizard of a husband (Jer) are hosting a big family get together. I’m also supposed to be driving up to Durham this weekend to pick up my daughter after her first term at University. Neither trips are advisable so my big family Christmas has to be postponed until next year, and the girl will have to get herself a student railcard and make her own way home.
Travelling however, is a far lesser worry than the fine art of piddling. Every visit to the toilet since being discharged from hospital has been a master class in apprehension. Each time I stand there with my old chap in my hand, there’s a mounting sense of tension as the pressure builds and I wonder if another piece of my decrepit right kidney may have crumbled away like a well-weathered eroded cliff face. So far though, so good, and the resultant jet of piss has been a suitably healthy transparent yellow. I just need to avoid any significant blows to the abdomen and keep pissing clear until the 29th December and all should be fine.