Posted: 7 December 2012 in Cancer, On the Pilgrim's Road
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Prostate Cancer cellsGetting a letter from the GP that says “please call us as soon as possible”. Oh, that’s a surprise, so I call. I get though to a doctor who is not my GP. He tells me something about high scores, and that this is a cancer indicator. Eh? It feels like I’ve been told there might be some rain tomorrow. Oh – they’ll need to repeat the tests. Just in case. You know.

Know? Strange to say, I didn’t need to wait for second tests. Intuitively, right from then, I expected the results to be confirmed. And they did. I’m a fit man. Not so old either. With no obvious symptoms. And… I’ve got prostate cancer.

Got cancer yourself? Your reaction will be different to mine. I experienced no quick shock. Like schoolyard fights and career disappointments, this was unavoidable. To be accepted – yet to be held at a distance. It could be a far worse cancer. Survival rates are good. And the joys of the internet, you can find out all you want (and a lot you don’t). And with graphic images too (whoops – best skip). 

But oh what nonsense. This is denial. Get real man – cancer is existential. It means the end, or at least an earlier end.

End of what? I prayed and reflected on this. “Well God, what do I make of this?” No, not the Why Me? question. Because there’s always the Why Not You? that comes back. There are plenty of random things that hurt people, or are caused by outside events: serious accidents, systemic unemployment, The Spanish Flu and its descendents, cruel bosses, mean colleagues, other illnesses, children’s woes. Then there’s a trouble we bring on ourselves, or at least we help along. I quickly binned the Why Me’s. My parents and grandparents savoured plenty of the perils, as well as the pleasures of the 20th century. There’s a bit of me that says if this is going to be my own “Western Front”, am I going to be a man or a mouse?

Tears. Yes, tears. “The mouse” might not cry but “the man” certainly did, and from time to time, still does. I can’t count on the future years like I did before. I may well not go on in years like my parents did. Oh goodness – all those calculations I did for pension planning, were based on me dying at or after point X in the future. The odds are different now. Should I still be putting away for my pension like I am? Or is there an actuary out there reading this blog chuckling with professional glee? 

Do you have any functioning religious belief? I do. However, cancer is a wakeup call on faith. When I told an old chum of mine about my news, he responded, “well you must find your beliefs a comfort in a time like this”. I responded “They are indeed. But I have to ask myself – do I really believe all this?” In the serious possibility of my death earlier or much earlier than expected, do all the religious words I have heard amount to no more than a hill of beans?

I believe they do. Indeed, I am a lucky man. I am conscious of God’s presence, from time to time, when I stop and listen out for The Presence. I am a lucky man, getting the chance to consider the present life and future life, knowing these thoughts are not idle speculation. Instead, they are like reading The Rough Guide of a country you know you will go to, even if you are not sure when you will actually get round to booking your ticket. 

“It’s Easy for you to say this.” Perhaps. I have to concede, I have the luxury of thinking these thoughts in the comfort of my own home, still in good health, still going to work. When I am in hospital, in pain, with tubes hanging out of me, with family in distress, maybe I’ll sing a different song. Let’s see shall we? 

As the cancer is dealt with, or progresses, I plan to blog more. Indeed, in reality this is the second piece (see also Travel To The Holy Land At Tax Payers Expense).  Cancer is common, and people live on for years after treatment. But people do not talk about it willingly, even about the pedestrian ones like prostate cancer. Cancer offers a chance to think about the big issues in life. Blogging is a great way to make the most of the situation.

Though I’ll be blogging on other things as well (like on prisons and prisoners), as cancer veterans will know, I am at the start of a long journey. So – watch this space for more.


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