Email to PCRC

I discovered I had a massive burden of cancer in summer 2015. It has taken an operation to remove my prostate and seminal vesicles plus 33 days of X-rays by way of follow-up to get me sorted. During all that I got in a muddle and missed an NHS appointment. They say the cost to the NHS is £160. I wanted to double that. But the NHS reply is to send you the money instead.... so here you go. Thanks to everyone. I'm pleased to be alive.

John’s letters to his pals in the veterans cycle racing team

Another missive from one of the smaller fish, a rider who is more often struggling at the back than lining up at the front. My race experiences reflect ‘how it is’ for many of those individuals who roll up on the start-line time after time with little or no chance of winning… but who come back just the same.

 Diagnosis and Staging

I got shot up with some sort of radioactive gunk at the hospital before lunch today and was told to avoid pregnant women for at least 24 hours. It’s proving difficult so I’ve had myself locked away in a dark room. Which gave me a little time to type.

The story starts when I moved from the sport of badminton to cycling at the age of 47. Over the past 23 years I’ve had pains in my upper left leg from time to time and to sort them out I would go to a physio called Alistair. He refuses to use the word sciatica. He says there is no such thing. It’s my piriformis muscle that locks up apparently. Four years ago, Alistair said: ‘Have you asked to doctor about your prostate gland?’ I said: ‘No… why?’ He said: ‘I think you should.’ That was it, the end of that strand of conversation…. the talk moved to something else. Three years ago, we had a repeat… and two years ago it happened again.

More recently, at the fourth time of Alistair asking this seemingly tangential question I did bring it up when next at the doctor’s. And what that has brought into the open is that I have prostate cancer, quite a lot of it in fact. Six of the 13 samples they cored out and put under the microscope were riddled. The worst was 90% cancer cells. So it’s coming out and the sooner the better. They use two robots I’m told. I can’t understand why I’m still waiting because if it’s already jumped ship and is in the bones elsewhere then I’m in a bit more of a muddle….. that’s what the radioactive gunk was all about to see if it has spread.

Getting out of hospital while avoiding pregnant women proved to be rather difficult as quite a lot of the females approaching me down the long corridors wouldn’t answer my simple question. Of the first hundred, I reckon 35 of them slapped me on the head for being nosey and a further 12 called for a policeman. But there was an upside as five said ‘I wish’ and when I gently took them by the hand and confided that ‘I am Boris Becker’s father’ three of those five immediately pointed to a broom cupboard. It was unfair to proceed any further in my radioactive glowing state at the time, so I can report discretely that I have a few personal appointments to make over the coming fortnight….. provided the robots don’t track me down before then.

I had to go back at midnight and stand on the hospital roof. It’s five miles from Gatwick and the rule is that if pilots coming in to land can see you glowing in the dark then you’re in big trouble.

 A few weeks later

This morning the postman delivered a copy of a letter to my GP and the bones look fine ….  that called for a couple of glasses of Zinfandel by way of celebration. The odd thing is that I have had no symptoms whatsoever. The urology surgeon who first heard my story summed things up saying: ‘Alistair has probably saved your life.’ And that’s what made me want to write this.

Justin, a cycling nut who I used to work with, tells me: ‘I'm with BUPA and they recommend a prostate exam every 2/3years once you hit 45, and annually over 60.’ So there you are guys, especially anyone not with BUPA….. you need to be looking after yourself….. and your brother and your dad, depending on age.

Three months later 

I’m just popping up to say that I’m back. Well, sort of back. The ordeal of being in hospital and hacked by robots has passed and as a result I’m hoping that the removal of my prostate has also carried off my cancer. Anyway, it’s fingers crossed for the time being.

The big moment was all scheduled for 1.30pm last Wednesday, only when they settled me in the night before it turned out I was the first man in at 7am sharp.  As a result they had all the screening into the drama chamber wide open and I was invited to run my eyes over the robot standing centre-stage. It was exactly the sort of thing you get to see turning up in a Terminator-style movie. I’d asked if I should call it by its name which I suspected to be Da Vinci. Nice to have a name to the gleaming item that would leave me with five puncture holes all across my middle.

 After that came two nights back in the ward with other cancer sufferers, then instructions on how to work the catheter and how to add a second night-time bag and off you go old prune, out into the sunset. Well nearly sunset…. Hazel rolled up with transport at 3pm on the Friday afternoon.

Next came a steady weekend of returning to Planet Normal, or should that be Nearly-Normal, then a mild drama which saw me back in A&E last night, but that’s all passed and now I’m stood typing this.…but only after looking at Joe Friel’s new book on training for older cycle racing types where he recommends…‘Better to wear out than to rust away.’

I like that. So, first time out, I thought I was on top of everything but no. This afternoon when I went to empty the bag tied to my lower leg into the loo the job was already done, somehow the tap had opened and everything had leaked. Heavens - where? With Hazel having this thing about carpets I thought I ought to track down the pools before she did. But they were nowhere to be found….I hunted everywhere, especially the centre of the downstairs room, the one where the carpet is still new. But no sign, nothing. Then the discovery… I worked out where it all was. I’ve never in my wildest dreams pictured a scenario in which I was delighted to discover that I had successfully peed in my own shoe. Interesting world isn’t it?