I’m absolutely and totally not happy about being seriously ill. In fact I almost take it as a personal insult.
For heaven’s sake, I’ve spent the last six years working my socks off to avoid being a burden on the NHS!
I’ve changed my diet, and followed the Slimming World regime to the letter so I could shed four and a half stone and get down to a healthy weight.
I’ve confronted one of my biggest phobias – the gym – to the extent that I now go there three times a week.
(Why the phobia? I blame Caterham School, a somewhat narcissistic gym master, and far too many occasions when my lack of athletic ability was demonstrated in front of far too many people, far too humiliatingly for comfort.)
And I still remember the day when I was able to stand up in our Slimming World class and announce that all the hard work had paid off – and I no longer needed medication for high blood pressure.
Which is probably why I’ve been resisting the idea of surgery. Despite the fact that it’s probably a good idea.
Let me explain.
After dropping his bombshell, Mr Alberts mentioned that there could be some benefit to giving me a colostomy. To effectively bypass the tumour in my back passage and give me a stoma instead.
I didn’t fancy it. (After all, who would? No one really wants to have a replacement bum in their stomach, after all…)
The other consideration was my remarkable ability to build scar tissue – the technical term is keloid scarring. I showed a few samples of my collection to Mr Alberts, who was clearly surprised. As he rightly said, that level of scarring usually occurs only on darker skin than mine. And yes, I’ve often wondered what some of my colonial ancestors got up to in their spare time…
As a result, the next day – when I saw my oncologist, Dr Stancliffe – we almost immediately started talking about chemotherapy. We even set a date.
And then I started thinking. Hard.
I’d made my decision with the belief that my digestion could still function more or less normally. Except that it hasn’t been doing that. In fact it’s now almost impossible for me to pass stool, my ‘low residue’ diet is restrictive – and poor – and I’m in constant discomfort. I also – quite mistakenly – believed that having a stoma would force me to continue that same restrictive diet. In fact the opposite is true – with a stoma I can eat pretty much what I like.
So I’ve changed my mind. I’ve telephoned the team and asked to go for the colostomy after all.
I still hate the idea. But I have to think strategically. Having a stoma will solve the ever more annoying issues with passing stool. It will mean I can eat normally – and keep up my strength when I’ll need it most. And if – which I’m told is quite possible – Boris the bloated tumour actually swells up in response to chemotherapy, we won’t have to interrupt my treatment just to pander to his whims.
In fairness I’ve had so much to take in, and in such a short time, that I’m probably allowed a small amount of dithering. And my Arse Angels – as I call my stoma nurses, entirely with their permission – have been more than understanding.
Time to summon up the Viking spirit. I bet any of my ancestors could have come up with some wonderful lines about a man with a stoma. It certainly puts things up front, after all, and as the old proverb has it ‘every man loves the smell of his own fart’. Let’s hope that also works for me…