2015 had been a good summer. We had made a very happy trip out west to the Okanagan and met up with good friends. It had been our first road trip in many years and we were surprised how much we enjoyed it.
We had been busy at the cabin since getting back and you could feel the end of summer coming and autumn in the air (or Fall as I have learned to call it here).
In Manitoba, at the beginning of September, it’s as though God, during the night, decides to turn down the thermostat and set the barometers to fall weather. It’s an over night change. There still will be warm, even hot days. These are often, politically incorrectly, referred to as ‘Indian Summer’. I wonder if they will be called Indigenous Summer now? I have no idea why these lovely days were so named. But the fall days can be beautiful here and we bask in any ‘bonus’ days we get.
But, as usual, I digress. It was end of a lovely summer, everything was going well and we were looking back on another happy and fortunate year for us and looking forward to all the birthday celebrations we are
stuck graced with that were rapidly approaching.
Then one morning, I won’t go into details, I had a nasty surprise during my ablutions. Next day all was well so I put it out of my mind. A week later, another nasty surprise greeted my first activity of the morning. Oh Oh. Time to go see the good Doc Andy. We had been seeing Andy for over thirty years. He was still a puppy when we started with him. The last time I had seen him was after a neck X-Ray to see what was causing significant discomfort. After he gave me a head-full of latin terms, I asked him “But what does that mean?” He replied “It means, Rod, you are wearing out”. “Tell me something I don’t know!” I grumbled.
So, Susan and I showed up at our appointed hour to tell Doc Andy about my couple of surprises. “Hmmmm. Time to see a urologist” says Andy. “I’ll get you booked.” Well like a flash we had an appointment set for the end of March the following year! In following up with the specialist’s appointment nurse we explained we would be in Mexico then (or so we thought). She was able to ‘squeeze me in’ on January 29, two days before we were due to fly to Puerto Vallarta. This seemed to me to be cutting things a bit fine. I was to learn later this was probably a fairly accurate phrase.
Later in November, I had what seemed an unrelated discomfort in my abdomen. Doc Andy sent me for a CT Scan. Now, I am claustrophobic and hate feeling trapped or secured. I’d never do well in a bondage relationship. Just saying. The nurse/technologist was very nice and speeded things along to reduce my anxiety as much as possible. I’m not sure if I heard “wimp” as I was leaving. Probably my imagination.
Anyway, the scan showed an irregular thickening of the wall of one side of the bladder. This apparently was not good news. The most likely cause being some kind of growth or tumour. We would have to wait till the end of January to find out what the Urologist would discover during a cystoscopy. I’m not going to describe what a cystoscopy is, you can look it up if you are curious, lets just say it’s about as invasive and embarrassing as you can imagine for a male patient. The annual prostate exam is a snap in comparison. Even the snap of the vinyl gloves.
After further consultation with Doc Andy, we decided we had better cancel our Mexican plans for 2016. Very sad couple of days undoing our plans and bookings. And, a long Winnipeg winter to look forward to as well as the uncertainty of what good Doctor “just relax and trust me” would discover in late January.
We had a huge suitcase of infant clothing we had collected through our church to take with us to Mexico. We try to support a regional maternity hospital in the little town of San Francisco, Nayarit, MX, locally know as San Pancho. How would we get the clothing there? Our good friends Ron and Marilyn were heading back down and agreed to take the extra case and to make a side trip out to San Pancho for us. That was a great relief and we are very grateful to them.
January came round and slowly it reached my special day! The good Doc JRATM said he had found two types of tumours. All within about a 5cm patch. Some were like flowers or coral the others were more like red marks. He was mostly concerned about the little red fellows. He said if they developed they could become high-grade. “What does high-grade mean?” I asked. It means they are nasty! They grow quickly and are very aggressive. If they find their way through the lining of the bladder they can attack other organs throughout the body.
The good Doc scheduled me for a day operation. They go inside the bladder (through the only available orifice) and use some kind of knife/scraper attached to the scope – then scrape away the offending tumours. Very nice! Let’s talk about it over Sunday dinner.
I was scheduled for March 10. When I spoke to the anaesthetist I asked for the full “put me under” approach – none of this stabbing you in the back and freezing the lower half nonsense for me. I didn’t want to know anything about what was going on and or risk any further damage to a troublesome spinal column.
The surgery went fairly well, although the Good Doc needed to go deeper than he had expected. Then we waited for the biopsy results. We were kept amused during this time by difficulties with the catheter removal – and having to have another inserted and left for a couple of weeks! Oh the fun.
April rolled around – the biopsy results were back and so was the Good Doc – who seems to have quite a few vacation days.
As the Good Doc had expected – both types of tumour were cancerous. The larger ones, I think, had been dealt with, and he hoped he had removed the little red devils – Carcinoma In Situ. However, the bladder lining can decide to produce more of these little pests. So the Good Doc scheduled me to have a series of immunotherapy treatments – 9 in all. Six weekly visits – then a gap of six weeks and then three more. So we would be done by mid August.
You won’t believe what they do for these immunotherapy treatments! Using a catheter they instil (their word not mine) the bladder with a liquid which includes a live TB culture (BCG). In many patients the invasion of TB into the bladder causes the immune system to go to war – and as collateral damage they wipe out any newly arriving carcinoma. This is laypersons understanding. There was more trouble with the catheter – sometimes requiring two nurses to get it inserted – ‘more difficult than a having a camel pass through the eye of a needle’ – for the biblically literate among you. A ‘threesome’ has never been something I fantasized about – but if I had, this would not have been it!
I’ll leave this account at this point. But, last Monday I received the last of the 9 treatments last Monday (which do have side-effects – don’t believe everything the Mayo Clinic says, they should stick to making the special sauce for McDonald’s) . Now Susan and I have a break until we see the Good Doc in mid-October to see if the treatments have been effective. If successful then there will be regular cystoscopes (or is that cystocopies?) and further maintenance treatments. If not successful – the Good Doc will talk about that in October when he get’s back from his fall vacation.
Please don’t get me wrong, we are very happy with the Good Doc and feel in really good hands – hmm, that’s uncomfortable… er, we have every confidence in him! That’s better.
So, we had to cancel a special trip to Hawaii with our daughter and Son-in-law from England in June/July, but we had a great time with them visiting us here. Also one of our granddaughters from England and her boyfriend visited us in May – so there were happy times this summer.
You can perhaps see why my posts have been a little scarce over the last while. I hope to get back to it on a more regular basis now that we aren’t dealing with weekly treatments and the side-effects.
I’ll keep you posted come October.
By the way – this is a good opportunity to thank all our friends and relatives who have been offering prayer and other support over the last many months.
I see that in this northern clime we are approaching the end of summer and another fall. Can we pray that the thermostat doesn’t get turned down for a while? Please.