I’ve arrived at the last day of Movember. Tomorrow, all those “real men” who’ve been growing ‘taches (sorry, I still call it a mo’) in support of the Movember prostate awareness campaign can have, in the words of Sweeney Todd, “a nice shave”. Also tomorrow, being 1st December and having been waiting throughout Movember, I am due to present myself to the very pleasant medical staff at High Wycombe hospital for my seemingly long-awaited radical prostatectomy. I know I keep repeating that phrase but it’s not only good for search engine indexing, I like writing it – I’ve become quite attached to it over the preceding few months.
In our pedestrian but free NHS, the process through which I’ve been has taken four months – that’s from the consultant seeing a PSA level that he didn’t like, through my delightful transrectal prostate biopsy (there’s another one I enjoy writing), to my imminent surgical solution [Ed: I’m damned if I’m going to miss out on the solution fad just ‘cos I’m retired]. These four months have very definitely felt like waiting to wait. By far the worst time, however, the most psychologically stressful, has been the last two weeks – the two weeks between my pre-op assessment, a.k.a. health check to make sure I was fit for surgery and less likely to become one of the 1 in 300 that apparently doesn’t make it off the chopping board still breathing, and the surgery itself. Having arrived at this stage, the last thing I want is a delay but there’s two weeks where fate can conspire to confound the process. “Many a slip twixt cup and lip” is the phrase that springs to mind. A lot can happen in two weeks.
Catching the common cold is one of the potential problems. One of the questions at the pre-op assessment is, “have you had a cold during the last three weeks?”. (I can’t remember the exact time span but you get the idea.) No. Great! What’s the implication if I had, though? I’m not sure but my not having had a cold sounded important. “Try and remain healthy between now and the actual operation.” Right.
The common cold is well named, especially at this time of year – there’s a lot of it about. For a retired person, the biggest problem is shopping which brings one into contact with the snuffling, sneezing, coughing masses gamely struggling their around the same relatively confined spaces. I couldn’t help remember hearing, many years ago, that the contagious range of the cold virus is 32 feet indoors. This may have been revised these days, like many other things – cramming full fat milk down kids’ necks use to be recommended – but I found myself spotting a cougher or a sneezer from 30 paces and giving them as wide a berth as possible whilst walking on the streets. Inside shops space is more restricted and avoidance is a little more difficult. Two weeks waiting for what is considered a vital operation can turn you into a paranoid recluse.
Despite my best efforts, last Monday morning I awoke with a strange feeling in my throat. Sure enough, a few sniffles duly developed. Unbelievable! It really didn’t feel as if it had developed into a full blown cold – no overnight congestion, no tightness across the chest, no constantly steaming nose – but something was certainly there. Fearing the worst and in respect for everyone else involved, on Thursday morning I phoned the hospital and ‘fessed up; I think I have a cold. How did I feel? Fine, actually, but I’m sniffling. “I’ll speak to the doctors but, if you hear nothing, come in as planned.” I heard nothing – phew!
There’s another type of cold that I really didn’t expect to be a potential problem, not at this early stage of our winter anyway. That’s the kind of cold that blows down off the Russian Steppes, sweeps across Scandinavia and the North Sea and slams into our north-east coast, bringing with it unwelcome amounts of slippery, traffic-disrupting snow. High Wycombe is inappropriately named; HIgh Wycombe itself is low, it is the land that surrounds it that is high. Consequently pretty much every road into and out of High Wycombe is a hill. Any amount of snow is a potential cause of transport problems. Regrettably, we cannot yet control the weather so avoiding this kind of cold is down to the last and rather ineffective resorts of hoping and, if one is that way inclined, praying.
This morning I’ve awoken to a world thinly blanketed in the unwelcome white stuff. Scotland and the north-east of England have already had very disruptive snow falls but the weather forecasters suggest that the weather is moving south and west towards us. Since I am not a believer (no omnipotent being would have designed/engineered the human body the way it is), I am left with but one choice – hoping that the roads on Wednesday will be free enough to enable our 30-mile journey to the theatre of operations.
Assuming fortune smiles on me, I suspect that parts of me are also going to get shaved at the end of Movember, too. Probably not my ‘tache, though.