CHRIS’S TEENAGE CANCER JOURNEY – PART 7

By the summer of 2015, many things had changed in my life. I’d had a girlfriend for a few months now and I was enjoying the newfound changes that were occurring as a result. Nights out round St Helens and Liverpool had become blasé – routine even. My priorities were shifting from ‘ I think I’ll get up early and go to golf this weekend’ to ‘I really can’t be bothered with golf anymore, I’m shit now anyway.

I had been playing absolute dog shite since the start of the season, and in comparison to the previous year, my win rate in the South Lancs League had dropped significantly and I was only winning about half of those summers evening matches I was playing in. Not good enough, I thought. As it happened, I was falling into the cliché that was ‘your golf goes downhill when you get a girlfriend’. Even funnier was that I’d seen it happened to a few of my older mates over the years and wondered how they could go down such a declining path. Now, I was finding out. See, I was never influenced by anyone other than my ever expanding teenage ego and my family, but even then my ego would always win and I’d just do what I wanted – which was working and playing golf til my hands bled or I fell asleep in my tea due to the exhaustion. How ironic, I thought. I was emulating the part I’d been tasking the piss out of for the last few years. Time was proving very difficult to split and manage; this was a big learning curve.

Now a few months on from that bone shattering footballers dive head-first down the stairs, things were very different. More ‘normal’ so to speak and, as much as I enjoyed all the golf, weekends were more enjoyable, nights in were different and my car was taking me places I didn’t really anticipate we’d go – Thorpe Park down south, for example. A few weeks before I was due to go up to the lakes with my then-girlfriend, I started having pain downstairs – and by that, I mean my crown jewels. The pain was really unexplained for a week or so until the problem became visual. I needed this sorting out ASAP. Though I didn’t have a lump, cancer quickly crept into my mind. I thought back to a hot summer’s day I spent at Edge Hill University when I was in year 10 at school. All the sporty ones from our year got to attend some sort of sports introduction day – which translated to: A big sit off on a field teaching primary school kids how to play golf with plastic clubs and balls. The day was good – well, wasn’t any sit off day good at school– however we did get an informative and quite entertaining  workshop on testicular cancer, and the girls got one on breast cancer too. The workshop was being delivered by my best mate Joe’s dad’s friend who’d had a friend who’d died of the cruel and non discriminative disease that is: cancer. After we’d received the story about the man who’d ‘’been too scared of going the doctors’’ – How ironic, I thought. Isn’t that exactly what happened with me my leg just a few months earlier? – We had to do a feel test on what I can only describe as a silicone replica of a police horses cock and balls. It was massive! It was a funny sight and of course, we were teenage lads, so we had to piss about and hit each other over the head with these pornstar pieces. Some of the lads were clearly enjoying it too much for my liking. I made a mental note to stay away from those when it came to PE lessons the following week.  Joking aside, I was very touched and upset by this man’s story of his friend and it influenced me to go and get myself checked out.

Skip forward a few years and here I was worrying about whether I had such a daunting fate.  On this occasion, I actually got that pissed off with waiting to get through to the GP’s at 8am in the morning, so I went down in person to secure a sought after same-day appointment. ‘’Hiya, can I help you?’’ said the friendly receptionist. ‘Yeah I’d like to book a same-day appointment for today please’. ‘’Can I ask what the problem is young man’’ The audacity! Can you bollocks ask what’s wrong, I thought. You’re a fucking receptionist not a GP?!   I opened my mouth but no words came out. How as it that the kid who never shut up had been left utterly speechless by a GP practice receptionist with a queue of ten behind him? I got an appointment later on that day after work and I went in on my own-with my mum waiting outside to discuss the most sensitive and embarrassing subject a 19 year old lad could ever think of talking about: crown jewels. I saw this polite looking doctor with a medium length black hair and a dominant square jaw line. He seemed a nice guy actually and he just talked about it as if it was all normal to him-which put me at ease given the circumstances. Another mental note was made: doctors are robots who don’t feel embarrassment. After he’d gone about his stuff and I’d lost a good 95% of my dignity, Mr dominant jaw blurted out ‘’ I think it’s a hydrocele’’ .Number one, what the hell is one of those? I thought, and number two where does this leave me?

I got referred to a certain Mr Kattak. A urologist surgeon at Fairfield Hospital in Crank – a private hospital that was just 5 mins away from me in Rainford. Mr Kattak? Hmmmm, what’s he gonna be like? I thought, forming my own expectations off his name alone. I met him a week or two after that trip to the GP’s and once again, I went with my mum – the ex-nurse medical guru- though this time she came in with me. We entered this decent sized 5 x 5 metre room at the front of the hospital and there he was, sat at his desk, waiting to take the remaining 5% of my dignity away from me. He was a small man, a very imposing character. I was struck like deer in headlights by his professionalism and no-shit kind of character. I quite liked him for that. ‘’We can give you surgery to remove the hydrocele if that’s what you’d like’’ he offered. With a nervous smile: ‘’I mean, if that’s what sorts it out then yeah, I’m fine with that’’ In truth, I was anything but fine with a razor shard scalpel going near my pride and dignity, but what choice did I have other than to put up with the ever increasing pain. Effectively I was having a reduction, which I found both funny and daunting. I mean, seriously, how many teenage lads can say they needed a reduction?! I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or whether to run for the hills. Oh wait, I can’t do that either as I’ve got a dodgy leg too! Surgery was planned for a month or two later

A few weeks later and me and my then-girlfriend went ‘glamping’ up in the Lake District. I’d found this national trust campsite in a place called Low Wray, on the west banks of Lake Windermere. The place was stunning, one of the most picturesque campsites I’d ever had the pleasure of camping-or in this case glamping-on. In the mornings the Lakeland dew would rise above the lake and freeze you to death but when it passed the views were simply breath-taking. In this particular moment I was sat outside the camping pod on a blue and yellow deckchair that swallowed you when you sat down reminiscing about how much I missed camping with my family.  ‘‘Those days were the best’’ I proclaimed. Pfffftttt, ‘those days’? I sound like an old man now at the tender age of 19.They really were the best though. Throughout my entire childhood we’d go away every summer in the caravan touring all over France with our Volvo V70 estates- one of course was wrote off in that horrid crash on the motorway a decade or so ago. Some great memories were forged back then. One day, I hoped to emulate those with a family of my own. The sad reality was that now, everyone in my family was growing up. My younger sister Claire was hanging out with boyfriend Jack most of the time which meant we weren’t crossing paths together that often. My older sister Laura was busy planning a life of her soon with her husband to be Kriss, and that meant I’d likely be seeing less of her in the future too. And as for my Mum and Dad, well, they now had a place in Southern France so were unlikely to be interested in going camping. It was such a shame as I loved my family more than anything-even golf- and now everyone was going their own ways.

That week was also the last time I would ride a bike for a while, and the last time I would ride a bike with two legs. Waiting for me back in St Helens would be a urologist with a scalpel sharper than my current golf game, ready to open me up like a can of worms. Not a nice thought.

 

As I lay there on the theatre trolley at Fairfield Hospital, hooked up to heart monitoring apparatus, I wondered back in time, racking my brain for how it had come to this. I was lay on my back staring up at the anaesthetist hovering over me like the morning dew at Lake Windermere when the question hit me. How had I kept all this so secret? Only a hand full of people actually knew as far as I was aware, and they were only the ones who needed to know. Despite the operation being technically a reduction, I decided it was nothing to be proud of and therefore, it was something to be embarrassed about. Realistically, it wasn’t so bad, It wasn’t like I had cancer or anything was it? It was a minor operation to remove fluid and I’d be fine. That gave me a short boost of much needed confidence as I was about to experience my first operation ever. My first general anaesthetic ever. My first out of control reaction to the drugs admitted to control me. Better still, I had a girlfriend and a loving family there to help me through. Just then I heard the ‘’Okay Chris, are you ready to go to sleep’’ of the lovely nurse holding my hand. A second later and the general anaesthetic was running through my veins and hitting my central nervous system at a million miles per hour. Lights out.

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