Archive for the ‘health’ Category

No, this isn’t going to be commentary on the NHS in general, nor a comment on how the government hugely fucked up the covid response, while the NHS and those inside it have done an amazing job on rolling out the vaccines.

I mean, were I to do so, you may be able to guess from the above sentence where I’d stand. Possibly. Maybe.

And who knows, I may do something on both of those, including some very nice words about some very nice people I know who work in the NHS. (Hi Keir, if you’re reading!)

But no, this might be the first in an irregular series of posts during this run on how covid has changed what I do, what consequences it’s had for me.

So, medical stuff.

Oh, not to bury the lede — too late, Budgie — but I haven’t had covid, and at no point have I felt it necessary to get a test. Apart from anything else, unless I have to have one of those tests where you stick the swab so far up your nose you scrap the inside of your skull… I’m not going to.

Because I have a busted up inside-of-my-nose, which you can see in the MRIs immediately below. But there’s no reason for me to detail here how I got the busted up nose, IS THERE, MY BELOVED SON?

So, no, I haven’t had covid. But I know people who’ve had it, and even some who’ve been very ill with it, And I know people who died from it, including a family member. (We hadn’t been close for many years, but it still counts.)

But as far as covid and me, the biggest consequences to me, medically, have been how I’ve interacted with my GP and the hospitals I’ve had to be in contact with over the past year and a half.

Because I’ve had some… medical stuff happening during that time. In no particular order, some mental health stuff which I’m probably not going to talk about today, a couple of skin cancer scares, bleeding from some places that I really shouldn’t be bleeding from, and the usual medical stuff that hits you when you’re in your mid-50s.

On the last of these, I’m reminded that a couple of years ago I mentioned to my ex-wife that I felt like an old person. No, she didn’t reply, ‘I know, but where can you get one this time of night?’

I’d said it while on the phone to her and counting out the different medications I took, morning and night, and how I remembered as a child watching my grandparents doing the same thing.

Laura, very sensibly, asked one question: ‘…and how old were they when you remember them doing this?’

Because, of course, when I worked it out, it turned out… that they were in their late 50s, as I’m about to be, in [checks the title of this post] 50 days’ time.

So, the reason I felt… not young, was of course because I’m not young any more. OK, I may not be “old” but I was – in Emo Philips’ immortal line – born at a more comfortable distance from the apocalypse than most of the people reading this. Not necessarily all of you, but by any measure most of you.

Again, in no particular precedence, I take meds for stomach complaints, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and of course I take statins. I take vitamin supplements and sleep meds. Without the latter, I’m lucky if I sleep an hour without waking up, cursing, eventually sleeping for another hour, waking up, cursing again and then… and then… and then… So I take sleep meds.

Oh, and of course large daily doses of cocodamol 500/30 for the fucked-up foot.

But yeah, keeping in touch with my GP, my doctor, has changed the past year and a half. I’ve not yet had a video appointment with my GP but I’d be more than ok with doing so, and I was pleased to see that the NHS is investigating whether this is something that could be an option when this is over. Pretty much (with rare exceptions) every interaction I’ve had with my GP over the past 18 months has been by telephone.

Now I’m lucky. I have a great GP, someone I like and respect. The latter is more important to me than the former, because I don’t think I could trust a GP I didn’t respect. I could, I guess, though it would be difficult, trust a doctor I didn’t like. But a doctor I didn’t respect? Not a chance. And I do trust my GP.

(A long time ago, when I was a teenager, a family friend told me that there are three professionals you need to trust and tell the truth to: your doctor, your accountant, your lawyer. If you don’t trust them, he said, get another one, and always tell them the unfettered truth… because it’ll cost you a lot more in the end if you mislead them. It’s good advice, and while I’ve never needed my own accountant, for obvious reasons, I’ve used lawyers and doctors and tried at least not to be dishonest with them.)

I’ve had my current GP since I moved into Abbey Road. She’s great. And when we first met, she figured me out pretty quickly. Only twice have I not taken her advice and while one is ongoing re the mental health thing, the other… well, she was right and I was wrong and there’s nothing more to be said about it. Other than that I should have had that colonoscopy long before I had no choice but to have it because I was genuinely scared I was about to die in agony.

So that was nice.

Dealing with my GP has been a delight, because she’s a delight… knowledgeable, professional, friendly… nice; a doctor who tells me what I need to know, not necessarily what I want to know. I like seeing her, but I’m also more than ok with talking to her on the phone most of the time. And I’d be similarly quite happy chatting to her on video as well.

I’d be remiss however, if I didn’t at this stage also thank the other people in the St John’s Wood Medical Practice: the other doctors who’ve spoken to me when my GP has been unavailable, the nurses who’ve done blood tests, and the receptionists, all who have been utterly fantastic. As I said above: I’ve been very lucky.

Dealing with hospitals in the time of covid — particularly regarding the skin cancer scares — was less than pleasant, though. And it’s not their fault; the world went to hell during this pandemic, resources were stretched, and the hospitals were doing their very best just to do what they could, when they could, while they could.

But several successive telephone appointments that ended with “I have no idea why this appointment is being done by telephone; I really need to see you in person“, followed by other telephone appointments that ended with “I have no idea why this appointment is being done by telephone; I really need to see you in person“…

…followed by an in-person telephone appointment that led, 40 minutes later, to a ‘traumatised’ ¼” mole being urgently removed from my chest leaving a 2″ scar…

…yeah. Less than ideal.

(I was about to insert some pics of the mole, and the scar so you could see how horrible the former was and how neat and – frankly – weird the latter is… but I thought better of it. Still, ask if you want to see them; they’re pretty neat.)

Fortunately, the several biopsies and tests I’ve had have all turned out negative, but I’m kind of resigned to the fact that at some point I’ll get a biopsy result that… isn’t so nice. Just as I’m assuming that sooner or later I’ll have a head biopsy, the scars of which necessitate me wearing a hat thereafter. So far I’ve escaped both; I doubt I’ll escape them forever.

But the mess over the hospital appointments weren’t anyone fault. It was just everyone doing the best they could at a time when everyone was just doing the best they could.

But for the future, if I could pick and choose — which of course I can’t — I’d choose telephone/video appointments with my GP (if she’s up for that) for most stuff, and in person appointments at hospital. I kind of figure that if my GP thinks I should be seen by someone at a hospital, I should be seen by someone at a hospital.

One problem, of course, is that much as “the patient is resting comfortably” means something quite, quite different to a) the patient and b) the hospital, so unfortunately does “I need an appointment and it won’t take long…

Oh look, we’ve run out of space and time. No time to tell you about the bleeding from places I shouldn’t be bleeding from.

Well, that’s something to look forward to next¹ time, eh?

See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

¹there won’t be a next time, at least not about medical stuff

Hello there. Welcome to whatever the hell this is.

I doubt I’ve gained many new readers since the last time this was offered, but just in case, here’s how I opened the 55 minus countdown; there’s a pretty good FAQ in there, and of course, you can ask if there’s anything else, either in the comments or here.

Which leaves me with an odd situation. I mean, I said yesterday that I’m doing this, and pretty much why I’m doing this, and a fair bit about how I’m doing this, and what I’ve got in mind for this.

Usually, I’d put up a refreshed FAQ but again, I kind of did that four months ago, and not much has changed since then.

So instead, sparked by a memory of the ‘things you don’t know about me’ threads online, and those ‘here are three/five/ten facts about me; one of them is false’, here are three things about me that you may not know, or that you may know but don’t know much about, or just that are odd things.

I can’t play any musical instruments

I’d say that I’ve never been able to play any musical instruments but that’s not quite true. I mean, ok, I tried the guitar long ago, but gave up because I discovered an allergy to pain. Seriously, people, how on earth do you put up with the initial pain of learning the guitar? OK, I guess the answer is ‘because I want to learn to play the guitar’, but for whatever reason – lack of inclination, lack of effort, lack of actual genuine desire… no, not for me.

The only two and a half musical instruments I leaned to play were:

– the recorder

I went to school at a time when everyone had music lessons, everyone had the opportunity to discover which musical instrument ‘spoke’ to them and which musical instrument they’d enjoy playing. And anyone who was at a complete loss, anyone who didn’t enjoy playing any musical instrument, they were given a recorder to use. id say ‘play’ but that would place an unfair burden on the language that it should never be fairly expected to bear.

I was very bad at using/playing the recorder. No, really, very bad. But – and this is the important bit – I never had any urge to actually get better at it. Not a one.

I was surrounded by music at home; both my old man and my brother played the guitar, and I loved music. But I never felt any urge at all to create any, or play some, myself. It’s a flaw, a big one, that I genuinely regret.

Oh, by the way, just to prove that it’s the performer, not the instrument, that makes the difference:

– a melodica

My parents then, lord knows why, bought me a melodica. I’ve seen more modern ones, melodicas that you lay horizontal and play via a connected tube, the ‘wind’ part of the process being supplied by blowing through it. This wasn’t one of them. You held it like a big thick recorder, and just blew through the mouthpiece, down the instrument, while you played the keyboard on the outside of the device. I remember quite liking it, or at least, not hating it, which for me and music wasn’t easily distinguishable back then.

The difference between this and the recorder was palpable for me. The recorder sounded silly, apart from anything else. And it annoyed people. The melodica on the other hand, had a warm sound, and no one actually got annoyed by it.

I was never any good at it, but I didn’t stink while playing it.

You remember I said two and a half?

Here’s the half.

Yeah, ok it’s a bit daft calling that a musical instrument, as the only thing coming out of it – at least when I used it – was a series of discordant tones, which only by coincidence bore any resemblance to ‘notes’. It really was ‘noise for Dummies’; no question there.

You see the numbers? Below and above what I suppose I should call a ‘keyboard’? The music books you got with it, and could buy, had standard sheets of music, with the notes numbered. It made painting by numbers look intellectual.

(Yes, I enjoyed it, of course I did. No other bugger around me did, though.)

Not that long ago, after I mentioned that I would like to learn to play the mouth organ, Mitch bought me a mouth organ; it’s genuinely a regret that I’ve not thus far learned to use it.

I will. Soon.

(An added advantage of learning to play it would be that I would never be expected to sing, while playing it, but that’s a blog entry for another day.)

I’ve occasionally been on telly

Yes, I’ve every so often mentioned that I was on Mastermind, but usually for fairness, do add that there’s only the first, the specialised knowledge, round clipped… since I died on my arse in the general knowledge round. Just had brain-fart after brain-fart.

But enjoy, at my expense, the ‘rabbit frozen in the headlight’ look of the first round.

But no, I wasn’t referring to that. I’ve been on the occasional studio discussion: one on reform of the electoral system on Newsnight; one, several decades back, about ’empty nest syndrome’ (and how students have little if any sympathy for parents hit by it); and a few years ago, I was on Question Time. Not on the panel, no; in the audience.

Of course, this was back in the days when Question Time had an actual mission of informing, and getting politicians and guests to at least have a genuine stab at answering the question. So, yes, many years ago, obviously.

It was before the 2010 election, and the panelists included George Osborne, Alex Salmond and Charles Kennedy. It came up in conversation the other day, and I was reminded of the biggest shock of the evening; I’d say ‘…of the recording’, but you’ll see what that would be inaccurate.

After the warmup, with audience members playing the panelists, complete with a couple of dummy questions, the real panelists came out, and there’s ten minutes or so while they settled themselves in. During that time, Osborne came over as warm, funny, self deprecating, a very dry sense of humour, very funny, and obviously someone you’d like to know. Genuinely.

There’s another dummy question, then the lights dim very slightly, and David Dimbleby says ‘ok, we’re about to start…’ and a marked change comes over Osborne. He sits up a little straighter, the wide smile on his face metamorphoses into a slight sneer. The voice goes up an octave.

It’s the most remarkable transformation I’ve ever witnessed.

I’m reminded of the line said about Humphrey Bogart: he was fine until nine at night, and then he remembered he was Humphrey Bogart.

Osborne went from someone the audience liked, genuinely liked, to a representative of everything about the Tory Party that the public disliked: smarmy, sneers, cheap gags at others’ expense, unyielding, cruel.

Anyway, so, yeah, I’ve been on telly once or twice.

I’m an idiot

No, really. On stuff I don’t know, I’m usually completely ignorant. There are so many things that it seems everyone else knows – mainly anything to do with ‘current’ culture, reality shows, sports – of which I’m entirely anywhere. Part of it is lack of interest, partly that I have no memory skills for stuff in which I have that lack of interest.

But I’m also in awe of ‘professionals’, peopel who make their living doing something; I tend to often believe that they know what they’re talking about.

Here’s a tale, a quick one, about someone who knows their field, and knows me, all too well.

Not a secret that I have a fucked up foot. Also not a secret that due to the aforementioned fucked-up foot, I take large amounts of painkillers, opioids. And even before the current crisis, I was worried about how many I was taking.

Within weeks of taking them, I suddenly got it into my head that a) I was addicted to them, and b) that was inherently a problem.

At the time, I was… let’s be polite and say ‘seeing’ a young lady in Birmingham who was a drugs worker. I mentioned my concerns to her. Well, let’s be fair; it’s me, after all, so I probably drove her nuts about it.

After patiently explaining to me the difference between

‘being addicted’ (“Of course you’re addicted. You’ve been taking them for weeks now, 1/4 gram of codeine every day. If you came off them cold turkey right now, you’d rattle for a few days’


‘having a problem’

And the following conversation ensued:

Her: Why are you worried?
Me: Because if I have a problem, then…
Her: Your doctor will know.
Me: Yeah, but I want to know.
Her: OK, I’ll tell you what I tell my clients. You take 8 a day?
Me: 6 or 8, yeah, depending on how bad the pain is.
Her; OK, pick a day when you need to take 8… and take 7. Don’t replace the other one, the tablet you’re not taking, with anything. Just… don’t take it. See how you get on. See whether you ‘live’ for that tablet.

Made sense to me. So I did precisely that. I waited a few days, then we had a cold snap, as I recall. My foot was on fire; I remember every step I took, because it hurt.

I waited a day, then, took seven instead of eight. I took two when I woke, two around lunchtime, two before bed, but just the one cocodamol tablet in the early evening.

Oh shit. Live for the missing tablet? I wanted to maim someone to get the other tablet. Ad I couldn’t. I mean, it was right there: in my bathroom cabinet.

I really wanted to take it, but resisted… but yeah, I lived for that missing tablet.

I repeated the experiment the following day. Two tablets each at morning, lunch and bed, but just the one early evening… with pretty much the same result.

And again on the third day.

By the late evening of the third day, I’m angry and upset, at me, at my stupidity for following the advice, at her for giving me the advice…

The fourth day, I call her.

Me: Yeah, we need to talk
Her: What’s up?
Me: That test you set me?
Her: Yeah? Oh, you’ve been doing it? I wondered why you were cranky on the phone last night
Me: Yeah, I might have a problem.
Her: Why?

So I told her. I told her what I’d done, told her the effect, told her I’d been living for the missing tablet

And what did this person do? This woman who liked me? Who I trusted?

What did she do?

She laughed down the phone at me. Proper belly laughs.

What the…?

Her: You’re supposed to be smart. You’re an idiot. Don’t you get it? If you had a problem, you’d have taken the other tablet. You’d have made up every excuse, you’d have lied about the excuse, but you’d have taken the other tablet. You’d have lied to me, lied to yourself, you’d have come up with an explanation why you cut the experiment short. You’d have convinced yourself that it was a waste of time. You’d have justified it ten ways to Sunday. But: you would have taken the other tablet. You don’t have a problem. Well, not over this anyway…

And of course, she was right. And I’ve kept a look out for the signs since. Do I take them when they’re not needed? When I’m not in pain? Have I ever increased the dosage, or the number of times I take them (at all, but especially beyond the allowed amounts)

And I haven’t. I’ve taken them for years, and I’ve never abused them.

But yeah, I was an idiot. I still am. But not, at least, I hope about anything important.
Something else, tomorrow.

So, I ended up in hospital last night.

In fact, as I type this, I’m waiting to be discharged. I’m very tired; very, very tired. And I’m in a certain amount of discomfort and an equal amount of pain.

But I am being allowed out, at about 1pm, having been in the emergency room since just before 2am.

First things first, I’m ok… now. Well, ok-ish, anyway, which is – I think – the best one can hope for when the story starts “So, I ended up in hospital last night.”

I tweeted last night about 9pm:

And then, an hour later:

I mean, I’d have been genuinely upset if this had been my last night in Edinburgh, and I was heading back early because I was too tired/stumbly.

But I still had Thursday, Friday and almost all of Saturday to see shows, and to see people, before I head back Saturday night, to get back to London Sunday morning.

So, an early night. Yes?

Turns out, not so much.

I walked from Bristo Square, utterly shattered, quite stumbly and feeling a bit woozy towards the bus stop. The bus arrived and I stepped on board.

So far, so good-ish.

I’d been on the bus maybe five minutes when my stomach cramped. It sounds harmless if you say it fast enough, doesn’t it? But suddenly it felt like someone was scraping my insides with a rusty blade; astonishing pain that blew every bit of breath out of my body, and had me doubled up.

I managed to just about not scream with pain, as it slowly lessened… but then it happened a few minutes later again… and a few minutes after that. I just about made it off the bus, but now it was happening every couple of minutes, doubling me over with pain. Made it back to the flat… and as I climbed the stairs, miracle of miracles, the pain faded a bit.

I fell into an armchair, started to drift off to sleep, then [BANG], suddenly needed to get to the toilet immediately.

Now, here’s where things get a bit tricky. In the telling, I mean, because for most of the next two hours, I was unconscious, or as good as.

At some point in the next half hour, the following apparently occurred. I say ‘apparently’ because I have no memory of it at all for the aforementioned, y’know, reasons of unconsciousness.

In fact, the next memory I have is… well, you’ll know it when it happens.

So, apparently – again, I stress the apparently – I was very loud, from inside the loo, in expressing my pain, then made it out of the loo, then fell into the armchair… then belted for the loo again… then was equally loud, THEN very gingerly exited the loo… then collapsed to the ground in agony, then lapsed into delirious unconsciousness, unresponsive bar the occasional groan and clutching of my stomach.

And for the next hour or so, while an ambulance was called, and my friends waited for them to arrive, and were talking to emergency services, and trying to get through to an unconscious, delirious me… a me who was sweating through his clothes, while crunched up in agonising pain every few minutes.

For the first half hour of the paramedics’ attendance, I was apparently in the same state: pretty unresponsive, moaning and groaning incoherently (yes, yes, I know, how could they tell?) and occasionally crying out in agony. They were trying to ‘get through’ to me, trying in vain. Just wasn’t happening.

They hooked me up to this monitor and that piece of kit and that tech. While they discovered that while my temperature was normal, my other vitals were all over the shop. So they planned to take me to hospital. At some point, the agony broke though – though focussing my mind and my eyes was like swimming through tar; I managed to express a few words and literally crawled on hands, knees and belly to the toilet where I… evacuated.

You’ve heard of the expression “the bottom fell out of my world”…?

Well, use your imagination.

Was still in massive pain, but we somehow got me into the ambulance and other than trying desperately to keep me awake – I was suddenly extraordinarily tired, and achey, and freezing cold – I arrived at hospital relatively without incident.

At around 2am, accompanied by Mitch, who stayed with me for a couple of hours. (So, huge apologies to anyone seeing him today if he was less than fully awake post-show.)

The pain had faded a lot; was only really bad if I lay on my side. Yes, ok, I know the recommended treatment: don’t lay on your side, Budgie. But sitting up wasn’t too bad.

Around 5-ish they said the blood tests should be back in an hour and sure enough, just before 6am, they came back and a very serious young doctor tells me what they suspect: diverticulitis. Which probably would have mattered had I the slightest clue what the hell diverticulitis is… so he explained it to me.


“So, we’re going to give you several antibiotics, by mouth, by injection and by drip. And we’ll schedule a scan… for a couple of hours. Yeah, you’re not going anywhere for a while.”

They start the antibiotics at half six after weighing me – 85.05 kg, 13 stone 5½ lb in old money.

7am: a Doctor wheels in an ultrasound; ‘hi. I’m just going to ultrasound your heart, just to check it’s ok. Specifically, your aorta valve. Do, you know what the aorta valve is?”

Yes, I know what the aorta valve is.

My aorta is fine, by the way. So, that’s nice.

9:15 they take me for a CT scan. Never had one before. Had an MRI – the pics from that are a genuine delight – but not a CT scan. I’m told what about to happen and that the dye they give me (via the cannula) will make me feel like I’m wetting myself.

They’re right. It’s a very odd feeling.

OK, it’s now 10am, and they walk me out of the emergency department… and straight into Surgical Admissions. They told me it’s ‘surgical observations’ but seeing as it has a great big sign with “SURGICAL ADMISSIONSon it outside, I’m not overly reassured.

Ah-ha! Progress… now being told CT revealed possible diverticulitis but definitely sigmoid colitis. Which, is a chunk of your – or rather, mine – lower descending intestine… that’s hugely inflamed.

Or at least was hugely inflamed and infected before they slapped loads of antibiotics into me. So the sigmoid colitis plus a possible teeny amount of diverticulitis is the final diagnosis.

And they’re letting me out, on my promise to see my GP when I return to London after the weekend. And they’re not taking any chances; they’ve already called my local surgery and sent them the test results and the CAT scan.

So, anyway, I’m about to leave the hospital, to return to the place I’m staying where I intend to have a cup of tea, and then get some much-needed sleep.

I’ll post this when I wake up.

OK, I’ve had a cuppa, and a few hours’ sleep and a shower. Genuinely unsure which of the latter two was more sorely needed.

Some quick points before I hit “Publish” on this thing.

  • My sincere and huge thanks to everyone who looked after me last night and today: the paramedics, the doctors, the nurses, the registrar. I apologise for being anything less than the perfect patient. I couldn’t have asked for better care from the paramedics or anyone at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

  • I kind of owe an apology to Family Benn as well for putting them through an awful time in the wee small hours. I can only offer apologies and my shared gratitude with them that the entire thing wasn’t… messier than it turned out to be.

  • I did ask the surgical registrar whether what I had was down to something I’d eaten, or because I used to smoke, etc… “No, just ‘luck of the draw’. Nothing you could have done to prevent this. Just take care of it when you get back to London…”

I faintly remembered the paramedics mentioning something about shaving. Discovered today what they meant. I don’t have the hairiest chest in the world. I mean, it’s got some hair but it’s not the hairiest. And it definitely isn’t now, since they shaved three small patches in order to attach bits to monitor me.

Something else, probably, tomorrow.

The last time I had a surgical procedure, the last time a doctor took some kind of medical implement, inserted it into my body, and removed something, was more than a decade ago, when I had a navicular bone removed from my foot, about which I’ve written before.

And long time followers (and what a weird concept that is) on Twitter and other social media will know that I sometimes link to the post above, a post entitled Trouble afoot, in which I detail why I’ve got a fucked up foot, and why I whinge about it when it hurts like hell. Which it does, on a regular basis.

So, congratulations to anyone with an inkling of how my mind works for guessing that this post, with its title, is about the opposite end of my body.

And now, you see, I have a problem, the ever present problem for a writer of both trying to be honest – or at least not dishonest – but also attempting to maintain a certain level of suspense that accompanies the telling of a story.

Because I’ve already lied to you: the most recent time I had a surgical procedure wasn’t “more than a decade ago”; it was last year, when I had a couple of scalp biopsies to check whether I had basal cell carcinoma; skin cancer. On my scalp.

But, not to bury the lede – too late, I fear – the tests were negative. So, no, I don’t have skin cancer. But for a while, both the medical profession and I… thought I probably did.

This wasn’t the first time in recent memory that I’d had to have skin biopsies, either. Towards the back end of 2017, I had a couple – one just below my temple, a mole removed from my upper back – that turned out to be nothing, or nothing malignant, anyways. Both my GP and the dermatological team made it clear at the time that those biopsies were really ‘just in case’; sure, they could have been something nasty… but odds were they weren’t.

One turned out to be just… a mole that kept bleeding; the other was a patch of discolouration on my left temple that several friends had noticed was growing. Well, after surgery it was about a quarter of the size it was previously. So that was nice. And when they removed the mole, it stopped bleeding. Well, it may have. I mean, if it did, it’s in some laboratory somewhere, being examined by very puzzled lab techs, I’d imagine, while it metamorphises into something with… plans.

Best of luck sleeping tonight, folks.

But anyway, as I say, the first couple were merely to confirm that they weren’t anything nasty.

The second time, last year, no such comfort was offered. The consultant was “highly suspicious” that the spots… ok, lesions… that hadn’t healed since before August 2017 were carcinomas, and the doc who took the biopsies said she was ‘fairly confident’ they were as well.

And I appreciate that they were merely trying to prepare me for the worst, but… yeah.

However, that wasn’t the scary part…

The really scary bit about the procedure was when the doc told me “yeah, they tick almost all the boxes for basal cell carcinoma, let’s do the biopsies…” dig… “oh [beat] ok, there are the other two boxes ticked.”

So the procedure wasn’t so much ‘just in case…’ as they were ‘let’s just confirm…’

And then they were confirmed… as benign in one case, and just a massive infection in the other. But excising both seemed to do the job.

I guess, I suppose, that scraping a chunk of my scalp removed any of the infected tissue, because both scars healed very nicely, thank you, with no lasting ill effects, and not even a bald patch.

So I haven’t even got that excuse; any patches I have, or will get, on my scalp will be due to me just getting, y’know, older.

Now I want to be clear: if you’re going to get skin cancer, a basal cell carcinoma is the best one to get.

And that isn’t a joke, or a bit of self-deprecating relief. It’s so much better than the other kinds of skin cancer, it’s not even an exaggeration to say you’re lucky to get one of those.

The recovery rate is very high, especially at my then-age, and though there’s a decent risk of recurrence, at least none of them were near my eyes, nor my mouth. They were all on my scalp, the latter two on the crown, separated by about an inch and a half.

And this was last year, so why write about them today?

Well, the reason for this post today is threefold.

One: I’ve not blogged since the surgeries and I wanted to write something on it

Two: To relate what happened and how un-scary the whole procedure was, on the whole.

Three: To recommend that if you’ve any doubt, any doubt at all, about that spot that just won’t heal… go see your doctor.

OK, now since I’ve already dealt with One, by writing the entry, let’s move on to number Two.

I went to St Mary’s for the initial checkup and surgeries. They couldn’t have been more professional, more courteous more reassuring. Every one of the medical staff, the doctors and nurses, were professional, courteous, friendly and ‘judged’ the situation perfectly.

At no point whatsoever did I feel that they were over-egging the situation, nor trivialising it. They knew I was scared; they knew I was worriedand so they explained everything in plain English, in simple language. Jargon was used only once or twice and they explained to me its meaning so if I heard something during the procedure, I’d know what the hell they were talking about.

Their entire motivation, it seemed, was to ensure that I a) understood what was going on and what was going to happen during the surgery, b) understood why they were concerned, and c) was fully consenting to what was going to happen.

(On a lighter note, I’m 54 years old, have had lots of local anaesthetic over my life and have always, always, been told this will feel like a sharp scratch. My thanks to the anaesthetists on both sets of procedures because the injections administrated for my biopsies were the only times in my life, literally the only times, when the injection of local anaesthetic has indeed felt like a sharp scratch. Which was a pleasant surprise.)

I had punch biopsies, which… I have no idea whether that’s always the procedure or just what was appropriate for my procedure. I felt pressure, but was completely numbed… to the point where the only reason I realised I was bleeding was when I saw a drop of blood… drop.

The stitches pulled, afterwards, but even when they were removed, the entire process was – all things considered – pretty pain free. (Oh, that was one of the signs they didn’t like before, by the way… that the spots, ok lesions, were entirely pain free, even when a bit yucky and ‘nasty’…)

So, yeah, all things considered, I was pretty lucky.

But I might not have been. I could have had skin cancer. And even with a basal cell carcinoma, the high rebate of recovery from it, the easy removal, kind of depends on the doctors being, y’know, aware of them.

So, to number Three above: do yourself a favour. If you’ve any doubt, any doubt at all, if your friends have noticed that mole’s grown a lot, or it’s constantly bleeding, or you’ve a wound that just won’t heal… go see your doctor.

Yes, it’s probably nothing to worry about, but since they’re the doctor and you’re not, let them confirm it with the benefit of their professional knowledge, rathe than your usual ‘ah, I’m sure it’ll be fine.’

Something less serious, hopefully, tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.