Cancer and Me – Thirty Years On (Chapter 10 – Surgery at St Mary’s – ‘Just One of Those Things’)

The young surgeon who performed the operation came to see me and said she got more than she bargained for, as when she made the incision just below the bladder, a pocketful of pus erupted and that I must feel pounds lighter! She also said there wasn’t much wrong with my bladder, so they cleaned me up and made a couple of stitches. I asked what caused the pus and she replied ‘just one of those things,’ which to me didn’t seem a very satisfactory answer, but what would I know? A drain tube had been inserted until the pus found its own way and I was given intravenous antibiotics, followed by oral ones and I was discharged a week later. The cyst still hadn’t been removed for fear of causing infection. The discharge from the drain hole continued and my GP prescribed more antibiotics.

Some weeks later I started to get a terrible pain in the lower part of my pelvis when I moved my left leg. I thought I had pulled a muscle or ligament or something and was expecting it to ease off. I attended St Mary for a check-up and another smear on 3rd September and by this time I couldn’t lift my left leg and the doctor had to help me onto the couch, clearly not questioning my immobility. The result of the smear wasn’t good, showing a change in the cells and they sent me a further appointment for 1st October. There I was told that I would need a colposcopy and they would send me yet another appointment for 9th October.

The pain in my left leg and pelvis got worse and I developed lower back pain also, so went to see my GP. He thought the pain in my leg and pelvis was probably caused by whatever was causing the pain in my back and as I was due back at St Mary’s he suggested I ask them if they would x-ray my spine. He also noted that he had heard from my local hospital (rather belatedly) that the smear I had there in April showed there had been a change in the cells and I needed treatment and was asked to attend the clinic at the beginning of October. My GP then phoned them to say the doctors at St Mary’s were handling my ‘management’.

I went for the colposcopy and once more the doctor had to lift my left onto the couch and I was surprised that alarm bells didn’t ring with her. The images from the colposcopy showed abnormalities, but a biopsy would be needed before the treatment could be decided upon. By now I had been going back and forth to St Mary’s for much of the year, but had only seen the professor at the first appointment. During subsequent visits I had seen his lesser mortals and it was to them I had been complaining about my leg, to no avail – and nothing showed up on the x-ray, but as far as I was concerned they had done the wrong area anyway.

I read several medical books and thought I must have some sort of osteoarthritis or osteoporosis or whatever. The books said you should take regular exercise. I was spending weekends with Paul, so we would go, as best as I could, for walks in the Lancashire and Yorkshire countryside – dragging my left leg behind me!

Paul had been estranged from his own grown-up children and I persuaded him to go and visit them at the Welsh cottage he had signed over to his first wife (for the children as an inheritance for them, no matter what happened in his life) at the time of their divorce, in addition to dividing the family home and effects. As his ex-wife would be at the cottage he wouldn’t go without me, so it seemed a very long journey in a very bouncy jeep. I was in such pain that I had to kneel up on the seat for much of the trip.

Paul was trying to divorce his second wife, but she was refusing to sign the papers – saying she wanted her settlement first. She kept moving the goalposts – first she would sign when the marital home went on the market, then when people came around to view, then when someone had decided to buy, then when the house was sold and the money was in her pocket and so on. It was a very distressing time for him and we started trying to gather proof that the court would need as evidence that she was living with someone – and also working for him in his business. Some of our exploits turned out to be hilarious, but too long-winded to write about here, so I shall keep those for the book!

Finally I had to admit I had a serious problem, so phoned Christies and asked if I could have an appointment back there. Mr Schofield’s secretary asked if I was still attended St Mary’s and when I confirmed I was, she said I was to wait until I had finished that treatment, as they didn’t like patients visiting two hospitals at the same time. That avenue was closed.