Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Sawbones Spells It Out

You could be forgiven for thinking that I had abandoned this blog, but it is not so. I have just been writing Christmas cards instead along with a family newsletter. I have held off writing one of these last since 2004 and have this year proceeded with caution and restraint, mindful of Simon Hoggart’s two satirical compilations of other people’s misfired festive bulletins. We decided to base our letter on a selection of photographs and a minimum of text to lessen the chances of our getting above ourselves and risking scorn.

I have learned today, although this news has been clearly on the horizon for some months, that I will have to undergo a small operation in mid-January. I have debated whether to go into any sort of detail about this here, as the problem to be remedied is in an area of the body notable for being fraught with embarrassment. Nevertheless, if this blog has been about anything, it has been about a medical journey and a true description of any journey should be able to accommodate the bits where the skies darken, the rain falls and the going gets less pleasant. So it is that I am going to tell you about my arse, or, for transatlantic readers, my ass. If you find the word a bit much at whatever hour you are reading this, I can only apologise, but there is something bold about the very sound of its single syllable that clears a path through self-consciousness and it has a perfectly respectable and ancient etymology, so far as I can discover. We all have one, after all…

This morning I presented myself at the fifth floor of the Rosenheim Building of UCLH, meaning that the only floor of this doomed structure I have yet to visit is the fourth. The fifth is where the colorectal surgeons, among others, are hanging out until the building comes down to make way for something new and shiny. The clinic was running two hours late and the tiny waiting area was very crowded, two doctors having been prevented from coming into work by personal circumstances. One of them had a “plumbing problem” at home and the charming consultant I eventually saw had a bit of a chuckle with me at the irony.

Readers who followed my recent stay in UCLH for high-dose chemo and stem cell graft will recall that my low immune system allowed an anal abscess to develop and that great was the pain thereof. Although the abscess itself did not last that long, subsequent healing of the area has not been complete, as is not unusual, and a tiny tunnel has been formed between my rectum and The Great Outdoors. This is known as an anal fistula and the kind surgeon did a few little drawings to explain how these wretched things develop and to illustrate the various procedures that can be used to induce them to put up and shut up.

After a brief examination, he said that he would recommend “laying open”the fistula, that is to say cutting it open to create a wound that would then, with regular dressing, take about six or seven weeks to heal. The operation would take about ten minutes and be under general anaesthetic. I should be able to go home the same day, although I will have to get to Central London by 7am. My return to work in the new year will be disrupted and somewhat delayed.

In somewhat subdued, but resigned, mood I wandered down Tottenham Court Road looking for somewhere not too crowded to have a light lunch. I took my time over a ham and cheese baguette and sipped the comforting froth of a cappuccino sprinkled with chocolate and nutmeg, calming my nerves by watching passersby through the large windows of the warm cafĂ©. I took the slow train home from Waterloo so that I could read at a relaxed pace and enjoy the small bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut that in the circumstances of this particular day I felt I had earned.

Another sort of butt

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