Archive for May, 2011

First the facts:

  • CT Scan shows cancer hasn’t spread.
  • Blood tests show something or other as ‘high’ that I didn’t really understand but didn’t seem to unduly worry the surgeon.
  • Surgery was a success.
  • I have eaten 398 cakes.
  • I like Morphine.

So my last post was on Thursday morning. How about I take you through the rest chronologically? What? This needn’t be a democratic process? Ok fine, “Seig Heil” – on we go.

Hours before surgery, I'm visited by the mythological harbinger of Death: the Crow. Excellent.

I will backtrack slightly as I hadn’t included my trip to the hospital, in which I was due for the operation, to get my CT scan the day before. The only noteworthy thing to happen there (and by noteworthy I mean cringe-inducing, wince-worthy embarrassment for me, and nose-scoff chortle-fodder for you), was my body’s reluctance to appreciate the difference between the words ‘warm’ and ‘erotic’ – a common mistake you’ll agree. As those who have had one before will know, a CT scan requires you to be injected with a ‘contrast’ dye of some sort into your bloodstream. You are normally warned that this also induces a strange feeling of warmth that spreads across your body, which can be quite unusual. Unfortunately for me, my brain decided to short-circuit this distinction and, awash with confusion, decided that what was expected was the kind of inappropriate arousal that is not only best not shared in public but also certainly not immortalised on a photographic instrument the size of a small car, that sees straight through your clothes and then posts the results on a bright, expanded screen. Oh cancer, I love you already.

Anyway, back to Thursday. Shortly after publishing my last entry I carefully destroyed almost a day’s worth of calories with the aid of my face, before the “Nil by Mouth’ cut-off at 9am.

I then packed up my overnight bag and waddled into town to pay my second visit to the ‘Andrology’ clinic. There I had a meeting to discuss the findings from the previous day’s sample. Apparently my sperm count was low.

I dread to think what happened in order for point 6 to need clarification.

What little swimmers were there, weren’t swimming a huge amount and most were simply twitching like epileptic worms. I was told that if I did want to conceive later in life that I should pay close attention to my lifestyle. No binge-drinking, no smoking, no drugs. I sat there, bathing my face in the revolting glow of a saintly smugosaurus, ignoring the relevant facts, and simply happy in my self-righteousness. It turns out that this low count is very much down to the 30+ hours of training I do every week, rather than any hedonistic moonlighting. Not exactly something to be proud of though. Idiot.

From here I raced over to my hospital, chased by some frantic calls that I was now due in surgery 2 hours earlier than expected. This rush probably helped my demeanour as it didn’t allow me any time to drop off my magnificent high and I met my sister to check in. I was immediately greeted by the nurse, one of my two surgeons, the anaesthetist and a food menu that provided another ample distraction (two pages of main courses!). I fitted myself first into some quite delightful compression socks, only to be presented with a pair of rubber-soled slippers that I have barely taken off since. 


A few half-arsed  updates to Twitter, last minute BBMs to friends, scrambled text messages to family and I was called up for surgery. For some reason the one thing I do remember about this moment is being mildly miffed that I had to walk there myself. Perhaps I’ve watched too much ER but I was fully expecting to be wheeled off down a corridor whilst my family waved on, choked with tears, to a Sarah Mclachlan soundtrack. As it was, I spluttered a ‘seeya’ to my sister and then spent most of the walk trying to make squeaking noises with my new slippers along the glistening hallway.

Piss and Fitness. FTW!

After surgery I found myself in quite a bit of pain and managed to secure a fair dollop of Morphine into my arm before adding a squirt of Tramadol too. I was wheeled back (much more like it) to my room to flick the bird at my sister upon arrival (universal sibling code for “everything’s fine”), and was then met by the surgeon to let me know that it went well. I spent the next 12 hours trying to impress the staff with both just how low my heart-rate was and the sheer volume of urine I was able to secrete (I had been asked to log it). Their final thread of patience snapped when, on the morning of my departure, I tried to high-five a nurse during the last pulse measurement  (52bpm FYI). She left me hanging so I took a picture of myself instead. (See left). Is it any wonder I’m single?

I checked out and was met by my lovely and cosseting mother who helped me back to my sister’s flat in North London. I have been here ever since, a weakened hybrid of Cartman and Caligula, with ever more extravagant demands. I am testing everyone’s patience to the limit and expect to be sent home very soon. Yesterday Mum popped her head round the door ‘to check whether I was still alive’. Turns out her look of concern is not enormously dissimilar to one of grave disappointment.

As for the state of my mind, I’d say that nothing has really changed. In the scarce moments of real lucidity that the painkillers allow, I still seem pretty happy. There is the slight concern as to the, still very real, possibility of my needing chemotherapy. We’re all led to believe this is a pretty nasty process to go through and I don’t doubt it. But there’s really very little I can do about it if it’s required. My main concern, yet again, is that it would further push back my return to full training. I have my sights set on competing at a Decathlon in Holland at the end of August and, judging by my early season results, there was every chance that this could be a breakthrough year for me. I know this might seem odd to those outside of the sport, but Athletics (or Track and Field to our American friends) is an unforgiving little blighter. There isn’t any real money in it (outside of Olympic medallists), you ride your luck every season with regards to injury and your enjoyment of it all often comes down to your success. I have spent the best part of my life injured, having shown some initial promise as a Junior International and age-group British record holder, and I don’t have a lot of time left in which to realise at least some of my potential.  When you’ve made as many sacrifices as us athletes have, you really hope that there’s some pay-off. This season looked to be that fruition for me, perhaps leading on to further progress next year. So, although my general health must come first, much of my anticipation rides on the results of my biopsy and the implications on my training therein.

I'm recovering from cancer, I'll wear what the hell I like.

Anyway, for those that are wondering, the ‘replacement’ feels interesting. Not exactly the same, but near enough. I actually forgot about that element of the surgery until about 4 hours afterwards as it was only the hernia area that really hurt. Speaking of my, now errant, testicle, many of you’ll remember I mentioned in the last blog the lost opportunity to call my defective groin-dongle  a ‘Clegg‘. What, of course, I wasn’t aware of was the fact I’d need to be shaved quite so extensively in the area, so, prompted by a friend of mine, perhaps the best term for this cancerous plum-reject, and in keeping with topicality, would actually be a ‘Sheen‘. Enjoy your dinner.

So here I am 3 days after surgery. I am reasonably well. I am woozy with pain-relief drugs almost every waking minute. I am pretty sore still, including my throat where the tubes were fed during the op. All semblance of athletic definition has been engorged with the 398 cakes I mentioned above. But I’m alive. I find out on Friday about the chemotherapy so for the next week I will drift in a state of blissful ignorance; a purgatory of wellbeing. I may even try a slow jog. The journey back to the track starts here. Leo: – 1. Cancer – 0.


“It’s the most sex I’ve had this year”. Apparently, making mildly comedic smalltalk isn’t the done thing when a stranger has your testicle clamped in a vice-like grip. It seemed to make him nervous. By ‘him’ I mean my cancer surgeon. Yup. I got cancer, yo. Strange to use the word really. Not only because as a 32 year old, non-smoking, teetotal Decathlete, it’s not the done thing, but because having met 4 ultrasound administrators, 3 surgeons and a lovely pair of urologists, not a single person has actually managed to say it out loud. You’d think they night have had some practice. Cancer. The big C. Whatevs.

A few weeks ago I found a lump. I say a lump, it was more the fact my left bollock had caught medusa’s eye and was now forever frozen solid, like Jack Charlton‘s scalp. I’d been having problems with a sportsman’s hernia, that had come about whilst at training camp in South Africa. One of the less delicate parts of this diagnosis is a clinical examination whereby I
undergo the “invagination of the scrotum/palpation of inguinal ring”. This basically means having someone turn your ‘plum purse’ inside out with their little finger before plunging it deep up into your lower stomach. My defence mechanism was to hum the theme tune to Thundercats. I like to think I am a medical first.

Hum my tune, HUM MY TUNE!

So having had this examination, I was at home in the shower and decided I might give the lads a quick once over. It had been a while and i thought they might be a little put out if, after all the attention they’d received from a stranger that day, I didn’t offer some affection myself. I knew things weren’t right immediately. The consistency was different. In fact it was rock hard. I’d love to say I didn’t panic but in all honesty I think I knew then that this was bad and had to hold onto wall not to pass out. I managed to put it to the back of my mind and promised to follow this up with my Sports Dr when I returned for the hernia surgery decision.

The rest of this process has been pretty quick. I went back to my GP, was referred to ultrasound and finally had some panicked faces try their damnedest to sound calm whilst taking my mobile number to arrange an emergency appointment at the A&E urology department that day. My mobile number! I felt so important. I tell you one thing, you’re never so aware of just how many brilliant female doctors and specialists there are as when you need to get your tackle out every single day and you’re wearing the worst pants you own.

The last two days have been a whirlwind of ultrasound, CT scans, blood tests and consultations. I am now due for surgery tomorrow. I’m also incredibly lucky that they are combining the two issues and I’m having both procedures (cancer and hernia) dealt with together. I was met by a look of terrified bewilderment when I joked that it would be like two WWE wrestlers tag-teaming an unconscious man.

This has actually been an unusual aspect of my discussions with the surgeons. It seems my joviality is not a common trait amongst those who’ve just found out they’ve got a life-threatening illness. I can’t be sure why I have felt the way I have. The only time I’ve been really scared was the time I found it. Since then, its been on my mind of course, but bizarrely the moment I found out I’d got cancer (or “confirmation of the most sinister diagnosis” as it was broken to me), I was actually quite elated. Perhaps I was glad to know what I was dealing with. Perhaps I’m more than a little odd but its certainly been the case for the past few days and it still is right now as I type this. When I mentioned I might write this blog, a friend suggested waiting a week in case my mood changed. It hasn’t. In fact, I’ve been on a complete high ever since. (He missed the point of course, in that if things did – and do- get worse, then that should also be chronicled). Regarding my mood though, there’s a suggestion that I’m more relieved that I won’t miss my whole athletics season through two separate surgeries, but i guess we’ll know more when I come out of hospital on Friday and I know whether I’ll require chemotherapy but that’s for another blog.

Nothing like seeing 'Property of Doctor's Laboratory' to really get me going.

One of the more amusing, although faintly worrying, aspects I’ve had to consider is that of ‘sperm-storage’. Apparently, there shouldn’t be an issue but if there were I’ve been advised that this is a good idea and so I’ll need to get onto this today.

A female friend though was so distraught at the idea that I might be left having to ‘harvest my seed’ to a wrinkled old back issue of Mayfair that she offered to ‘help’ the process. The look of utter delight on my face showed that I hadn’t noticed that she was in absolutely no way being serious.

"Please don't let me need this, please don't let me need this..."

So here we are. I’m one day away from owning a fake nut, or a’testicular prosthesis’ as it’s known to those who didn’t see the glorious opportunity to call it a ‘Clegg‘. I go in tomorrow, surgery is at 5, I should be high on morphine til the evening and back out by Friday lunch. The point of writing something so wincingly self-interested is not, for once, for attention, (or at least not the personal type), but in order to try and de-stigmatise the condition and hopefully help raise some level of awareness that might encourage just one person to become more vigilant. That would be good. I once tweeted the following during one of those spasmodic episodes of tongue-chewing, brain-gurning status stupidity on Twitter’s poor relation: “Nothing helps cure Cancer like reposting a Facebook status”. This hasn’t changed at all. Idiots.

I think everything will be fine but if it isn’t, my heart-shaped slippers were a present, those magazines are being stored for a friend and my Internet history is a cretinous liar.

Cancer. Lol. Brb!