It’s about a fortnight further down the line and here I am at the local surgery with my GP asking about the annual flu vaccination. Last year when the wrong kind of flu arrived the immunization failed totally for around 99% of those receiving it. Should I bother again? It turns out that there’s a conflict with BCG treatment so I can’t have it anyway. The GP is staring at her screen. It’s full of Finch data. Look, your hospital biopsy result is in. It’s just been posted Do you want to know what it says? I go cold. The doc’s surgery computer in downtown Roath now connects directly with Welsh NHS’s mega all-Wales database. The truth is no longer just out there. It’s also in here.
I start to tremble. I need to know. But I don’t want to know. But she’s smiling so I nod. Check for yourself, she says. I look over her shoulder and to decipher something intelligible from the dense slab of medical verbiage and then I see it. No sign of malignancy. There’s inflammation and you’d expect that. But the sample they took has been analysed and it’s clear. I don’t know whether to dance or cry. She tells me, beaming, that I can go out now and celebrate. You should. Rock and roll. Yes.
The routine now is maintenance BCG. Three doses, each a week apart, and then three months later a cystoscopy to check for results. Word on the street (on the bladder cancer website actually) is that maintenance doses are harder to tolerate than earlier instillations. But I’ll cope.
I walk in. It’s a two mile ramble through the leafy suburbs. Past houses with double garages. A semi with a Gilbern rusting slowly in the drive. Along a street where almost everyone seems to be a taxi driver. Down the hill by the shop where signs in the window warn sternly against school children coming in in groups of more than two and absolutely forbid anyone entering wearing a hoodie. In the park there are dog walkers. The stream and its weeping willows. Roses in long profusion.
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In the clinic the specialist nurse uses a long thin catheter to insert BCG dose. As usual I don’t watch. She wears a face mask, Ebola style protective apron and elbow reach rubber gloves. You’ll be okay, she tells me. Maintenance patients usually are. It’ll probably be a bit worse next time. But you know the routine. Drink as much as you can. Take painkillers. Spend time in bed. I will.
I get a lift back home and sit there waiting for the time to click on. Nothing to drink for a full two hours between instillation and first void. The BCG needs undiluted time to work. Tea hovers in the future. When eventually I pee there’s little sensation. There’s a moment of total calm, a bit like the zen point of nothing where the out breath and the in breath meet. And then it starts: the fog and the growling discomfort and the wonderful, horrible process of salvation all over again.