Damien Rice – The Blowers Daughter

And so it is. Just like they said it would be.

It’s been an action-packed few weeks. I made a good recovery from the Left lung operation and they decided to do an ultrasound-directed biopsy of the tissue around the left bronchus. They’d taken a piece during the operation and it was not malignant, but they wanted more to be sure. It’s a day procedure involving some anaesthetic, swallowing a camera and piercing by a very thin needle with a tiny claw stuck into the lung via the esophagus. If I were doing a review for a travel advisory web site I’d mention the wonderful service being met at reception and escorted to ward; the sun-filled room with pale wood floors, and the personal attention from the surgeon in charge of the whole unit. In theatre they showed me the scans on the computer monitors. Pointed out the specks they were after. Mentioned that they did a 1000 of these procedures every year but until they do one, they can’t predict the outcome.

And that was the problem. Once they got the needle into position they found there was an artery blocking further access. I like to think of it as an oil drum lying on its side with a half-full black bin bag behind it. They just couldn’t get to that bin bag. Apparently going through the vein to take a grab isn’t a major no-no but it depends on the angle of entry and this angle wasn’t right. So they abandoned it. I was ready to go home again at around noon having been admitted at 08:00.

Their parting advice (to me and to my consultant surgeon) was to take the pragmatic approach. Keep a very close eye on it in case it changes. The only ambiguity is what constitutes the least risk option? Do they zap it with radiotherapy just in case?

So, then it was back to the Right lung. I’ve had two “offers” on the table for this. The first was to hook me up with UH London for a blast of RFA. The second was from the Thoracic people to remove the lesions using keyhole surgery (a VATS resection). First one to get to me gets the gig, was my response. It was the second option. I got a call on a Thursday asking me if I wanted a quick course of action, and that turned out to be show up for surgery on the following Monday. Like Stella lager, I’ve been triple-filtered but with a smooth outcome.

I checked-in at 8.30 on the Monday and around noon I was sent down for surgery. I stayed in surgery for around 3 hours and everything went as planned. By that I mean the surgeon was able to successfully perform keyhole surgery and it didn’t require a full-scale thoractomy. It left me with two 1-2″ holes for each of the keyholes, and two 1″ holes for the plastic tubes (the drains). The pain was minimal and there were no major complications except perhaps the next morning when I vomited blood, and there was a question whether this came from the lung (normal, under the circumstances) or the stomach (bad). It was enough to keep me there until the Wednesday. Then it was a battle of wills between the doctors (send him home) and the nurses (keep him in) that eventually culminated in a very grudging release of me at the last possible minute (8pm) on Weds. I was very pleased to get home to my own bed. By the next morning I was well enough to start reading work emails and getting stuff done.

Today, just a week later, I had the stitches removed from the drain wounds.

Soon I’m off to Ireland for a short break. I shall be walking longish distances to see how much lung capacity I’ve lost and whether exercise will get some of it back. I will remind myself that the sea is a good place to think about the future. I will be drinking large black pints of Guinness because I am reliably informed that it is good for you. I will be finishing the book I started in hospital: “The Prague Cemetery” by Umberto Eco. If you recall “The Name of the Rose” you’ll know that Eco is a master of novelist technique and mechanisms, and subverts the whole idea of who is the writer/who is the reader? I will also bring some lovely little books I was given in May describing the prehistoric sites in the Burren area where we’ll be. Finally, and with the help of Arthur Guinness, that wonderful 18th century Irish Protestant who ran a small brewery in Dublin, I shall be contemplating whether Cancer offers the best pathway we have to understanding immortality. It knows how to twiddle with your proteins and your chromosomes so that it never grows old, and it knows how to divide and reproduce without constraint. It truly is something to admire. I can’t take my mind off of you.