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Me and My Big Prostate 2

I can see me standing in a continental style urinal in Piccadilly Gardens. (They seem to have come and gone). Nothing will pass save a few drops of scalding dew but the need is assuaged. I am thinking through my strategy to get home, trying to anticipate the need, which I just know will return, by recalling the location of other public conveniences. I make Piccadilly Station. I don’t feel physically unwell but am aware of a suppressed anxiety and end up praying for the next Blackpool train to be on time. The on-board toilet is out of action. I grit my teeth, cross my legs, and sit tight. At Bolton, the platform toilet is closed. It is now after seven and past commuting hour. I feel a resentment rise which will rankle across the coming months. Luckily the cab rank is well serviced and in ten minutes I walk through my front door, run up the stairs, for a relief which amounts to the laboured release of a few more drops of scalding dew. One hand is on the wall steadying myself. I lower my head to see if here’s anything glowing in the toilet bowl. I hear my wife’s voice. “Where’ve you been? I was getting worried about you”.


So this is my baptism into life without a functioning prostate. Twenty four hours ago I was lying in a bed, fully dressed, waiting to be given the briefing for my brachytherapy, wondering if I dared slip out to the Royal Oak as I had done on my previous visit. I had every confidence in the hospital and its staff and resigned myself to reading late and long. Sleeping on those wards seemed to be hit and miss affair, what with the frequent movements of patients and staff; the unfamiliar soundscape of an alien environment. At seven in the morning I had my enema; at ten I went for treatment. I was fourth or fifth on the list that day. I knew nothing. Out before the count of ten. When I awoke, back in the ward, it was just a question of how long it would take to produce a clear sample. That is one not contaminated with any escapee radio-active pellets. Everyone else seemed to manage this before me. We said our farewells and exchanged best wishes as each left in turn to be whisked away by car or ambulance. I was concerned about not being able to pee. But I was more concerned about not being released. I went for a cup of tea in the canteen. Dai, who was still waiting for his ambulance, told me he was heading back to Anglesey via Stoke on Trent and expected to be home at midnight. My half-organised lift had fallen through but I wasn’t going to let on. I had up made my mind up to get out of there as soon as I got my sample cleared. An hour later I was standing outside the Royal Oak waiting for a bus into town.

I had a week of readjustment. At one level it was as if nothing had happened. Peeing remained a problem and kept me awake for much of those nights, trotting frequently and urgently to the loo for little effect. But I could drive and we had a miserable few days away in Wales as if to compensate. On returning for my first check up a month later, my nurse counsellor pointed out I should have been discharged with a supply of Flomax tablets that would have made it all so much easier. And so it did. Or would have if the world didn’t suddenly manifest a shortage of lavatories. Wherever I went I had to prepare a mental list not just of public toilets, but of bushes, garden walls, and back entries, where I could have an emergency pee. I experimented with a range of plastic bottles which could be most easily used inside the car without drawing too much attention from pedestrians or passing motorists. None of this stopped me from peeing myself at least once a day. I fumed weekly at the inadequacies of rolling stock and stations in meeting the urinary needs of the desperate. I had rows with platform staff and guards who felt morally justified in keeping toilets locked in case the great British public had the temerity to use them. I became a cancer victim. I became angry. My anger was turned inwards. I was not going to let my friends and family know that I was missing my prostate, and that that I was fearful of forever missing that part of me that had been blitzed with it. And throughout it I knew my wife of twelve months, and friend of twelve years, was preparing to move out.