I prefer to look the other way, I tell him. Behind me is a video monitor on which the insides of my bladder are appearing in a sort of BBC 405-line colour. Greys and submarine reds. Dark and light in a fluid dance. The internal world of Fantastic Voyage made real.
What the urologist is looking for are signs of growth return. My unending problem. 70%-80% recurrence normal. It won’t go anywhere so long as we catch it. The malignancy is low with these transitional cell polyps. The consultant told me that in a bright moment in his room just off the side of Ambulatory Care. Me in my gown waiting to go in for what’s become known as the procedure. Flexible cystoscopy. A camera and a light on the end of the flexible tube inserted through the male body’s smallest orifice. Up the urethra and through the prostate to reach the bladder. There’s local anaesthetic to dull the discomfort but the whole idea of the thing still makes me wince.
This time you are clear, says the urologist. Hasn’t come back. There’s no bladder blockage either. How are you getting on with the prednisolone? The wonder drug. The fixer of everything. He asks this as he withdraws the apparatus. I try not to look but still manage to see a device that looks as if it has been borrowed from the set of Alien, a snaking tube, dripping slowly as it uncoils through the air.
I’ve got my dose down to 7 mgs daily, I tell him. The polymyalgia is staying submerged. No flares, no return. The fractured sleep is improving. The nose bleeds have stopped. The mood swings steadied. The fatness is controlled. The self-confidence has returned.
Good. See you again in six months. Wiped dry, hospital record marked, nurse thanked. I’m sent back to the recovery room. Sat in a chair, there’s a love, given sweet tea, how many sugars? Shake my head still get two. You drink that then try to pass water. Might hurt a bit, it’ll sting, don’t worry, you’ll be alright. You can get changed then, if all’s okay. Pants and gown in the bin by the door.
I manage it, it’s easy. I’ve done this dozens of times. But the whole process still takes all your energy from you. Always does.
Here’s your discharge leaflet and your tablets. Drink loads of water now and take it easy. The ward nurse hands me a letter to pass on to the GP. This explains that Finch has been in and had his flexible cystoscopy at UHW and nothing was found this time. He’s now not exactly full of beans but relieved. He’s been given his discharge leaflet and is now heading down the corridor at a slow pace bound for the concourse where he’ll buy the latest issue of Record Collector and a Belgian Bun both of which he’ll leave in the taxi he takes to get him home.
The letter is my passport to the future. Nothing further to be done this time. That is what it says. It’s in my inside pocket where it glows slightly, nestling, making me warm.