January 31
I go and stay with a couple whom I have known for so long that the intertwined family memories and common knowledge of each other’s lives means that conversations have always just flowed.

Until now. R, a lovely guy, with whom I have drunk countless bottle of good red wine (and even more bottles of bad red wine when we were younger) has dementia. This time our conversations are like his movements, jerky and un-coordinated, and take random directions. His life is full of paranoid fears which seemingly know no bounds. There are people looking in through the window and I and other friends are conspiring to seduce his wife and make off with his money.

And right now my situation pales into insignificance compared with the long dark place he is entering. As a patient with cancer, I am free and able to continue to enjoy my life but for him there is no hope, no way but down into a world devoid of sense and human purpose. On the principle that I was unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet I can only rejoice that I have only got prostate cancer and the consequent support.

February 1
As I drive away from my friend’s house, along a road amidst a beautiful Sussex forest, I get THE pre-arranged phone call. The caller identifies herself as a L*, an especial cancer care nurse from the hospital and she asks me to stop driving so I pull into a gateway, wind down a window and cut the engine.

The trees are blowing in the wind, emitting a soft sigh of seeming satisfaction.

There follows the routine procedure of age and address confirmation and then the effective kick in the balls (appropriate place when you think of it). The biopsy has confirmed prostate cancer which is 4+5 = 9 on the Gleason Scale which means it is aggressive so what is now required is a further scan to establish if it has spread.

As WB Yeats wrote

In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

‘Are you OK?’ says the calm voice.

I wonder how many other people she will be saying that to today, this week, this year as part of her daily routine but for the moment, I want to hug her for the sincere tone of caring re-assurance in her voice. She explains tells me about the nature of the next scan and outlines possible courses of action and stresses her availability and her team if ever I need advice. We end our call: how odd to have no qualms about placing ones’ future in the hands of a total stranger.

I have to accept that my ability to make love to my wife is going to become increasingly difficult without some form of chemical intervention so tonight we just hold each other which is very re-assuring and a great comfort.