It’s November already. Boobs & Bollocks month as I prefer to call it. The month of Movember and Breast Cancer. The month where every charity and their dog wants you to got to your Doctor to get checked out for stuff. A month that holds more meaning than usual for me because this is the year I spent more time with Doctors than Barmen.
In the past 10 years I’ve run marathons, completed Triathlons, swam 5k in open water and scaled mountains (well, hills then). I thought I was bullet proof.
This year, though, I got a cough so violent it put my back out (and me on my back for a week). I narrowly avoided hypothermia and fractured my ribs whilst trying to prove I’ve Still Got It over a muddy obstacle course. And then I contracted a sneeze with a recoil more powerful than a Magnum 45 (no I don’t feel lucky, Clint) which brought a level of pain to my ribs that wouldn’t gone out of place at the Tower. And in the middle of writing this post, I managed to put my back out again whilst wheeling out the bins, a task so mild it makes water aerobics look frenetic.
And on top of all this, I was fairly certain I had cancer for 6 weeks. I say ‘fairly’ not because I googled it like a digital hypochondriac, drawing ridiculous conclusions (and the contempt of my doctor) but because I went for a ‘Health MOT’ and all manner of investigations – genital x2, rectal x3 (each one worthy of its own post, Sweet Mother of God), MRI x2 & biopsy x1 – suggested there was Something There.
Where, I hear you ask? My prostate, that’s where. Where’s that? I’m still not 100% sure, but one thing I do know is that it’s apparently somewhere that can only be accessed via your arse. And that it needs to be accessed quite a few times before a diagnosis can be confirmed. And that access doesn’t get any less awkward over time.
Don’t worry, this post isn’t going to be full of bum jokes – although I now have a certain sympathy for well-travelled men of Middle Eastern appearance, drug mules and alien abductees. And it’s not going to be about having cancer since, fortunately for me, it was a false alarm and there are people way more qualified to write about that (the late, great AA Gill and Pinchypants to name but two). No. This post is about something else.
We all know that a man under 50 going to the Doctor is rarer than Nigel Farage riding a rainbow Unicorn down Brighton High Street belting out a verse of Conchita Wurst. But we also know that doing so can save (or at least extend) our lives.
So this post is designed to prepare the ‘older but not yet old’ man for a time in life when they’re no longer the vibrant force of nature they were. That time when (as I have this year) they finally have to resign themselves to spending more time with the (family) GP.
Here’s a simple guide to the six signs to look out for and what to do with them:
- The Post Pint Sigh. It starts with a sigh. You know the one I mean. The one where – after a full day’s work and a full hour’s witching – you find yourself in the pub with a beautiful, ice cold, life-saving pint in front of you. Your first sip is followed by an involuntary, semi-orgasmic gasp and, pint held aloft, an admiring, loving glance. None of us did this when we were Young Virile Men. We didn’t treat the first sip as foreplay, we didn’t flirt with our pint. We went straight in. It was all over in 5m.
GP RATING: 0/5 – this is simply a harbinger of doom not an affliction, just check where your surgery is on google maps as you’ll probably be visiting soon.
- Hydraulic Hardship. One minute, sitting down and standing up are simple, reflex actions requiring neither effort nor soundtrack, the next each action not only feels like a mini work-out, it also has its own unique sound. Sitting down is accompanied by a sound like a hoover being turned off and standing up brings an exhalation of breath worthy of an 80 year old Darth Vader manning the Hotline at Cheap Dirty Phone Sex.
GP RATING: 1/5 – this could be a sign of something but it’s probably just because your cartilage has worn to the thickness of paper, monitor closely, no need for intervention.
- Fatherhood Pharyngitis (not to be confused with Man Flu). As a younger man, your immune system was able to fend off the Black Death with one hand whilst destroying Ebola with the other, in a Blitzkrieg of white blood cells. Nowadays, fighting off a common cold is the antibody equivalent of the Hundred Years War. Shredded by sleep deprivation and assailed daily by nursery-incubated viruses, your body’s defence has gone from Ferdinand and Franco Baresi to an open goal.
GP RATING: 2/5 – martyrdom is the preferred route for this and whilst a GP visit might be appropriate, they’ll just look at you with pity and tell you to pull yourself together.
- The Bipolar Bladder. Most of the time it behaves perfectly well and what you put in roughly matches what you get out. Sometimes, though, it defies all logic and goes batshit crazy. From nowhere, it finds Pacific reserves of fluids and sends you – like a sadistic PE teacher – on constant loo shuttle runs. Some of this is caused by the coffee and tea you drink to keep yourself awake (and the booze you drink to numb reality), where the rest comes from is one of science’s last unanswered questions.
GP RATING: 3/5 – the usual approach is to cross your legs and see what happens but it could be prostate cancer or diabetes so don’t fuck about.
- Glass Back Syndrome. One minute you’re as supple as a gymnast, making your way around town like a Parkour hero, the next you turn around to say something and your vertebrae implode in indescribable pain. To be fair, a combination of the working posture of Quasimodo, a Dadbelly & the regular addition of children to your shoulders doesn’t help, but still. I hear it’s all about your ‘core’ but if that’s anywhere near the Prostate I’m not interested. I opt to suffer (and not in silence).
GP RATING: 4/5 – as above, the typical Dad route here is to weather the storm but, in the event that it’s climate change, it might be wise to get an appointment in.
- Ballache and Firepiss. If you’re reading this and your nuts are throbbing like a Deep House bassline (or your urine is radiating heat like uranimum) then you probably shouldn’t be taking advice from a 45 year old failing father. As someone who lost their dad to prostate cancer and who’s been through the full prostate wringer recently (don’t get me started on the scarlet swimmers), I can confidently say that it’s worth most indignities to find out if you’re well or not. And if it turns out you’re not, then at least you’ve caught it early and you’re in control.
GP RATING: 10/5 – put your phone down and get your arse down to the GP pronto.
So. Regardless of whether you simply (and literally) fancy a pint, moan like Meldrew whenever you stand up or have something more serious, you’d better get used to seeing more of your doctor. Definitely soon. Probably frequently. Possibly intimately.