I am a man of constant sorrow…

It’s a weird sensation, but you get used to it. After managing to support yourself in a precarious position, hoping that your blind guess was correct and you wouldn’t be making a fool of yourself.

Luckily, you’re at a pretty point blank range, and hitting your target isn’t particularly hard. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for you to drop your payload. You can have a variety of sensations at this point. Either a moist, warm feeling, or a wet one, or an outright painful one, depending on the consistency of your encumbrance; all the while holding the pan in one hand and supporting your torso above the ground with the other.

It is an odd feeling. Kind of like having warm shit smeared over your arse while holding yourself sans-underwear on a hospital bed, curtain drawn around your bay in a futile attempt to preserve the last tattered fragments of your dignity, the warm odour of the faeces slowly drifting up to you after you have completed your task, and a mixed feeling of disgust and relief. Actually, that’s exactly what it is. And I haven’t got to wiping yourself yet, though I think I may spare you that particular description.

72 hours earlier I’d woken up, bleary-eyed, to see the frowning face of a surgeon, his face obscured by a smart set of glasses and his surgeon’s mask. “What’s your pain score?” he asked. If I hadn’t already known this seemingly universal medical system for measuring pain, I would have questioned it, and I suppressed the part of me that pointed out that it was stupid to assign an objective thing like numbers to a subjective thing like pain to let the rest of me wake up. As I did, I realised I was breathing particularly cold air, and that there was something on my face, which I then realised was an oxygen mask. As sensation crept its way down my body, I suddenly realised my pain score.

“Ah….erm, 8 or 9,” I gasped, maintaining my stupid principle that I would never admit to having a maximum pain score – what kind of a “man” would I be then?
“Up his epidural to 10,” he said to someone behind me, his veiled expression imperceptible. Seemingly satisfied, he turned on his heel and walked off with an air of authority, a small group of similarly dressed surgeons in his wake.

The next time I woke up was in a bay in HDU, or “High Dependency Unit” – apparently I was a “High Dependency” patient. Not quite the glamour of “Intensive Care”, but then one has to ask oneself whether it’s worth having the “Intensive Care” title for just that reason. Anyway, I had two tubes coming out of my left arm, at least one out of my right, and one out my back (my “Epidural”, which I’ll explain just now). The operation involved replacing the top 6 inches or so of my right femur, so for the best pain relief something had to be put into my back. The epidural line is just that – basically a tube going into the base of my spine delivering nice anti-pain drugs straight where you need them, which is pretty groovy.

I spent a few long nights in HDU, then was transferred to the regular paediatric ward. I spent my time here sleeping, eating, or doing physio exercises. However, physios are a strange breed of human that are never, ever satisfied, and so I could never please her and I could never do enough exercises. She didn’t seem to understand that walking to the toilet involved fitting a leg brace, getting me my zimmerframe thing, hurrying to the toilet, fitting a specialised toilet seat modifier (I shit you not), somehow turning around in the cramped space occupied by you and your zimmerframe, shuffling your boxer shorts down around your brace, then discovering that there isn’t enough room to sit down and actually do your business. Of course, she still insisted I walk to the toilet more. The alternative is bedpans, which I described at the beginning of this post. (Hmm, maybe there’s something wrong if I dedicate most of my blog posts to detailed descriptions of going to the toilet.) That’s how bad the sanitary situation was.

You might think that staying in hospital would be pretty awesome, having everyone doing everything for you; but trust me, it sucks. Maybe that’s what the emphasis on sanitary things earlier was about – imagine not being able to wash yourself, go to the toilet yourself, etc. This whole experience has been a crash course in accepting bodily functions for me. I’ve had someone shower me, wash me, wipe my arse, you name it. I hate it; the loss of independence is stifling.

Previously, things like genitalia and going to the toilet were unspeakable things, confined to the shady corner of euphemisms and smirking 8 year-olds. Now, to me, they’re just items of the human anatomy and necessary bodily functions. It’s strange how a stay in hospital like this can change something like a penis to an arm or defecating to eating.

I also got a cool Storm-Trooper like leg brace to prevent my hip dislocating. It’s pretty damn cool, but its only disadvantage is that it takes about 5 minutes and 2 people to put on, rendering its use as a quick-get-up-to-go-to-the-toilet-device useless. Its use as a cool Storm Trooper/robotic leg thing is endless, though. Basically it stops me doing naughty things like abducting, adducting, flexing, extending or rotating my hip too far, thus preventing dislocation, at least in theory. I have to wear it whenever I’m not in bed for the next 12 weeks or something, which is a bit of a pain, but it does provide that extra bit of security, and I wouldn’t be able to use a frame/crutches like I can now without it.

I also had a whacking great hole slashed open in my leg, resulting in 50 staples and a 12 inch scar. So I can always claim I was surfing the reefs of Hawaii and was bitten by a shark or something.

What does annoy me is that the surgeons have had to cut away the muscle and tendon etc. to get to the bone in order to replace it, then the muscle and tendon etc. goes back over the new prosthesis. However, it can’t just reattach, so they put a massive stitch all the way around to get it to heal to the metal prosthesis. This is a slow process, and it’s going to take months. It’s not that that annoys me though – that’s just how the operation is done; there isn’t another way. But straight after surgery (literally, after two weeks in Stanmore I was transferred to Southampton) they hit me with the next programme of chemo, which is going to last at least as long (probably longer) than the pre-surgery one did. I’m not going to be able to do any physio exercises while having chemo, and between doses physio is the last thing that’s going to be on my mind, meaning that the scarring and moulding processes that heal the tissue to the prosthesis will be slowed, and that’s not even taking the chemo itself into account. Basically, they shot me in the leg, then to heal me are forcing a poison drink down my throat.

But, as the French say, “c’est la vie.” It’s easy to get pissed off with physios and curse consultants, but at the end of the day it’s just a waste of time and, more importantly, energy. Besides, it’s no-one’s fault that it has to be this way, it just is. It sucks, it’s unfair, but life’s unfair.

So yeah, that’s that. I’m posting this from Stanmore’s Wi-Fi (Yes! A hospital with Wi-Fi! See Southampton, it can be done), about to be transferred to Southampton, so I’ll probably be back on ye olde Guerne in a week or something. Oh, and a couple of things music-wise:

  • The Klaxons did not win the Mercury Music prize for no reason. Check them out.
  • I am in love with Elliott Smith’s song Son of Sam. Go and download it, even if it means you download the whole album.

And thank you all readers for reading and giving support – much as it may seem not to, it does mean something and can mean the difference between me having a smile or a(n) (eyebrowless) frown on my face. So don’t hesitate to email me or whatever. I would give out things like MySpace or MSN but I have neither MySpace nor Facebook, and I uninstalled MSN. So just email me if you want a reply, I probably won’t remember to reply if you just leave a comment on a post (but leave comments anyway, it makes me look cool).

8 thoughts on “I am a man of constant sorrow…

  1. Man, It’s so good to hear from you after all this time, even if it is a mixture of good and bad news. You toiletary problems sound nightmareish but then again, I guess it’s another experience who makes you who you are. I can’t wait to see this storm trooper leg. You should get a helmet to go with it, or at least a tin foil hat to protect you from cosmic rays.
    Take care friend and I hope all I well in south hampton.

  2. I have been checking this page like every day…seriously an operation is no excuse for no updates!
    Anyway, yeah I’m glad this experience hasn’t taken away your sense of humour, even if it couldn’t leave your leg intact.
    By the way, you better be free in November to come watch Tom and I in *Pride and Prejudice* where we make fools of ourselves.
    In fact we learned some really stupid dance today at rehearsal, which I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
    I did think about emailing you, then realised if you were in a non-internet environment (perish the thought!)it would be a bit pointless, but I think I will do depending on any exciting things happening in my life.
    Well, I wont bore you further with my life, (as it’s less exciting without your wit) so stay in touch, d00d.

  3. omit the “I” from “because I that wouldn’t be true” and that clause will begin to make some sense.

    : /

  4. Well, thats awesome to hear from you, and i hope all goes, well… however, reading about your feaces will certainly make my lunch more interesting 😛 when you get a chance look at the xkcd thread in the maths forum about “graphical quines” its simons, he starts really sucking up and then boasting loads. oh you will see.

    also, do you get to keep the brace? ooo… you could steal loads and get people to dress as stormtroopers.

    also… write a book about your experiences, to the best of my knowledge no one has written about cancer from a teenage perceptive (although i could be totally wrong) but you never know, it could get you loads of money… and then you can take us all on holiday! or not, but you know…whatever

    good to hear from you. hope all goes well!

  5. Nice subtle start to your blog!
    I keep on noticing how you throw french words and phrases into what you write. you should be doing french, yo fiend! Speaking of which, on friday we german people had a lesson in the hut next to the most raunchiest of ginger orifices, and he spent the whole lesson staring at me through the window (unsupervised lessons as teachers were away) i had great joy in posting a variety of paper signs in the window such as, ONDREJ IS A PEEPING TOM. JAN IST EIN VOLLTROTTEL etcetcetc. i didn have my camera to take a picture of his varying facial expressions but i will… for your photoshoppingz skillzorz.
    missing your tender lathering

  6. It’s good to hear from you! the Stormtrooper leg sounds really cool and you should try and get a second but i suspect that would be really hard to walk in but ah well, it would look cool. In my defense against louise, i was only looking through the window to try and get you to take down the pervious message etc. Can’t wait to have you and your humour back in Guernsey and school. Anyways, i will be off but as i said, it has been great to hear from you.

  7. well that’s the 10 awesome points for me then 😀

    *O’ Brother Where Art Thou*

    I’d like to back up Emma by reassuring you that we will look tremendously stupid walking round in circles in ball gowns and man-gowns (I can think of no other word off the top of my head) respectively.

    Is the email address still gilly@gillspatch.co.uk, or am I being very naïve in this assumption?

    Anyway, I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through, despite the (at times graphic) descriptions. I can’t say “I understand how you feel”, because I that wouldn’t be true. But if it means anything,we are all worse off at school without you.

    I love the Klaxons, you’re right, they deserved to win.

    (Storm Trooper Leg FTW)

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