I have on the whole enjoyed good health. I was thus able to undertake some pretty strenuous walks across Britain, Europe and the Middle East. Like most people, however, I didn’t entirely escape medical problems.
As a child I suffered from earache, and my mother look me to see her naturopath, Dr Gordon Latto, who advised that I avoid milk, which I did for a couple of years.
All my life I’ve suffered quite regularly from indigestion, and consequent bad nights. At Shrewsbury I got heart-burn as a result, no doubt, of my unsatisfactory diet there.
Also at Shrewsbury I used to get a sudden tightening around my chest when I got up in the morning, as if someone had sharply tightened a string around me. Also in the mornings (as I seem to remember) my hip used to clink. Neither of these curiosities continued into adult life.
In 1973 I had a wisdom tooth removed at Windsor General Hospital under a full anaesthetic. This was my first in-patient experience, which lasted four days and was quite unpleasant.
I suffered quite a lot from tension symptoms in my late teens and twenties – pains in the chest and increased indigestion. From my mid-forties to early fifties I suffered from IBS for similar reasons.
In the summer of 1978, when Angie was in Europe and I was living alone in Cairo, I was infected with hepatitis, and was quite ill and very weak for five weeks. Foolishly I didn’t consult a doctor, though there was reason in my madness. I knew that hepatitis cannot be treated by antibiotics, but felt sure that is what I would be prescribed because in that part of the world, at that time, antibiotics were doled out like sweeties and were considered a universal panacea.
When Angie returned she found me bright yellow. A couple of weeks later, on a trip to Alexandria, the symptoms lifted as quickly as they’d come. Some time later I was tested in England to check whether I’d had Australian Antigen B hepatitis, and the result was negative.
All of my life I had had troubles with my waterworks, but as many male members of my family, including my father, had had similar difficulties, I suspected it was simply a weakness which might eventually need an operation, but which wasn’t too serious. However, in late 2009, only six months or so after my marriage to Christine, I had a particularly bad night after drinking a pint of Leffe beer, and decided to consult my GP.
To cut a long story short, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, with a PSA of 14 and a Gleason score of 9 (out of 10), which meant there was really no room for discussion about what my treatment should be. I was put on hormone therapy, and from September to November of 2010 underwent radiotherapy.
In the summer of 2010 I was found to be retaining over a litre of urine, and so was given an in-dwelling catheter. This was uncomfortable, particularly in bed, and I got minor infections as as result of this foreign intrusion into my body. Then in the spring of 2011 I was taught how to self-catherise and was amazed to discover how easy this was. Such was my relief that I felt rather disinclined to go ahead with the TURP operation (transurethral resection of the prostate).
But in August I did have the op, and was amazed, again, at how easy it was. Unlike in Windsor, I came round from the anaesthetic as if I’d simply been asleep. It took a couple of days to learn how to function normally again, but after that it was difficult to remember that I’d ever been on catheters.
Apart from very short periods of time, my treatment for cancer and urine retention went off without me feeling ill at all. I continued with my life as normal. People did, however, tend to say, a year on from the end of the radiotherapy, how well I was looking, from which I deduced that I wasn’t looking so well in 2010.
I am due to come off the hormone therapy in Novemeber this year (2012).