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Martin Kelner, Journalist, Author and Radio Presenter.
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Bedside manner or www. - Take your pick
By Martin "I'm just going to take your bloods" Kelner on Sep 10, 2013 - 10:37:59 AM

My brilliant consultants Mr Horgan and Mr Achuthan, who saved my life, call me in for a meeting to give me the histology of the huge tumour they have removed from my abdomen - after comparing it not very convincingly to various fruits, Mr Horgan has fixed on "the size of a small sheep" - which the boffins have been having a dekko at through their microscopes.

It's fibromatosis, which once or twice they refer to as aggressive fibromatosis, given the speed at which the tumour grew and the size it achieved. 

Aggressive?  They're not kidding.  Being on the receiving end, it struck me as aggressive rather in the way the locals might turn aggressive were you to walk into a pub down the Falls Road wearing a "Fuck The Pope" t-shirt.

Anyway, in many ways this was welcome news, in that the 'C' word didn't crop up, none of my major organs was under attack, they said, and I appeared to be recovering at about the right rate.  The surgeons were full of smiles, and in the style of the late miserly, philandering crooner Bing Crosby (God, if Operation Yewtree were to snoop around Hollywood, our "historic" sex scandals over here would need the help of the hospital microscopes to be visible. Dave Lee Travis, the new Errol Flynn?  I don't see it), were inclined to accentuate the positive.

Bob Hope, if you will permit a further digression, was even worse than Bing.  When he toured venues across America for months on end, he had a one-night stand or two in every town, including - incredibly - one with conjoined Siamese twins.  Apparently, he turned up in the same small town a couple of years later, there was a knock on his dressing room door, and there they were.  "Remember us?" they asked.  (Think about it)

Back to the consulting room at Europe's largest teaching hospital where one of my surgeons mentioned in passing that there was, of course, a chance of the fibromatosis returning, at which, as a dutiful Racing Post writer, I felt obliged to ask what sort of a chance.  Were we talking 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 80 per cent, 5-4 on, 100-8? (Ah, 100-8.  My first winner was 100-8, £1 for half a crown.  There's one for the teenagers). 

Well, the answer was that there just wasn't enough known about the condition for there to be a body of evidence on which to base a judgement.  Their view, and my wife's, was that for the time being I should just be happy to be alive and not worry about what might happen next.

They're right, of course, but my mind doesn't work like that and I think the surgeons knew, because the last thing Mr Achuthan said to me as we left was, "Don't look it up on the internet.  It'll only worry you."

So anyway, roughly 30 seconds after arriving home I'm on the internet, not having been able to get a decent connection in the car on the way back, and the phrase that sticks with me is "tend to recur even after complete resection."  Another zinger was the one about the major risk factors connected with its return including "previous abdominal surgery."

Look, in a fibromatosis quiz between the top guys, the chaps who saved my life, at Europe's leading teaching hospital and the internet, I'd back Kieron Horgan and Raj Achuthan any day of the week, but still I wonder how much of what they say in the consultations can come under the heading of "bedside manner." 

Without actually concealing anything, maybe they're selective about what they tell you.  And everything they tell you, the good and the bad, is delivered in similar calm, perfectly factual tones.  I suppose it's a style they have to develop.  After all, they work largely with breast cancer patients, and you know what women are like, getting all hysterical over a little bit of cancer (Whoah, fucking hell Kelner, there's edgy and there's edgy, but that's just plain bad taste).

One thing Mr Achuthan appeared to agree with me on was that if the fibromatosis does recur, it's och un vai (Raj didn't use those exact words), a Yiddish expression which I have seen translated as "alas and alack," proving Yiddish is so much more expressive a language than English.

It would be time to say our bye-byes.  I have had a stay of execution thanks to our brilliant National Health Service, but, magnificent though the organisation is, I have no desire to re-sign for more operations, hospital appointments, tablets, and so on.

So we're adopting a "wait and see" approach.  I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, my social life is revolving round blood tests, hospital appointments, repeat prescriptions, and regular visits to the doctor because of some complication or other, the latest being a "problem with the waterworks," as we elderly characters from Northern sit-coms like to say.  I'm one of those guys now that they 'phone up if I'm not at the surgery first thing ("Haven't seen you for a while, Mr Kelner." "No, I've been ill." More jokes of that calibre can be found on Keith Chegwin's Twitter feed).

Because of the pulmonary emboli which followed my surgery (I know some of you are interested in this stuff) I'm on Warfarin to thin my blood and guard against clots.  It's also keeping the rats away (I've taken a couple of slug pellets as well just to be on the safe side - thanks Paul).  There's a whole Warfarin department at the hospital who appear to need to see you every ten minutes, take your blood, and change your dosage.  So, unless I have a prior appointment with another hospital, I'm in and out of Pinderfields constantly.  I'm being introduced to a whole world of illness I never knew existed.  NHS in chaos?  Course it's in chaos, half the bloody nation's ill.

The only non-medical trip out that I have taken was to the Showcase Cinema, where my lovely wife, whose name escapes me for the moment, dropped me off so I could go to the 12.20 showing of the Alan Partridge movie.  Perhaps it was because I was virtually alone in a huge cinema, there didn't seem to be a huge number of LOL moments, but my god it was pitch-perfect.  Beautifully, beautifully observed.  Comic genius is an overused term, but if we do have one, it's Steve Coogan.  In summary, a so-so script, but the central performances by Coogan and Colm Meaney were as good as anything you'll see in British cinema. 

My wife's chief concern was that the seat in the cinema was comfortable enough for me.  Because of the aches and pains I still feel, chairs around the house have been artfully arranged with pillows and cushions so that I can sit comfortably for half an hour or so reading a book or watching the TV. 

Her services in this regard weren't  available, of course, at the Showcase, so she was touchingly solicitous when I emerged.  I explained to her that the seat was fine, but because none of my trousers now fit me, I am having to wear sweat pants, or jogging bottoms, or whatever the wretched articles are called these days. They don't have proper pockets, so when you put your change in them it falls out all over the floor. 

To counteract this, I had to put all my change, together with my phone, in the zip pocket at the back.  As previously mentioned on Twitter, a deal of my weight loss, which totals nearly four stones, seems to have been off my arse, meaning my now bony rump was coping with sitting on a pile of change. 

"Could you feel the coins when you were sitting there?" my wife asked.  "I could not only feel the coins," I said, "I could tell whether they were heads or tails."

Older readers may remember an episode of Steptoe when Harold brings home a girlfriend and finds Old Man Steptoe sitting in a tin bath in front of the fire.  Well, with my saggy arse, hollow chest, and stick-thin arms and legs, that's what I look like now, Old Man fucking Steptoe.

I haven't shaved since I went into hospital either, nor had a haircut, so at times there's a look of ageing hippy, or Father Abraham of the Smurfs, or the latest suspect in the Yewtree investigation.

Still, you can't tell on radio, so I'm still aiming for an October return to Fighting Talk and in a limited way - maybe once or twice a week - to Radio Leeds, something else I'll keep you posted on.

Let's now take a short break for a commercial......

The Racing Post column continues, every Tuesday, and for those of you unaware, I do have a book out, Sit Down and Cheer, a history of sport on TV, available from Amazon & other booksellers online but in absolutely no good bookshops. 

It would aid my recovery immensely were you to buy a copy.

 

 







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