It has been a long time since I added to this blog. There were various reasons for this, not least of all because it is titled “Living With Prostate Cancer” and most of what has happened in the intervening period has had little to do with prostate cancer.
Life has been both a physical and mental rollercoaster since my radiotherapy finished and I think, in these times of even more uncertainty, it is time to unburden myself.
I may spread this over several posts but I ask you to stay with me on the journey I have been through. Hopefully there will be some light-hearted moments and there will undoubtedly be some of much darkness. We live in strange times and, I know, I am stranger than most.
The Road to Recovery
As I continued gymming and swimming to regain as much fitness as I could, the problem I had been suffering with my calf became more of a handicap. Also, it was frustrating not knowing exactly what the problem was and not being able to see a specialist in spite of having been in pain for almost six months.
“You’ll have to wait your turn”, I was told. Well, unwilling to wait because of the delay it was causing me on my road to recovery, I went back to Dr Google and, after much research, I diagnosed myself with Intermittent Claudication. Pain caused by blood not supplying enough oxygen to my calf.
Armed with this information, I went back to my GP, who reluctantly sent me for an examination at a local clinic where they hooked me up to anklets and bracelets and monitored my blood flow whilst I was horizontal and motionless on a couch. The practitioner/clinician informed me that everything was fine. Really?
Back to the GP’s surgery, where I was to become a pain in the proverbial for the rest of the summer. “Your blood is flowing freely”, said the doctor. “Yes”, I agreed, “but I didn’t complain about pain when I was lying in bed. The pain is when I am walking and becomes worse with distance and/or incline, so the examination was a waste of time”. He reluctantly agreed with me but insisted that he could do nothing to have me seen by a consultant any sooner and I must wait. Really?
Back to Dr Google yet again for more research. Much of the advice I found advised sufferers to walk until it hurt, which of course varied according to the individual, then rest for a few minutes until the pain subsided, then walk some more. Doing this, patients were gradually able to extend the distance they could walk by a few metres.
Personally, I was not able to walk more than four or five hundred metres before I was in total agony. Each time it felt like my calf muscle was torn. After a few minutes the pain always eased and it was possible to walk again for a few hundred metres more. This continued through the summer and during my many visits to the Ageas Bowl to watch cricket, I discovered that my limit was reached when walking around the perimeter of the spectator’s area before I was forced to rest. Most unsatisfactory and utterly depressing as I had just finished radiotherapy at the time and was hoping to become more active.
Back to Dr Google and more research. One day I stumbled upon an exercise regime for patients at Guy’s hospital who had claudication. “Ignore the pain”, it advised, “keep walking”. Really?
If you keep walking, the blood finds it way by flowing through smaller blood vessels. It’s a bit like how the traffic takes to the minor roads when the motorway is blocked. Although I was a bit sceptical at first, I gave it a go. Trying it out on a treadmill in the gym.
It was difficult. To keep walking while you are feeling a lot of pain is counter-intuitive to anyone who has had a nasty calf injury, which is exactly what it feels like but I persevered. With excellent results. It was baby steps at first but gradually, I extended the distance at which the pain kicked in until I almost stopped thinking about it.
Finally, I attended the vascular clinic where I was given an examination and a discussion took place about how I had diagnosed my problem and had started treatment which was having a positive effect. The consultant concluded that, based on his examination and the previous one, both of which were whilst I was motionless and horizontal, there was nothing wrong with me. Really?
I protested that I was not satisfied about how he had reached his conclusion and after some discussion he conceded that it was possible that he was wrong. “Possible but unlikely”, he said. However, he sent me for a scan and it was discovered that I had a partially blocked artery. Really?
The consultant remained dismissive when I enquired what was needed re diet or exercise. Just keep doing what you have been doing courtesy of Google, was the response. Keep doing your exercises. Patient heal thyself, I thought.
I did carry on with the exercises and still do them now. I can walk seven or eight kilometres now without experiencing much pain and I am very happy with that.