The Covid Yo-yo

Numbers in France are increasing specifically in the overseas territories, Corsica and the South. I know where I would be going on holiday if I was French. I would come here to avoid the plague density. We are still at one part per thousand. I wonder is the yo-yo damping and how many more oscillations there are to go?

Over the next three weeks or so I am placing myself in the riskiest positions yet. Although I have had two Moderna vaccinations I also have four medical appointments. I will have to leave the compound.

On Friday I go to see the anaesthetist. Next week I go to see the dermatologist to have what might be basal cell carcinomas inspected. These were caused, possibly, by being hit by frequency doubled Lambda Physik Fl2002 and Fl3002 dye lasers. Whilst aligning the Ultra-Violet beam the UV struck my left hand on several occasions. UV and DNA don’t mix all that well. The dermatologist may cut them out there and then or I might be back for yet another appointment. Then I get a coronavirus PCR test and if that is negative, I get a colonoscopy to check for polyps and cancer.

This means that I will be in proximity indoors on four occasions before the end of the month.

It is a bit of a whirlwind…

Hmn…

31 ˚C – Covid Passport – Cancer Follow UP

Today we have 31 ˚C in the shade and have just returned from our second anti-Covid vaccination. I am feeling a little lightheaded and it is too hot to do any gardening.

We have both got one of these an EU Covid Passport.

This means that we can in principle travel

This morning I have had a full blood test to prepare me for the next part of the medical merry-go-round. I have a gastroenterology appointment on Monday to set in motion yet another visit to the chimney sweep, or in other words get a colonoscopy. I have been tested for carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA). I’ll find out either later today or tomorrow whether my CEA levels are elevated. There is always a mild trepidation.

I found out that the number of colonoscopies has been down due to covid which means that death from colon cancer will be up in due course.

In conclusion, roughly 250,000 fewer colonoscopy preparations were dispensed during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic in France. Deleterious consequences on morbidity and mortality related to gastroenterological diseases, such as colorectal cancer, are to be feared.”

It seems that they do them under general here. So, I guess I will be visiting and anaesthetist too.

« La coloscopie est réalisée sous anesthésie générale ou sédation (anesthésie légère). C’est pourquoi une consultation auprès d’un médecin anesthésiste est obligatoire, huit à dix jours avant l’examen. »

When I had my hip done it was under local, but since I stopped smoking, I may be eligible for a general. And yes, I get to simulate a major localised dysentery outbreak, self-inflicted with my old “friend” Picolax.

I watched the last six on the “telly” so to speak. Fibre optics, screen capture, refresh rate and instrumentation are interesting to me.

I like to see what the polyps look like, if there are any and yes, I did see my own tumour, six years ago now.

Hey-ho

It will be interesting to see how the French system approaches this…

The Big C Recapitulation.

I found these excerpts from an earlier blog, written not long after my cancer operation on the 2nd July 2015.

Thursday the 7th of August

It has been a bit of a whirlwind these last two months or so; so much to process and much to learn. June 2nd they found seven polyps, I said to the GP that as I had seven tickets in the cancer lottery at odds of 10:1 per polyp, there was a good chance I would win. He didn’t like my analysis and was a little shocked. June 10th a strange man stuck a big black colonoscope up my arse and through the haze of barbiturates he said “tumour”. I looked at the screen and there it was, markedly different from the now eleven polyps. He said that from his experience he was 97% sure that it was cancer. I watched him excise the polyps and take biopsies of the tumour.

In the recovery room the nurses were all a bit weird, they did not know what to say or do. I had to tell the wife. In the step down room there were others there. I said the word tumour and the place fell silent. One CT scan and an inconclusive biopsy later, I was back for yet another thing up my arse. Measure twice cut once; is the old adage. I got my second internal tattoos. July the 2nd on a hot night to the light of a full moon they cut it out along with 38 lymph nodes. And now I am here back on the farm, a member of the Big C club.

I am not back to full strength yet. If I do exercise the next day I am tired. My brain and my language is functioning OK. My plumbing and sewerage works, though the latter now has idiosyncrasy. How I yearn for a curry but the pipes can’t cope with that yet.

I was never afraid of death and I still am not. This is not bravado talking. When you have seen what I have seen, there is no fear of death; not so keen on more operations, a stoma and chemo though. For now though it is wait and see. Watch the pan for any blood and at Christmas the chimney sweep will again look up my chimney, the CAT scan will cut my body into slices and the Gods of the interdisciplinary team will decree.

It is strange to watch people’s faces as you say the magic word of doom. You can’t unsay it. It is out there. It causes a lot of fear. You can almost see; “But for the grace of God there go I” run across a screen on their foreheads. Those who have been a bit shitty to you blush a little internally. If you listen to the wind you can hear the jungle drums of gossip. “Well I never. He did drink and smoke you know! Tut, tut, tut…” Are not people just great?

It occurred to me that having a Big C could be used for manipulation and attention seeking. I made a little vow to myself not to do this. I did not want to have to deal with other people’s drama. It is funny how so very many people make your cancer all about them.

Life has no doubt changed for me and the wife. In fact it is still changing. I am not yet clear how I want to use the rest of this life. I don’t have the obligatory, perhaps inane, bucket list. I have already had quite a few adventures and travelled widely, by the age of 13 I had 160,000 air miles, back when air miles were harder to come by. The world now is so brim full of health and safety and you have to sign a chit before you can fart. How did we get here, to this and the mind-set which pervades?

If it comes back I have thought of Dignitas or running away to join the Peshmerga. I don’t know how I will be or what I will think. I can take my consciousness out of the body at will, but you cannot break the laws of karma. When your time is up, it is up and not before. I guess wait and see how this pans out is all that I can do for now.

I do have a sense of needing to move and a vague feeling that chapters of life need closing. The trouble is there are other actors in those chapters and you cannot simply stand on the book to close the chapter when others are keeping it open. They have unfinished business even if they do not acknowledge this. I can sense this at a distance. It is not my move in the game of life in this respect.

I have a strange hankering for mountains and rivers. I do not want another cold dank British winter. I will need a revenue stream wherever we go. It does not need to be big. These are the only parameters which spring to mind.

Only once did self-pity get the better of me. A syringe of oral morphine soon fixed that as I drifted off in reverie. Death could be a release for me for I am often unwelcome and I am a source of friction to others. The world has not always been kind to me. That sore thumb which simply will not shut up and die, I am a reminder.

But hey, I am alive and kicking.

As a result of all this my will has been rewritten and my tax return submitted early. I even have a free prescription voucher now, yippee!

People are so very scared, so unreal. I am not made of porcelain, never have been, never will be. In fact I am likely to be even more forthright than before. The vestiges of fear are perhaps dissected under the pathologist’s knife. Cancer is not taboo to me, it is, so it seems, to others.

There is no fatted calf waiting for the Prodigal, this I have learned in spades. There is no way back to the life I had once. All that awaits is resentment and suspicion. To jettison that which people hold dear is the ultimate betrayal. Yet did not Siddhartha also leave the palace and Thoreau, did he not say;

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

Well what do you do when you have left the palace and wandered in the woods? What next?

As sure as sixpence you belong among the madding crowd even less.

This is not my first brush with death, that happened when I was 11. I never felt his breath on my neck this time, I heard his footsteps down the corridor but I wasn’t yet in his diary. He had an appointment elsewhere and had to dash. No doubt we will meet again some day.

So I am in a sort of limbo, an in between state. It is all rather odd even timeless. There is no real sense of life before the Big C and as yet no sight of a future. There is only now. Each second seems somehow dilated as if the elastic of time has been stretched. I wonder if it will ever ping back or whether it is stuck like this.

I guess I am an even stranger fish than I was before, though looking at me you would not know. My fifty year old vehicle looks much like all the others, you would not know my exhuast is faulty at first sight.

Devoid of ambition, alive and wondering what else lies ahead. What shall I do with the rest of the time on my clock? I sure as hell don’t know today….

Monday the 10th of August

Today is one of those sleepy drowsy days. I am napping on and off. Last night I had a Chinese takeaway and today I am paying the price; a bit glued up down there.

About five weeks since a nice man sliced me open and took out a piece of colon. The sciences of soft wet matter, biology and medicine, have advanced. Half a century ago I would be five weeks closer to the grave. The stricturing tumour would be closing the diameter of my colon and my appetite would be waning. Perhaps it would have broken through the colon wall and into the lymph nodes. After that, well it would probably only be a matter of time. There is a part of me that wonders if I have interfered with karma.

There is a sense of other worldliness to me. I go into town and watch the townsfolk go about their business, urgent on their ‘phones and tutting the children. Snippets of conversation float by and I hear the gripes, the cunning plans and the gossip.

I discussed telling others about this. I live pretty much as a recluse and it seemed a bit odd to contact people out of the blue; “Hi remember me? I just got a cancer diagnosis.” So I haven’t done this (with one exception). Someone emailed me a week ago, I told them and nothing; no reply, no “how are you?”. Another wanted only to argue with me.

In the ether I can sense people with temporal power of varying degree talking about me. {I was not always a recluse}. The gossip goes on. What to do? They may even still be watching me and what I say or do, the sick bastards. Of course this could all be paranoia.

That world, their world is now so very alien to me. It is a case of same planet, different worlds.

That chapter started again over two years ago when I was stupid enough to apply for a job back in technology and science. When will I learn? I can’t undo that nor whatever is in motion now. It will run its course. I opened up Pandora’s box.

Around those campfires, how people like to sit and gossip and those jungle drums, they beat of a jungle night.

Me I am powerless. Here in my hut I regain and do not have any clue what the world will now turn out to be. There is no oracle or scrying glass to foretell and I am not strong enough for a vision quest.

For now I must simply wait and doze.

Since the anaesthetic my dreams have been all over the place and what remained of my memories have faded. This stillness of now, is utter. It is only punctuated by the sound of the farm and the rare passing car.

Now, that is what there is, now and a whole lot of it.

Thursday the 13th of August

We cannot claim that the ally is a moth as we ordinarily know moths. Nonetheless, moths are the heralds of eternity, and because of this they carry on their wings the gold dust of eternity. This is the way in which it has been set up by power.

Today it rains and the sky stomach rumbles, waiting for dinner. The rain ebbs and flows and boy does it feel good. In town and out here, the cold water drops through my linen shirt had me scurrying. To have your hair washed in such a way brings a smile and not a grimace. I love the rain as only a child of the desert can. For I was once scorched there.

This afternoon a gentle tear rolled down my face as I remember the kindness of the two young nurses in the recovery room. I am not used to so much of that.

Last night the ally came and we watched Perseids in the night sky. To lay on the grass and then in the cloud window before the storm, they came. It is good out here, for England that is, not too much light pollution. The skies are not quite so big as those of the Australian desert or the African bush. They are big enough.

When I awoke after five hours surgery in the recovery room, things were a bit of a blur. I was off my face still. I had three cannulae and a catheter, two veins and an artery. There was an arterial pressure transducer and a sleeve. I had two inflating stockings pulsing on my legs. After everyone was gone I was there with the others. I drifted in and out unable to sleep like everyone else. A soft-spoken Czech nurse was looking after me. She sat close doing some paperwork and from time to time we spoke as she gave me more IV morphine. Everyone else seemed to be sleeping. It was a United Nations ward, at least among the staff. We spoke of many things in those wee small hours.

She handed over to a young Kenyan nurse in the morning. And that African alternation in her words had me back in the garden with Spider and Tembo. I was sitting with them playing the stone game as they held court for the young men. I was always allowed to be with them. I passed many an hour there and was more native than the rest of my family. I was back with Maasai witch doctor who offered me a place to stay in his village and for as long as I wanted. That rhythm of life had me. Unless you have experienced it, you will never know the directness. There are words and there is communication beyond words.

She bathed my back and made me do my front. She asked me what I did and I told her. I said that I did not know what to do next. She said that I could write a book. And then she said as if I was stupid and it was very obvious; “You impart knowledge!” . It was almost a command.

When I stood for the physio to check me over I could see the concern in her eyes that I might fall. That nonverbal communication was clear enough. Less than twelve hours after the operation the physio discharged me. A little later I was handed over to the private single room. The young nurse hugged me, kissed me on the cheek and said that my name was now in the prayer box. Prayers would be said for me. I thanked her.

Strange, that I am welling up as I write this. How often it is that acts of kindness from a stranger are profound.

Given how weird the days after the operation were, there is a part of me that wonders if something else happened in theatre, something nobody has mentioned to me. Anaesthesia and meditation do not mix well, I know this from another operation I had. This time it has been a whole different kettle of fish. When I got to the private rooms, the look on the nurse’s faces when they relayed that I had already been discharged by physio was to be beheld. There was a sense of something secret to which I could not put my finger; I was a hot potato.

I don’t feel very spud-u-like today, rather slightly tearful. There is a tenderness in that water and a sadness at what people do to each other. My heart feels full, it is the soft swell of compassion. I wonder when and if people will stop being so silly and nasty to each other. Don’t they realise that time runs like desert sand in the clock of life. Why all this damn posturing?

And now the rain has fallen, there is the sound of a passing car and a puddle; such an evocative call. It is the human swish of life, always in a hurry, never pausing to tarry. The world is in a rush and life is for granted. And there goes another one…..

Patents in Welsh and Key Man Insurance

Back in 2017-2018 I had the notion to submit a patent application in Welsh at the IPO. It is legally possible to do so BUT you also have to do it in English as well, it would get translated. Any strategic advantage of having a largely undecipherable patent was eroded. It was tremendous fun finding all this out and all the Patent Attorneys, from the land of my fathers, were helpful. It was kind of a novel idea to be the first ever patent application in Welsh.

I was tinkering with the idea of doing a start-up. I even founded a shell company “Eigenoptics” and was in discussion with various Photonics Clusters: Berlin, Holland and Brittany. I had an invite to go to a VC event in Berlin and had arranged to meet some people whilst there. I even had my tickets and room booked. People this side of the channel were way more helpful than in blighty.

I started sketching out the components for a business plan. When this happened before the VCs wanted key man insurance for the founders. They wanted about £2million cover if one of us popped our clogs. Because of my previous suicidal ideation my insurance was more expensive, and it was the start of problems with the CEO. He read my health disclosure, back in 2000, which he should not have done.

I had a T3 colon tumour removed in July 2015.

When I asked for quotes for life insurance, I had some interesting responses.

“No way we will insure you this close to your cancer.”

“We will insure you but for £2million cover we want £65,000 per annum. If you make it out to year seven the premium will drop to around £10,000.”

Pretty weird talking to people making bets on you not carking it.

There it was one big fat juicy showstopper.

I pulled out of the VC event and never went to Berlin. I dissolved the company.

Thematically the dreams I published earlier today are linked to what was going on, on the physical plane.

Weird re-visiting that space.

Better do the ashram thing instead.

The Big C Club

I have had rather sparse nocturnal dreaming of late until last night. Last night I dreamed of a former neighbour. He and his wife lived in the big farmhouse and we lived in the farm cottages. Our postal addresses and postcodes were very similar, and we often used to get parcels meant for them.

Back when I was doing private tutoring, I had my cancer diagnosis. It came after / during the exams in 2015 and I had several months off tutoring until the autumn term.  I did not tell my clients that I had had major surgery and it transpired that at least two of them, both women, were also members of the big C club. Around the age of 50 the incidence increases. Part of the reason for me being employed was to help with the emotional fall out of cancer.  One of them was very upfront about cancer and I was able to say, snap. The other was much less so, her hair started falling out and it wasn’t until the following exam season that her son told me what was going on. I offered to talk with them if they wanted to, but they did not take me up.

Not long after my operation I was walking to my quiet spot in a nearby wood. It is / was a spot where I would go to attune and meditate. On the way there I met my neighbour’s wife and her daughter. They both used to route march around the countryside. We stopped to talk, and she asked how I was. I explained to her that I had not long had surgery for cancer. Normally I would have just said not too bad or some such but for whatever reason I told her. At the time it seemed somehow fated.

It turned out that not long after our meeting she had a diagnosis of an advanced and aggressive form of cancer. When the MacMillan nurses came to visit her, they would often knock on our door in error. It was a bit freaky for me to have the MacMillan nurses coming to visit. Once they got into routine, they stopped knocking. I went to her funeral a couple of years later. That again is a bit odd. People knew that I too had been a club member, there was a lot unspoken.

Whilst all of this was going on my father-in-law was dying of prostate cancer. The wife had a lot on her plate… Visiting him in a terminal care hospice was also a little freaky. I did a full Phowa transition ceremony for him and a lesser version for my neighbour.

After his wife died the neighbour sold the big house and moved nearer to his daughters. He would still on occasion drive up, park in the farmyard and take his dog for a walk in the woods. We would meet him occasionally in Café Nero in town. He must have walked those woods for decades.

In the dream last night, I understood him to have passed. So, I will shortly do an Amitabha blessing for him.

Strange and completely out of the blue.

Scope for Next Year

Now that ~1200 pages of Brexit folly have been published the mind turns to the legitimacy of our stay here in France. As far as we can tell we have done all the necessary documentation and we bought the house over two years ago now. This move was partially caused by all the Brexit bollocks in the UK media. But also, it was a simple choice, we could afford a house in France and not in the UK. Certainly, one this size with river frontage in Surrey would be way, way, outside our budget, I would estimate at least ten times what we paid for this. Fingers crossed we shall be able to stay. Things are different here, there is often some well-considered thought process about how things are done, much less show.

I was also getting fed up with all the BS and “Look at Me” in the UK self-promotion. Maybe one day England will realise it is no longer a world power, and Britannia no longer rules the waves. Its handling of the pandemic is not “world beating” either….The tensions in the untied kingdom (Word does not like me calling it untied) have risen thanks to the entitled London-centred universe.

There are two decisions upcoming. The first one is do I pay the ~£150 to get the patent application examined or do I let it lapse. This is not a big one.

The second decision maybe to do with having my pin removed. I’ll have to think a bit more about this one. I am due a cancer follow up colonoscopy in July. So, I don’t really want to be in and out of hospital any more than I need. I will possibly get a general anaesthetic for this, that is how they do them here.

Because of my underlying health conditions, I should be able to have an early vaccination against SARS-CoV-2.

The electrician /plumber is coming in January to quote for our new kitchen. Which means late January and most of February we will be clearing out all the old fitments and sorting out the walls.

The early part of 2021 looks to be DIY. Once spring comes there is always a lot more to do in the garden. We have planted loads of bulbs and are looking forward to them, especially the blue bells. There are loads of daffs for Dewi-Sant. We put some out on the road, a bit less obvious than flying a flag.

The year has a DIY start with some hospital fun in summer…

And that is about it…

The virus numbers here are starting to creep up, so one more confinement / lock down looks to be on the cards…

Which means more click and collect and not leaving the compound…

What Is Next?

The graph below shows the evolution of COVID-19 cases in Japan, it is likely that a similar pattern / shape will pan out in Europe. So, prediction #1 is for a third lockdown maybe February.

We managed to place an order for a fitted kitchen which is due for installation around then. The house is big enough to socially distance and France is trying to keep business ticking over.

Somewhat strangely I measured my blood pressure prior to my three-monthly MOT next week, and it was 116 over 75! Which is not “ideal” for an old git like me, it supposed to be 131 over 87. So, the smoking cessation has had a material and measurable effect on this carcass.

I am due a colonoscopy sometime next year, to check for polyps / cancer. As I understand it, they tend to do these under general here, whereas in the UK one is conscious and can see the whole thing live on TV. They were reticent about giving me a general because of asthma, when they put my hip pin in, I was awake and conscious whilst he drilled away. Isn’t intra spinal fentanyl nice…. I may / may not be awake for this procedure. There was some talk of removal of said pin 18 months out, that would be spring 21. I will then have at least one visit to hospital next year.

Largely depending on how acrimonious or not the Brexit end game becomes, it is likely that we will be allowed to stay here. They have just rather nicely given us health rights for another year. We have sent a kilogram of documents off to the prefecture and we meet by a small margin the minimum income requirement. So probably we will be here this time next year.

I had a weird dream yesterday about The Royal Society and The Royal Institution {where I did my Ph.D. donkey’s years ago}. Both of these are in a very posh part of London. There were also some people from my past in that dream. I was talking about photoelectron spectroscopy to one of them.

This dream was particularly incongruous given that I am living quietly as a pensioner deep in the Breton countryside. My life is DIY, gardening, home brew and cooking. I am trying to do a mango wine, just now. Prediction can only be that things will carry on as normal and 2021 will probably contain gardening, DIY, home brew and cooking. It is unlikely that we will venture out of 22 for the foreseeable future. Oh yeah…We will need to buy a chain saw and a wood store to stock up for next winter. Hopefully, the propane bills will reduce, this is our major expense.

The patent application got published, nothing weird has happened yet. Someone from China had a rather deep look at the blog. Likelihood is therefore that not a lot will happen. I can pay 150 quid to get it examined, sometime in spring.

I’ll speculate that the complacency surrounding how great it is for the UK to go it alone, will be misplaced. There will be at least some unforeseen cockups and the post-divorce relationship with the EU will not be as friendly and as easy as envisaged. There will be rows just as there were during the “marriage”.

The two old geezers fighting it out for the white house, will not reconcile. There is a good chance that the newly elected president might pop his clogs during his term. Oh no…. not another US election to blight the news, endlessly. Yawn.

Yeah, at first pass not a lot will change here. Mind you if I do have the pin removed, I will be incapacitated a bit, surely…blue leg will be back.

The pandemic will continue globally, and the recession will continue to bite, soon printing money won’t be the answer. I hope we don’t get down to fighting over vaccines…It will probably take 5 years or so to get this outbreak under control…

It is pissing down again…the hail is bouncing off the lawn. Time to go on river watch methinks.

Hmnn…

The Long Haul

Humanity now has two new words which transcend nationality and language, covid-19 and coronavirus. They are spoken and written all around the world. At last we all have something in common.

To me it looks like people really don’t know what to do about this current situation and they are trialling various strategies. Because of my underlying health issues, I am in one of the vulnerable subgroups, who might be required to self-isolate, which I am in practise already doing. Here at least for now, the virus density is low, one of the benefits of living in a relatively sparsely populated neck of the woods. I even managed to get my cancer screening done at the local hospital. For a small regional hospital, they have some pretty fancy CT scanners, there is nothing quite like an iodine based, high Z, contrast agent, surging though your veins, a very weird sensation.

When all this kicked off, we watched “I am legend” and various other pandemic / zombie movies. The wife wasn’t overly keen but went along with it. It is useful to visualize “worst case” scenarios. We are in uncharted territory now and heading deeper. On a map it might be written “here be dragons”.  It seems to me that many are clutching at straws and getting data overload. They are looking at very granular data sets and over interpreting stuff, which may have little statistical significance, in the hope that they can use it to justify keeping various sectors open and shutting down others. About once a week I trawl through the data to see what is happening globally, I make my own interpretations. It all points at the long haul. The “whack a mole” strategies, are not really working all that well. Things could go much more “pear shaped”. Hmnn..There could be much more civil unrest and things stateside are looking mightily unstable.

All this is pointing at biting the bullet and installing that wood burner, maybe we need to think a bit more like a “prepper”.

Decision Making or Making Decisions?

A while back someone suggested that there was a need for courses on Decision Making. Somewhat foolishly I agreed to try to draft one. Needless to say this highlighted every single decision in my daily life!

I gave this course, in its initial version, at Cumberland Lodge to some Ph.D. students at the life science / physical sciences interface.

It is a rather grand venue in a royal park. At the time I had just had a basal cell carcinoma surgically removed from my cheek. So I had half a dozen stitches in my face, as if I had been in a confrontation with “Razor Eddie”.

The course is generally applicable

It can be opened as a pdf slide pack at:

Decision Making

Me and My Cancer {Recap}

As part of the process of sifting through my older material I had a sudden realisation, there is very little in that material pertaining to my cancer and it also occurred to me that I have rarely spoken about it to anyone.

Not long after my operation I made an appointment with an adult Asperger’s specialist to have myself tested. It was one thing that I had been putting off for quite a while. My thinking being that I have an uncanny knack of pissing people off by being detailed and frank, best get myself tested. Being a trained psychologist, she asked me if in fact it was not the Asperger’s that I wanted to talk about but the cancer. I was on a mission and very focussed on getting answers. In her opinion based on our interaction it was highly unlikely that I have Asperger’s syndrome, she did think it possible that I might have an unrelenting standards schema. Her assessment was possibly linked to my previous career as an academic at a top and highly competitive university. She was the only person who directly asked me if I needed to talk about it.

When I first started getting symptoms, blood on the toilet paper, I started a lab book to note the timing and severity of symptoms. When I had sufficient data, I went to the general practitioner and he kicked off the timed cancer response protocol. Before long I was in the merry-go-round of hospital appointments which led me first to a sigmoidoscopy and then a full colonoscopy. I met Fleet (enema) and my dear friend Picolax {an industrial grade laxative}.

As is my want I researched the issue thoroughly, it was possible that I had a colon cancer. I like to be prepared. When I research, I am very thorough, I do not just read medical websites I go to the core journals, research, pathology, epidemiology and genetics of stem cells. Possibly I was more up to date on the latest thinking than the clinicians, who do not need that level of detail in order to practise their art. I watched many videos of colonoscopies and could identify the various pathologies. Then I met Lazlo who was the man who first identified my tumour. The day I met him; the hospital had the feeling of some in-house political tension. He was being moved from his job for some younger, perhaps more ambitious person, with better people skills. He said to me that he had done thousands of colonoscopies, unlike these young guns, and had yet to puncture a colon. And sure enough, having had many colonoscopies since, that one was the most comfortable. During it we had a good conversation, me with my accent and him with a slight Hungarian accent.

And there it was on the colonoscopy report, he had taken a biopsy and I got my first ever tattoo. X marks the spot, so to speak. I was very clear. It needed out and fast, should the pathology confirm his visual diagnosis. How then to expedite? It turned out that a mixture of private and public healthcare offered that fastest route to surgery. We met the surgeon and he wanted to have a second look. “Measure twice cut once”; I said. He had done a course on endoscopy at my university, I was a specialist in lasers, optics and data acquisition. Thus, we had a highly technical discussion as he examined me, and he and a colleague confirmed Lazlo’s initial diagnosis and I got my second tattoo. So, from my first visit to the GP, only around four weeks passed until I was on the table. All the while I had the notion that this situation was more challenging for my wife than for me.  My main concern was not death from operation, rather being left with a stoma bag. Given the position of the tumour, this was not likely.

When the pathology came back from Lazlo’s biopsy, the die was cast. In meditation I found the spot where the tumour was in my body and I “sent” destructive and containing energy there as I awaited the day of the knife. Should the tumour break through the colon wall, metastatic disease would result. As it turns out it was an early stage three tumour which was on the point of breaking out. Quite possibly it was caught just in the nick of time.  No chemo for me.

When I went into theatre, I wanted to have a discussion about positive pressure clean rooms with the staff. I had worked on semiconductors and these are produced in clean rooms, the theatre had many similarities. Based on the clinical practice, they knocked me out quite quickly and the next thing I knew I was in recovery plugged into instruments and tubes. It was kind of strange watching the other occupants come to. I then had a very surreal and touching night in which a number of eastern European nurses spoke very kindly with me. I commented that the ward was like the united nations apropos of the nursing staff.

A while later I had a dream like sequence of recall, in which I was floating above the operating table looking down on them operating on me. I had a weak hypothesis that I had died at some stage during the operation, but nobody said anything to me. Or it could simply be that because of my meditation “I” was able to extract myself, temporarily, from the form to take a curiosity driven peek at what was going on.

I was pretty clear that I didn’t want any “poor you” thinking around me as I recuperated. I asked myself if there was anything emotionally eating me alive. The notion being that the cancer was a metaphor for some psychological angst as yet unfaced. I worked on this notion for quite a while visiting any sore spots in my psyche but could not find anything that obvious, nevertheless I did revisit and dissolve further any of these “sensitive” areas.

It soon became obvious that I had joined the big C club and that there were many others in this club who were still walking. I was acting as a tutor to final years high school students and amongst the parents, of a similar age to me, there were other club members, mostly women with breast cancer. My father in law was also a member. I offered to speak with them, should they wish. In fact, part of the reason for my appointment as tutor was to aid the students affected by some of the cancer fall out within the family.

When you read about this stuff in the newspapers, people get the “all clear”. This has never happened to me. What one can say from the epidemiology is that the likelihood of recurrence reduces with time. I am now five years post operation with no evidence of disease and according to the French system this means that I am considered cured. What it really means is that probability of recurrence has reduced by a factor of ten, or some such thing.

Perhaps the freakiest thing was sitting with my father in law in a hospice as he was dying of stage 4 prostate cancer.

My current thinking is that my cancer was karmic, either from previous lives, or this one. Anyway, aside from a slightly flaky digestion I have little physical legacy. I am 38 lymph nodes down and have internal scarring, eating beef is a constipation event.

Hmnn… first pass.