Friday 24 May 2024

We stand assured

We stand alone

For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. [Bible Hub: Isaiah 50:7 (KJV)]

Some of the challenges we face in life, we almost always face alone; when we receive the news of a terrible diagnosis presenting a dark realisation of existential mortality, the thoughts that run riot in your head are a Babel of incomprehensibility captured in a moment that seems like an eternity.

For me, I can only say that I have been blessed as I hear the prognosis and seek to appreciate the import of what has been said. Then from within wells up a fight, my face is set like a flint, unflinching in adversity and refusing to be defined by the immediate incapacity.

We stand assured

It makes sobriety feel like a curse, all your faculties are engaged, you are in no doubt that you seek a repetition of the situation, you heard right the first time, you do not need a confirmation. However, you seek a place to reflect, the quietude of a lonely moment before embracing the healing succour of slumber.

Indeed, sleep does stop the mind from wandering into the wilderness like a marauding prophet of doom bedecked in anything but the finery of the acceptable, mad beyond any redeeming quality, except to instil fear.

We are saved from the situation and saved from ourselves. We are strengthened with resolve to face adversity and to emerge with stories and testimonies that blow the mind. The spirit that is the engine of our sustenance continues to drive us forward with the clear reasoning that as long as we live, we will live well, thrive, and do good. In that, we know, we shall not be ashamed.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Thought Picnic: We will not be deprived of our memories

I beg to differ

Under the guise of misremembering with the advantage of being caught unawares in the heat of the moment or a discussion, you hear things that on reflection you know for a fact were never the situation when what is being referenced is recalled differently.

Oh, that we had the presence of mind to call out those things before they become the new narrative presented as the truth it never was. You do wonder if you are being taken for a fool or if the recollection is working in the assumption that you must have forgotten the reality that you experienced in full living colour.

How it really happened

The capacity of my memory sometimes amazes me, books and records of the senses in motion left apparently gathering dust in the shelves of the mind, at moments of deep thought and reflection get dusted off and leafed through to pages of an instant relived unmistakably as it is real.

It is against that vivid recollection that some seek a revision of the fact to suit a new narrative and press a point of view that is entirely invalid. If one were to look at this charitably, how we are being lied to and taken for dullards is expressed in their talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Our silence buys peace

The lasting effect of that sometimes-inadvertent deception is distrust and anger, for once again, you are discounted in the equation of things as inconsequential and irrelevant. Your restraint or occasion to the unfortunate absence of mind is taken as agreement and acquiescence. It ultimately comes to my writing to redress the false impression, it matters little whether it is read or not.

What we have been witnesses to, remains an aspect of our participation, that no one thought to ask how we were affected by it lends itself to certain cultural norms that appear to infer that time resolves things and children forget things. Nothing could be further from the truth. We compartmentalise and put things away to save ourselves from trauma, it is a self-preservation mechanism more than anything else.

We saw it all even if we did not offer an opinion then. When they think they have pulled the wool over our eyes, we see through it all, that the perfect is as imperfect as it is given to wilful corruption. What we excuse is for the sake of peace and de-escalation of the confrontational, the day we decide to challenge the presumptions, no one can be prepared for the shock of our clear perceptions.

Thought Picnic: That honour rarely comes

We live for others

We grow and yet we do not grow up in the eyes of some usually out of proximity and familiarity or distance and estrangement. We seem to be caught in the amber of time, fossilised in the peat of an eternal past that has never changed. We are seen in the prism of light that no longer reveals or reflects who we are.

For all the journeys and experiences of life we have acquired, it is meaningless as those who never really journeyed with you through the wildernesses and the triumphs are totally unaware of how you have changed and who you have become. Jesus Christ painted that picture clearly; “A prophet is treated with honour everywhere except in his own hometown, among his relatives, and in his own house.” [You Version: Mark 6:4 (The Passion Translation)]

With achievement and recognition garnered from many endeavours, appreciation and praise greeting you as you navigate the fields of toil away from home, you are to them the boy, the kid, the child, the son, stripped of all standing and respect, reviled and contemned with belittlement and contempt, if you crave it, your disillusionment and disappointment will be great with the pall of disconsolation.

Continue in what you know

Yet, you must stand, if not to be heard, at least not to be stymied in the expression of who you have become. Be unrelenting in the resolve that has brought you the success you have earned through the sprinkled ingredients of example, training, experience, guidance, or even indifference.

The thought I started with as with many of my blogs has been lost in the flow of this snippet of self-appreciation. When you realise how impactful the little you do is to others, it matters less whether your kith and kin acknowledge you. If they eventually do, it is a bonus. If they never do, do not let your goals be defined by those who only see you in the past and have never moved beyond it.

Sunday 19 May 2024

Men's things - V

The aftereffects of the aftermath

I have put it down to the shock the body has felt to the nicking of bits down there with regards to the transperineal prostate biopsy I had on Tuesday. Nary a discomfort, just sometimes one of the awareness of vulnerability more than anything else.

There has been the occasional tinge of pain in the perineum, and the bloody discolouration in the urine continues, but not as much, it is in the clean-up with tissues that I might notice the obviousness. The quantity that is passed during the night has increased slightly, however, besides that, I feel well, and I have returned to doing the things I enjoy.

Amongst men I have discussed this with, there is a knowing, that no one talks about it, but I introduce it with humour that even the ladies might interject with their experiences of childbirth. It brought to mind again my first biopsy almost 15 years ago. A deep biopsy of the fungating tumours in my left foot, that 5 injections of Lidocaine did little to contain the feelings the nerves conveyed to my brain.

Blog - The looming abyss of a deep biopsy (September 2009)

Please take note for yourself

Even during the apparent start of this experience, an advocate has been won, I want to stand before a group of men to make them aware of a few things.

  1. The need to have regular checkups.
  2. Having an appreciation and knowledge of the results of their bloodwork, so they can ask good questions for useful answers.
  3. Understanding when any result is out of range and immediately discussing this with their medical personnel for a pathway to remediation.
  4. Speaking up for yourself regardless of the preponderance of medical expertise around you.
  5. Pressing for the best outcomes whilst always seeking prompt action on the situation.
  6. Follow through with the advice you get along with the additional tests suggested, remembering at the back of your mind that it is your body first before you are their Guinea pig. Seek a second opinion if you need more clarification or are unconvinced of the recommended pathway.
  7. Do not leave anything to chance, act immediately and get full assurances and information about everything, if there is nothing else to be done, schedule your next screening, else, consider your treatment options and stick with the plan.

Blog - Men's things

Blog - Men's things - II

Blog - Men's things - III

Blog - Men's things - IV

Thursday 16 May 2024

Men's things - IV

Men’s showing

The number of ladies who have accosted me and commended my dressing would suggest our womenfolk do appreciate men being well turned out. The refrain I hear quite often as I heard this afternoon was, “I wish men dressed up more like you.”

My fashion; somewhat formal and neat still matters even as the casual and informal have become the trend. The common, while nice, does not stand out or attract notice, as how I have been greeted with compliments over the years. I blushingly thank them and go on my way.

Men’s issues

After my transperineal prostate biopsy on Tuesday, there are quite some people who would have expected me to stay at home yesterday, if not for the rest of the week. Brian, especially, was annoyed with me, when I called him yesterday morning as I boarded the tram. He put it down to stubbornness, a trait I do not recognise in myself, even after much reflection. [Manchester Urology: Transperineal Template Prostate biopsy]

The pain in the perineal area had subsided by Tuesday night, I have felt no further discomfort since then and there has been no further need for analgesics. However, since yesterday afternoon, I have had blood in my urine, an expected side effect of prostate biopsies that could last up to 10 days. This seems to happen in all cases. [The British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS): Transperineal Ultrasound-Guided Biopsies of the Prostate Gland (PDF)]

Then, for up to 6 weeks, one can expect to have blood in the semen, though, it is not supposed to affect one’s partners. The risk of infection with sepsis is lower with the transperineal approach than with the transrectal option. I fortunately do not have any symptoms of the other side effects that occur less frequently with patients.

Men’s things

Having this procedure under local anaesthetic is useful from the fact that your reaction to the nicking activity can prevent damage to the gland and associated organs. Under general anaesthesia, the doctor has no additional guidance beyond the ultrasound probe and their dexterity.

I used a public urinal earlier against my better judgement, a stream of yellow nectar interspersed with splashes of red, then at the end, in the shake out, more red than I could be comfortable with. I waited for the urinal to flush, but it did not clear everything. Someone would have observed my leaving the place and wondered what I had. [Note to self: Use the cubicle, next time.]

How do you throw up your hands and blurt out, "Alright, I had a prostate biopsy 2 days ago and that is one of the side effects?" Then, it might be an activist opportunity to remind menfolk that men’s things need checking up regularly and frequently. Experience can make an unexpected prophet of a cynic.

Blog - Men's things

Blog - Men's things - II

Blog - Men's things - III

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Men's things - III

Gibbering not to the wreck

I suppose it was in a flux of apprehension that I forgot my notes, notepad, and pen as I made for my early consultation. Fortunately, I had printed out the Canadian paper that gave a cautionary note on avoidable biopsies and that was my reference document as I boarded the luxury Uber BMW that dropped me off in the maze of the Manchester Royal Infirmary buildings unsure of where I needed to go, until a nurse gave me directions.

At the reception, I was asked to give a urine sample which might well have been under duress as I waited to see the consultant. He had decided I must have a Transperineal Prostate Biopsy, but I had questions, his approach was quite paternalistic even as he implied there was no pressure to go ahead with the biopsy. It was my decision to make, only if I had the essential data, for that purpose.

Decision time truncated

However, my PSA reading was high, increasing dramatically over a 7-week monitoring, the DRE (Digital Rectal Examination) suggested an enlarged but smooth prostate organ, the next thing I needed to know was the PI-RADS (Prostate Imaging Reporting and Data System) score pertaining to the mpMRI (multiparametric MRI) scan I had, just over two weeks before. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being benign and 5 suggesting cancerous lesions, the assessment was 4. [Radiopaedia: PI-RADS]

With that conclusion, I guess I had no other alternative than to go ahead with the biopsy. No time to waste with that kind of assessment. I opted for the biopsy even as the life-or-death implications dawned on me with the sudden realisation of the loneliness that accompanies decisions like this. Your mortality becomes a smorgasbord of conflicting thoughts, you seek a resolution and a determination, with no time to reflect on the import of the moment.

Let’s do this thing

Soon, I was with the doctor who was to do the biopsy, his computer was acting up, and his pen not inking the paper. I lent him my pen that the receptionist had given me to take notes of the questions and points I needed to assess my understanding of the situation, and he explained through drawings what was to be done.

I still had the option not to go ahead with the biopsy, I asked to see the MRI scan, and he zeroed in on the T2 scan explaining the abnormalities on one side that presented the need for a biopsy. [Radiopaedia: Prostate MRI - T2 Weighted Imaging explained here.]

Then, I was prepped for the biopsy, I changed from shoes into my slippers and only had to take off my trousers and underwear to wear a hospital tunic gown.

Ouch! And much else

I swallowed 3 antibiotics Ciprofloxacin 250mg tablets and about 15 minutes later, I was invited into the biopsy room. splayed out as if to be examined by an obstetrician in the most vulnerable state in stirrups, a digital inspection, then an ultrasound probe, a cold antiseptic wipe, and an icy cold spray even so painfully close to beyond endurance, a light introduction to discomfort as I looked up at the scenery of a tropical beach, psychology that was good for the imagination, but I felt better closing my eyes.

I grimaced and let out a shriek, once or twice as the local anaesthetic was injected, I was probably given 6 injections.

Again, the ultrasound probe was inserted and then the doctor began taking the biopsies, I felt much unease and on two occasions pain, the biopsy needle sounded like a stapling gun, and that happened about 9 times.

All done for now

I did not feel at all woozy, and when it was done, my blood pressure was taken with what looked like an old mercury sphygmomanometer with a dial and a stethoscope; the memories of the traditional ways flooded back, before I was chaperoned back to the dressing room.

As I left the biopsy room, I was offered tea and biscuits. I had my first urination which was clear, dressed up and filled in a survey. Results in 2 to 3 weeks, an ordeal in some way and probably a lifesaving act of catching something early.

My advice is not to be too coy about men's things, better to be under medical supervision with knowledge of what needs to be done, than leaving it out of fear or machismo.

It may not be a rite of passage, but I was first at the urology department this morning, and then more chairs were set up, it was like the Church of the Prostate Screening, many men come to worship there, in silent contemplation of what life ahead might be. I had humour to offer that made some laugh. God help us all.

Reference

Diagnosis of prostate cancer: the implications and proper utilization of PSA and its variants; indications and use of MRI and biomarkers [Canadian Journal of Urology] February 2020. (PDF)

Blog - Men's things

Blog - Men's things - II

Saturday 11 May 2024

A reflection on delaying instant gratification

The many gigs I overlooked

As I was walking around Manchester last night, I realised that Take That was playing at the AO Arena for 4 nights, having been moved from the unfortunate poor launching of the Coop Live venue in Manchester.

When they launched in 1990, I thought the 5 boys were some of the sexiest boys on the scene, I appreciated them more for their ability to dance and bringing such great energy to their performances. In those early years, they played the gay clubs in London and elsewhere. Indeed, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Anastacia among others have played at these venues too. Gays were probably their first big fans.

I guess I was not too keen on attending overly crowded venues. The music in Heaven and Bang was also too loud, you could hear and feel your eardrums beating, and it became unbearable after a while.

Fixing the issues happily

However, what came to mind was the memory of how I refused monetary reward for helping fix computer problems which even led to greater appreciation and gifts. In Nigeria, as I worked for IT Systems on the ground floor, there were occasions when Deji Sasegbon Publishers upstairs who were in the race to publish the Nigerian Supreme Court Cases would have an issue and ask for an engineer to visit and resolve it.

I would go up, fix the problem in 5 minutes and be on my way when Deji or D-Shash, as he was known to all, would dip in his pocket to give me 50 Naira, which was a quarter of my salary, I refused the offer, waving it aside that the issue was hardly worth anything. This happened a few times and I think he took my gesture to heart.

I left IT Systems to go into self-employment that everyone around me thought was crazy, yet, I was comfortably earning 10 times my salary from IT Systems, just teaching people about computers and even so, desktop publishing.

The result of delaying gratification

Before long, word got around about this desktop publishing whiz kid and Deji invited me for a conversation about being a desktop publishing consultant for his firm. His offer was broad and generous, not offering employment, flexible hours, attending a few days in the week, guiding, and teaching his team, whilst taking on some projects. The remuneration was a stipend and my ticket to the UK was paid for, whenever I was ready to travel.

The stint got me a few other jobs along with a directorial partnership with a legal firm that veered into desktop publishing from traditional printing, we called the outfit NextStep Limited, and I had 30% of the firm. I made my first visit to the UK in a while under the auspices of our firm to acquire equipment and software for our fledgling firm. Sadly, our venture did not last because my partner was not accustomed to the personality and confidence of a self-assured young man. I got on better with Deji, in all respects.

After returning from my business trip to the UK, I began to plan for my return as I saw opportunities to thrive and succeed, despite the odds and the impressions others had for my lowly academic qualifications despite my rather advanced computing skills.

Free tickets as great reward

In any case, I found myself fixing what in my view were minor computing problems for friends and acquaintances, never taking money from them because I felt those issues were insignificant. This laid up store for other rewards. Two tickets for Micheal Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire, and Bryan Adams, amongst many along with tickets for innumerable West End shows, none of which I could normally afford, but I would receive as gratitude for my help.

Then there were gifts and presents, even offers to spend as long as I wanted at villas by the sea that I never took up because I did not appreciate the value of such gestures. I know better now. It made me reflect on how delaying instant gratification does lay in a store a greater reward from the appreciative and many never forgot to extend that generosity at any opportunity they found to so do.

Life matters more than work

Invariably, while money does matter, it is not everything. It informs why I have preferred working in Europe where we have workers’ rights baked into any contractual agreement including the right to holiday and much more. I appreciate that Americans might earn a lot more for the kind of work I do, but none of them can take up to 10 weeks off a year and still have enough for the enjoyment of a work-life balance that emphasises life helping work be more productive.

Building goodwill helps networking and references that make for the essential connections in work and life. I am thankful that what I have gained from many of these relationships has been worth more than money can buy. Cultivate relationships over remuneration, and the rewards will always follow.