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Sunday, 18 May 2014

The pit, the pendulum and the prostate

So I have good news and bad news, and I'm guessing you want the good news first, though I probably shouldn't, since studies show that most people prefer the bad, as then it's out of the way and things can only get better.

But I remember, even if you don't, that Things Can Only Get Better was New Labour's theme tune in 1997, which just shows how wrong you can be, if you're a cockeyed optimist. Whatever that means. 

So here's the good news first. 

Contrary to expectation, Bridget the digit, the queen of the oohs, was fast, pleasant and efficient in examining my prostate. Going in anyway. She lingered longer than I liked, for reasons we'll come to in a moment. 

Before getting to the nub or bottom-line of the examination I first had to imbibe vast quantities of water and wee them into a bucket which, I discover when I'm sat across a big desk, behind which the white-coated Bridget is comfortably sat, was instrumented.

"This is what normal flow looks like," she says, passing me a couple of charts of flow-rate against time and pointing to the first, which resembles a Poisson distribution with a lambda of about 4. 

"Yours was similar," she says, indicating the second chart. "So it doesn't tell us much and we now need to examine your prostate."

"Who's we?" I say, wondering if six medical students with big fat fingers are hid behind the screen. 

"Me," she says, reaching for the rubber glove. "Drop your trousers, climb on the bed, facing the wall and pull up your knees." 

I do so and ask how long it's going to take. "Two seconds," she says, going in smoothly and painlessly. Then she hits a tender spot and I give a sharp but not unmanly whimper.

"Hmm," she says. Which is the one sound you don't want to hear, with your trousers at your ankles and a finger up your bum. Though I wouldn't be happy with 'Clear the building, there's a bomb!' either, come to think of it.

"Do you mind if I get the doctor to take a look?" she says. 

Yes I mind, but what can you do? "Go ahead," I say and she slips round the screens and confers quietly with her colleague. 

"Mumble, mumble ... maybe he's just a big girl ... mumble, mumble, mumble."

A slim, blonde woman appears, tells me her name is Dr Penrose, inserts her finger gently and feels around. "Is that sore?" she says, pressing lightly in one place.

"Not particularly," I say.

"Pull your trousers up and have a seat," she says.

"The tenderness is unusual," she tells me. "There is a small nodule but you don't obviously have prostate cancer. That would feel rough and hard."

"You don't obviously have prostatitis either," Bridget says. "That would be soft and spongy. So now we'd like to send you for a biopsy, which should rule out anything sinister."

This is a word I always associate with Vincent Price. So I get an instant image of him and his torture implements in The Pit and the Pendulum, which makes me wince.

"That's bad news because I've heard a prostate biopsy is painful," I say, and they exchange a glance that says, "big girl for sure."

"Not really," Bridget says. "Rather like bee stings, they tell us."

"See that is precisely the part of my anatomy I want to be stung by a bee," I say, attempting a little levity.

"Try twelve bees," the doc says, with no trace of a smile, and I wince again.

"There is no alternative?" I ask and they shake their heads. 

"One last question," I say, as I'm leaving the consulting-room. "Which finger does a prostate-poker pick to prod with?"

They both raise the index finger of their right hands, and hold them there.

"No offence intended," I say, raising a finger of my own. "But it felt more like this."

Bill Bailey and Men United

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