My chest hurts and the news is good and bad
A moving column from one of racing's greatest writers, David Ashforth, published in Saturday's Racing Post newspaper
EARLY November. "Death, where is thy sting?" I can't be certain but I think it might be loitering roughly where my prostate used to be before it was taken out, two years ago.
That's what Dr Peter Jenkins, my oncologist, suspects, which is why a team of radiographers have spent 33 days blasting away with their radiotherapy machine. I'm glad they've stopped. I'd hate to die from loss of blood from my bottom.
The offending cancer cells may be confined to my pelvic area or, after waiting a while to get my hopes up (cancer's like that), suddenly pop up somewhere else and shout, "Cooee! Over here!"
I'm thinking of asking Sporting Index for a quote on life expectancy. Personally, I'd pitch it at about 32-35 months, although maybe that's my fatalistic pessimism. Well-wishers insist I'll live to be 90, in which case perhaps the spread should be 344-352. I'm not sure which would be worse. By then, racing and the bookmakers will be arguing about the 79th levy scheme.
People with serious illnesses are, I think, entitled to deal with them in whatever way suits them best.Some people want to talk about it, some people don't. Some want to know all about their disease, while others prefer not to know.
I've read quite a lot about prostate cancer, even though some of the reading is disheartening. To be honest (there doesn't seem much point in being anything else), you reach a point where you don't feel like reading any more.
Along the way, I've discovered that I'm more comfortable talking about itthan a lot of men are listening, and it's a pity that awareness of prostate cancer lags behind that of breast cancer, where they've done a great job in raising awareness, and money.
Andy Ripley, the charismatic international rugby player who died from prostate cancer in June, worked with the Prostate Cancer Charity to forge partnerships with sporting bodies, including the Professional Cricketers' Association. It makes you think.
Some people with cancer think in terms of fighting a battle with it, which is fine if that helps, but to me it's simply, or not so simply, about the way in which cancer cells develop and behave, a complex and challenging field of study.
You hope that the specialists' imperfect knowledge, tools and techniques can deal with the particular circumstances of your case, if not to cure you then to extend your life.
I don't feel miserable about it (that will probably come later). I'm just one of tens of thousands of people with cancer, many of them in far worse circumstances than me.
When you are 61 and, in the oncology unit at Cheltenham Hospital, see women in their 30s bald from chemotherapy, there are no grounds for self-pity.
Late November. The side-effects of the radiotherapy have worn off, but now my chest hurts and I can barely make it to the Seven Stars, a bar-restaurant I can recommend, in Ledbury.
They send me to Hereford Hospital and put me in a ward for people who can't breathe (I think I glimpsed Trotsky) and stick oxygen up my nose. Remind me not to back any horses with breathing problems.
After various tests, Dr Milestone (rather him than Dr Gravestone) tells me that they've narrowed it down to three options. Either I've got blood clots in my lungs, linked to the cancer, or the cancer's spread to my ribs, or it's a lung infection.
I think of asking if there's a fourth option - a slight cold, perhaps - but, instead, develop a sudden fondnessfor lung infections.
A scan later, Dr Catrin Jones reveals that there's good news and bad. The bad is that I've got extensive blood clots in both lungs. The good is that they've caught them in time (to stop them killing me, I suppose) and are confident that they can treat them effectively. Even so, that Sporting Index spread might need adjusting.
The man in the bed next to me has been paralysed from the chest down for almost 40 years. He has got something to complain about, but doesn't. Some people are remarkable.
Amazingly, we've all got televisions. Last week the Betfair Chase and Becher Chase, this week the Hennessy. By then, I'm offoxygen and waiting for various drugs to make my blood as thin as they'd like it to be, a bit like making porridge, but in reverse. Now, what's running at Kempton?
PS. To labour the point, if you are male and over 50, do ask your doctor about an annual PSA test. As with other cancers, early diagnosis improves the chance of a cure. If you are a woman, don't ask, although you could suggest that your partner does.