clare-hill.com The story of Clare Hill's voluntary work adventure in Belize

13/07/2008

Conor

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,BBC,Conor,Lord Ashcroft — Clare Hill @ 10:28 pm

Well, this is a good way to start my day! I am having my breakfast and listening to Radio 4 – not the Today programme – but the World at One – it is  Gardener’s Question Time your time, so I have gone to Listen Again for the latest news. Sean Ley’s familiar tones are in my ears. Good old BBC!

I am going to say a bit about how Conor has been faring over here. As many of you know, he had had a lot of pain and discomfort ever since his ‘minor’ op in early April. The pain was thought of as ‘normal’ for 6 weeks, but when it didn’t show any signs of letting up, and as we approached our departure date, we were getting increasingly concerned. Much ping-ponging between his GP and the consultant’s secretary in the Western General Hospital led to an appointment a week before we left. Thankfully it was with a consultant who had been one of the few medics who was not fazed by Conor’s bladder’s extreme sensitivity reaction post-operatively in April – and knew what to do to stop the spasming. I felt a sense of relief as soon as I saw him. He very quickly went straight to the source – “Ouch, yes that’s it” – and diagnosed chronic inflammatory prostatitis. He thought that it was most unusual, particularly since the beast has been:

·        excised in May 2005 – a TURP

·        grown back to block the urethra 24 hours before radiotherapy was to start in November 2005, when they cut through it again

·        irradiated almost to extinction in November and December 2005

·        found to have regenerated again when they worked on Conor’s remaining sphincter this April, when in effect he had a prostatectomy. (“Lot’s of prostate tissue in there.”) Something tells me that some things just won’t be killed!

(Trouble with prostates is very common in men, but being blokes and to do with willies and things they just don’t seem to talk to one another about it. So as a woman I feel doubly ignorant, and have been on a big learning curve. Not just the cancer, but learning about the difference between ‘ageing’, symptoms of enlarged prostate, typical prostatitis, the cancer, and now this.)

Anyway, this nano-prostate has reared its head again and certainly succeeded in making its presence felt! The consultant reassured us that good old ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic we really should have shares in, would do the trick if taken continuously for 6 weeks – 3 months. So, 3 months’ worth was added to our suitcases – 2 of which were entirely devoted to Conor’s ‘paraphernalia’ as my mother calls it!

Apparently chronic inflammatory prostatitis is different to the other sort of prostatitis in that it is inflammatory. This means that anything which disturbs it can cause an increase in the symptoms. So being here and doing things at the weekends has been challenging to Conor in many ways. More steep and somewhat uncomfortable learning curves.

(‘Normal’ prostatitis is also a chronic condition, is very uncomfortable, highly resistant to antibiotics, very hard to get rid of, and causes a lot of men a lot of trouble.)

For those of us unfamiliar with the little beast, whether because we have a perfectly functioning one or none at all, they are situated around the urethra, and lie against the large bowel. That is why the easiest way to determine what is wrong is by a finger examination exerted about 2 centimetres up the anus. When the area is tender, lots of things cause problems: bowel movements; sitting for any length of time; sitting on hard surfaces or too much exercise such as walking. Another problem is that when it is agitated for any length of time, like all pain, the surrounding area can tense up too, especially the buttocks. There is also referred pain – or is it called deferred pain? I must check. It is when the nervous system in an area gets agitated, so that the pain appears to locate itself anywhere in the region.

Those of you who have ploughed your way through this journal may remember that we went to Caye Caulker on our very first Sunday here. Conor in particular enjoyed being in the sea. After travelling for 24 hours, acclimatising ourselves, jet lag, finding all the bits and pieces we need in Belize, his hind quarters were most uncomfortable. He found that the natural buoyancy of the water relieved the pressure around the pelvic floor, and he frolicked and swam with gusto. Later that night I awoke to the light on and the sound of Conor in the bathroom and drinking loads of water. I went through and there was blood everywhere! He had awoken feeling that his external catheter was blocked and saw a large blood clot. Fortunately it managed to pass, making a big mess in the process, followed by a lot of clotty blood. We knew from previous events that the important thing with clots is to dilute them so that they don’t block the catheter, so that explained the drinking water noise that awoke me. It gave us a big fright, and we did wonder if we were going to have to turn straight round and come home. But after about half an hour things appeared to be OK, and we managed to sleep again.

Since then, which was one week into his ciprofloxacin regime, things have got steadily but minisculey better. It’s an upward graph over all, but with ups and downs along the way. Any time we have done anything ‘too much’ – walking, walking in excessively sticky heat, long bus journeys on very hard seats, oh, and swimming – there has been a set back. Yesterday we got it badly wrong – we bused and walked to a place in the guidebook which had closed down. That led to a bit of an abortive day, following our noses rather unsuccessfully until we turned round and caught the bus for a 3 hour journey home. More often we get it about right now, and by and large it is at last improving. It looks like it will be the three months not six weeks course, but there is hope! And we are both clear that his health comes first and if we need to, we just catch a plane back.

Meanwhile, during the week Conor is successfully working with folk in the UK and other parts of Europe, using Skype. He has purchased a VPN gizmo, which apparently tunnels and fragments the phone signals via the US, which has, as promised, been undetectable by the Belize telemonopoly. They would block it when they spotted it, so I only use Skype on Conor’s computer. Incidentally, it is owned by Lord Ashcroft, the deputy head of the Conservative Party, who is really doing some pretty awful things over here. I am investigating with some other Brits how we can publicise the things more in the UK as this man ought to be more accountable if he is a Member of the House of Lords. It is quite intriguing to discover what the UK is doing in its Commonwealth countries without a by your leave.

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