Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Running out of options

It must now be getting on for twelve months since I noticed in the shower one morning a small bulge on the right-hand side of my ballsac.  I wasn't unduly bothered: it didn't seem to hurt or anything but conscious of the thought that it might be cancerous or something I booked an appointment at the doctor's.

The doc examined me and her diagnosis from this initial consultation was that I had an inguinal scrotal hernia.  She checked and seemed rather pleased when she announced that she was able to do a referral for me to see a specialist and when a week later I got a letter through the post I booked an appointment using the NHS 'choose and book' online.  I believe that theoretically a patient can elect to go more or less anywhere in England, but I was offered a choice of four local venues and since the waiting time (about six weeks I think) was much of a muchness I just picked the nearest - University Hospital Coventry.  

The first hitch was that the Hospital rang me up the day before the appointment to say that I'd been referred to the wrong specialist and I would need to see a urologist instead.  Quite why they waited until the last minute before checking and discovering this has never been properly explained to me.  The guy they now wanted me to see I discovered is a specialist in female bladder incontinence!  While he may have a nice sideline in doing hernias as well, I wasn't filled with confidence and went back asked the doc whether I could pick one of the other choices instead.  The NHS being what it is, it wasn't that simple: a fresh referral was apparently needed with the result that I'd go back to the beginning of the 18-week "guarantee" of treatment which is supposed to be afforded to patients these days.  

Come the late autumn, I saw a very pleasant urologist by the name of Mr Strachan at Warwick Hospital, who checked me over and said he thought I had in fact got a bilateral hernia (one on each side).  I looked and saw what he meant: the groin area on my left did look as if it had a bit of a bulge, whereas the original bulge on the sac had got noticeably bigger.  He said he'd arrange for me to have a consultation with a surgeon there with a view to having a hernia repair operation done on it/them.

It seemed likely that nothing much was going to happen until after Christmas so I I took advantage of the lull to find out a bit more about what all this might entail.  I was quite minded to let well enough alone: I wasn't in any pain or particular discomfort and most of the time I was hardly aware I'd got them.  So when February came and I got to see the surgeon I was given the distinct impression that an operation was a 'done deal' and perhaps rather foolishly went along with it to the extent of actually getting a date booked.

I can't really describe the turmoil I went through except to say that I really didn't want to have it done.  Although everything I read up on told me it was a routine procedure carried out with a high success rate I was just haunted by the prospect of something going wrong and either ending up a vegetable or swapping what by this time had become mild discomfort for constant agonizing pain.  I would burst into tears at the slightest provocation and eventually went back to ask my doctor for a second opinion: was an operation really the only answer?  She persuaded me to simply cancel the date I had booked and fix up another consultation with the surgeon which would give me a chance to ask all the questions I should've asked the first time round and didn't.  It was a huge weight off my mind.  The guy was very nice and seemed to understand my dilemma: I didn't want to end up a statistic but on the other hand neither of us can predict the future.  He agreed that I should go away and think about it and he said he'd be happy to see me again if I changed my mind.

However, letting nature take its course turned out not to be as straightforward as I'd thought.  The hernia has now become massively enlarged to the point where my groin is very noticeably and obviously swollen, and a bit tender, with occasional background abdominal aches and pains.  Standing about for any length of time is becoming virtually impossible and I have to take such frequent rest breaks to sit down or even lie down that it's impinging on my ability to lead anything like a normal life.  Tight jeans are out of the question, even loose-fitting clothes seem to reveal a visible bulge, and it's now got to the point where I've had to start using a dressing pad to protect my scrotum from rubbing a sore patch against my thigh.  And I'm very much aware of the possibility of the hernia becoming strangulated.

The inescapable conclusion from all this was that the balance of the equation was tipping the other way and I was just storing up trouble for myself: consequently I bowed to the inevitable and re-booked to have it operated on I feel I just can't go on as I am.  I'm already having days when I really don't feel much like doing anything, which isn't fair on the people depending on me, nor on myself either for that matter.  So, three weeks tonight, I shall hopefully be starting to recover from keyhole surgery, and with a bit of luck perhaps even wondering what on earth I was making all the fuss about!

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