Given the choice between waking up in a hospital’s high dependency unit or a luxury room in a Mid-Wales spa hotel, most people would opt for the latter. Unfortunately – and as it happens fortunately – for me, back in December 2015 I got the former – and never has the phrase “that escalated quickly” been so apt.

On the 17th December 2015, myself and Jude were setting off for a pre-Christmas break. The cats had already been dropped off and now it was the turn of the dogs. Once they were kenneled we’d then head north for a couple of days of RnR! We’d both been tired and stressed over the last few months so a spa break was just the ticket! However, barely 5 minutes after leaving the house I got a phone call from the Doctor’s surgery: “Mr Dale, we have the results of your blood test, please come in today”.

Now you don’t usually get called if tests are fine. This didn’t sound good. I told the receptionist that I was going away for a few days and could I leave seeing The Doctor until after the weekend. The answer was “No”! This didn’t sound good at all!

Not A Muscle Pull Then!

I’d had a blood test the day before (16/12/15) having gone to Doc’s about a pain in my right side. It had niggled for a while, but only recently become painful, so much so that even the touch of a finger tip resulted in pain. I thought it might be a muscle pull from lifting the dog. However, earlier in the week my osteopath had suggested that it could be an angry appendix and to keep an eye on it.

That was on the Monday, and by the Wednesday, the potential angry appendix had grown into a potentially seriously annoyed one. Just to be on the safe side I went to the Doctor and as a precaution they sent me off for a blood test. I convinced myself it was nothing to be concerned about and headed off out that evening for a curry Christmas do with the Camera Club.

Despite only having a couple of drinks the night before, I apparently looked very gray on the Thursday morning. Jude even suggested cancelling our trip. Although I didn’t feel 100%, I did think that a few days off at a spa would help recharge the old batteries.

We never made it to the spa!

A Very Angry Appendix

At 2.30pm, that Thursday, I saw the Doctor and was told that the blood tests had revealed that my inflammation markers were incredibly high. This suggested that my appendix was indeed angry, upset, irate and seriously annoyed. Being so angry, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at it. By now the dogs had been dropped off at the kennels and we headed up to Glangwili A&E, half expecting to make it to the spa hotel albeit a little later than planned.

Around 4pm a surgeon was prodding my abdomen to see if anything hurt. A large tap to the area of my appendix proved to be especially painful and he decided there and then it’d be best to whip it out. “It’s a quick procedure, keyhole surgery, it’ll be quick and simple” he explained. A few other checks occurred at this time – more on them another day.

Even as I was trollied down to theatre at approximately 7.30pm I didn’t concerned – an appendectomy is a standard procedure. In fact I was more worried about Jude as she’d not eaten since lunch time. The spa break had to be cancelled, but after surgery all would be fine, so nowt to worry about other than making sure Jude had eaten. The anesthetist asked me about Christmas and what I liked to drink and then everything faded to black.

That Escalated Quickly

I think I awoke at around 10.30pm and I definitely wasn’t in a luxury spa hotel bed. Jude was at the end of the hospital bed looking more than a tad worried! From what I could make out there was a large computer screen to my left, and I was lying in a crunched up ‘V’ shape. It turns out that I was in the high dependency unit and that the surgeon was at the end of the bed too. He proceeded to explain what had happened.

Apparently my appendix was fine. They’d used keyhole to check it out and surprisingly it was healthy so that meant a bit more exploration was required to discover what was causing the pain. As is they discovered a growth blocking my upper and lower colon and they decided there and then to act – this meant cutting the infected part part out and stitching the colon sections back together. He went on to explain they couldn’t remove something attached to my stomach due to blood vessels or something but the anesthetic made things a bit of a blur.

That was up to the point he mentioned “it might be cancer. We will get things checked urgently as you may need chemotherapy as soon as possible”. The word chemotherapy actually hit me harder that cancer – this had escalated quickly! How the heck had I gone from a “muscle pull” to “appendicitis” to “possible chemo”? At least I now knew why Jude was looking more than a tad worried – and it wasn’t because she’d eaten at the hospital canteen.

Poker Face

The surgeon continued to explain what he’d done! My abdomen had been opened up, operated on and been stapled back together. Apparently staples are better than stitches after surgery. If that’s true then it means that stitches must bloody hurt a lot more than several pieces of metal puncturing your stomach and belly button.

Despite the shock of these revelations, the anesthetic fog and the morphine now coursing through my veins, I did remember asking about the blood test results earlier in the day. The only thing that was a concern was the inflammation markers, everything else was fine including the blood cells. “If it was cancer then surely the blood cells would be an issue”?

The surgeon agreed with this theory – slightly amazed at my calmness and rationale – but didn’t want to commit to anything. In fact his face gave away nothing and as it happened it turns out he should have been a poker player! Despite telling Jude, whilst I was coming around after the op, that there was nothing to worry about, we later discovered that he was actually 90% convinced it was cancer and that was why he made the decision to do as much as possible during the operation.

Thankfully there was another 10% to play with… and the story continues in Part 2!