The doctor said, ‘Will you still be around in six months? I can’t say you won’t be’

It was all going so well, at least given my COPD. And then a shadow showed up on my right lung

Paddy Murray.

Paddy Murray.

 

It was all going so well. That is to say it was all going so well in the context of having stage-four chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and being immunocompromised after a bone-marrow transplant and having a few other ailments that in the bigger picture are relatively minor.

I had a chest infection that, despite a few courses of different antibiotics, wouldn’t shift.

When I attended a routine outpatient check at St James’s my respiratory consultant sent me for an X-ray. And it was that which first showed up a shadow on my right lung.

The thing about my kind of anxiety is that I worry about what might happen, but once it happens I tend to suck it up and deal with it. And it will be the same with this growth

I was admitted to the hospital a few days later so that I could receive intravenous antibiotics to treat my infection. But my discharge was delayed for a few hours because my consultant wanted me to have a CT scan, and, although I had hoped to head home at lunchtime, the scan was arranged for a few hours later.

I’ve had scans before, so I wasn’t that worried.

Only this time I got a call a few days later asking me to return to the hospital because my consultant wanted to see me. He told me the scan confirmed the “shadow” on my right lung, and for the first time the word “growth” was used. It didn’t have to be spelled out to me. I know what that means.

That just added to my worries, which were already intense due to the COPD.

But it’s not all bad. A month later another X-ray showed that this growth was more or less stable. That is to say, it isn’t growing exponentially.

And it hasn’t had any noticeable effect on my already dodgy breathing.

What it has done, though, is make me even more cautious than I already was. And more anxious.

I inherited anxiety from my mother, and, well, this news has made me worry even more. That’s not to say that I’m in any way negative. I’m still looking forward, still making plans even if I’m even less sure now of sitting in the Olympia in December to see The Stunning.

The thing about my particular kind of anxiety is that I worry about what might happen, but once it happens I tend to suck it up and deal with it. And it will be the same with this “growth”.

Offering a prognosis is not something doctors, at least those I know, are fond of doing. It is an inexact science. But I nudged my consultant towards one

My doctors know me well. And they know that it’s pointless – excuse my language, but I don’t think there’s a more appropriate word – bullshitting about my condition. So last week, when we discovered that the growth hasn’t grown, so to speak, I asked my doctor about a prognosis.

Offering a prognosis is not something doctors, at least those I know, are fond of doing. It is an inexact science. But I nudged my consultant towards one, and after a little bit of thought he said: “If you were to ask me if you will still be around in six months I can’t say you won’t be.”

And then there’s Covid. I think it has dawned on people that even vaccination doesn’t offer complete immunity. A small number of those diagnosed with Covid every day are fully vaccinated.

It seems, though, that when they become infected the vaccine protects them from the worst excesses Covid can bring.

But the state of my lungs, combined with being immunocompromised, leads me to believe that Covid would be pretty serious in my case.

At this stage I’m only a couple of weeks away from the second anniversary of my first “lockdown”. That was October 2019, when an infection landed me in hospital only to be discharged with a warning to, essentially, self- isolate.

Then came Covid.

And while I would much rather be hale and hearty and going to gigs in Whelans or the Academy or wherever, I am so used to going nowhere that it has become routine and just about tolerable.

Meanwhile, my community palliative-care team continues to make my life as pleasant as it can be. That’s what they’re doing. They are not working to make the end of my life as pleasant as it can be, but they are working to make my daily life as pleasant as it can be.

It’s working.

Kind of.

I still don’t think I could drink an entire pint of Guinness, which is disappointing after having practised, as I did, for 50 years.

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