He grunts. More like groans. Deep and guttural, like a predator breastfeeding its young ones. His large head is bowed down, scribbling something in that bad handwriting of theirs. You squirm in your seat and stare at his scalp; he has gone completely bald in the middle. Shards of warm mid-morning light washes in from the large window. Mozart, Beethoven or whatever classic thing is playing from his laptop; weird, soothing music.
As if reading your mind, he suddenly looks up, “I hope the music isn’t too intrusive?”
– No, no, the music is just fine.
More grunts. A small frail-looking bird with a jaundiced beak perches to the windowpane and cocks her small head inside the room. The two of you engage in a staring contest, which she eventually loses and flies away.
“It’s a great thing you have done, coming here,” he leans back in his chair, which groans unappreciatively. “Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men- only skin cancer rates are higher. In fact, one out of six men will likely receive a prostate cancer diagnosis sometime in their lives. This, my friend, is the highest killer of men as far as cancer goes. So it’s a great thing you have done coming here because if you catch it early enough, that is before the cells spread past your prostate, your chance of surviving the next 5 years is 100 percent.”
He rummages for something in his drawer, a pack of lozenges, tears it open and pops it in his mouth. We sit in silence, Mozart filling up the room. The frail bird suddenly comes back, no, it’s her pal. I suspect she went and spread the word that there was a patient who doesn’t lose eyeballing contest. This one has a black beak. Unimpressed, you look away.
“I suppose you have read up on this?” he asks.
– Yes, I have, over time, but nothing too extensive, I’m afraid.
“Good…good,” he mumbles, then from one of the shelves, he reaches for a plastic model of an ass, like the anatomy of an ass. With his fingers he points, “This, here, my friend, is the prostate gland, cancer is when malignant cells grow in- ”
And you drift off. You are suddenly scared. Scared of the prostate exam because he will have to use his finger. Scared because you have never had a finger up your anus before, leave alone another man’s finger. Of course there was always that odd freaky ex who suddenly put a finger in there during the migwatos and you had jumped up bewildered, “What the hell is that all about, Flora!!” And she had laughed, “Come don’t be so stiff, you will like it, everybody likes it!” And you had said rather too defensively, “Hell no, I don’t! Please don’t…don’t put anything in there!” Then she had laughed and prod your ribs playfully, “You are such a choir-boy!”
But now you are in this room with this ageing doctor with sagging eyes and you suddenly realise that perhaps this wasn’t a good idea. This prostate examination that doctors recommend for men in their 40’s. “Your prostate is a walnut-sized gland tucked away under your bladder and in front of your rectum,” he’s pointing at his dummy, “It’s the part of your reproductive system that propels- ”
You suddenly notice, with alarm, how thick his fingers are. I mean, if Flora’s finger freaked you out like that, this finger will certainly get you pregnant! You study his nails. They are kind of long. What if they poke through the gloves and severe an artery in your rectum and you bleed to death in that room? Will he be fingered for malpractice? You wonder.
Then with even more apprehension you ask yourself, OK, what if I end up liking it? There are tales of men going for prostate examination and getting aroused. What does that mean? Wait, do you even want to know what that means? And what if that experience stays in your mind long after you have gone home? In traffic? As you buy juice? As you shower? What if you won’t be able to think about anything but how it felt? Does that suddenly change your sexuality? Will you be able to look at another finger and wonder?
My goodness, what if Flora was right?
“Around age 40, your prostate starts to troubleshoot. Androgens, male hormones produced in the testicles, cause the gland to grow. This growth isn’t always a cancer diagnosis, though…” the doctor is saying, then he looks up at you with concern and asks, “Are you OK, my friend?”
– Yes, yes…I’m fine, I’m OK… you croak, avoiding “eye-contact” with his finger.
“Because you are sweating, you want a glass of water?”
– Yes, please, that would be nice.
He gets up from his chair, which sighs with relief, and shuffles – in his socks- to the water dispenser across the room, whistling merrily under his breath. Ageing doctors are always whistling. “Cold or warm?” he asks over his shoulder.
“So anyway, sometimes, your prostate cells swell and it just pushes on your urethra—the tube that carries the urine out of your body from the bladder –“ and you drift off again.
I mean, you think after he has placed a finger in your rectum and you walk outside this building, will people notice that there is something off with you? Would people in the streets stare you suspiciously, as if they know? Will you walk funny after? Isn’t there another way of checking the prostate? I don’t know can’t they like X-ray the damned prostate or something? Do they have to place a finger in?
Also, shouldn’t the medical practitioners’ board or somebody who actually cares, stipulate the size of the finger that is allowed to test the prostate? I mean, there are doctors out there with mutura fingers, ugly things that look like they were half-chewed by a camel. Should the bearer of these fingers be allowed to use them for these examinations? Isn’t that in direct violation of some medical professional code?
Is there a doctor in the house?
“Do you have any questions before we proceed?” he is asking. You snap back and wish he would stop referring to you as “my friend.”
– No, no questions.
“Okay then, shall we?” he says and suddenly your heart starts hammering away.
“Uhm, can’t we just talk…first, I mean…for a minute…” You say in a small voice and suddenly you are aware how you must sound like a chick. You know, those chicks who say, “Can’t we just cuddle today and talk?”
Last month men grew their moustaches (those lucky to have one) to mark Movember, an annual event meant to raise awareness on men’s health issues such as prostate cancer. It’s actually simple, if you have turned 40 and you want to live prostate cancer-free life you just have to go face the finger.
As part of my good deed for the day I decided to get more information about this prostate cancer biashara because one day I will be 40 and I will go through this finger business.
I went to AAR Health Center, the one at Diamond Plaza, 3rd Floor because they are now open to the general public, as in, you don’t need to be a card-holder, you just walk in. Plus they have employed these hip, smart young doctors, chaps who don’t listen to Mozart.
I found a pretty young doctor. Or is that a young pretty doctor? I think it’s a young pretty doctor. Her name tag read “Dr Sally Wanjohi, Doctor,” which prompted me to ask, “Why do they repeat the “doctor” after your name when they have already mentioned the title?” She laughed and said, she asked the HR the same thing. I think HR needs to give us answers. HR, are you reading this?
Anyway, you will be glad to know that Dr Sally Wanjohi,-Doctor has short slim fingers. I asked her many questions like; how many men’s prostate she had touched last month (50) and how long the examination takes (one minute, three minutes if you cry and squirm and they have to call the nurse in to help hold you down) and if it hurts (no) and if it’s normal for men to get aroused during the exercise (some do) and how she feels about that (it’s a job) and if there are patients who ask her out after they have been examined (some wait a few weeks to let the dust settle) and what her boyfriend thinks about that (hard stare) and how much it costs to have an examination (2,200bob plus 1,500 consultation) and if they do any other tests, (blood work, yes) how long results take (one day) and if after examining male anatomy she can still go down to Diamond Plaza for lunch and eat a sharwama (sigh).
Then I asked Dr Sally Wanjohi- Doctor if there are any special preparations one needs before coming for the test.
“None,” she said.
“So I don’t, like, have to avoid roughage and stuff the night before?”
“Do I need to pee, before?”
“What about men with hairy asses, surely you would ask them to shave first to make your work easier, yes? I mean, people have to be considerate, you doctors are always human…yes?”
“Haha, you are mad,”
“By the way, what if one coughs when the finger is in?”
“Well, it only lastly a minute, so I’m sure one can hold a cough…”
“No, but sometimes you just have to cough, or sneeze…then what?”
“It’s never happened to me before…”
“OK but what if you have to cough when you are in the middle – no pun, of the examination?”
“Biko…I really have to see the next patient now…”
And with that Dr Sally Wanjohi- Doctor stood up with a polite smile. I asked for a parting shot and she said, “It’s not a big deal really, it lasts only a minute, it’s painless and I will be gentle. In fact, the only thing one needs to do is wear clean underwear, if possible.”
You heard the doctor. Go get tested, gentlemen. And wear clean underwear.
In the meantime, HR, we are waiting.