"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Sunday, 14 March 2010

One Painful Step For A Man

Actually, that title isn’t entirely accurate, I’m not in very much pain, however, I have got some numbness in a couple of the toes on my right foot. I was told by my lovely other half that I should get it checked out as it could be a sign of diabetes. Diabetes, great, though maybe not a huge surprise when I think about my diet, far too much sugar. Still, loads of people live with diabetes, John Peel had it. It wouldn’t be a lot of fun but I could live with it. I’d have to. And if untreated it can be very nasty. So yes, best to get it checked it out, so a few weeks back I went to the doctors.

When I explained my symptoms’ to the doctor, and following a brief inspection/test of the problem area, I fully expect to hear him talk about diabetes. Well, he did mention it but only to say that it’s only likely to be diabetes if you have the numbness in both feet. I don’t have that so it could be a tumour, something up here (he indicates his head) or maybe something in the spine. Do I have any back problems? No I don’t. Erm, hang on, back up there doc, did you say tumour? In fact he used the word tumour about half a dozen times during my consultation. That was bad enough but the look on his face, well, it wasn’t the comforting look of reassurance I was expecting. It was more of a “dead man walking on the green mile!” kind of look. He mentioned something about nerves and tumours again, there was a sharp intake of breath and he said “I could send you to a neurologist but I don’t know how they’d test for that really. [pause] Do you want to leave it for a bit and see what happens?”

Do I want to leave it, what after you’ve been bandying the word tumour around? “Er, no. I think I’d like to start tests as soon as possible.” So he arranges for an appointment with a neurologist and I make my way home. Tumour. Well, I didn’t see that coming. Somewhat shocked I explained what happened to my partner and we have a cup of tea. Well, I’m British, it’s what we do. Whatever the crisis, however terrible the situation, a cup of tea can only help. Yeah but it’s not a cure for a brain tumour though, is it! Still, it’s more comforting than the doctor was.

After a couple of weeks I have my visit to the neurologist. He didn’t smile much either but at least he didn’t have a look on his face like I wasn’t going to make it to the end of the consultation. He confirmed the numbness and arranged for some more tests involving needles and electricity and an MRI scan. I’ve got all that to look forward to this week then I get the results in a few weeks time. And guess who’s going to give me the test results? That’s right, laughing boy back at my local surgery.

Did I mention that it’s an NHS surgery specialising in homeopathy? That’s not why I go there, it is my local surgery, it’s the one I have to go to but alongside regular, tested medicines they also dish out homeopathic remedies, I can’t bring myself to call them medicines. I think all the doctors there are from Germany or Holland, anyway it’s somewhere where they still use crystals and seaweed and they check your horoscope before they check your blood pressure. Just my luck, I’m scared into thinking I might have a brain tumour by a doctor who worships the wicker man. I thought I would be living on the moon by 2010 not being treated for a terminal illness by being hit on the head with a sheep’s bladder. Beam me up Scotty and have Bones waiting in the transporter room with his tricorder!
Anyway, I don’t want my family worrying unnecessarily so I didn’t tell them anything until this weekend. I’ve been terrified enough for all of us, no point scaring anyone else till I know more myself. The reason I’ve told them now though is that I discovered for myself what it is I have, and it’s certainly not a bloody brain tumour, thank you very much Doctor Placebo.

This is what happened. I woke up at 5am one morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. As you do in the dark of the night I got to imagining the worse and scared myself even more. Later I confide in my lovely other half about being awake half the night and she tells me I’m being silly as it’s almost certainly a neuroma in my foot rather than a tumour in my head and not to worry. I look neuroma up on the internet and find a thing called Morton’s Neuroma which pretty much describes what I have to a tee.

Up to now I’ve been thinking that a best case scenario is that I have diabetes but more likely given the look on the face of Doctor Death and his liberal use of the word tumour I should stick to reading short stories from now on and not bother listening to any long playing records. But Morton’s Neuroma isn’t anywhere near as bad as even my best case scenario and while I’m checking it out online I keep seeing the word “benign”. What a lovely word that now seems. So the end isn’t neigh just yet, although this will only be confirmed when I go through all the tests and scans. However, I’m pretty confident in my self diagnosis, enough to stop being so terrified.

So what is Morton’s Neuroma and how did I get it? Here’s a picture I lifted off the net.
Lovely isn't it? It’s a swelling of a nerve in the foot mostly but not always between the 3rd and 4th toes, I’ve got it between the 2nd and 3rd, trust me to be awkward. It’s quite common and is caused by pressure on the toes or ball of the foot. A lot of middle aged women get it from wearing high heeled shoes. I’ve been wearing nothing but trainers for the last twenty years and I’ve not been drawn into the world of cross dressing so I was at a loss as to how I might have got this particular ailment. Then I noticed that when I’m working at my desk or sitting at the table eating, I naturally put my feet under the chair and tilt my feet up from the back putting weight and pressure, yes you’ve guessed it, in exactly the right place to get a neuroma. I might have been doing this for years and just didn’t realise. You’ve been warned dear reader so make a note of how you sit, and ladies and cross dressers maybe you should save the heels for special occasions.

Anyway, well done the internet, you’ve diagnosed my disorder and dispelled my worries about tumours, hopefully. Then tonight while I was looking for a suitable picture to illustrate my problem I found some more websites and blogs all about it, including some I wish I hadn’t read about the tests I’m about to undergo this week with one blogger describing it as "torture" and really "hurting a lot". So I’m really looking forward to Tuesdays adventures in medical testing. I’ll keep you posted.

Suggested listening: "You Need Feet" By Bernard Bresslaw.


  1. Although to look at it another way, your are a struggling artist who has yet to sell any art. Look at the number of artists who never sell anything when they are alive only for their art to be worth a fortune after their death.

    So lets not discount the benefits of a tumor so quickly. Think about your loved ones, Mr Shellfish.

    Whilst I arrange the visit to Dignitas can you knock of a few dozen paintings and send them to me and perhaps scan a copy of your signature into the computer, just in case.

    I am sure you can see the benefits for us all.

  2. Oh yeah, glad your felling better and it was nothing serious.

  3. Just saw how many people follow your blog and might get the wrong impression of my earlier comment. So just to clear it up I'm Very Glad your felling better and it was nothing serious.

    BTW I can get us flights (one way for you obviously) to Switzerland next month, does that give you enough time to finish an exhibitions worth of stuff, don't worry half finished and drawings still sell.

  4. Well actually dear brother, I’m not feeling better at all, I haven’t had any treatment yet or indeed an official diagnosis. It’s only my own idea from what I’ve got off the internet that I have a touch of the Morton’s. I might be wrong; my medical training is somewhat limited. Anyway, thanks so much for the good wishes. I’ll do my best to knock out a few master pieces before I pass into oblivion, they might yet be worth a bob or two. Keep your fingers crossed, however, what you cross them for I leave up to you. Any oh yeah, good luck with the heart attack.

  5. You probably have as much medical knowledge as the first doctor - Anyway keep painting, just in-case.

    BTW I've heard back from Gunther von Hagens (www.bodyworlds.com) and he is interested in using you in an exhibition. Might be able to get your art shown as well. (lol)

  6. Now now children, behave yourselves.

    Neil - you should know better at your age.....one way flights to Switzerland indeed !! I'm shocked.

    Gary - don't worry, it's probably nothing. ( ....but just incase it isn't, could you hurry up and locate my book ? ) Cheers !