For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life. For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 51 years old and in October 2011 I had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring. In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9, in 2013 my test was 4.0, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0 . My latest PSA test in February 2015 it was up to 5.5 an increase but according to my Doctor nothing to worry about, in other words the downward trend has slightly reverseed. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?
I wasn't expecting another update to this Cancer Blog series any time soon. I'd vented my spleen about how the government was starving the NHS of cash and how this was affecting patient care. I am awaiting an appointment for yet another prostate biopsy. So what could possibly go wrong......
I've not been too happy a bunny of late. I am in some ways lucky to be blessed with a partner who cares abot me. Despite having to put up with my humps, grumps, sulks and mood swings, for reasons I've never quite fathomed, she puts up with me. More than that, she tries her best to keep me happy. I am a man of few pleasures. I love music, football, wine, beer and good food. We eat out regularly, so what to do to cheer me up and raise my spirits. Well there is one other thing I quite enjoy, which de-stresses me. I regularly have massages. Now this usually elicits a snigger, but no, I am not interested in "Happy endings". I want to relax and have my many aches and pains eased. I go at least every other week and it helps.
We have our 20th wedding anniversary coming up soon. My good lady thought it might be nice to have a special day together. Being one to watch the pennies, she hunted out a rather good deal. The Holiday Inn at Kings Cross was doing a Luxury Spa package for two people for £66 including a treatment. Her plan was for us to have a nice relaxing massage, relax in the spa and then got for a pleasant meal in Exmouth Market. What could possibly go wrong?
Now as I said, I regularly have a massage. When I had my cancer diagnosis in 2011, I asked my consultant if this was a problem. His answer "You have a tiny amount of non aggressive cancerous material in your prostate, the relaxation will be beneficial". So I thought no more about it. Most reputable massage therapists will give you a health consultation form. I am always honest on this. I am usually asked about the condition. I usually explain that it is a tiny mass and I am simply on active surveillance and that is the end of the matter. I explain that massage has been recommended to assist in relaxation. Some therapists ask me to sign a personal waiver, saying that if the massage kills me, it is not their fault. I always sign these happily, as I am an adult, can make decisions and have discussed it with my doctor.
So today we turn up at the Holiday Inn in Kings Cross, having travelled to the hotel in rush hour. As usual, we get presented with a "medical form" and fill it in. We are shown in for our massage. Next thing, the therapist and the manager of the Spa come in and tell me I cannot have a massage as I have cancer. I was gobsmacked. So I asked why? "Company Policy". What, I asked? I have a massage every couple of weeks, I've a tiny amount of cancerous material and I am on active surveillance. I am an adult and I have discussed the risks with my doctor, who recommended massage for relaxation and de-stressing. I will sign a waiver. No I am told, I cannot have a massage and that is that.
I simply could not believe what I was hearing. I am an adult. If they want me to sign a waiver saying I've discussed it with them and my GP and my consultant, I will, because I have. But the hotel will not budge. So I ask them, if it is a policy, why is there no warning on the website? Why were we not told in advance. Why do I find out now, when we are here? We have travelled to central London for a massage and now I am being kicked out. I inform the manageress that it is our 20th wedding anniversary and she is ruining it. She says "I will buy you a glass of champagne and a piece of cake whilst your wife has a massage". I am speechless. Alcohol and cake is not exactly healthy. I can have those, but not a massage.
I suggest that they look up what active surveillance means on the NHS website and what localised Prostate cancer is. They refused to bother looking at the relevant information explaining how my stage and condition is something which most people have and don't realise. I pointed out that massage is actually recommended for stress relief for people with early satge Prostate cancer. I was told that I could come back if I got a Doctors letter (which usually costs £25).
I then informed them that as a cancer sufferer I am legally protected against discrimination. The Prostate Cancer UK website says
If you have prostate cancer then the Equality Act 2010 covers you. The Equality Act is a law that protects anyone who has, or has had, a disability - cancer is classed as a disability under this law. Even if you no longer have cancer, you are still protected against discrimination.
But sadly they didn't want to know. They said that I was being ridiculous as I clearly wasn't disabled! By this stage I was getting quite irate. So much for a nice relaxing experience with my wife for our anniversary. There are plenty of people with a far worse disability them me, so I suppose I am blessed in some ways. But the truth is that today I was a victim of an act of illegal discrimintation for a disabling condition. The company applied a policy which refused me a service I could quite reasonably expect, with no sound scientific reason to withhold.
Holiday Inn are a large chain and there is no excuse that they do not have the resources to manage such situations. The department I was dealing with was their "health club", but the "health club" clearly has no issue with people with health issues. A multi national company operating a facility purporting to be a "health club" cannot, in this day and age, say people who are not healthy are not welcome here.
I am pleased to report that my wife had a nice massage and in the circumstances, both her and my session costs were refunded. We had a very pleasant meal, but I am seething. A supposedly special day has been ruined and I was made to feel like a second class citizen. Whilst I should be in a chilled out and happy mood, I am sitting here bashing out a blog in a state of high agitation.
As I said to Holiday Inn, it is not reasonable to employ a blanket ban on people with cancer from having massages, regardless of stage or condition. In my case, there is no earthly reason to refuse the service and I'd happily sign a waiver. The manageress said "we don't let under 16 year olds have massages either". To me this was highly insulting, implying I am not an adult capapble of making decisions. I could drink myself into a stupor in their bar, but I can't have something in the health club, which would be beneficial.
I adjourned to the bar. When the good lady had finished she had a word with them. The manageress had clearly been doing her homework. She showed her a page on the MacMillan website saying that massage therapists treating cancer patients need to be trained. Clearly she missed the point. Firstly I am early stage and asymptomatic, no special treatment is needed. Secondly. surely here therapists should be trained anyway? If they are worried about legal implications, get a legal waiver signed.
My final comment is this. If this is the attitude Holiday Inn have towards people who are to all intents and purposes healthy, God help those who are unlucky enough to actually have something physically wrong with them.