'The gentle care was fantastic' - Richard thanks health service

Richard Wall, from Cromer Community Shed.

Richard Wall, from Cromer Community Shed. - Credit: Supplied by Richard Wall

In his first column for the North Norfolk News, Richard Wall, from Overstrand, talks about a positive experience with the health service, and the latest progress on opening a Men's Shed in Cromer.

I’m sure most of you saw the recent bad news that our mental health trust is still struggling. I believe that the pandemic, with its lockdowns, isolation and general anxiety will have made their workload even higher.

I think its about time we celebrated some really good news, so here goes.

Our GP practice in Cromer does a simple annual 'MOT' on its senior patients and last autumn my blood test showed a slightly elevated PSA level – an indicator of prostate cancer, which one in eight men get.

Richard Wall has praised the care he received from the NHS, including at the NNUH's Colney Centre.

Richard Wall has praised the care he received from the NHS, including at the NNUH's Colney Centre. - Credit: Bill Darnell

Whooosh – the system started in action and I quickly saw the urology consultant in Norwich, had an MRI scan and a whole body bone scans and had over 20 biopsies taken.

My treatment and the gentle care was fantastic, in truth it’s all rather frightening, so this level of kindness and care was a real help. I was offered a face-to-face meeting or a phone chat for my feedback.

The drive to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) from here isn’t much fun, so I went for the phone call.

Most Read

I received the great news that the tumour hadn’t spread to my bones and that it was treatable with hormone therapy - male testosterone feeds these cancers - and radiotherapy. What a relief, so kindly and caringly given.

After a few weeks on the hormone drugs, I saw the oncologist - cancer specialist - in the Colney Centre at NNUH. He fully explained what the treatment would entail and what the potential side effects were.

He answered all the questions that Lesley, my wife and I had – all in this gentle, kind way, with no time limit. A few weeks later I received a pack of information including my timetable of appointments.

People can do all kinds of activities as men's sheds or community sheds, or simply go along for a cuppa and a chat. 

People can do all kinds of activities as men's sheds or community sheds, or simply go along for a cuppa and a chat. - Credit: Archant

The delay is just because they need the hormone treatment to shrink the tumour before the radiotherapy.

I am now 80pc through my radiotherapy and everyone at the Colney Centre has continued to treat me, and the other patients, in the same patient, kind and gentle way giving them as much dignity as possible, all delivered with perfect professionalism.

My first treatment was a bit of a Brian Rix farce. In order to keep other organs out of the way of the radiation beam, I have to achieve a completely full bladder and an empty bowel, but I was so nervous that I was full of wind.

They just gently advise me how to do this without emptying my bladder and let me rejoin the queue when I was ready.

Prostate Cancer UK say that it can start as young as 45, but most start after the age of 65. If you are a male in this age group and are not being tested, I urge you to speak to your doctor’s surgery, as a simple blood test can give an early diagnosis and save your life.

A scene from North Lodge Park, Cromer, which Mr Wall hopes will become a permanent home for the Cromer Community Shed. 

A scene from North Lodge Park, Cromer, which Mr Wall hopes will become a permanent home for the Cromer Community Shed. - Credit: ANTONY KELLY

I know that waiting lists are a major problem and share everyone’s frustration at the government’s dithering, when it’s obvious that only extra resources (people and equipment) are needed, but, I can report that the care for life-threatening conditions it is doing such a magnificent job.

The next bit of good news is in Cromer. Many of you will know about the Men’s Shed movement, but for those who don’t, let me explain. There are some elderly people who complain about being isolated and lonely, but resist all attempts to help them.

Over 20 years ago the Australians found that if you set up a workshop where people can go to potter, making and mending things, a lot of the people needing help would go along and enjoy it whilst drinking tea or coffee, chatting to other people and start to make friends. Problem solved – and at a bargain cost.

I’m chair of Cromer Community Shed, part of the Men’s Shed movement, but with a name to show it’s open to all and we are very close to opening 'for business' after 18 months of hard graft.

The wonderful Cromer charity, About with Friends (they teach school leavers with learning difficulties practical skills to help them find jobs) are letting us their woodworking workshop when they aren’t.

Almost the last thing to be done is to produce a system of safe behaviour which matches theirs – and I’ve almost finished writing it between my appointments. We will do our best to publicise the opening, so lots can come and have a good look round at what’s on offer.

They do say that 'it never rains, but it pours' and the next bit of good news is that the council has approved the bid by the Friends of North Lodge Park to redevelop the area by Overstrand Road – and this includes space for us to build a big Shed – 6x12 metres – as our own base to be used when we need and consider adding different activities like model engineering, etc. Planning permission is being sought.

Such ventures take time and we have estimated it will take about two years to then build and kit out.

This is great, as it gives us plenty of time to learn, at About with Friends, what we really want for the new premises.

I hope you can share some of my excitement, but I need to tell you why I’m so driven and excited. About six years ago, when we lived in Gloucestershire, I had a near fatal fall at home – I fell backwards downstairs onto the tiled hall floor.

After a week, I had stabilised enough to go home, but the skull facture and especially the ribs took many months to heal. I didn’t understand why, but I’d lost all interest in going out and doing anything. Wise Lesley knew what to do and, without explanation, she took me to Cheltenham Men-in-Sheds and said that I would enjoy it – and I did.

After just a few weeks of their gentle, friendly, 'no questions asked' companionship I felt tons better.

I am 'manically' driven to start a shed in Cromer – just to say thank you for the help the Men’s Shed movement gave me.