‘Tis but a scratch…’ Ciprofloxacin at 34,000 miles

The Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail is a great advert for the never-say-die attitude taken to ridiculous limits. Apart from the fact that the scene is hilarious and brutal – British humour distilled into one scene – it juxtaposes bravery with stupidity in admirable fashion. Visual oxymoronic madness!

Black Knight:“Tis but a scratch.”

Arthur:“A scratch? Your arms off!”

Black Knight:“I’ve had worse.”

As with all Monty Python films, the simplicity of the scripts give rise to long discussions as to greater meanings, and they are manifold. The Life of Brian can be watched numerous times and the meanings become stronger and more pertinent. Terry Jones described it as ‘a celebration of religion’, which has its own meaning and adds to the mix. The Black Knight scene was described by John Cleese as a polemic against the assumption “if you never give up, you can’t possibly lose”, which is flawed, though initially attractive.

By the end of March, I had completed 34,000 miles since starting to run in 1982. Throughout the 36 years it has taken me to reach this distance I have been faced with the Black Knight scenario many times. A younger me would keep running through anything, until disability stopped me. Now, however, after showing signs of fine fitness in mid-March, the ‘kidney infection’ I suffered last October returned to cut me down.

A blood test followed – raised Prostate-Specific Antigens. Bugger! Off to the urologist department of my local hospital. I kept thinking ‘cancer’ and was told ‘Prostatitis…. probably’. A virulent bacterial infection of the selector valve (probably) and to test this theory I was prescribed 2 x 500mg of Ciprofloxacin. Remember that name – it makes me scared. I was to take these for 28 days. After that, IF my PSA had dropped, I would be cured. If not….

I continued running.

A week later I could not run. I looked grey as these antibiotics took effect and I was generally feeling like death. The Reaper Man has a sense of humour, it seems. The first indications I was in trouble was the return of a minor ache in my second toe, right foot, and my right shoulder. I went to a local sports physio and he eased my pain. But, the pain got worse and by Easter my toe was white-hot agony – then my back gave out…

20 days of Ciprofloxacin was the clue. One of the less common side effects is pain in the tendons – over 60s can rupture them if not careful! Ciprofloxacin had found all my old injuries and the inflammation cut me down to a non-running, limping wreck. A call to my urology nurse and she told me, with the support of a consultant, to stop taking the tablets.

A week later I’m back on my feet and a couple of physio sessions has allowed me to resume my run to Alónnisos. Friday 13th April and the pain is nearly gone, but my training will be very basic survival running. I find out if the drugs work by the end of the month… If the prostatitis is gone, brilliant. If my PSA remains high – well, that’s a whole new world for me.

The lessons this month are: always read the side effects of medication; get tested for prostate cancer regularly; always believe that a healthy lifestyle will get you through things easier.

‘Tis but a scratch…’ The Reaper Man now has to catch the Black Knight…