Keeping cancer in its place

It was several years ago now, but I remember an older work colleague telling me he had just been to a close friend’s funeral. I commiserated and he said: “Jim, these days it’s like shucking peas.” He was in his seventies then, and friends were starting to fall away. I’m 67 in a couple of weeks, as of my writing this, and it looks like I’m now on the same trajectory.

A farewell to a friend with prostate cancer

Last Sunday, as of this writing, I attended a farewell and celebration of the life led by my old friend Geoff. He died a couple of weeks earlier at his home in Switzerland, and this was a chance for his UK friends to bid him bon voyage.

Geoff contracted prostate cancer some years back and was treated using High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). This form of treatment uses ultrasound energy to destroy cancer cells in the prostate.

He suggested I investigate HIFU when I, too, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My doctor deemed it would not work for me, but to all intents it appeared to have worked for Geoff. Sadly, he died very quickly from a brain tumor, but there is some thought that the cancer may have been linked to his prostate cancer. Read on…

Do You Talk to Your Cancer?

I was asked an unexpected question the other day: “Do you talk to your cancer?”

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to say, and unclear what sort of answer they were seeking. Given how many questions I get about my cancer, this was refreshingly new, but more of that in a moment.

A difficult guest

The simple answer is no, I don’t talk to the intruder in my prostate, but I do come close. My cancer is certainly a character who right from the get-go I called my Unwelcome Guest. It became the name of my original cancer blog.

Inevitably I mined the term for all its metaphorical worth. So, there was always talk in the blog about the ‘guest’ checking out, and once I was in remission, there was the inevitable fear of him checking back in. At one point I remember talking about cancer as someone who overstays his welcome, leaves the bath taps running, floods your apartment, and brings the ceiling down. I became a bellboy to a nightmare lodger. Read on…

How Can I Shift This Weight When I’m Hungry All the Time?

I’m one of those irritating people who has never had much trouble with their weight. I’ve been tall and skinny all my life. Even when middle age hit and I put on a few pounds, they were easy enough to take off again. So yeah, for a lot of people: Deeply irritating.

When I left school at eighteen, I didn’t exercise at all until I reached thirty, which coincided with the mid-80s when it was all Jane Fonda, aerobics and legwarmers. I’ve never played any competitive sport since leaving school, but I’ve paid regular visits to the gym, though my days of doing aerobics are long gone.

Weight gain after treatment

At the back end of 2017 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the doctors indicated that a prostatectomy would not be a good treatment for me. My cancer was very near my bladder, and one slip of the surgeon’s knife might mean colostomy bangs and all kinds of other horrors.

Instead, I took the hormone and radiotherapy route, which has done what old age and a slowing metabolism failed to do. I’m now hungry most of the time. My “I’m full, I don’t need to eat any more” off switch seems to have been gummed up by the hormone juice, and now I could eat all the time. The pounds have piled on, and my slim 32-inch waist has expanded to something I don’t even want to mention. Read on…

Preen health update

I guess you may occasionally wonder while grooming the dog/mowing the lawn/teasing nits out of your child’s head as to how Jim is doing with all that prostate cancer nonsense. (Before I go on, I should say that if it never passes your mind, I’m fine with that too)

It’s been a year since I came off any treatment and while irritating side effects continue all appears to be going fine as when I last checked I’m not dead yet.

I had a consultation on Wednesday (4.7.21) and was told my PSA was extremely low (0.02) which means that for almost two years I’ve had no evidence of disease. For now at least my Unwelcome Guest has scrammed.

I get my next test and appointment in 6 months. That’s all, you can go back to mashing turnips.

Jim Preen

Every Little Bit Helps

Giving doesn’t have to be big to be great

On the days I’m not working at my job, I’ve been volunteering at various vaccination stations close to where I live. I generally opt for being front-of-house, welcoming people in and logging them into a little handheld computer as they arrive.

I try to keep it friendly and fun, but some folks are quite nervous, so too much good humor is not always appropriate. The weather has been beautiful up to and not including yesterday, as of this writing, when bicycling to my shift the heavens opened, and I got royally soaked. The sun came out later, and we had a line of mostly young people winding round the block waiting for their jab.

Almost without exception they are polite and friendly and sometimes effusively grateful to get their vaccination. Like many others, I have been giving my time for free. We are just small soldiers trying to help find a way out of the pandemic.

Read on...

Can a Hound Help You Through Cancer?

Filling a dog-shaped hole in my life

An old friend of mine, who I met many years ago when we both worked at ABC News, is now a senior spokesperson at the United Nations in New York. I recently saw a picture of him with the UN therapy dog.

In the hallowed halls of the UN, Chloe is famous and has her own Facebook page, and people love it when she goes visiting at their offices. As my friend says with Chloe, there’s no physical distancing required! Chloe is an English bulldog and joined the team in 2017 to much acclaim.

All of which got me thinking about my own rescue dog called Rusty. I rescued her from the local dog pound, and then she repaid the favor and rescued me. Rusty, also known as Bucket, came into our lives in October 2017. A month later I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Good timing Bucket.

Getting Rusty

For years our daughter had been pestering us for a dog, but I’d always said no as city center living didn’t seem right for a pooch. On our holidays that summer I finally weakened, largely because when growing up my parents always had dogs and I’d loved them, particularly a small brown dog called Jenny who was my mother’s favorite. I couldn’t see any reason why that pleasure should be denied to my daughter.

On return from the vacation, we went to the rescue center and asked if they had a small street dog fit for a capital city. We saw three, the first of which was Rusty, who jumped straight on to my wife’s lap and demanded to be pet.

Despite reservations about taking the first dog we saw, Rusty came home. Walking schedules were drawn up, and we set about becoming a four-piece family with Rusty filling a dog-shaped hole in our lives.

Then in November I was told I had prostate cancer. Read On…

Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine

The world is obsessed with vaccines. Well, in truth, it’s those vaccines that will hopefully set us free from COVID and allow us to return to something close to call normal life.

The link between fighting COVID and cancer

At the time of writing, at least 150 million vaccine doses have been administered in the US, and I have received both my Pfizer shots. The Pfizer vaccine was developed in conjunction with the German company BioNTech. BioNTech, a relatively small firm, needed the muscle of pharma giant Pfizer to help run large clinical trials and scale up mass production to meet global demand.

Prior to turning their attention to coronavirus, BioNTech had been working on finding ways to help the immune system tackle cancer. Following the success of their COVID vaccine, the value and profile of the company has grown, increasing its potential ability to have access to resources that will help in their continuing fight against cancer.

Exploring the connection

Interestingly, there is direct cross-over in the research required to beat coronavirus and cancer. In many instances, both use mRNA-based vaccines that enable the immune system to attack a predatory intruder.

Read on…

Let’s Talk About Cancer: Part Three

Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 at the age of sixty-three. In his series, Let’s Talk About Cancer, he shares the challenges of talking about the disease, how it can mess with the mind, and ways it can affect family and friends. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

An upbeat chat about a difficult topic

Walking in the park with my dog Rusty, we met a neighbor taking his dog Monty for a walk. Monty is a fine Border Terrier and he and Rusty get on very well. I knew the neighbor’s wife had contracted breast cancer early last year, but they had gone to live in their country house during lockdown, so I’d heard nothing about her condition.

We are not close friends, but he knows I have prostate cancer, as he reads my blogs. His wife has been through the mill. On four occasions she was scheduled to have surgery, all four were cancelled at the last minute. Now she has been told her cancer has grown so large that an operation is out of the question. Read on…

Let’s Talk About Cancer: Part Two

Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 at the age of sixty-three. In his series, Let’s Talk About Cancer, he shares the challenges of talking about the disease, how it can mess with the mind, and ways it can affect family and friends. Read Part 1.

Keeping it to yourself

I’ve heard of some cancer patients who want to keep their condition completely private to the extent of not even telling their partners. As my wife was with me when I learned about my condition, this was not a conversation I had to have. Actually, it was more the case that I was so shaken I used to litter subsequent conversations asking what the doctor had actually said.

I would just add here – and perhaps this is just because I’m a journalist – but when I see a doctor these days, I always take notes. Of course, you will get a doctor’s report, but I find it handy to keep a record.

On one occasion my PSA level took an unexpected rise, which gave me a severe case of the collywobbles. I forgot to write it down. So later on when I’d calmed down, I was unable to dredge up my score, which got me worrying further. A call to the doc soon set me straight.

Read on…

Let’s talk about cancer: Part one

Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 at the age of sixty-three. In his series, Let’s Talk About Cancer, he shares the challenges of talking about the disease, how it can mess with the mind, and ways it can affect family and friends.

Blitzed and confused after a diagnosis

You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. You feel blitzed, confused, and frankly terrified. Who are you going to tell?

There’s certainly no one answer to that question, and there’s no right answer either. You’re scared and bewildered, and of course we know that if you tell someone you have cancer, then their first thought is going to be: “Oh he’s going to die soon.”

Cancer is a big bag of unwelcome knowledge that you suddenly find yourself hefting on to your shoulders. You may want to turn to family and friends, or you may not. But one thing is certain: it’s tough to turn cancer into small talk.

Read on…