Getting to the radiotherapy suite at St Thomas’ Hospital is easier if you enter by the car park and go in through a scummy lower ground floor entrance. Walking in, as I’m doing every day now, I pass a long line of smokers, probably mostly doctors. It looks like they’re queuing for a hospital they’ll need in about thirty or forty years. As the writer Kurt Vonnegut Jnr said: ‘Cigarettes are a classy way to commit suicide’.
All of which got me thinking about health. Prostate cancer is the first serious illness I’ve ever had and here’s the weird thing, so far it doesn’t demonstrate symptoms. OK, so I get some side effects from the hormone therapy and I feel achy at times, but that’s probably because I’m 64.
When I was first diagnosed a doctor friend said the best thing I could do was to keep fit and healthy and leave the rest up to the docs. In the year since my diagnosis, I’ve continued to work a full-time job, tried to eat right, go to the gym around three times a week and because we own a dog and not a car I get plenty of incidental exercise. Rusty insists on it. I have a suspicion that the exercise does as much for my head as my body.
While having radiotherapy I’m restricting myself to one cup of coffee and tea a day and no alcohol except on Fridays and Saturdays. But hey, we all make mistakes. Last night, I thought it would be a great idea to go to a jazz club and didn’t roll home till after midnight. Feeling a little tired today. And in case you’re wondering it is possible not to drink alcohol at a jazz club, though there are some states in the US where that’s illegal.
I’ve recently joined two Facebook prostate cancer support groups. One is based in the US, the other in the UK. The members may be thousands of miles apart but often the posts are remarkably similar. There’s mordant dark humour, some despair, but good news too when the right test results come through. Inevitably people are very frightened when they are first diagnosed, I certainly was, hopefully these groups can provide not only information, but comfort too.
Advise is sought and given, but of course we’re not medical professionals; just people telling their stories and offering advice. As I’ve found while chatting with other patients, my story and my treatment differs radically from many others.
These are a broad generalisations, but people posting on the US group seem to question their treatment more frequently and are constantly in search of alternatives. Inevitably some are concerned about the cost of their treatment. Brits are anxious about the cost of hospital parking and tell their stories, in a funny, but sometimes heart-breaking way. There are many supportive wives and partners on board too, and thank goodness for that.
You’ll see from the picture above that I got some new medical supplies today. Suppose it must be some kind of Norwegian health food.