Dodging cancer

Finally, the side effects are starting to fade away. It had been 18 months since my last hormone therapy shot and the hot flashes have almost completely disappeared. Body hair is now returning and so, too, is my libido.

All welcome events, but what would that mean for my PSA level? The consultation with the cancer center was due in a few days, and already the stats angst was starting to build.

Evidence the treatment was working

When the side effects were in full swing, I used to comfort myself that even though they were unpleasant they were evidence the treatment was working, and hot flashes seemed a relatively small price to pay when it comes to dodging cancer.

Testosterone is like catnip to cancer, and the main purpose of undergoing HT is to reduce its presence in the body to virtually nothing. This makes for unpleasant side effects but means the cancer has nothing to feed on.

Read on…

Pausing or Quitting Prostate Cancer Treatment

How do you know when it might be right to pause your cancer treatment? And an even bigger question to follow: How do you know when it’s time to quit treatment altogether? Before I continue, let me just say for those whom this might concern, I’m not about to be packed off on a one-way trip to a hospice; well, not anytime soon, I hope.

Considering pausing treatment

Pausing cancer treatment has been on my mind. As of my writing this, there’s nothing to pause, as I’m currently not undergoing any therapy. Soon I’ll be having my next PSA test, which rolls around every six months. For around the last 18 months, my PSA has stood at a highly desirable 0.03 and long may it remain that way.

The reason mildly-anxious thoughts have been occupying my mind is that my last hormone injection was way back in August 2020, and little by little the side effects have started to depart. My interest in sex is back, the hot flashes have gone, and something like normal life is starting to return. And you know what? I like it!

Read on…

Side Effects Sidelined

The treatment has stopped, now when are the side-effects going to quit?

It was a question I was constantly asking and now, as I have a little inside information, it’s a question people are starting to ask me. You may well recognize it: “When are the side effects going to stop?” “Side effects” is often preceded by a punchy Anglo-Saxon verb that’s unlikely to get past the diligent editors of this website. It’s often a heartfelt question, sometime almost a plea.

For the absence of doubt, the side effects I’m referring to are of course related to prostate cancer, which are brought on by the medical profession’s prodigious use of hormone and radiotherapy. As everyone reading this will know, they are used to shrink the tumors that may be lurking in our prostate and beyond.

Hormone therapy side effects

My experiences with these two regimes are clearly not as bad as some patients I’ve read about here and elsewhere. I’ve just dug out the paperwork I was handed prior to starting hormone therapy, and the potential side effects cover two pages of A4.

Read on…

Calling time

It’s annoying when they don’t call on time. Yesterday, at 4pm, I was expecting my six monthly check up call from the oncology department at Guys. A week ago, my blood had been drawn at the Cancer Centre to check my PSA level. Having been off any form of treatment for 18 months, was my PSA set to rise?

Following three years of hormone therapy and two months of radiotherapy my PSA had stood for more than a year at a highly acceptable 0.02. My prostate cancer was barely detectable. At 3.55 I was in a mildly anxious state waiting to find out my fate. By 4.40 no one had called so I took the dog out for a stroll to alleviate the stress.

Walking up the road, the phone goes, and I duck into a side road pulling Bucket after me to find out the latest instalment of Jim’s cancer capers. In short, the news is good. My PSA has increased, a small amount, and now stands at 0.23. The lady from the Cancer Centre described this figure as ‘magnificent’ which rather surprised me but hey, I now have magnificent cancer or rather lack of cancer. At diagnosis my PSA was 5.03.

This time they also measured my testosterone level which is not something I’d had done before. The hormone therapy reduces testosterone in men to something like zero which as you can imagine produces some irritating side effects. (hot flushes and loss of libido etc.) Testosterone is like catnip to cancer, hence the need to irradicate it for a while.

My testosterone level is now a plucky 18.6 which meant absolutely nothing to me until I learnt that in men the range is generally somewhere between 9 and 30. Of course I’ve no idea what my level was prior to my treatment but it seems to be in a relatively good place.

The brutal reality is that my PSA level will probably continue to rise, but it’s impossible to say how far and how fast. Once it hits 2.0 some of the dreary treatments may have to recommence but now, I have another six months until my next call and I’ll be putting cancer to the back of my mind. It’s something I’ve become rather good at. But next time Cancer Care at Guy’s, can you please respect the calling time.

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…

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.

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 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…