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…

Is Nationwide Prostate Cancer Screening on the Horizon?

As of this writing, it’s now thirty-eight months since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, twenty-eight months since I completed thirty-nine radiotherapy fractions, and six months since my three-year course of hormone therapy injections came to a close.

Last week I spoke to an oncologist about my case and learned the welcome news that my cancer still remains undetectable and has done so for almost eighteen months. My PSA currently stands at 0.03.

Side effects continue

All good news, though unfortunately despite not having had a hormone shot for nearly six months I’m still getting the side effects (hot flashes, lack of the libido), which I had hoped might be making their way out of the door about now. Unfortunately, I may have to put up with them for another year or so as the testosterone starts to make its sluggish way back into my system.

Prostate cancer feeds on testosterone, so as that happens my PSA level will likely rise. If it continues to do so, I could find myself back on treatment and once again riding on the whole unlovely merry-go-round.

Read on…

When will the side effects go away?

Three years ago I had my first hormone jab. Now I’m going cold turkey. My last shot was three months ago, and the course of treatment is complete.

All good, but I want to know if and when the side effects of this hot flashin’, erection robbin’, mood swingin’, bone thinin’ son of a gun are going to disappear.

A big needle with a job to do

As most people reading this will know, Zoladex (my preferred hormonal cocktail) prevents the production of testosterone, which is something prostate cancer loves to feast on.

Zoladex is described as being “administered subcutaneously every 28 days into the anterior abdominal wall below the navel line using an aseptic technique under the supervision of a physician.”1

What Zoladex fails to mention is that it involves a spring-loaded instrument of torture which the Spanish Inquisition would have instantly co-opted as one of their toys, if only Big Pharma had existed in the 16th century. It’s a big needle with a job to do.

Read on

 

Prostate Cancer: It’s A Walk In The Park

In some circles, there’s a sense that prostate cancer is easily treatable and frankly a bit of a walk in the park. Carl told me: The worst thing I hear when telling people I have prostate cancer is when they say: ‘Yes if you’re going to get cancer that’s the one you would choose’. Despite the many effective treatments and survival rates improving even a cursory glance at the relevant statistics should indicate that prostate cancer, like any form of cancer, goes about its business in a brutal manner.

A time to unite and spread awareness

You may have no interest in cancer, but unfortunately, cancer may have an interest in you. All of which brings us to Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. This year the theme is to elevate the voices of those who are living with it together with the voices of partners, families, and friends who are along on the no-joy ride. As ever the driver is to encourage men to get tested so doctors can catch the cancer before it spreads. Read on…

Prostate Cancer is Top of the (Medical) Charts

Just this spring, we got the unwelcome news that prostate cancer is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer here in the UK. Men, we are top of the charts, though admittedly on one of the unlovliest hit parades in the world.

I may be clutching at straws, but there is an upside to this because it means many more men are coming forward to get tested and as we know; catch cancer early and your chances of survival look a whole lot better.

Everyone in the UK over 55 is screened for bowel cancer every two years, but there’s no such screening for prostate cancer because detecting it is so problematic. The PSA test just isn’t accurate enough for national screening.

I’m a case in point, when I was diagnosed with a sizable tumor in my prostate with a Gleason score of 4+3=7, my PSA was still only 5.03 which is barely above normal. We need better tests and right now a lot of work is being put into a pre-biopsy MRI scan. Read on…

Reasons to be cheerful

A heartfelt plea was posted on our Facebook page: Are there any cancer success stories or is it all doom and gloom? It’s a tough question but I’m going to find some reasons to be cheerful.The first reason to be cheerful is this website, this community’s Facebook page, and all the other support groups. You’ll read and hear some tough stories, but I take great comfort from the resilience I find in others. I’m going to share some stories in an effort to find light in the darkness.

John’s arms were aching, so he went to the doctor. The medic struggled with a diagnosis and started asking about his family medical history. He mentioned his father was being treated for prostate cancer. The doctor ordered tests that came back positive. John had a successful prostatectomy, but unfortunately, his PSA level started to rise. Twenty radiotherapy sessions later his PSA level is now negligible. Read on…

Preen cancer update 12.8.20

I’ve just got off the phone with my oncologist who came calling with good news. My PSA level remains at 0.03 and has done so now for almost a year meaning I’m still part of the NED Squad. (No Evidence of Disease)

My final hormone therapy jab happens at the end of the month and at that point all treatment ceases. My PSA is then monitored every six months for two years. It may start to rise, and should it reach 0.5 then further treatment will need to be considered.

Obviously, I’m hoping the unwelcome guest gives me a break for a year or so, but you never know. But make no mistake this is good news by any standards. Thanks to you all for being in my corner during this trying time. Now fuck off cancer you irritating little bastard.

The Final Countdown

It’s close on three years since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in a month my treatment for the ejection of my unwelcome guest should come to a close. What then?

It was in November 2017 when I got the unwelcome news. I’d had blood in my urine, a rectal exam discovered a distended prostate and then came a biopsy telling me there were lots of little unwelcome guests all over my prostate with a particularly ugly slug measuring 10mm. Dr. Gleeson had me at 4+3=7 and my PSA stood at 5.03, but my feeling scared and sorry for myself meter had the needle jammed way over into the red zone.

Sometimes I get nostalgic and miss the old days, but there are some old days I’d rather delete entirely from the memory bank. As most people reading this will know, those early weeks after diagnosis are frankly terrifying, whatever the doctors are telling you, you are telling yourself something infinitely worse. Read on…

How Does Your Partner Understand Your Prostate Cancer?

When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer my wife and I sat together when I got the bad news. Even though I kind of knew it was coming, the fact that I had an unwelcomed guest loitering with intent in my prostate was still a shock.

When I got home, I knew I had to tell my 14-year-old daughter the bad news but was at a loss as to how to begin. Finally, I said I had a problem, but it had been caught early and my prospects were good. To which she replied: ‘Well at least it’s not cancer’. This wasn’t going well.

Read on: https://prostatecancer.net/living/partner-understanding/

My number’s up

Ok calm down I’m not about to peg out, but I’ve just discovered that my PSA reading is up rather than on the smooth glide path down that I was counting on. I was at my quarterly meeting with the oncologist at Guy’s Cancer Centre when I was given the unwelcome news that the Unwelcome Guest has made a slight return.

But let’s put this into some perspective. The PSA blood test is a notoriously crude measurement but just about the only means available to check the state of prostate cancer particularly post-prostatectomy or in my case post-radiotherapy.

When the Unwelcome Guest was first diagnosed, my PSA level stood at 5.03. I was then put on hormone therapy and the dive down started. Within a month my PSA stood at 2.61. Six months later, in June, it was 0.8. Following radiotherapy last Autumn, a test in December revealed my PSA to be virtually undetectable at 0.07.

For it to be entirely undetectable it has to fall to 0.03 or lower and that of course was what I was hoping for, but the Unwelcome Guest had other ideas. Now I’m told the little bugger has bounced back up ever so slightly to 0.1. In itself this may not be serious, and doctors recognise something called the PSA bounce, with the numbers fluctuating, following radiotherapy. Hopefully this will correct itself, but if it continues to climb and were it to reach 2.0 then other medical options would have to be explored.

I can’t deny this was something of a shock as I was pretty convinced that while still on hormone therapy and following radiotherapy to misquote Yazz and The Plastic Population ‘The only way was down.’ But that’s the Unwelcome Guest for you; full of little surprises.

Prostate cancer that comes back is called a recurrence and happens in 1 in 3 men after treatment for early prostate cancer, but we are a long way from that and anyway if those are the odds on the table I’ll take ‘em.

My next appointment at Guy’s cancer theme park is in September and as you might imagine I’ll be paying pretty close attention to the scores on the doors. In the meantime, I’ll be doing what I’ve learnt to do since Autumn 2017 when I was diagnosed and live in the moment. Nothing bad is going to happen to me in the short term, we have a wonderful holiday to look forward to and then come September we’ll take a look at the lay of the land.

The war on cancer

Last week the newspapers were back to declaring war on cancer. Let’s hope it’s more successful than the war on terror. But this was welcome news; a new cancer hub known as the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) is set to be located in south London close to the Royal Marsden Hospital. Researchers there will look at new ways to stop cancer cells from evolving and resisting chemotherapy. One of their goals is to ‘herd’ cells together and stop them from flourishing much in the way that drugs now control HIV. They are calling it the world’s first Darwinian drug discovery programme.

Senior scientists at the ICR argue that the traditional use of ‘shock and awe’ chemotherapy against cancer has failed because too often it has helped fuel ‘survival of the nastiest’ competition and evolution among cancer cells.

Dr Olivia Rossanese, head of biology, said: “We’re especially excited by the potential of APOBEC inhibitors, to slow down evolutionary diversity and drug resistance, and ensure our existing cancer drugs work for patients for much longer.”

Inhibitors are being designed to stop the action of a molecule called APOBEC to reduce the rate of mutation in cancer cells, slow down evolution and delay resistance. These drugs should become available within the next ten years.