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…

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…

Prostate Cancer Screening At A Supermarket

It sounds like science fiction, but according to Mark Emberton, Professor of Interventional Oncology at University College London, prostate cancer screening could be coming to a supermarket near you.

10-minute scans

Professor Emberton is in charge of a clinical study which he’s hoping will transform prostate cancer screening. The $6.5 million trial, which started in August of 2019, stalled in the spring because of covid, but is now back on track. His team is looking at scans that take only ten minutes, which could potentially be rolled out to the general population.

I sat down with Mark to hear about his work.

Prostate cancer screening difficulties

In the UK, there are only a few nationwide screening programs, including breast cancer for women and bowel cancer for men.1 Prostate cancer is now the most-commonly diagnosed cancer in England, but nationwide screening has proved elusive, as it has such a poor diagnostic record.2

Traditionally, tests start with a digital exam followed by a PSA blood test, neither of which are particularly accurate or trustworthy. Around 75% of men with high PSA levels don’t have cancer, but about 15% with normal PSA levels actually do.3,4 I should know: when I was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, my PSA stood at just 5.03.

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