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 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…

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

 

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…