September, say do you remember?

September is tremendously important and not just because it’s the title of perhaps the best song ever recorded by the magisterial Earth Wind and Fire. Yes, I know others will argue for Boogie Wonderland, but September suits my purpose right now.

For those who don’t know, September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Eyes glaze over, man keeps scrolling. Wait, not so fast…

Read on:

Snake Oil

When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer a doctor told me if he could prescribe exercise as a pill, he’d write the script for every one of his patients. He was making no claim that keeping fit would cure my cancer but indicated that it would equip me with some physical and emotional resilience if times got tough.

Let’s take a look at complementary and alternative therapies

A reader, commenting on one of my previous articles, suggested I try American Ginseng, which he thought might help overcome some of my hormone therapy side-effects.1 He was suggesting its use purely as a palliative and not as a cure.

Both these examples can be seen within the context of complementary and alternative therapies or complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) as they are more commonly called. These also include homeopathy, osteopathy, meditation, dietary supplements, acupuncture and many more. Some of these are offered at the cancer center I attend.

Read on:

Jim Cancer Update

A quick note to say that my visit to the oncologist last week was very satisfactory. My PSA level is now 0.03 making my cancer virtually undetectable. My next hospital appointment is not for 6 months. Obviously, the Unwelcome Guest can make an unwelcome return, but this is good news by any standards.

Radio Days (8): Jim gets a bollocking

A bright beautiful autumn day sees me cycling down Albert Embankment, past MI6 and MI5 and then along by the Houses of Parliament where Big Ben is currently boxed in black scaffolding.

The turbid Thames is on my left and I’m thinking how lucky I am to live in the greatest city in the world when out of nowhere one of those huge junk trucks screams by me threatening to snuff out my stupid daydreams. Pay attention Jim and try to get to St Thoms’ in one piece. Locking my bike in the hospital car park I stride in.

The trouble with me is I’m nosey, I like to know what’s going on and I’m a bit pushy. So sitting in my gown waiting for the previous patient to complete his fraction, (This is what medics call individual treatments) I see the radiographers looking at computer screens which I assume show the luckless cancer sufferer’s prostate. Well this looks interesting and of course I want a look and as the team are a friendly bunch I walk over to take a dekko. This brings a sharp reaction, sit down Jim, you’re breaching patient confidentiality. Suitably rebuffed I back off before making my way to the doughnut.

For me this is fraction eleven and despite having decided that on balance I was going to have nothing to do with side effects, a few are kicking in. I need to pee several times a night, my bowel movements are, how to put this delicately, fluid and today during treatment such is my need to pee that it actually becomes painful. Now whether this is the product of nearly a dozen doses of RT or the result of the rays actually hitting my walnut sized prostate I’m not sure, but if it happens again I’m going to seek medical advice. Not nice, but still no signs of tiredness, though as I have more than 20 sessions to get through there’s still plenty of time for that.

Coming out of the RT suite I put my foot in it again. I thought you, dear reader, might be interested in what my RT team looks like when they’re at work, so I bust in like a walrus, whip out my trusty iPhone and take a snap. This is not well received, and I’m given strict instructions to delete it. Given these kind people are firing their ray guns at delicate portions of my anatomy I think I’ll comply. So as much as I’d like to show you my young and attractive team that pleasure is going to be denied. I think I’ve annoyed them enough today.

But I’m not done yet, I still want to see how they monitor the treatment so I’m hoping to persuade them to take a picture of their screens while I’m in the doughnut. Then I’ll stop being irritating, honestly I will…fat chance. 

Time chunks

When I was first diagnosed with PC, like everyone else I was scared, I didn’t know what it meant. Cancer packs a big punch, it’s the scariest bully in the medical playground, did I have weeks, months or years to live? Could it be cured, what treatment would I receive? Reading the Facebook Groups I mentioned last time I see that my experience exactly mirrors most others who get this vile disease. As time goes on you quickly learn, unless your diagnosis is particularly severe, that there are effective treatments and you may have many years ahead of you. Always bearing in mind that the Unwelcome Guest is a slippery bastard, an assassin in your midst, who can’t be trusted.

It’s not just your physical health that cancer messes with, it tends to trample on your mind too. Here’s what I do to keep my head in shape, it’s not the result of any professional counselling, but it works for me.

My treatment comes in chunks, first came the diagnosis then the start of hormone therapy and then a gap during which not much happened. That gap was the wonderful summer just gone, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Of course the threat of cancer was there in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t a constant scourge.

My RT comes to an end at the beginning of November and after that there’s another time chunk until the appointment with my oncologist in January of next year. So from November, through Christmas I’ll enjoy myself and not get too stressed. Of course stress will start to emerge just prior to my appointment, fearing the result of the inevitable PSA test, but I’ll leave that to another day.

The trick is to live in the moment, enjoy the here and now, and don’t get too stressed about the long-term. I’m 64 now, so thinking long-term is for the birds anyway.

Having just re-read the above I see  it comes across as obvious hippy bollocks, but It’s true for all that, so I’m going to let it stand.


Radio Days (3): It all kicks off tomorrow

My course of radiotherapy starts tomorrow, and I can’t deny I’m approaching it with a degree of trepidation. My birthday falls right at the beginning of September and kind friends and family have made the celebrations to mark my 64th trip around the sun last a full week, but these must now draw to a close.

My treatment takes place at St Thomas’ Hospital which was unexpected as all my previous consultations, scans and tests have been at Guy’s.

Coincidentally, we have a family friend who is a senior medic at St Thomas’ and she has given me two excellent pieces of advice which I’ll do my best to follow.

First up, I am being treated by the NHS and as marvellous as it is, there will inevitably be delays and days when I’m kept waiting around, perhaps for hours. Her advice: Accept this as an inevitability, take a book and don’t stress. I’m continuing working while being treated but making meetings on time or making meetings at all could be tricky.

It’s likely I will get side-effects from the treatment, some of which may be unpleasant, but all being well these will be temporary. Her advice: Acknowledge this and take it in your stride; it won’t last forever.

Years ago, I was a journalist and inevitably got into some scrapes; postings in Sarajevo, Mogadishu and DR Congo spring to mind. I was never remotely brave but if I knew we were going on a potentially dangerous assignment I always wanted to get on with it so as to leave it behind as soon as possible. Rather what I’m feeling right now; let’s do this thing.

A blog well worth looking at is Dan’s Journey Through Prostate Cancer. He was diagnosed in November 2010 and has kept a very informative an enquiring blog ever since. His writing is now a fantastic resource which contains a huge amount of technical and informative information.

Taken almost at random here he is on relationships:

When you tell someone that you have cancer, be ready for the relationship to change, most often in a direction that you didn’t anticipate. Some of those closest to me couldn’t handle the news and were the ones I could least depend on for emotional support, while some who were mere acquaintances prior to the diagnosis became my rocks.

I learned that I had to be the strong one in the relationship, even when I didn’t necessarily want to be. I also learned that I had to set the tone on how and when to talk about–shhhh–cancer. My approach was to talk about it openly, honestly, and with humor. I had to make fun of this somehow.