How’s it going?

Time I asked for feedback.  As you may have figured, I’m still learning how to make this blog function the way I’d like it to!  Quite an admission for someone who’s been into computers and the internet for over 30 years!  Nevertheless, I need to sit down and figure out what I’m doing wrong, and what I can do to improve this blog and help it go viral (dream on!).

All (helpful) suggestions welcome!

Meanwhile it’s the mixture as before – despite the discomforts of the treatment, it’s all better than the alternative.

Yes, the hot flushes (I just sat through one, lasting around five minutes this time) are a nuisance, and they vary both in duration and timing – in other words, they can happen any time, and a variety of factors help to trigger them: alcohol being one of them – it relaxes your arteries, doesn’t it?  Ambient temperature can trigger them – too warm outside = too warm inside!

To put this discomfort in perspective, I recently spoke to a lady whose hot flushes frequently lasted for 8 hours at a time.  Yes, you read that right: eight hours!  I’m getting off lightly!

Another feature of the treatment, which in my case took time to manifest itself, is the weight-gain and the minor discomforts that go with it.  Having spoken to someone with similar treatment and thus side-effects to my own, I realise it’s not an isolated effect.  Unless you’re seriously obese, most of us blokes don’t carry a layer of fat on our lower abdomen, just around the groin.  But the hormone (Zoladex) treatment eventually pads this area out, which can lead to minor discomfort from friction in the groin, leading to rawness and even an unpleasant odour.  The answer is very simple: hygiene!  Use a simple or cleansing soap, and/or a skin-protecting cream frequently, and it clears up rapidly!

A propos the weight gain, I’m watching my eating habits to get mine down, and it’s working.  Slowly!  But I have shed around 4 kilos, and intend getting rid of another dozen or so.  In my book it’s better to lose weight slowly, for several reasons:

  • You’re not stressing yourself trying to hit your target in a hurry, which is counter-productive.
  • Your system adapts to the new regime given time.
  • Rapid weight-loss can result in unsightly sagging flesh, possibly requiring surgical intervention to remove.
  • It is easier to maintain your target weight having given yourself the time you need to adjust to a new eating/exercise regime.

And that’s enough preaching!  And enough for now.

Back soon

Pete G.

 

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It’s all happening…

Wow!  I’d better try to get this organised coherently, so it makes sense.

  • First things first: I’m expecting (well, hoping for!) a whole new batch of followers very soon, to whom I would like to extend greetings and welcome, and recommend that you start by perusing some of my early entries, buried in the Archives.  Of course, it’s not compulsory…
  • My lungs are not about to pack up, which is something of a relief!  As a result of the CT scan a couple of weeks back, Dr A, the consultant said (and I saw the scan myself) I have pleural thickening in both lungs – that is, the lining of both lungs shows relatively small areas that have thickened.  I also have mild emphysema.  And I have apparently been exposed to asbestos at some stage of my life.  Good, yeah?  I shall remain on medication (an inhaler) for the foreseeable future to control the emphysema – and the stuff really does help, believe me!  I have much more energy and staying power now.  As for the asbestos thing, well, I worked in construction for over twenty years, so it could’ve happened anywhere – maybe even as far back as childhood – there’s no certain way of telling.  So I’ll now look at the possibility of claiming some compo.  Watch this space…
  • The Cancer Wellbeing Group (we met up earlier today) is going to be a great source of inspiration and comfort – talking to others who have gone through or are going through cancer treatment benefits us all.  This group is getting organised to spread awareness, which is what this blog is all about, too – so our interests overlap very happily!  The folk there – organisers and members – are a great gang of people, and I’m doing my bit already by dragging Jean along, plus her sister-in-law.  They were most impressed!
  • An item of interest from the meeting today bears a separate mention: how to raise money for your charity or organisation without spending or donating a penny!  I’ll explain it here, but I shall set up a dedicated page for this very soon.
  • Easyfundraising (www.easyfundraising.org.uk) helps charities, clubs etc raise money by shopping online: effectively it’s a portal for loyalty shopping sites.  By signing up (as I’ve just done) and nominating your charity etc (or creating your own) any shopping done via this site racks up donations from the retailers who have signed up to it.  The retailers include the likes of Amazon, Viking, Hotels.com, Argos, Apple, Premier Inn, PC World…  hundreds, perhaps thousands of them!  The kind of retailers we frequently use.  From now on, we’ll be raising money when we shop!  Our chosen organisation is Three Wishes, based at Wigan Infirmary, which raises money to help improve patients’ lives while in hospital.  Their next big project is a restful garden for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy when the new Cancer Treatment facility is built (starts this April, opens Autumn 2014).  Three Wishes hope to raise £40k for this.
  • In addition to Easyfundraising, there is a search-engine called Easysearch (http://threewishes.easysearch.org.uk/), which, as you can see, already links it’s search-page to Three Wishes.  Simply put, by searching via Easysearch rather than Google (say), more coins go into the coffers!  Only a small donation per search, but multiply it by hundreds or thousands of users, and it mounts up.
  • What else?  Well, as I hope the tone of this blog entry conveys, I’m in very good spirits and (fairly) good health!  Being active, and actively involved in something worthwhile, is a terrific boost – I recommend it to any and all sufferers.  Putting your circumstances in perspective by comparing your lot with others is superb therapy! Thing is, I’m now meeting folk who’ve really been through the cancer mill, and who are cheerfully getting on with living just to spite the damn disease!

That’s a great note to end on!

Til next time…

Pete G

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Here I go again…

Making the same mistakes…

Cue song!  (The Hollies, nineteen-fifty-dot??).  Oh, never mind…

I fell by the wayside once more, thanks to feeling down.  But I’m now back up again, and running!  Lots of catching up to do, so here goes…

First, the counselling went well.  To reiterate: the depression was nothing to do with the prostate cancer or the treatment for it.  Totally unrelated, and now under control.

Next, I did quit the herbal treatment for the hot flushes – in the end I figured the sage tablets really were not helping, and an unnecessary expense.  So I’m coping.  More later.

I’m still off the fags! 9 months!  I am now a non-smoker, and will remain so – the craving is negligible, when I think about it at all, but most of the time it never enters my head.  Great!  I feel much better for it, too.

Update. Several items of note:

  • I found blood when using the toilet, last year.  As usual, my GP was fast off the mark, and, to cut the tale short, I went for a colonoscopy (where they insert a mini-camera up your backside to inspect as far as the colon).  Fascinating!  I was able to view the event on the monitor, and I just wish I could’ve had a copy of the video to put online, here!  It isn’t a painful procedure (although, as usual, you’re warned about the minimal risks for any such procedure) – the worst part was drinking the blessed goo the night before: 2 litres over 2 hours, to clear the bowel for the inspection.  Anyway, the results were reassuring: the blood-loss, which was, and remains, very slight, is simply the result of damage caused by the radiotherapy treatment.  On the monitor screen it looked just like a graze.  It will, eventually, heal, so I’m not worrying about it.
  • I’ve put on weight while all this has been going on: 2½ stones (around 36 lb or 15 kilos) which I now want to lose!  So I’m watching what I eat, and eating slightly less of it, as well as gentle exercise.  I am NOT dieting!  The word is misused and abused anyway – this is more of a gentle lifestyle change, which means I will maintain my target weight when I get down to it.  Enough said.
  • One side-effect of the prostate treatment is lack of energy: running out of steam to quickly. This came to a head a few months back, actually while on holiday on the Costa del Sol: lugging some heavy shopping upstairs left me gasping for breath for around five minutes. I’m not used to this!  And I didn’t like it!  So, I opted for a full M.O.T. In January – blood-tests, heart, blood-pressure, lungs, the works. Apart from slightly raised cholesterol levels, and, would you believe it, very slight arrhythmia in my heart-beat (good lord!), I’m fine. Except…  Chest X-rays revealed a very slight shadow on one lung, which the consultant wants more information on, although he thinks it isn’t anything to worry about.  So I had a CT scan a week or so back.  Very simple procedure, all over and done in minutes.  I now wait until mid-March to speak to the guy again and get his verdict.  Watch this space…

Apart from all that, it’s the mixture as before – hot flushes, disrupted sleep, the usual.  Oh, and one other thing: I’ve just joined a Cancer Health and Wellbeing Group in Wigan.  Time to put my money where my mouth is and try to do something positive to raise awareness of cancer generally, not just prostate cancer.  If nowt else, it’ll get me out of the house more often!

Back soon (Honest!)

Pete G.

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If you can’t stand the heat 2…

Three things, this post.

  1. A big apology to everyone for this long gap.  I recently figured out what the problem is, and I’m doing something about it.  Depression.  Simple word, big impact.  I have to really force myself to function, and tasks like this, which I normally enjoy, become hard work!  So I spoke to my doctor and now I’m on anti-depressants, so we’ll see how it goes.  I must point out that this has absolutely nothing to do with the prostate cancer, although I suppose disrupted sleep may exacerbate it.  Whatever – I’m dealing with it.
  2. The good news is I saw the Consultant, Doctor T., last Monday (28th May) for my first 6-monthly check-up since the radiotherapy finished.  Bearing in mind I’m still on the hormone treatment, which artificially suppresses PSA levels, my PSA is now down to 0.2, which is excellent!  I’m chuffed about that!  Doctor T. was pleased.  As with anything of this nature, there are no cast-iron guarantees, and it will be a couple of years before I get anything like a full All-Clear, but this – let’s call it Stage 1 – assessment is on course.  It’s cheered me up, and allowed me to push the depression aside and inform everyone.  Next assessment is in November this year (2012, remember?), and I’m now booked in for a third one early next June.
  3. This’ll be tough: I’m finally quitting smoking!  Really!  Q-Day is tomorrow – Saturday June 2nd 2012. By broadcasting this I’m hoping to shame myself into finally doing it!
  4. Just thought of this 4th item.  Sorry…  One or two of you might be aware that this is the Queen’s Jubilee Year here in the UK?  And it’s also the Olympics? Yes?  Well, the Olympic Torch came through here yesterday, and we were there!  I took over a hundred photos, and my Mrs videoed the event: neither of us expected the cavalcade that came past, with police motorcycle escort, before the bearer for our section finally jogged past with the flaming torch.  Thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle: crowds of cheering spectators, friendly atmosphere, the works.  I honestly did not expect to enjoy the event as much as I did.  I’m glad we went.

And finally, back to the theme…  Jean is a superb cook, and I help out when she’s cooking or baking.  This does become a little uncomfortable from time to time in a warm kitchen!  These hot flushes are made just that bit worse by a hot oven!  So I have to get out of the kitchen and cool off now and again – you know how it is.  Or maybe not!

My Mrs located a small, hand-held battery fan a few days ago – you know, the sort of item you buy to take on holiday to warm climes ‘just in case’, which you then forget to pack and take along?  I have to say it helps, so I can personally recommend something like this if you’re suffering!

Right.  Enough already.  I shall now post this, with a promise to keep up to date from now on!

Bye for now…

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Cruising…

Yeah, cruising.  That’s what I’m doing.  I’ve plateaued-out, getting on with life – doing all the essential, everyday things that need to be done, with little excitement, and almost nothing to report.  So this blog has lapsed.  I shouldn’t let that happen, because I need to keep the momentum going.

So here goes.  The only excitement worth reporting was a family party we attended two weekends ago: a Big Five-O celebration.  Great bash it was, too.  Live music provided by guests from Yorkshire, who just happen to be great musicians, playing good ol’ Rock & Roll very loudly!

From my (selfish) viewpoint, the good news is that not only was I up dancing with my Mrs a couple of times (and this in itself was commented on), but that I kept going to the end, when the party finished at midnight (at the public venue, anyway!) without running out of steam.  Mind you, I was knackered the following day…

There’s still life in this old dog!

So I need to get out of these doldrums where I’m becalmed.  The obvious route is by supporting those who have supported me.

I shall start by thanking those who have recently asked why this blog has lapsed!  It’s good to know that friends and family are interested enough to want to read this.

I’ve also had it pointed out to me that even though I might feel that I’ve little to report, this fact alone might be reassuring to someone else going through the kind of treatment I’m going through. So, yes, life goes on pretty much as normal, folks!  Over the past week I’ve been helping with decorating at home painting walls and stuff – inside and outside the house.  Bit of gardening, too.  I’m not a total wreck!

I keep coming back to the one major side-effect of the hormone-treatment, though: the hot flushes.  These can be a nuisance – like now, while I’m typing this.  You just have to accept it and get on with it.  During the day isn’t so bad – I can just stroll outside to cool off.  Night-time’s worse: they can disrupt sleep: both mine and Jean’s.  So there’s days when we’re both tired.  You just keep telling yourself that, no matter how annoying, it’s better than the alternative…

Not everyone with prostate cancer will have the hormone treatment, of course.  I can envy those who don’t!  The fact is that treatments have to be tailored to the individual, and only with the help of an experienced consultant can the appropriate treatment be decided.  So, I’ll repeat my standing advice: if you ain’t yet been checked out, then get checked out!  If you’re one of the lucky ones who is cancer-free, then I’m happy for you.  Truly!  If not, then the sooner you find out, the better! Remember: I have no symptoms!  You might not have any symptoms.  But you might still have prostate cancer!  Get checked out.  Do it!

Enough ranting.  I stated earlier that I want to support those who have supported me.  I intend to start with the Christie Hospital, followed by a couple of charities that do so much for cancer sufferers, for instance Marie Curie.  I’ll be setting up a page shortly where I can solicit donations for these and similar organisations, as well as getting personally involved with fund-raising.

All this should give me something to blog about.  Watch this space!

Back soon.  Take care.

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Anticipation was worse than the event!

Yesterday (Friday) I had the second 3-monthly Zoladex jab.  Now, I’m no masochist: I don’t enjoy injections, but I’ve had my share over the years, and I cope with them.  This treatment means I’m having more injections than I’ve had in my life before, over a shorter period.  Okay, I’m not diabetic, and I’m not competing with anyone in this, but the total will be greater than average by the time the treatment is complete, in a year or two’s time.

The thing is, for the week prior to the jab, my head wouldn’t let me forget that it was imminent! These 3-monthly things are triple the capacity of the previous monthly jab, with a commensurately bigger needle.  And that was bugging me: the darn thing’s about 3 mm in diameter!  It’s like a howitzer!  Not a pleasant prospect at all…

But you know what?  I hardly felt it go in.  The District Nurse who administers these jabs is good at what she does!  I recall more discomfort from an earlier 1-month jab that proved a bit awkward going in.  So, all that anticipation of discomfort came to nothing.  Thank goodness!  When the next one’s due (near the end of April), I’ll tell my head to relax and forget about it!

Meanwhile, life goes on, pretty much as normal.  Mind you, one aspect is still a bit shaky, and it gave us a good laugh the other day.

The side-effects of this treatment can be many and varied.  I’ve mentioned the hot flushes frequently, and they’re still causing amusement among women of my acquaintance, but I cope with them fairly well, even if it means going outside into the freezing cold to cool off: considering the alternatives, it’s a minor problem.  However, another side effect which I haven’t mentioned much is lowered libido.  Yep – we’re talking about sex, here.

Our sex-life has nose-dived, unfortunately.  But, during a discussion with my Mrs the other day, I assured her that this treatment had not necessarily rendered me impotent.  Surgery would have, undoubtedly – the treatment is radical, and nerves are damaged, or even severed.  But radiotherapy is kinder to nerves than surgery.  But the combination of hormone treatment (the Zoladex) and radiotherapy has meant lowered sex-drive, and some reluctance to experiment.

Anyway, I told Jean that all is not necessarily lost – we’d just have to get brave and try it out. Unfortunately, the phrase I used, all unthinkingly,  was ‘suck it and see’…

Well, we couldn’t move for laughing!  And I’m stood there thinking, I don’t believe I just said that!

We’re still laughing about it when we think about it…

So there you go.  All is not lost.  And to reassure anyone out there who’s concerned about the sexual side of things, I’ll let you know how things progress.

Oh, come on, now!  It won’t be a detailed account!  This isn’t a porno mag!  But I will announce success when it happens, okay?  And you’ll notice I’m being positive about this, too.

Watch this space…

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Yesterday (Jan 5th 2012 no less!) I received my six-week follow-up call from my Urology Nurse at Salford Royal, as arranged.  Actually, she rang ten minutes early, which means I wasn’t chewing my nails, wondering when they’d ring. Kudos to them!

The nurse asked me a range of questions, followed by an opportunity for me to ask questions.  This isn’t a verbatim report, but I’ll give you the gist of it.

  • Any problems with my waterworks? Not really, except for odd occasions where it reduces to a trickle – a minor nuisance.
  • Any discomfort or blood in my urine? No.  Not that I’m aware of.
  • Frequency?  I’m still peeing more frequently than what I consider normal – probably every couple of hours.  It does mean my sleep is disrupted less, but I still get tired during the day.
  • Any problems with my bowels (as in the above)? Again, no – no discomfort, no passing blood that I’m aware of, one minor bout of diarrhoea over Christmas – probably down to something I ate!
  • Any other symptoms? Only, as frequently noted in this blog, the hot flushes!  But I can live with them.
  • Am I aware how long this on-going treatment will last? Oh, yes!  Up to 2 years.

My questions related to the cancer itself, naturally enough.

  • How will I know if the radiotherapy is successful? From the results of further PSA tests.
  • If the Zoladex (on-going hormone treatment) can distort or suppress PSA levels, how will the Consultant know if it is successful?  The results should be within known acceptable parameters (limits).
  • What personal changes will I notice during the on-going treatment?  Any problems with passing urine or bowel motions, my GP will prescribe medication to help.  [Otherwise no significant difference].
  • What information will the Consultant require when I see her/him?  As today, I will be asked specific questions.

I have to say that the nurse was very pleasant and cheerful – a common factor among the professionals I have dealt with during all of the treatment.  It does help you keep your spirits up!

Now, to revert back a week or so, just after Chrimbo, I met up with my old workmates for a bevvy, having been invited (invited?  I was told!) to join them.  Friday afternoon, 30 December.  I’m glad I went – thoroughly enjoyed the creac (That’s Gaelic for crack!) and catching up with them all.  Even managed to chat to my ex-colleague whose husband was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer (see: Let’s Talk Some More). Like me, apparently, he has Early Stage Prostate Cancer, but, because of his personal situation, he is on the Watch and Wait programme: regular check-ups (every 4 months, I believe) to see what, if anything, develops.  I trust he is doing well!  But – and to me this is an important ‘but’ – another of my mates there told me he’s getting himself checked out as a result of the combined impact of my situation, this blog, and the other fellow’s recent diagnosis.

That is Great News! It’s a result I was hoping for when I started this!  Naturally, I hope his results come back clear, and my fingers are crossed for him.

That afternoon was a success on all levels.  About a dozen-and-a-half showed up, in total.  I sank about 5 pints of good ale, and we all enjoyed ourselves.  Let’s do it again, guys!

The only downside was this: I was up and down to the bathroom like a fiddler’s elbow all night!

Speak to you soon!

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