Author Archives: pete cable

Good News and Bad News

The Good News Is…

…Six weeks after my radiotherapy finished I have had my blood sampled and tested for PSA level. During a consultation with the oncologist two days ago, it was revealed to me that the level was 0.02, which apparently, is as good as I might hope for. I am, it seems, in remission.

I will be subjected to blood tests to monitor PSA levels for the rest of my life or until the cancer returns, which if it does, will hopefully be some years from now.

The consultant was of the opinion that I was somewhat subdued considering the good news. Possibly depressed. I pointed out that although I was very happy with the outcome (thus far) with the cancer treatment, I had further health issues, as yet unresolved, which had become evident during the previous two months.

The Bad News is…

…During a routine appointment with my GP, for which I had a list of things to discuss, I got to the third or fourth item which was, chest pains. Upon hearing my description of the pain I was experiencing, the doctor instructed me to go straight to the A+E department at the hospital. Apparently, I may already have had a heart attack.

I went to A+E as instructed and very quickly was hooked up to an ECG machine and a cannula inserted into my arm. Over the course of the next several hours I was subjected to various tests and examinations before being told that nothing bad had been found and was I discharged in the early hours of the morning into the care of a very nice taxi driver.

It is possible that the pain is yet another side effect of hormone therapy, or perhaps related to the heart murmur that was recently discovered. The report on the heart murmur indicates that intervention is not required and I should have a further examination in two years from now. So perhaps not a great cause for concern.

I am also waiting to attend a vascular clinic as I have a possible problem with the blood supply to my right calf. I have an appointment for three weeks from now and I am trying to stay away from Doctor Google.

More Good News

I have started swimming again and also go to the gym several times a week. I am making good progress and have got some muscle tone back. It was quite scary to see how far my physical strength had diminished but I will be persevering with it as I can already feel the benefit.

In addition, I have not seemed to have suffered much in the way of side effects from the radiotherapy. Fatigue mostly but the exercise will help combat that. As I regard myself as a side effect magnet, I am really happy not to have got any of the nastier effects.

I am not sure whether I should end this blog now or should I report periodically on how the test results go and possibly updates on the other health issues. Feedback would be appreciated. Whatever happens, I would like to thank everyone for the support they have shown during a very difficult time.

No Pain

It is now a week since I finished radiotherapy and so far, not much in the way of side effects. I must not get complacent as the effects can continue to get worse for some time after the treatment has ended. I am sorry if I am repeating myself but I cannot praise the staff in the radiotherapy department of Southampton General Hospital enough. They are superb!

As for the hormone therapy, it is over three weeks since I changed to a different drug and my life has been transformed. I was in so much pain before and it has completely gone. The hot flushes continue and have become slightly more intense but I am happy to take that instead of the pain. I will be on this drug for the next twenty one months but at last some light at the end of the tunnel.

I have to be wary that other things could be occurring unnoticed, such as thinning of my bones and loss of muscle tone but I can try and counter that by regular exercise. However, before I embark on any exercise program, I have to have a scan to check out my heart murmur. The scan is scheduled for two days time.

Pressure Drop

As the time approached for me to have my next hormone injection, I became more and more worried. After the disastrous effects of the first injection it was agreed that I should change to a different drug. Even so, I was extremely concerned that the next drug could have similar or worse effects. Quite frankly, I was terrified.

I had discussions with various people involved in my treatment but was unable to get the answers to my questions. Eventually I cancelled the appointment for the injection because I was not ready to risk being injected with 3 months worth of agony. It didn’t seem worth it. During the discussions I had with the clinical trials team, I was told that the drug was available in a one month dosage, however, it was something for the consultant oncologist to decide. A meeting was arranged and once my questions were answered, I was offered the the one month version and after weighing up the risks against the possible benefits, I decided to go ahead. 

The replacement drug, Zoladex , is implanted into the stomach and released over a period of time. So far, I am only experiencing hot flushes but I am very nervous of the possibility of the other side effects. On a positive note, apart from causing me much pain, the previous hormone drug, Decapeptyl, has been doing its job. My PSA level is down to 0.1. Normal being 0 to 2.5.

Meanwhile,I am now about two thirds of the way through my radiotherapy. I have had 13 of 20 “fractions”. It is time consuming, having to go to the hospital almost every day, but it has been largely uneventful. Apart from the machine breaking down on two occasions, one of which was when I was on it waiting for my treatment. Fortunately, that time, it was fixed quite quickly. The second time resulted in a lengthy delay for treatment and then a day off so that the staff could catch up with the backlog. The staff by the way are all absolutely fantastic. Their care and professionalism, with occasional humour, makes it easier to cope with a difficult subject.

One morning, however, on my way through the hospital to the radiotherapy department, I collapsed on a flight of stairs. Fortunately, I was only two steps from the bottom and fell against someone who broke my fall. I landed on my knees but escaped serious injury. I was surrounded by concerned and helpful people, some of the staff, who decided what to do with me. I was taken, in a wheelchair, to the Macmillan oncology ward where I was fully examined and subjected to various tests before being allowed to go for my treatment about three hours later.

It seems that the blood pressure pills I have been taking may be the culprits. I had been taking them with my breakfast early in the morning but they were kicking in with a pressure drop a couple of hours later. I now take them at night. It was also discovered during the examinations in the Macmillan ward that I now have a heart murmur. I was told to see my GP about it, which I did the next day and I have now been referred for a scan on my ticker. Thanks to the Macmillan staff for taking such good care of me.

Swimmingly

In spite of being diagnosed with high blood pressure two weeks ago, I have just had a fairly decent ten days or more. The aches and pains that came with the hormone therapy have subsided to almost non-existent. My blood pressure has only gone down slightly though, so my medication has been increased.

I have enjoyed swimming recently and that has helped me get my muscles working again. Well, some of them. I am now wishing that I had gone swimming more often before becoming ill as I would benefit from being able to swim more. Sadly, for someone who used to be a scuba diving instructor, I am a shit swimmer. Also, I will have to stop going in the pool when I am on radiotherapy but will certainly get back to it at the earliest opportunity.

My radiotherapy treatment starts in less than a week and it is fair to say that I am a little apprehensive about it. However, in little more than a month, it will be over and done with. Just the side effects to contend with then. I am at the moment feeling better, both physically and mentally, than I have for some months. Things are going swimmingly.

Out of my depth

Instead of the gym
I now go for a swim
To try and keep up my strength.
Though my head says, "GO",
My body says, "NO",
As I barely manage a length.


Marked For Life

I’ve now had my planning scan in advance of receiving radiotherapy. I spent a few hours at the hospital. First, being briefed by one of the research team about what was going to happen regarding the scan and then filling in as many of the gaps in what I knew about what would happen going forward. It was totally about keeping me informed and feeling at ease with what was coming.

Next I was seen by one of the scanning team who took me through the procedure in more detail, explaining how I would have to drink water containg a dye so that they could determine if my bladder was sufficiently full and also that my rectum needed to be empty. No poo and no farty gas allowed.

I would have to be set up in a certain position and not move whilst being scanned. Provided all the criteria were met, I would then be marked with three dots which would be used to set me up in exactly the same position for the next twenty visits.

Well, the water containing the dye smelt of aniseed. It’s fair to say that the taste might be better described as anuseed. It was not very tasty. However, I drank the specified amount within the specified time and having had a bowel movement earlier, I was ready to go. Or not go.

As one might expect, they were meticulous in the set up but all was well and all the boxes were ticked and I now have three permanent dots on my lower body. Hardly noticeable really, so they don’t break my “no tattoo” rule.

After the scan I had another blood test for PSA. Perfectly straightforward. No bent needles or projectile bleeding this time. And then it was off to the Macmillan Centre for a coffee and a chat. I also booked myself a couple of massages. It was a good day and things seem to be moving forward now.

Pressure

A couple of days later, I had an assessment to see if I could go on a fitness course for people with long term illness or cancer. I failed. My blood pressure was too high. It had reached an all time high, possibly as another side effect of the hormone treatment.

The assessor said that he could not allow me to use the gym but I was at liberty to swim in the pool, should I wish to do so. It’s ok to drown, I suppose, but not fall off the treadmill. I was a bit disappointed but thought that swimming might be ok for the time being. I need to get active in some way. With that in mind, I took out a membership with a leisure centre nearer to home and received a substantial discount.

I saw my GP the next day regarding my blood pressure and am now on medication. Hopefully it is only short term. Nevertheless, in spite of the hot flushes I have been getting, I am feeling better than I have been recently.

Sad

On a sadder note, I am writing this after having just attended the funeral service of a friend. Someone that I have known since we were eleven years old. He had been very supportive of me despite having been diagnosed with cancer himself at the end of last year. A lovely man. RIP Alan.

Flushed

The hormone treatment continues to wreak havoc on my body. The hot flushes that I thought I had evaded now come thick and fast. They are occurring more and more frequently. Fortunately, so far, they have been fairly brief. I hope they stay that way.

Recently I had been expecting to receive notification of a planning scan for radiotherapy. I was told the appointment would be by the end of April, so, having had no communication from the hospital, I phoned them to find out what was going on. “Nothing in the system yet”, I was told.

“Why not?”, I replied.

“I can’t say”, was the reponse.

I then made a call to the clinical trials team to ask if they could find out what was going on. They were as surprised as me that I had no appointment as yet and said they would investigate for me and call me back. Which they promptly did.

The explanation given, was that radiotherapy was in great demand at the moment and I would be given short notice of an appointment when one became available. Really?

Well, somebody’s cage must have been rattled because I soon got another call telling me that my planning scan had now been scheduled for May 3rd and my radiotherapy would commence on May 28th. Apparently my consultant had gotten involved. I hope I am not coming across as an impatient patient. Can there be such a person?

Shock Horror

My body is in shock
With my hormones running amok.
Whatever the effects,
I'm not changing my sex
And I won't be wearing a frock.

Decline

Although the devastating effects I suffered when I began hormone therapy have not recurred, there is still a daily toll being taken on my body. Each day I seem to have less strength than the day before. My arms and legs incapable of carrying out the simple tasks that would normally done without thinking. This is also very depressing.

The decline has been quite rapid. So much so that I am now unable to go to work. That is particularly saddening as I enjoy working and it gives me motivation. I hope that this is fairly short term and with the change of hormone drug in June and following the four weeks of radiotherapy, also in June, I may be able to resume working.

With the decent weather, I have been walking to the local shops. A journey that normally takes five minutes each way has doubled. It doesn’t challenge me aerobically, I don’t get out of breath. It is just that I have lost so much of my physical strength in the last few months. It’s amazing what can happen in such a short time.

On the subject of time

Time travel can be tedious.
Not instantaneous as it often appears.
I've travelled here from 1951
And it's taken nearly 68 years!
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