Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Ca Pros Report

Off we went to Medical Oncology today and the news is not great. Our specialist was delighted to find I am still feeling so well, have no pain, and am enjoying such an active life. The bone scan a few weeks ago showed, he reckoned, nothing very significant.
But an extra PSA test I organised for myself yesterday showed a 25%  increase in only five weeks since scoring an unexpected 50. So after a year of stable PSA around 25 – 28, in just three months I have got to 60. The disease may not be showing itself in pain or disability but it is clearly becoming much more active.
We will continue with the quarterly Zoladex as the primary agent to reduce testosterone on which the cancer feeds. Now, Simon summed up our future options as: 
1. Chemotherapy - to treat my whole system with cancer-reducing medications
2. Abiraterone - to restrict even more the production of testosterone
    or possibly 
3. Some targeted radiation therapy to tackle identifiable cancer growths. 
    We agreed there was also:
4. Do Nothing. 
At the end of the day, any decision would be mine.

Bev and I left with four pages of information on Abiraterone — nothing new in there to anyone who’s done his research— and a plan to have a CT scan in a month and another discussion after that has come through.

So we have plenty to think about. Up to now I have been resolved that the substantial cost of Abiraterone – even if met by a generous public health system – does not justify an extra three months’ life-expectancy. 
How do I quantify another year or two of reasonably active life and an extra three months at the end against what $100,000 could do for other younger people in the health system with other less expensive needs... For someone of my age and convictions, that is a moral and ethical problem. The system seems to say it can afford to make the offer to about 1000 men a year and invites me to be one of them. 

Does that make it right?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

There, but for the grace of God....

Image result for white drug bottle
I see Susan Austen’s case has been postponed again. She’s been charged with two offences of importing a Class C drug, sodium pentobarbitone, well known as nembutal, the drug of choice for people who may wish to end their own unbearable suffering. Her apparently straightforward case has already been adjourned since charges were laid last year.

Now the Police have asked for more time to bring another charge. Perhaps they are just "kicking for touch". Perhaps they have been warned they have a rather shaky case. Perhaps they are still shrugging off the huge public criticism for their disgraceful and embarrassing Operation Painter last year. Perhaps they are realising that this minor court case could become a major public issue in an election year. Well, why not?

I think if I had been living within a reasonable distance, I, too, would have been protesting in front of the Courthouse the other day. Not because Susan hasn’t done anything wrong—she appears to have broken the law, all right. But because she was equipping herself to do what I want to be able to do legally myself. 

Oddly, having the stuff is illegal. Using it, isn't. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Operation Painter

In our country there is a growing number of unnecessary suicides of elderly people who would rather leave this life prematurely by their own hand than trust their last days and weeks to the health system.

So several months ago Wellington Region Police apparently resolved to make contact with people connected with Exit International or the Voluntary Euthanasia movement. They called on at least one dear old lady who did indeed own a balloon inflation kit, complete with a supply helium, readily available from her local shopping centre. The photo is her bold response. 

The Police went a good deal further with Operation Painter. This involved a very heavy-handed and probably illegal road block - ostensibly a blood/alcohol check - to collect names and addresses from people who had been attending a meeting on ending one's life. They appeared to be building up a Police dossier of (elderly) people likely to harm themselves. All this at a time when a Parliamentary Committee was already deep in discussions about "ending one's life in New Zealand"...

At the time I facebooked:  "As a member of the local Community Patrol I am in and out of the nether regions of the local Police station more than most people and know some of the officers by name. It will be interesting to see if I receive such a visit. Maybe I should just pop in and ask them if I'm on a list..."  Well, I haven't had a call yet.

Operation Painter raised headlines around the country and there was considerable outrage. The affair was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Authority which has apparently not been able to reach a conclusion in eight or nine months. This timely delay could help to ensure that medical aid in dying becomes an election issue this year.

Goodbye to the Godwits

Over the years when I had more time for posting to this blog I commented several times on the amazing migratory feat of the local bar-tailed godwits. 

Last night Bev and I took fish and chips and cordial down to the real Red Beach last night and sat in the car and watched the very smooth sea. The gulls even sat on our bonnet in vain hope of a snack.

Gazing out at the sea we had the strange feeling that the distant surface was moving. Suddenly we realised we were seeing greyish birds on the wing. Out came the binoculars and there was a thin straggling column flying northwards low over the water. It continued for several minutes.

By chance, we had happened on a major part of the annual migration of bar tailed godwits. This flock would probably continue north and link up with others from around New Zealand, heading for the Arctic tundra.

Of course, as we discovered a few years ago, the really incredible part is that their newly raised young ones will fly back here by themselves in six months.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Report a bad Driver

I work with our local Community Constable in producing joint articles for a local monthly paper. Recently we considered promoting the "Report a Bad Driver" form that is available on the Police Website. I have made several of these reports, mainly involving dangerous or blatantly illegal overtaking.

The idea is that motorists who observe bad driving can make a formal complaint with all the details. The procedure then requires Police to visit the alleged offender and discuss the incident with them. Of course, this involves quite a bit of work. And the discussion can soon become a kind of "He Said" but "I Say" thing. Apparently the results are not very often conclusive.

I can understand that it could easily consume Police time that will not have any significant outcome. In most cases it would only be an irritant for the offending driver. So we decided not to promote the form with a magazine article.

But encouraging drivers to be responsible for each other doesn't seem to be a bad thing. If the present system is not efficient why not adjust the procedure so that reports are simply noted in a file for the vehicle concerned. When a consistent series of, say, three significant reports accumulates on the file within a defined period, apparently involving the same driver, there could surely be some justification in the Police taking the matter up with the person concerned by letter or, in some cases, a personal visit.

Let's not throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Ca Pros Report

After nearly a year of stable PSA at around 25 - 28, in December it shot up to 48, so my March test was anticipated with a good deal of interest. Done a few days ago, this one was 50 - almost stable for another three month period. It's very strange. Just as well that it is always only a guide to what is going on rather than a precise measure.
The same week I suffered the three monthly Zoladex implant, with the aid of half a tube of Emla cream to deaden the pain. Then last Friday I did the annual scintogram. It was this scan that three years ago showed that the cancer had spread to my spine. For the last couple of years that spot has remained pretty constant.
This time, however, I have two new hotspots in my elbows. Of course the official view and any consideration of what might be done next won't be known until I have another consult with Medical Oncology. If they don't call me up in the next week or two I will give them a bit of a prompt. Apart from anything else, I need another prescription for the meds which have given such an improved quality of life over the last year or so.
Meanwhile, we've been getting on with our very busy lives around here. And just had a great weekend away at Paihia, leading worship and visiting friends and generally relaxing. Oh, yes, and visiting our old home which is being dramatically extended out towards the road frontage. Very interesting.

Monday, January 30, 2017

At last!

After nearly a year of writing, editing, and much to-ing and fro-ing of the text via the "Cloud", Val Mullan of Boondal, Qld and I successfully uploaded our family history book today. The stories of the four Mullan siblings who left N. Ireland to settle in Australia and NZ is told with all the detail that hours of Val's painstaking research could produce. 

One of the four was my Great-Grandfather Crawford Mullan (top right) and another was her husband Des's Great-Grandfather Samuel Hood Mullan (bottom right). My old Dad would have loved to read it. He was at the family reunion in Brisbane where we gathered the first four stories that became the basis of the book. We hope many family in both countries will be interested in it. 

The book is a free download at Smashwords.com - search for "Dave Mullan" or the name of the book, "Four Mullans from Blossom Hill".
We are thinking about a printed version if there is interest.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

More on "Methodist" Property

An outstanding renovation has been completed on the former Trinity College buildings in Grafton. The “Ideal Org” of Auckland Scientology has joined around forty similar institutions around the world—mostly in the USA, of course.

The Methodist Church apparently wasn’t invited to be formally represented at the January opening but a few of us found each other there on the day—over refreshments in the quad.

It was a grand occasion with black-suited men and women from New Zealand and overseas as well as local guests. Probably seven or eight hundred were squeezed into the large quad between what was the Common Room block and the original staff houses. They gave a huge vote of (culturally insensitive!) thanks to the ritual welcome by Tangatawhenua of Tamakimakaurau.

The audience also gave every speaker a standing ovation when introduced—and then again after their half-dozen testimonies to the effectiveness of Scientology and Dianetics in the Auckland setting. The address of the guest leader of the international organisation was peppered with obscure references that brought wild applause from the insiders and total mystification to the visitors.

Your correspondent got reprimanded for shooting some video of the proceedings (although dozens of camera phones were doing the same thing) but the professionals were well represented high on a cherry picker and around the grounds. The internal network put excellent pictures of the two proceedings on two big screens either side of the impressively detailed dais and decorations.

After half a dozen speeches red and white balloons went skywards and “all the doors” were declared “open”. It was true—every door was open. Every space (with the exception of the laundry) has been comprehensively renovated. Rimu panelling has been restored in Dining Room and Library. Information Centres are everywhere, but so also are small rooms for “auditing” (counselling), many of these in the original bedrooms.

One clearly identifable auditing room was where John Mabon’s bedroom floor was double bricked to the fire escape window in 1957.  The toilets which were electrified to the inconvenience of some students about the same time are restored with new plumbing and beautiful finishing work on the original panelled doors. The Janus staircase down which many a water fountain flowed free in serious waterfights has had its iron balusters completely stripped, sealed and re-painted. There should be a plaque. Less wisely, the concrete walking surface has been painted off-white.

The stone fireplaces in Dining Room, Common Room and Library have been cleaned up and retained. Even the College motto Spiritus Ubi Est Ardet high on the library wall has been left as it was, cast in the wall. Library shelves remain and have been resurfaced—although at this stage it appears that the organisation has no particular use for them. The main circular stairway has been meticulously restored and all the floors and steps overlaid with ply and carpeted with smart nosings. All the steel window frames have been retained, stripped and repainted—they won’t last for ever but they look pretty smart right now.

The newer classroom block adjacent to the Chapel now houses a fully equipped cafeteria. The Chapel itself is gloriously redesigned and refurnished for Sunday Services, Naming events and other congregational gatherings. Indeed, every space in the original buildings has been utilised and formally identified for a specific purpose. The standard of new furnishings in all these internal areas is impressive. It is obvious that the $6m quoted just for the renovation is not a wildly inaccurate estimate.

One may not have any sympathy for the theology behind Scientology—indeed, it’s been widely discredited and criticised internationally —but one cannot but be impressed by the deliberate investment to restore and retain a landmark building. This is a big commitment.

Methodists may take some pride in the fact that their original 1929 building was permitted to express a much more ambitious format than some would have wished in Depression time. Maintenance would always represent an ongoing financial commitment which our church was never able to fulfil. The stress laid on staff and College Council was always a massive burden - indeed, it was largely with relief that the decision was finally made to join the Anglicans on the Meadowbank site. For the next three decades the property was something of an embarrassment to the Church as deterioration continued while it was tenanted. 

But with the $10m sale to Scientology in 2002(?) and the renovation that has taken place, the strenuous efforts of 1927-29 actually made possible a project which has now become a huge contribution to the heritage of Auckland and New Zealand. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Methodist Supernumerary Fund

In the context of my recent suggestion that retired ministers in the Methodist Church might have some claim on the funds created from the sale of Prince Albert College, I am delighted to hear that the PAC  (among other funds in the church) is advancing a loan for a new capital fund to bring pensions up to date. An initial payment is to be made to all concerned shortly.
As I said previously, I don't think it's at all inappropriate that the ministers' children's school of the 1830s should be indirectly involved. In view of PAC's long association with education of Maori children also, it is very significant that Te Taha Maori is also contributing to the new fund.

To the Airport Parking Manager

Image result for airport car parking

Letter to the Airport Parking Manager

I write to congratulate you on the economical and efficient procedure for online pre-booking of car parks at the airport. While for someone of my age (81¾) and condition (two unicompartmental knee replacements, advanced prostate cancer and half a dozen other age-related ailments) this is a complex and challenging process from beginning to end, I have to say it is a brilliant concept and must surely work well for almost everyone who can read or remember things.

However, it seems that I do not quite have a complete set of the characteristics of the intended market, as a few days ago I apparently drove into the wrong carpark. I cannot account for this as I made a point of noticing that my booking was made in a different carpark from last time. Carpark, L, was firmly fixed in my mind. When the printed confirmation of my booking (last August) came through I had checked the dates and times which stood out reasonably well. But the printout from my computer was so infinitesimally small that I did not notice that the system expected me to use carpark M.

On the day of departure, the machine at L was unhesitant in accepting my card and I parked and disconnected my battery and went off to a family Christmas in Upper Hutt confident that all was well.  And on my return, after the usual heart-rate-lifting walk from the terminal I was still confident. The car started without difficulty (I know that is not your problem, but I wish to make it clear that there are some things I can manage) and we rolled up to the machine at the exit gate. It did not wish to accept my card. It said it did not “recognise” it. Well, it should have. It was definitely the card I used to enter the previous week.

So I let the machine see me put the card back in my wallet. After a moment or two I got the same card out again and lo and behold everything went through without difficulty. I asked for a receipt and studied it and almost missed the gate opening with the shock. Instead of our contracted price of $67 the amount taken from my account was $124.

Now, yes, I know that your business has made it quite clear that responsibility for this unexpected account is mine. I unhesitatingly and without qualification accept that responsibility. I put the car in the wrong park.

However, given that I am now apologising abjectly for being so foolish as to even attempt to manage so complex a process; given that neither carpark was under great stress of occupancy when I was either coming or going; given that the spirit of these days of celebration is one of generosity and open-heartedness on all sides; given that I have so generously congratulated you on the concept and provision of this service ... I wonder if you might consider some adjustment by way of credit to our VISA account. If you find in your heart a willingness to make such a gesture I would not refuse to accept the money though I might have some problems with my conscience.

Thank you again for your excellent service —please do not let my personal problems detract from your enjoyment of a Happy and Prosperous 2017.

Yours sincerely

Dave Mullan