Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Prostate Cancer Journey Continues

17 March 2015
It was something of a formality to haul ourselves all the way across Auckland to Greenlane Clinical Centre today. We had a short meeting with our enthusiastic specialist and recounted all the things that have happened to us since our last quarterly meeting. It's been a momentous time, really, with lots of fun stuff happening and almost nothing of note on the health front.

The Aclasta infusion for my weakened bone density was dripped into my bloodstream a couple of weeks ago - another substantial gift from the taxpayers, thank you very much.

The good news of my lowered PSA means that, for the moment, we won't be considering any other cancer treatment strategy. If and when that becomes necessary, the public purse may now be able to offer funding for Aberaterone. I have been watching this particular drug with interest as it has gone through some very satisfactory trials over the last few years. It's horrendously expensive, of course.

24 Feb 2015
I did my three-monthly PSA test yesterday and the result is another drastic drop to 5. This is lower than it was when I was diagnosed twelve years ago. It would seem the radiation on my spine has done a great job on the cancer that was discovered there just a few months ago.

I will have a routine visit with my onco specialist in a couple of weeks but it really looks as if there is nothing to worry about unduly just at the present time. What a change of scenario from a year ago when we moved down here! Who could have expected to get such results from failing to get onto an international drug trial?

My bone density is down but I have been approved for free treatment with Aclasta and the first infusion will start shortly. That's probably just as well considering that my balance has been pretty shonky lately. The feet aren't always where the brain thinks they are and I took a couple of falls last month.

4 Nov 2014
When I first started this blog I wrote about the satisfaction of discovering Christine Newman's lines about not "battling" cancer but "embracing" it; I quote her again:
      To embrace my cancer is to know that my days are numbered,         that I had better get on with things in life that matter...

Apparently my comment didn't stem the tide of the expression "battling with cancer" that we still hear so much.  But that thought continues to give me a sense of proportion about what is happening within me. I am not some kind of battleground; I am a man with cancer.

And it was inspiring for me to read that Martin Crowe tweeted his returning lymphoma as his "friend and tough taskmaster".

3 Nov
Well, surprise, surprise! My PSA has actually gone down in just a couple of weeks. Possibly going off Bicalutamide is beginning to have the anticipated effect. Not a big drop but enough to put off Cyproterone for the time being.
Bone Density test yesterday was, however, no surprise. We have yet to have a formal consultation on it but it seems my bones are generally more fragile than we would like. Old age and medication probably have to share equal blame. So what do we do about it? Maybe just try not to fall over...
We visited special friends in hospital while we were over in the Big Smoke. It was a lot of navigating around unfamiliar territory and buildings but we were reminded how lucky we are compared with some...

31 Oct
Two more trips to town and a lot more time around Auckland Hospital for a one-minute burst of mysterious energy under the linear accelerator, and we have passed another therapy milestone. Not too much in the way of side effects, beyond oppressive tiredness and a bit of tummy discomfort.

But the white-coated ones are by no means through with me. I have to see the radiation specialist again in a few weeks; off to do bone density tests next week, another PSA test today for (oncologist who has already decided to put me onto Cyproterone anyway!), and another urology interview and further endocrinological tests in December. And those are just the ones I can remember...

How many specialists does it take to help me have a reasonable quality of life for another indeterminate period? None of them can cure this disease; they’re just treating the symptoms and the side effects of their treatment.

Bev and I talked a lot in the wee small hours this morning about priorities in health spending… Beyond getting some ideas for a sermon at Paihia in a couple of weeks, we had no great insights. But we realise that nothing did so much for our quality of life in the past four years as having the “half-joints” replaced in both my knees. The benefits were immediate, obvious and hugely beneficial. You can’t say the same about prostate cancer therapies…  It’s awesome chemistry and engineering and physics and we are meeting some simply wonderful people who work in the field. But at the end of the day, sooner or later, there will be an end to the day.

Of course I want that to come later rather than sooner. Of course I would like an easy ride to the end rather than a lengthy challenging journey with pain and frustration. But in these days when our country, not to mention the world, has more deprived children than ever before, I think we need to watch the elderly health budget as carefully as the calendar! And this means more serious thinking about the problem of dyseuthanasia - of interfering with the natural processes of death and prolonging life unnecessarily. In my case, I know it will be largely up to me to say: Enough!  H'm...

28 Oct
Rough trip into town today for my third session. Some "motorway incident" somewhere resulted in a 90 minute trip to Auckland Hospital instead of about half an hour. We'd allowed plenty of time and still managed a quick cuppa and bikkie courtesy of the charming volunteers from the Cancer Society. Another short burst of RT and we were heading home in under half an hour...
I'm definitely a bit seedy now, but a lovely chicken meal and a spongey pud with whipped cream has done a lot for the spirits. Wrestling with my computer's Nano Adapter has kept my mind on other things tonight. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I hate it when that happens. But ain't that life...

27 Oct
Session Two was pretty uneventful. But a three day break for Labour Weekend has seen us relaxing pretty seriously. Our group sang out a couple of times, notably at the local Hospice, to a former Village barbershopper who's a patient there. We have some way to go with the finer points of Barbershop but we had an interesting time. And we went to a concert organised by a 1958 flatmate of Bev's, Barbara (Brazendale) Olds. She's one versatile musician and has an interesting group of ladies who have done over 100 such concerts.
All in all, the worst side effect I've noticed so far is being uncharacteristically tired... So today we watched a couple of movies and read. Tomorrow we're off to the city for RT session three...
24 Oct 
After one session of RT I am reminded of a story our solicitor told me as we sat in my posh office in the 11-story Methodist Mission building in Dunedin. He said there was a fellow who fell off the top of such a building, and as he dropped past the second floor he was heard to say, "No worries! I'm OK so far..."
That's the message from radiation therapy this morning.
23 Oct 
We dutifully rolled off into the city again today and I presented my lower spine for a short burst of "spot welding". Nothing to it, of course, and fantastic service by everyone involved, but one can't help having a slightly sinister feeling about the whole business. There'll be another tomorrow and then a break for Labour Weekend. I should be comforted that I'm not urgent enough for them to put me on the Labour Day Monday list. But three more sessions next week.

Meanwhile we are squeezing in an extra practice for our Barbershop men's quartet for a short concert on Sat night at a local church fundraiser. It will be our first performance after only a month since we first got together to give it a try. Our mixed chorus is also performing but I think that we can at least hold the music for their items...

And the little Bash car (see pic below). Well, she's created quite a hit and we've been asked to join the local Christmas Parade next month. Will do if we can get her slightly sick engine to run properly.

Hey, life is busy and interesting.

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