Ok, so this is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life. For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts, you can skip this first paragraph. For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 49 years old and I recently had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?
Todays post is a bit long, a bit rambling and a bit of a braindump of my thoughts today.
So today has been a very grim day for me. I had some bad news. One of my best friends has been having chemo for five months and has just found out that the tumour hasn't shrunk enough to be operable. Although the primary tumour hasn't grown, it has spread to other places. He's on morphine for the pain. On the bright side, he's a Man Utd fan and he's got tickets for the match vs Crystal Palace. Given his recent luck, I'd be tempted to put a fiver on Palace. It was a grim call, perhaps made grimmer because I promised to update another friend when I heard the news, so I had to have the conversation twice.
Now as someone with a far better prognosis, it sent me into a very depressed state of mind. What do you do? How do you deal with such things? It's bad enough getting your head around your own issues, but this was a really unwelcome bit of news. I used to deal with such news by going to the pub and getting hammered (and believe me that isn't ruled out completely tonight), but I have another method of dealing with such setbacks these days. I went to the gym and gave myself a pretty tough work out. I set myself a 50 minute hill course on setting 11. The physical strain of dealing with the hill sections, followed by the resting sections was fairly distracting. As I had to choose a bike, I had the choice of the News or watching Dita Von Tees on "Loose Women". In my depressed state, I chose Von Tees, strangely this did the trick of taking my mind off the black thoughts and issues (that and the physical strain of the workout). Although Von Tees isn't really my cup of tea looks wise, she is a great burlesque dancer and I guess I'd recommend her show as a distraction for morbid thoughts.
One of the things which I've been advised is to try and reduce my stress levels. A question I had asked myself is whether I need the stress of writing this blog. It is an interesting question, because I know of one blogger who gave it all up because the stress of blogging got too much. The thing is, however I look at it, the blogging isn't the stressful thing. The stress comes from knowing that all of the crap I write about is being perpetrated on the people of Barnet. It is rather interesting to note that certain people have started leaving all manner of nasty and snide messages on their twitters and in the local paper, since I first mentioned about the diagnosis. Is it a coincidence? Do they think that they could kill me or stress me out enough to stop blogging "on health reasons?". Well if that is the reason, then think again chaps. The first question I asked myself when I got the diagnosis is "what is the point of being alive?". The point hasn't changed. We all have our own set of beliefs and we all have our different view on why we are here. Some believe that their is no point to us being here and that while we are here, we'll take as much as possible and give as little back as possible. Some of us believe we are are here for a reason, even if we don't understand that reason and we are here to try and make some sort of difference. When I read some of the unsolicited emails I receive from people who appreciate the blog, I realise that it has a purpose and it helps people. So what if I get a few trolls leaving stupid and ignorant messages in the electronic ether? Am I such a coward or so lazy that it matters to me? Dream on.
As I come to terms with my situation, I realise that it gives me a better insight into the condition we all have, the human condition. I've learned much since the diagnosis. I've learned that I've made a few lifestyle mistakes, through ignorance. I've learned that the government ( not just the current one) has badly let down all of us, by not educating us as to our eating habits. I've learned that many more people than I realised have had brushes with cancer. I've realised that those of us who are fit and well (yes, that's me. I have no symptoms) need to do far more to raise money for research and give time to support those who are not fit and well.
I also think I've solved something which has bothered me since I was a child. There are so many beautiful things in the world that have been destroyed. Of the seven wonders of the world, only the pyramids are left. In London, not a day seems to go by without a landmark or a much loved building going. I've always wondered why, if there is a God or some sort of supreme being, such destruction can come to pass. As I said, I had a moment of enlightenment. It's so we learn the value of things. If nothing beautiful could ever be destroyed, how could we ever understand it's value or have a reason to fight for it. Would a world where we could take everything for granted, really be a better world?
Which takes us back to my condition and yours too my friend. With my condition, I believe I can do something to improve it and I am trying. Now maybe you are in that position as well. If you are then, give some serious thought to making a few changes. That starts by identifying the things which may make you ill. For most of us, a few monor changes will make a huge difference. Then there are those of you who perhaps can't change their lot. Maybe, just maybe, you could help you loved ones avoid the things which you are going through.
So in answer to the title of this blog today, the point is to try and make a difference. Hopefully a difference for the better. And in the words of Steve Miller from 1969 - Don't you let nobody turn you around - strangely enough, as grim a day as it was, in a strange way, I feel far better in my own mind about myself. Maybe some sort of corner has been turned.