Sunday, 29 January 2012

Rog T's Cancer blog - another week another test

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts, you can skip this first paragraph.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 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?

Friday morning, I had my third PSA blood test. This followed hot on the heels of my MRI last Saturday. I've had two so far. The first one I scored 2.8, which I was imformed was "slightly raised". It was one of ten different blood tests and at the time the last thing I expected was a diagnosis of prostate cancer. I'd had no symptoms and was part of a suggested "MOT" because the doctor hadn't seen me for a while. I actually went for a referal for a bad knee ! So then I had the follow up test. This I fully expected to be normal. It was 4.1 - it had gone up. I still thought it was because the test is "notoriously unreliable". The specialist recommended a prostate biopsy. I agreed, I thought this would put the silly suggestion of cancer to bed and I could sleep soundly. They took ten cores. One came back as cancerous. A low grade cancer, six on the Gleason scale. "Active monitoring" was recommended. This and the MRI are the start of this regime.

I've made a few lifestyle changes. I immediately read everything I could, to try and ascertain what I could do for myself. I read a great book on the subject - anti cancer - a new way of life - at the behest of my gym personal trainer. A well researched book, based on sound scientific principles, written by a trained medical practitioner. This recommends a diet based on pesticide free foods (organic as far as possible). The idea is to eat drink as many things as possible which have been shown to inhibit cancer and as few as possible which promote it. Out go the processed foods, the fatty foods, the high omega 6, low omega 3 foods. In come the low fat foods, the high omega 3, low omega 3 foods, the high in antoxidant foods and drinks. Green tea with honey, ginger and lemon replces black tea with milk, for example. Pomegranites and pomegranite juice come in. I've been doing this for nearly three months. The effect so far? Well my weight has come down from 106 kg to 98 kg. People keep telling me I'm looking great (usually not knowing the reason for the weight loss). How do I feel? Physically good right now. Mentally? Now this is a harder thing to describe. I am extremely positive. I am busy at the moment so I don't spend hours thinking about it, and I feel fine, but at times I have dark moments. I'm told by the family that I've been exceptionally moody right now. I don't know if this is purely down to the diagnosis, or other stresses in life. Who can say?

I've changed my working schedule. I'm volunteering one morning a week at The Passage - a homeless drop in centre. It is strange to think that although I have cancer, statistically I'll probably easily outlive most of the people I serve breakfast. A friend asked why I was volunteering there. Was it an attempt to set myself right with God in the face of a challenge to my health, a sort bargain "I'll help the homeless, if you heal me". Sadly for me, I doubt that God is open to such deals. The two things are unrelated, although I have found that sit does help me get my head around the human condition. I would recommend such work for anyone in my position. I am not sick, I have no symptoms and the only thing wrong at the moment is my unease at the possible difficult journey which awaits me at some point in the future. The thing is that we live in the here and now, not the future. I sleep in a warm bed in a centrally heated house. I can afford to eat organic carrots and bananas if I choose. The people I dole out the breakfast for have a choice of bacon, eggs, sausage tomato and toast. Food is a fundamental requirement. The day centre offers the chance to eat, get cleaned up and get warm. For me it puts it in perspective.

Which brings us back to the PSA test and MRI scan. There are three possibilities. The small cancer in my prostate will either a) be roughly the same as it was in August when I last had the PSA test, b) It will have continued to rise or c) It will have dropped. I suspect that the most likely option is a, then b then c. If the diagnosis is a or c, then to me at  least that will validate the lifestyle changes and make me pleased that I've made the changes. What about if it has continued to rise? That will be a bit more problematic. Whilst I have no doubt that the changes are doing my general health a world of good, it will cast doubts on my strategy for dealing with the cancer. To me this won't mean that I've deluded myself, it will merely mean more research and potentially more changes, if there is anything else I can change. There are other factors I believe could create issues, such as mobile phone radiation and stress. These are issues I've really done nothing to address so far. I'm really not sure how you destress when you are me? Due to recent changes to my working day, I'm not using my gym where I do yoga, so I've actually removed one of the things which may help. I'm still going to my other gym, where I do have the luxury of the sauna and the jacuzzi after my session, which I'm taking full advantage of. 

One of the most sensible things in the book I've been reading is the fact that there is no miracle cure for cancer. All you can do is alter the odds in your favour. The strange thing is that unless you have a clone double with the same condition and they don't make any changes, you never really know. On the 6th, when I see the specialist again, I may be told it's gone into meltdown. I may be told it's disappeared. Whatever they tell me I'll never know how the changes have affected me. If the news is really bad, it may have been even worse. If a miracle has happened, it could have happened anyway.

I have a friend who has been told he has 6-12 months to live. His doctor has told him that if he enjoys smoking, he may as well carry on because stopping won't cure him and if he enjoys it, then he might as well do it. The awful truth is that the doctor has a point. I'm hopefully at the point where I can make a difference by such changes. My anti cancer bible tells us we should avoid all carcinogens at all costs. The philosophy is to do everything in your power to improve your chances and remove all cancer promoters. I don't really smoke, so it's not a dilemma I have. Basically the theory is to get yourself as far as you can into the tail of the bell curve graph at the top of this blog. You do this by avoiding all things which promote cancer. I'm an engineer by trade, so it is a philosophy which seems sound to me.

Like religion and helping the homeless, it is something you do because you think it is the right thing for you. That is all you can do.

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