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?
Well, if you've read all of these cancer blogs, next time you read it the previous paragraph will change. Today I had the first of my follow up sessions on active survelliance since I was diagnosed as having a low grade prostate cancer on 8th November. I received my latest PSA test result and the result of my MRI scan. Which means that the next blog will have to have the preamble updated.
It may sound odd, but I hadn't actually given todays consultation much thought. I have just been too busy. I have a studio to build, a blog to write and another couple of projects which have completely filled my mental bandwidth. I also have a friend who has a serious cancer and a bad prognosis to cope with. This morning, I had my meeting with the specialist at 11.55am. How did I prepare? I went to North Finchley to video the traders protest against parking fees. I bumped into Mrs Angry and VickiM, the two esteemed lady bloggers of Barnet, along with a whole bevvy of traders, photographers and filmmakers. It seems that the idea of traders carrying a coffin down Finchley High Road was a great draw. I felt a strange sense of irony that I was going to an imaginary funeral before a meeting which may (although unlikely) give me some very bad news.
My good lady wife insisted on accompanying me to the meeting. As I've been in rude good health recently, I suspected she wanted to make sure I hadn't made the whole thing up as an excuse to have a permanently bad mood (only joking, she wanted to make sure that if I found out something horrible, I'd have her support). I picked her up on the way back from the demo. She wanted to make sure I was mentally OK, I wanted to show her the video I'd shot.
As regular readers of this cancer blog will know, I've made a few lifestyle changes. I've gone semi vegetarian. I've cut out meat (mostly apart from the odd treat) and gone organic. I'm drinking green tea instead of black with milk. I'm drinking the pomegranite and eating my broccoli (which I loath). I've always been fairly active, so my sport has simply been maintained. I'm now 10kg lighter than when I started. This is down to better eating (not the cancer eating me).
Oddly enough, I rather suspect that I wish I'd adopted this diet years ago. Eating meat as a treat rather than a norm agrees with me. I enjoy the odd steak (I had a beautiful cut of venison on saturday, first meat for a week). I enjoy cooking, so the challenge of transforming a box of organic veg from Abel and Cole into a weeks worth of tasty meals is a challenge I relish. I enjoy eating the mushrooms with tumeric, pepper and ginger that the diet I'm following recommends. I enjoy the fact that the green tea and water I'm drinking has resulted in the fact I've not had a hangover for three months, even though I've drunk way enough to warrant a monster headache. I believe that this is because my liver and kidneys are working far more efficiently than they have done for years, without all of the fat, omega VI and other crap to clean up. In May I was told my cholesterol was "slightly high". I had it tested again last week and will be interested to see how this has responded to the new diet.
So as you may have gathered, I entered the meeting with a positive mental attitude. We sat down. I must confess that my doctor is not a man I'd like to play poker with. He gives absolutely nothing away. When he gave me the cancer diagnosis, I honestly thought he was going to give me good news, until he pulled the "C" trump card out. "Left side 5 sticks clear, 4 of five on right clear, 1 stick with 2mm tumourous mass, Mr Tichborne you have cancer" or words to that effect. With this guy, I don't know how good or bad it is till I'm out of the room and the door is shut. Please don't take this as a criticism of him, it isn't. If my job was to give people bad news, I've no idea how I'd approach it.
So we sat down. "The results of the MRI scan are clear. Your PSA level is down to 3.5" he said. I responded "So we can cautiously say that this is good news?". He said "Well it is better news than if they had found a tumour or the PSA level was up". He then said "You are sure you don't want to consider treatment options?". Now to me this sounded like there was something I'd missed. I asked what exactly the MRI report said. He read it out and it indicated everything was OK. He then said "Sadly, we can only tell you what the limited technology at our disposal indicates, it is not necessarily accurate". So I enquired further. He responded "Mr Tichborne, you are 49 and you have a long way to go. Things can change". He then informed me that I should have another PSA test in May and another biopsy in October. This was the course I'd already agreed previously. I really didn't enjoy the previous biopsy and I do wonder how beneficial it really is at this stage. I am however not a doctor and there are graveyards full of people who thought that they knew better than the bloke in the white coat.
I have a friend who was a doctor and I asked him why on earth we can never get a straight answer from a doctor on anything related to cancer treatment. He gave me an answer, which I sort of understood. he explained "Listen Rog, for years you've said how much you fancy Uma Thurman. Hypothetically, Just suppose that I told you, I'd managed to get her phone number and got her round for an evening of passion, with my smooth talking charm, I could tell you what her phone number was and what I said to her, but would it necessarily work for you?" I responded "We'll I'd certainly give it a go". He then said "But just suppose I caught her at a time when she was lonely and vulnerable and she just wanted to see someone she didn't know. Just suppose she'd got that out of her system and moved on. You wouldn't know why your approach hadn't worked and mine had, would you". I said "Well I see what you are saying". He continued "Cancers are a little like that. Two people can have the same cancer and yet the same approach will work completely for one person and fail miserably for another. We don't know why. Just as you'd never know why your approach failed with Uma". He then continued "That is why you need to be careful when people say that "it worked for me"". Ignorant fool that I am, I still don't completely get it. Last week I had a pleasant evening with a friend who told me quantum physics and mathematics will ultimately resolve every problem in the Universe, he believes with no shadow of a doubt that science is the solution to everything. Two days later I was told that to understand the treatment of cancer, I had to understand the whims of fancy of Uma Thurman. It's a strange world we live in.
Of course, I'm happily married, so if I was caught having an evening of passion with Uma Thurman, that would probably prove far more deadly than my prostate cancer seems right now. Have a pleasant evening. I certainly intend to.