Sunday, 5 January 2014

Rog T's Cancer Blog - Repairing the damage of an over indulgent Christmas

For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, 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 51 years old and in October 2011 I  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.  In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9. My latest PSA test in August was not quite so promising,  back up to 4.0, in other words the downward trend has stopped. 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? 

Today is the 5th January. I have had my third Xmas living with the shadow of cancer in my life. Yesterday, one of our local politicians, who dislikes what I write in my blog, chose to attack me using my cancer status on Twitter.
There is of course history and bad blood between us, totally unrelated to my writings and my comments on cancer.  This is not the first time that this particular individual has chosen this form of attack and I daresay it will not be the last. Are peoples health issues fair game for elected representives to use in this way?  I will leave that as a question for others to ponder. It does however serve as a good way to lead into the first blog of 2014 on the issue of cancer. Is "my prostate playing up again?" Actually no. Quite the opposite. In September I had a biopsy and this indicated that the cancer was fairly stable. The recent PSA tests have also been fairly stable (I haven't had one since August, so I really need to book one up). Am I showing any symptoms of Prostate Cancer? What are the Symptoms? 

  • A need to urinate frequently, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Difficulty in having an erection
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

 I don't really suffer from any of these, apart from the last one, but this usually follows my weekly football kickabout. Do you suffer from any of the above symptoms? If you do, then if you haven't been checked out, I suggest that you do. Early diagnosis will massively increase your probability of surviving and lessen the impact of treatments.

That is not the full story. Just before Christmas, having received a letter in November stating that I would require a further biopsy at the end of 2014, I was rather surprised to receive a letter from the NHS at Barnet Hospital. I have been discharged as an out patient by the cancer clinic. What really irritated me was the letter stated that if I wanted to know why, I'd have to contact my GP. As the letter was received in the Xmas build up, I've yet to do this. Now I can only assume that one of two things have happened. Either there has been a cock up in the paper work or the budget for cancer treatment has been cut. I will of course report back in due time. I will be seeking a GP consultation (and a PSA test) this week. I must admit I am perplexed. In the past week, I was talking to a friend who has been receiving treatment for severe irritable bowel syndrome for five years, only to be recently told that the diagnosis is wrong and he has a rare form of cancerous tumour. If nothing else, this makes me determined to ensure I get proper treatment and I am not simply bumped off a list to help the stats look better.

So that is where I am. But that isn't what I really wanted to discuss. As regular readers of this series of blogs will know, I have been following an anti cancer diet and trying to do the right things with regards to my health. I stepped up my exercising, changed my diet and have tried to moderate my drinking. I have two days a week where I don't drink. I drink green tea (without milk) rather than black tea with milk. We eat organic, I drink pomegranite juice and try and avoid things known to be carcinagenic or which promote inflamation. We have tried to cut out processed foods. I avoid dairy produce as much as possible.

Christmas is a challenge. I love mince pies, Christmas cake and all of the other trimmings of the season. Sadly most of these contain the things I should avoid. As to the two days a week not drinking, these more or less went out of the window, especially for the last week. That is not to say I was plastered all the time, but I certainly didn't give my body a rest. I also have been slack with my exercising. My trips to the gym have been less frequent. Football stopped for two weeks.

So now the festive season is over. I have given up drinking for January (although I will have a night off for our football team get together). We had our first football kickabout on Thursday and I felt better for it. I have put on a stone. My Daughter is doing an A level art project and photographed me to do a painting. It is not a pretty sight. So I have set myself a target. I want to get back below 15 stone in January and I want to get back into running. Sadly the weather has not been conducive to jogging. In some ways, what I have done is the worst possible way of dealing with cancer. Binge eating/drinking followed by mad periods of fasting etc is a stupid and unsustainable approach to managing any illness. Thinking that you can offset the damage of processed food & alcoholic indulgence by drinking another cup of green tea is ridiculous. I have spoken to a few people who have read these blogs and have said "I tried green tea and it has made no difference". What they mean is that they have seen no evidence that it has. My cancer is roughly where it was two years ago in terms of the biopsy results and PSA levels. Has the green tea and pomegranite juice made any difference? Who can say? All I can say is that I feel relatively healthy and I feel like I am not simply passively waiting for the cancer to get worse. 

Over the last year, I have slipped back slightly from the very strict rules I set myself to manage the disease. Due to the fact I changed my working arrangements, I have been eating all manner of things I'd previously been avoiding for lunch. If I get a nasty shock on my next PSA test, it will doubtless shock me back to my more fundamentalist anti cancer diet. If however it is stable or very slightly raised I may be tempted to slip further. 

I always find it strange when I stop drinking for a month (which I have done most years at some point, either for lent or January). Around now is the toughest time. I simply find myself edgy in the evening. If I have something to do, I am fine, but if I am bored, it drives me mad. Last night I was getting very tense. Fortunately there was a series of programs about the late, great Dave Allen. I have perhaps learned that one major thing which will help is to ensure I have distractions when I embark on these drink free periods. I enjoy drinking far too much to give up permanently. I don't mean getting completely bladdered, but sharing a bottle of wine with my wife or a few pints with friends is a pleasure I will not forfeit permanently. I rarely drink enough to get a hangover these days, so I don't believe it is a problem.

So January will be a time for taking stock and repairing the damage from December. I will find out what is going on with outpatients and I will find out my PSA status. I hope to finish January a stone lighter and a lot fitter than I started. Hopefully if my daughter takes another picture at the end of January, I'll look a bit better! 

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