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?
So the next time I write this, I will have to change the preamble. On Thursday I had my regular PSA test. My last one in August was 4.0. Will it have gone up or down? Who knows. This period is always mildly stressfull. What if it has gone up to 13? What if all of a sudden the strategy isn't "active surveillance" but actively chopping bits of me off? I was discussing the way the medical profession treat victims of Prostate Cancer. He had a radical prostatectomy and recalls the moment when a doctor informed him that he'd probably had sex with his wife for the last time. Now for my friend, this was a life changing effect.But it was delivered as if it was about as important as a car mechanic informing you that the car needs a new tyre. He also told me that after a recent consultation the doctor informed him "Some women don't like this treatment". When he quizzed the doctor as to why women don't like the treatment, it was "because their hair falls out". He was livid. Why should a man be any less stressed by becoming bald than a woman. My friend is 70 and has a fine head of hair. It is one of the few vestiges left of his rock and roll youth.
So if my PSA is 13 and I need a radical prostate removal urgently, I face the three deadly I's. Incontinence, Impotence and Infertility. Studies show that following such treatment a significant number of people become depressed, and I may go bald into the bargain. Or I could say "F*ck that" and face a situation where my body gets overrun with cancer and I die. What would be fairer to my wife, to live with a nappy wearing, bald lump of lard, who is physically incapable of performing his marital duties. I'm a miserable, grumpy, obnoxious sod at the best of time for Mrs T (the wife not the blogger or Prime Minister), I can't imagine how awful I'd be if I had no release at all for my tensions. Being a fat, bald, incontinent, impotent, infertile depressive was never something I have aspired to. So this week or so, whilst I wait for the good news, is always one which I loath.
To try and avoid the fate I outlined above, I try and follow an "anti cancer diet". Whether this has contributed to the relative stability thus far of my PSA level, I have no idea. I do however believe it has. if nothing else, it makes me feel like I am doing something. That is better than just sitting around waiting for bad news. Every week, if you believe the Daily Express, there are promising new breakthroughs in the field of cancer treatment. Sadly at the same time, I've seen a stack of people die of the awful disease in the last couple of years. What we all want is a magic pill that cures all varieties of the disease. Sadly what seems to happen is there are specific new treatments, for specific types of the diease at specific stages. This week, there was also a report that Google had bought the services of genius from Muswell Hill, for £400 million. This bloke is apparently developing a google app which will cure all cancers forever. If our friend from Muswell Hill manages to pull this off, then I reckon £400 million is cheap.
As I pondered this, I considered the best understood common cause of cancer. I am talking about smoking. if you want to massively reduce the odds of getting cancer, avoid tobacco. I then considered the stupidity of the tobacco companies. Just suppose that when smoking was first identified as the cause of cancer, they'd stated that they would give 25% of their profits towards setting up centres of medical excellence to develop cures for cancer. This would have given governments a massive problem. If they clamped down on smoking, they would have severely damaged the chances of finding a cure for the disease. Had they done this back in the 1950's I have no doubt that we'd not have smoking bans and tobacco companies would have far greater profits. Who knows, with all of those billions of pounds in cash, we'd probably also have had a cure for cancer.
Another interesting thought which occurred is this. If this genius succeeds and we get a google app for our mobile phones which cures cancer, just think of the effects. Whole swathes of the NHS will have to be changed from cancer wards into geriatric wards, as we all die of old age instead of cancer. Charities such as MacMillan and Cancer Research UK will have to close down and whole teams of experts who have dedicated their lives to finding cures will be down to the Jobcentre, looking for new careers as bus drivers or night club bouncers.
Many years ago, when I was a small boy, I asked my Dad what he thought the world would be like in the year 2000, which then seemed a long way off. He told me a story about his Dad who was an engineer who used to drill artesian wells in the outback of Australia. One rich landowner was also a geologist. He engaged my grandfather to drill for oil. Within the space of a couple of months, a huge oilfield had been identified. The landowner got in touch with a large American oil company, who bought the rights to the oilfield, for a massive amount. They then closed off the pipe and shut down the oilfield. My grandfather was puzzled. The landowner explained that the company made their money importing oil from the US. As a result Australia was dependent on the US. If word got out that there was oil in Australia, it would damage their business, so it was massively in their interests to sit on the site and keep schtum. My Dad said that the reason that the future was never as good as we expect was because anything which is for the universal good of humanity is generally going to disadvantage the people at the very top, who control the money and the power. As a result, anything which really is good for us will shut down billions of pounds worth of existing business. That is why we've not seen a cure for the cold. I couldn't help wondering what the big pharm companies would do if google really did come up with a cancer killing app. Just think of all the expensive treatments which would become obsolete? My Dad was of the opinion that all manner of inventions, ones which made cars more efficient, new cures for diseases, safety devices, etc had been snapped up by companies seeking to protect their exisiting product base. I don't believe he was wrong.
Mind you, knowing the reliability of google products, you'd probably find that you'd get half way through getting cured and you'd get an annoying pop up offering you sex with horny grandma's and the App would crash, leaving you to your fate.
Have a great Sunday, enjoy the sunshine! I am off to take my doggies for a walk and enjoy the beautiful green belt in Mill Hill.