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, in 2013 my test was 4.0. My latest PSA test in January was a slight improvement, down to 3.8, 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 as promised, a changed preamble, adding my latest PSA score of 3.8. This is a small improvement on my last 2 tests of 3.9 and 4.0. As I write this I am eating my "cancer diet" breakfast. This consists of a mug of green tea with pomegranite juice in. This is accompanied by a "cancer friendly" fry up. This is based on the diets outlined in the book "Anti Cancer A new way of life". I've always enjoyed a fry up, but an anti cancer fry up is a bit different. Since my diagnosis, we buy organic, as pesticides are carcinogenic, so all ingredients are organic. It consists of fried potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms and chillies. This is normally fried in coconut oil, but today we are out of that so it was Olive Oil. Turmeric and ginger was also added. Now I've no idea if the diet is responsible for the fact that my PSA level has been consistently lower than the test in October 2011, when I received my diagnosis. I believe it has.
I was getting a little bit paranoid recently. I have noticed that I've been going to the toilet more often. Not to a level where it is a problem, but definately more. When you are in my position, such things ring bells. I have a consultation with the consultant on the 16th March, so I will mention it. I am sure there is a more mundane explanation and I have no other issues or problems. In truth, I've always had to go quite regularly, so I'm not 100% sure, but Mrs T has noticed and insisted I mention it.
Sometimes I think it is good to do a little stocktake of where you are personally. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have what might be called a "busy schedule". I have many major commitments. I write a blog, I do a morning a week at day centre for the homeless,I am a trustee of a charity, I run a music studio, I do IT consultancy and I have property interests. The first three are done out of commitment to my community and the second three pay the mortgage. My wife tells me I have my work/life balance wrong. On Friday we went out for a family meal at Valentino's, a fine family run Italian restaurant on the A41in Hendon. She commented I seem a bit less stressed at the moment than I have been. I was surprised as I felt the opposite was true. I am working harder than ever and last year was the first year where we didn't have a family holiday since the children were born. This is partially due to changing work commitments. As the father of three teenagers, I will be responsible for the financial upkeep of them, assuming they all go to University, until 2023. My assumption is that beyond that, we'll have to help them to get on the property ladder and who knows what else, given the state of the economy.
I passionately believe that it is morally wrong to saddle young people with debt in the form of student loans. It sends all the wrong messages out. That is why I joined the Lib Dems in 2011, as they campaigned in the 2012 election on a platform to implement progressive policies towards student debt. Sadly they reneged when they formed the coalition. Like many people, I left the party in disgust. As a result of these policies, I took the decision to work my nuts off to try and ensure that my children have a stable financial future. I do wonder, given my health issues, whether this is the correct decision. Stress is a factor in promotion of cancer and I certainly haven't embarked on a stress free life.
Then there is this blog. Immersing myself in the raw sewage that is the political scene is awful. The more I write blogs, the worse I feel about the state of our local community. Recently I've focussed on NHS related stories. In some ways, given my health issues, there is a direct self interest in this. It gives me no joy writing about the failure of the healthcare system and the cancellation of operations. As I write this blog, one of our regular guest bloggers John Sullivan is in the Royal Free, recovering from an operation for Bowel Cancer. John was misdiagnosed for five years as having IBS. Whatever may or may not happen to John, his quality of life has been massively damaged by this misdiagnosis. Even worse, when the condition was finally properly diagnosed and the seriousness recognised, he had an emergency operation cancelled at the last minute 2 weeks ago. As a fellow Cancer sufferer, how does this make me feel?
Last night, I had a curry with my wife. I said that I desperately need a holiday, a couple of weeks away in the sun, where I just put my feet up, do nothing and sleep and relax. The sad fact is that due to work and financial commitments, this won't happen until July at the earliest. So I look at the audit of the things I am doing and I realise that I have the balance all wrong. So what has to give? I can't ignore my financial commitments and I can't ignore my conscience, that tells me I have to fulfill my responsibility to my community. So something has to give and I suspect that it may be my health, unless I can make the balance better. This blog has been well served by guest bloggers. It may seem like nonsense to all of you out there who have no faith, but I find it amazing that whenever I am totally at a loss for something to write, a guest blog of great quality just pops into my email inbox.
This week, I was at a total loss as to what to write on Thursday morning. It was 6am and I was about to go to the passage to do my shift making breakfast for the homeless. As if by magic, a guest blog from Barbara Jacobson popped into my intray. As you will see from the sidebar, thousands of you enjoyed Barbara's blog and it is the most read story this week.
So anyway, this is a heartfelt appeal to everyone out there with a story. Together we can make a change. I am struggling in my mission to write quality blog posts every day. You can make the difference. All you have to do is put your story in an email, with a picture of yourself and a short biography and I'll post it as a guest blog. Don't make libellous statements or use rude words and I'll post it unedited ( I do sometimes suggest changes, as people who haven't written blogs can on occasion need guidance, but this is only done by agreement). Tomorrow I'll be publishing an amazingly powerful guest blog, written by John Sullivan, as he awaited his op. John wrote this blog whilst in agony from the tumour on his bowel. If John could make the effort to write, so can you.
The blog can be about any aspect of living in Barnet. It could be about how great your Scout group are, how you need a bus to Finchley memorial hospital or about how your operation was cancelled. The best stories are the ones which mean something. Every blog you write takes the strain off me. So please help me keep this blog alive.
I would be especially interested in guest blogs from members of our community who are younger and are most likley to suffer from the disasterous policies of this government towards education, and those in need of health care who are affected by NHS cuts. Without your support the first thing the cancer within me will kill is this blog !