Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Rog T's Cancer blog - A year of carnage and grief

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 50 years old and I last year 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 latest PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing. My latest PSA test in August was not quite so promising, back up to 3.9, 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? 

Is it really three months since I last updated this series of blogs. For a man who is supposed to be "destressing" I am failing miserably. Three teenage kids is not the recipe for a calm life. And then there's the job. Sorry that should read jobs. I read about a guy who has eleven jobs. I can understand. I have four Ltd Companies, I do work for our family trust, I am a trustee of a charity, a member of the Sacred Heart Church Pastoral Council, I volunteer on a Thursday morning at a day centre for homeless people. I also organise a five a side football team and play in a band. Oh yes, I almost forgot, I occasionally write a blog. 

Until this year, I took all of this in my stride. I am finding this harder to do. If I didn't need to pay the mortgage, I'd love to ditch the paid work. If I didn't believe passionately in what I write about, I could do without the stress of the blog. I spend about 15-20 hours a week on that alone. If I wasn't racked with Catholic guilt, I'd probably ditch the charity work. That leaves the football and the music, which are the things I really enjoy. 
Spud Hudson RIP 

Why is this becoming harder? Well it isn't physical. Thankfully I still have no symptoms. I've passed the 2nd anniversary of the PSA test which enrolled me in the cancer club. As far as I know I am fine physically at the moment. What is hard is carnage amongst my friends. Just over a year ago, Paul Hircombe, one of my best friends and bassplayer in my band for 28 years died. In the last two months I've attended three funerals. Two have been victims of cancer my friend Spud Husdson, Helen M's mum and the third, Andy "Livvy" Livingstone, a victim of a heart attack. There is also a long list of people we know (seemingly longer every week) who are being added to the club.

Is it an epidemic? Is there something fundamentally wrong with our lifestyles or did we just die of other causes before cancer got them? Many friends have happened upon this series of cancer blogs, whilst trying to come to terms with their own issues. They approach me in hushed tones and ask how I can be so brave as to chronicle what I am going through? On Graham Norton on Monday we had Samuel L. Jackson talking about his campaign to raise male awareness of Cancer and to get men talking about their issues. That is something of a mission for me.

What disturbs me is the huge level of ignorance. I've chosen to educate myself about the disease. Most people haven't got a clue. Basically cancer is a product of genetic mutation. This is all cancers. I read stupid and ill informed articles that say some cancers are hereditary and some are environmental. This is crap. They are all caused by genetic mutation, it is just some people are more predelicted to cancer as an ancestor passed a mutation on to them. 

What we should do is have mass screening for everyone. We should log everyone's DNA (except those who wish to opt out) and use the biggest number crunching computers to identify the mutations and risk early. Where there are "cancer hotspots" we should investigate further and see if there are common mutations, work out what causes them and then work out a strategy to combat them.

At the moment we don't have a magic bullet to kill cancer. We do have the technology to catch it early. We just don't apply it universally. If at some time in the next 10 years you die of cancer, the sad truth is that if the government was prepared to put the resources in they could catch it and you wouldn't die.

Sometime in the next two weeks, I'll be booking in for my next PSA test. I have put it off for a while. Why? I am sick of thinking about it. My wife is concerned that I may be burying my head in the sand. I am not, I am just too busy and too stressed up to have the hassle right now. A month won't make much difference, given my last PSA level. What I do know is that one day, I will do the test and get some unwelcome news. At that point I will have no choice but to rebalance my life. I hope that that day happens after my kids leave home. I do appreciate them, even when they drive me mad. There are times I wish I was a more placid and laid back person. And then there are days when I thank the Lord I am driven by anger and resentment. There was a great article in the Guardian G2 magazine yesterday. It was an interview with Tom Robinson anout how he wrote "Glad to Be Gay". Whatever I've written is nothing in comparison with courage Tom Robinson showed writing that song and performing it to Punk audiences, in the days when bands in small clubs got canned off. At the end of the interview, he said that a young American gay man had contacted him. He'd taken an ovedose as his parents had disowned him. As he lay there awaiting death, Glad to Be Gay came on the radio. The young man heard the song and realised he wasn't alone. He immediately went and stuck his fingers down his throat and threw up. He then moved to LA and started a new life. Tom Robinson said that alone made the song worthwhile. If writing this blog helps anyone deal with the issues us members of the C-club face, it has been worth it. If it doesn't it has been cathartic for me. Maybe that is enough.

1 comment:

PaulW said...

Good luck. May The Force be with you.