Thursday 8 October 2015

Rog T's Cancer Blog - The news I was hoping not to hear

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, Jan 2014 was 3.8, August 2014 was 4.0,  February 2015 it was  up to 5.5  and my latest in August 2015 was down againg at 4.6.  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?

As regular readers and followers of this particular series of blogs will know, this time last week I was having a biopsy.  Today was the big day. Today I travelled up to Barnet General for the results. I was feeling pretty chipper about the whole thing. My PSA has been stable for four years. My recent MRI showed no progression. So what was there to worry about.

"God Bless the NHS"
So I turned up at Barnet General for my 10am appointment. As ever this never happens at the time you are told. My chief worry was the parking. I'd only put 1 hour on the ticket. I thought this would be ample, but by 10.35, I realised that this may have been a mistake, as I was still waiting.

Eventually I was called in. The doctor I saw wasn't one I'd previously seen. She looked at the notes and her opening gambit "Well the news isn't good, but it isn't time to panic". This was not what I was expecting to hear. She proceeded to tell me that the biopsy had found samples with a more aggressive form of cancer. This biopsy was a more extensive one than the previous. So I asked if this was likely to be simply that the previous biopsy was less extensive. Her response was along the lines of "yes, but it is irrelevent, you have something that requires some sort of response". I've been on what is called active surveillance for four years. She said "Now we need a change of strategy".

She then proceeded to outline the three recommended options. These are Surgery, Radiation/Chemotherapy or Ultrasound. She suggested a consult with each of the teams so that an informed decision could be made. I also need a bone scan.

I must confess this wasn't the news I was expecting. But the purpose of active surveillance is to ensure that when today comes, it is done in a way that can be managed. At present there is a small amount of a more aggresive cancer. I have options and whilst none are pleasant, I have the choice of several paths all of which potentially can make the problem go away. The only issue is that none are really that pleasant. My initial thoughts are that if it is feasable, I'd go for the Ultrasound treatment as this is the least invasive, has the least possible side effects and will involve the least disruption to my lifestyle. The only issue is whether it is feasable. We shall see.

I have many things to think about. My first responsibility is to my family. Whatever path I go down, it must be the best one for all of us. it influences various decisions about work and about other life related decisions. If I didn't have a family, I'd probably cash in a few investments and go on a massive holiday binge for a year or two, then have the treatment. I don't feel this is a fair option for them. In this day and age, your kids need all manner of help with matters financial. Reckless decisions are not the order of the day, although I do feel a holiday would be good to clear my mind.

I'd been mentally preparing this blog for a week. All of that has gone out of the window. We are in a new phase of the game and it isn't one I had anticipated. But there is something I need to say to everyone who is reading this. I am in this position because at age 49 I had a full NHS checkout. I am now in the position where I am weighing up treatment options which will make the problem go away (hopefully). I have options and choices. If I hadn't had that check up, I'd be happily going about my business, none the wiser. I would have found out when the whole thing went wrong. I'd be facing a situation where I would not be dealing with options for a cure. I'd be dealing with options where I'd be looking at managing a life limiting disease. No matter how bad I feel about this all right now, I am in a far better position than I would have been, if i'd found out when the symptoms made me visit the doctor. So please, do yourself a favour. Get your PSA checked out. Today isn't a great day, but it means that I'll be spared a far worse day further down the line.

For all my friends and all of those who aren't, I am likely to be around for a good while yet. As the doctor said "This isn't the time to panic". It is the time to make some haard nosed and rational decisions. In a delicious irony, as I write this, Robert Elms is playing 1999 by Prince. "We're gonna party like its 1999". Gotta say, I cannot think of anything further from my mind right now, but the irony did make me chuckle. I am glad I am British. No other nation does Gallows Humour better. Not only that, we have the NHS. Don't let anyone lead you to believe the NHS is anything other than the best idea ever. God bless the NHS. I am not a violent person, but I really think that any party or govenrment that tries to harm this organisation are a bunch of psychopathic criminals. The NHS is one thing I would fight to my last breath to defend. Whatever worries I have, unlike 97% of the population of Planet Earth I know I will receive the treatment I need and I won't have to become bankrupt in the process.


Mrs Angry said...

Chin up Rog: must be upsetting and worrying but you are strong & an obstinate old ******, a born survivor, and you'll be just fine: come on, your blogging audience needs you ... x

Bexley is Bonkers said...

It must be a bloggers thing. Went through similar routine ten years ago. PSA rose to 6.9 IIRC. Chose radiotherapy as it was the only course (at that time) with a chance of no side effects. That has been exactly the case once I recovered and PSA has been unmeasurable for years now. I expect to be chasing Bexley council for a number of years yet - though I am quite a lot older than you.

Definitely no need for you to panic.