Sunday 28 May 2023

Reality bites, facing up to the future - Rog T's Cancer blog

 Today, I fly to Portugal to (hopefully) finish work on the new album by The False Dots. It is provisionally entitled "A finger in the Sun". We have recorded the backing tracks to five songs in our Mill Hill Music Complex studios, and are going to Boz Boorer's Seirra Vista studios in Monchique to puit the cherry on top. Boz is an amazing music producer and the environment at his studios is ideal for finishing off an album. When we work in Mill Hill, I am always being interrupted. Customers need help, friends drop in. I love it, but being isolated is great. What's this got to do with my recent cancer diagnosis? Well, I won't be writing any blogs till I get back, so I wanted make sure that everyone knew this is for good rather than bad reasons.

And how am I? Well that's an interesting question. .Following my diagnosis on Wednesday and the news that I will need 'further treatment', I think people expect me to be on deaths door, pale and gaunt, but nothing could be further from the truth. If it wasn't for the fact that I'd had an MRI and had samples snipped off my prostate gland I'd have no idea I had the bloody disease. They caught it early. Physically, I feel as fit and well as I ever have. My Fitbit tells me that my cardiac fitness is fine, I average 10,000 or more steps a day

Yesterday, I went on a London International Ska Festival River cruise and spent four hours drinking beer and bopping. I couldn't have been happier. 

But sadly, life isn't all drinking beer and boppping in the sun. There are things to be faced up to, decisions to be made. There are a few stark facts about the disease

In England

  • More than 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in England.
  • More than 10,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in England.
  • Every hour, one man dies from prostate cancer in England.
  • More than 410,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in England.

I was diagnosed in 2011. I am currently one of the 410,000 men mentioned. You can find out more here if you are worried. I'd urge every man aged 50 and over to get checked out. Whilst I have some difficult decisions, none are likely to involve booking an appointment with COOP funeral services (other companies are available) due to this any time soon. 

But it's not happy days. I think for most men like me, the biggest fear of any treatment is that you will become unable to have sexual relations as a result of any treatment. I love my wife and I still fancy her like mad. I am really relaxed about the prospect of death, I have few fears, but the thought of not being able to have a sexual relationship terrifies me. Maybe some of this is irrational, but there is a part of my mind that tells me that no sane woman would want to be with a man who is impotent. I am sure that it won't surprise you to learn that she tells me that this will make no difference to her feelings for me, but I cannot escape the fear that maybe I'll only be half a man. There is a part of me that tells me I should refuse all treatments, until I really do have no choice and the cancer has made the decision for me. When I mentioned this in 2016, she was horrified that I could even think this. What is even more horrififying is most sexually functioning men I know, who have a diagnosis, tell me that this is something they have seriously considered. I am still seriously considering this as an option. I know it is a stupid option, but there is a voice telling me to squeeze every ounce out of a full life whilst I still can. 

Having said that, it is only an option to be considered and it is probably not one that I will choose, although I will ask the doctors what that would mean. It is a Russian roulette option. It could blow my head off. I had a beer with a mate who has been through the radiotherapy option. He was very positive about it. I must confess, it scares me less than surgery. The down side is that the treatment will take a very long time. Six months of hormone therapy, six weeks of radio therapy for five days a week, then maybe 2 years of hormone therapy after. Then there is surgery. As I had HiFu this is a far more complicated procedure than if I hadn't. When I had HiFu, this was not properly explained. I am a bit annoyed at this, although in all honesty, I'd probably have gone for HiFu still. With surgery, it is highly likely I'll have the three dreaded I's - Impotence, Infertility and Incontinence. The upside? It should be the end of the matter and when I get used to it, I won't have to worry too much. 

Are there any other options, radical treatments? I really don't know. The other complication is that I need a PET scan before any decision is made. If the cancer has spread, then the surgical option becomes irrelevent. It will be hormone therapy. I am told that with the MRI and biopsy results, this is unlikely. At the moment, I am in limbo.

So how am I doing mentally? Well, I had a couple of dark days, but as I noted on Friday, my band rehearsal lifted my spirits. I am now mostly OK, although I have short episodes of feeling completely overhwhelmed by it all, when I feel like screaming. These have mostly been when I've been alone or walking the dogs. I can cope with things when I know what will happen, but it is all up in the air. I worry about my wife, the kids, the studio. I reflect on my life and all the bad decisions I've made, all the people I've upset, all of the things I should have done but didn't. All of the people who I let down. All of the people I should have apologised to, but I was too cowardly.  I guess it is only natural to be intraspective at such times and also rather self critical. I've always had a mild dose of imposter syndrome and find it hard to comprehend that I've achieved anything. I've always felt this was only because I have managed to surround myself with wonderful people and surfed the wave of their talents. There is a part of me that is scared by this cancer struggle as in many ways it is not something I can rely on anyone else to deal with. I have great friends who are supportive, I am blessed, but when I go into treatment, much of it will be how my own body reacts and responds. Does my body like me? Clearly I've upset it to be where I am. 

But all of that aside, I'm off to Portugal, I have work to do and I intend to do it to the best of my ability and have a damn good time in the process. See you at the end of next week. Hopefully with a suntan and a finished album.

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