Twice in one day! My journey with photons.


IMG_2184 (2)As I was sipping my pleasantly flavored urinary alkalinizer this morning,  I was thinking back to yesterday. Because I had a few radiation free days over Christmas, I had to go in to the hospital twice for my photon blast. Sounds a bit like a cocktail drink doesn’t it. Maybe I should invent one when I’m better. It’ll be a purple drink that will knock your socks off.

When I got home after the second bout I was planning on playing guitar or something but I didn’t really have the energy to do anything.

It’s an odd feeling. I was expecting to feel tired and I did, but its a different type of tired. The radiologist defined it quite astutely this morning, if not a little close to the subject of attention, when she said “A lot of men find themselves feeling knackered when they have two doses in one day.”

In my part of the world knackers are slang for testicles if I need to be any clearer, but in this sense it relates to the exhausted state at which horses or other livestock are no longer of any use to their owners and are sent to the knackers yard to be rendered into pet food or other items of greater usefulness.

IMG_2154 (2) Anyway, I was feeling a little more energetic as I got changed this morning for day 19 of my treatment. Back in the groove as it were, getting into my lava lava, chatting with others in the waiting room and then heading for LA 3 to watch the purple light on the radiation machine spin around my torso.

I feel like I should be doing something like walking, or painting the fence. But I might have to be a bit like rally driver Possum Bourne’s uncle who I used to work with at Tait Electronics. He said to me that whenever he felt like going for a run, he would lie down until the feeling passed.

I have written a speech this morning, which I hope to be allowed to give at a dear friend’s wedding next week, so I haven’t totally wasted the day.

Anyway, I hope you’ve all had a great Christmas and wish you safe travels if you are heading away to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I have 3 days off treatment and will be joining the throng heading for the winter-less north, although I have been receiving weather forecast emails containing severe rain warnings. Not a problem though, I’ll have a guitar or two with me and good company. I wrote the song Raglan Rain on just such a trip. Maybe my muse will come with me.

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Prostate Cancer Radiation Day 11


carparkI was sitting in the car park having finally remembered both my water and my star chart on the same day (I have today off!) for my 11th day of external beam radiation treatment and I was thinking, ‘why can’t they just use a light sabre, there seem to be an awful lot of them around this year’. I’m not sure I’d want to DIY though, I might lose more of my anatomy than intended.

It is now becoming pretty routine. Sign in, confirm my appointment for tomorrow. Do I still want my nurse’s appointment? Yes because the odd little side effect is starting to show and I want to discuss them. I now have some sample sachets of Ural which may help improve my flow, so I don’t have to stand there reading my emails while I wait, despite my bladder telling me I’m busting. Makes me wonder if the guy standing next to me adjusting his tie also has prostate cancer. I didn’t want to turn around and ask in case the Ural suddenly started working!

I started off listening to audio books on the way in, that was my plan, but I found that I was thinking so much that I couldn’t remember what I’d heard so the quantum physics and cosmic strings of big data as applied to Sociology 301 might have to wait until later in the day.

Maybe it’s the lack of coffee at 6 in the morning. A diuretic is not a good look when you’re trying to arrive and hang on to a semi full bladder.

Now it’s Spotify. I listen to new music Tuesday in the car until new music Friday comes along, in between I listen to starred and radio likes from starred. If you use Spotify, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

XmasOff downstairs, clothes off, lava lava on, clothes in the bag, bag on a shelf and look; they have Christmas decorations. I must thank them for making the effort. When I go in on Sunday, so do they. The little things matter.

I get to the circle of chairs around the table in the waiting lounge and greet my fellow travelers, all on our different crusades, fighting off evil unwanted invaders.

I’ve noticed something about the discussion today. There isn’t much. One of the patients has his wife with him for support. That stops people asking questions about urine flows and side effects, like the guy with throat cancer who can’t taste or smell. Fortunately for him that isn’t permanent.

There is definitely  a gender element to cancer chat. I am sure that when a group of women are together here on their own, they will be just as frank and open as our groups of men are when we are on our own. But neither group wants to talk about the side effects, the after effects or the fears they are burdened with in a mixed group.

I still find it a little daunting talking to the nurses and radiotherapists about what’s happening. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining and my natural answer when anyone asks me how I am is to reply with “great!” And when I give them a big grin (as much as anyone gets a big grin from me) I get a little rush of endorphin’s and feel better anyway. What they want to know is of course, do you have any problems that we need to know about; because we do need to know.

So today I slept in which was great, except that I woke up at 2AM with a mind full of work and other things, so I took half a sleeping pill and woke up again around 8.

CaptureI’m definitely starting to get tired. I had the house to myself last night and straight after dinner I went to my music room. I picked up my beautiful old Takamine and my arms were like lead and so was my brain. After 15 minutes I decided that wasn’t happening. I’m working on some old and new material and really wanted to get into it, especially after attending an early show of The Lady Killers on Thursday night, who were awesome as usual. I would have taken a photo, but Jackie made a comment to the guy in row one being able to look straight up her nose, well I was in row 2 and would have got her epiglottis or tonsils (if she still has them).

We agreed that next time we go to Q Theater to go for row 4! These ladies are great medicine I have to say. If you get a chance, go see them (they appear to be avoiding family Christmases by gigging almost every night) they are fantastic and their commitment to every performance is as if it is the most important one they will ever do. Their talent is amazing and the strength in their voices remains as good or better than ever.

Anyway, I have anther blog to write before engaging in some quality family time and then home, early to bed for a Sunday visit for some more photons. At least the worst of the traffic is over for the year, so tomorrow I can sleep in till 6:)

If you’re still hear, I have had amazing support from friends, family, my social network and I am very grateful for it. I am also delighted that some of you have decided to get prostate tests, or other lumps that you think are nothing. One of the guys I chat with in the morning had a little lump on his throat that grew and his doctor told him not to worry about it. I lost a dear friend a few years ago who had a little lump on his face. It took his life.

I welcome your comments on my blog and when it comes to Christmas and presents, the best present of all (except for new guitars and a Corvette) is just being there and I really appreciate those of you who have been there for me. I’m also feeling for other friends at the moment who have much worse troubles than I do. It’s all relative. Do something nice for someone today, give them a smile, a hug, let them know you care. It costs nothing.

 

Talking About Cancer


This morning I was reading a great blog called Letter to the Newly Diagnosed, by Dan. It is really well written and I would recommend to people who have been touched by cancer.

Control RoomLike most men, I was pretty modest when it came to discussing my private parts and bodily functions. That changed on the day that I thought I was going to get a quick blood test form, but ended up with the finger.

Since then I’ve been pushed and prodded by a variety of people including doctors,  nurses, radiologists, oncologists and urologists. I’m adjusting to the fact that when I get to the radiation centre and I’m asked about how I am, they actually want details if there is anything  out of the ordinary. They need to know for my sake and it gets a little easier each day.

It’s interesting the questions I get from friends and family, which range from are you feeling the effects yet? Does it burn when you pee? Has the fatigue set in yet? The answers if you were wondering, are not yet. So far its more emotional, coming to grips with the reality of my situation and the impact it is having on my work and home life, because it’s not just about me. Everyone is feeling this, especially my family.

Once I get there its on with my lava lava.lava lavaYep, I’m allowed to keep my socks and shirt  on.

I’m learning new skills, like how to do number two without doing number one, because one needs to be empty and the other needs to be reasonably full.

Your full bladder helps push your other organs  out of the way so you aren’t getting radiation in the wrong places. If you have gas or worse in your back passage, that can push your bowel such that it gets more radiation than the little bit it will already get. I got shown some very cool MRI and CT images of what it all looks like. No I’m not taking a selfie stick in there.

So if you get up on the table and the CT scanner finds that you haven’t had enough to drink or you’re not ready, you will lose your place while you deal with it as appropriate. These are discussions I have regularly and I have been warned it happens to most people around 6 times during their treatment phase. They say don’t worry, but I do. I dread being told that I have to get up off the table and have an enema or something. That would be another first that I don’t need. I’m not beyond being a little embarrassed yet.

ARO LoungeI’m happy sitting in the lounge with my fellow travelers on this journey as we wait our turn in one of the rooms, but I don’t want to be going back for a second go.

I mentioned in a previous blog about How to Talk to Someone Who Has Cancer, I’m getting pretty comfortable talking to friends and family and even colleagues (don’t ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answer:) ), but it still feels strained talking to other cancer patients in the lounge while we wait for our turn on the table.

You don’t know how they are feeling, what’s running through their minds. So despite having unwanted intruders in common, its sometimes difficult to even get a good morning from people and you don’t want to push them. But then I’ve only had 6 days of treatment so far and I’m sure as our faces and costumes become familiar, conversations will happen, even if its just a bit of cancer humor.

Anyway, the sun’s shining and tomorrow I’ll be up bright and early at 05:30 ready to drink (water) and drive with the rush hour traffic for Day 7 and one more tick and smiley face stamp on my star chart.

Thanks so much for all of your support, it is wonderful how many friends and associates have come out of the woodwork, even people I don’t know personally who have reached out to me, who have been through the same process. It is very much appreciated.

 

Day One External Beam Radiation for Prostate Cancer


I was all geared up to start on Monday 7 December, but it turned out that they had several people starting with both chemo and radiation, whereas I’m just doing radiation, so they changed it to Thursday 3rd December. Minor problem, I was going to be in Christchurch so we met in the middle and yesterday morning I was up at 05:30 and on my way to Mercy Hospital joining the early morning peak traffic hydrating from a bottle of water I had to finish by the time I was about half way there.

When you have radiation treatment you have to have exactly the right amount of fluid in your bladder and your bowel needs to be empty. The water helps push your organs out of the way and stops them getting hit by the radiation beams. If you don’t have that right, they’ll take you off the table to drink more or have a bowel movement (one way or another) and then you have to wait while someone else goes ahead of you as they are treating around 100 cancer patients a day!

They told me this happens to everyone around 6 times during their treatment and I didn’t want that being me. This involves changing your diet, for me it means drinking a lot more water than normal (apparently I’m in good company, in that most men live their lives in a state of dehydration) and avoiding any foods that can create wind, because gas also impacts on the shape of your bowel. If anyone wants details, I can share them but the list makes it very difficult to eat at restaurants as I found in Christchurch.

So it was with a sense of trepidation that a. I would arrive at Mercy Hospital in the right bodily state and b. that I would arrive there on time.

Once I got there I was sent downstairs where I was issued with my lava lava in a nice yellow tulip colored bag, got changed and escorted to the control panel outside the radiation room and then into the room where it all happens.

Mercy ScannerThe 2 machines on the side make up the CT scanner. When I was prepped I had an MRI and a CT scan to measure the size, shape and volume of my prostate. The CT scanner in  this room is there to make sure that you are lying in exactly the same position as you were when they took the first image. That way they don’t kill healthy parts of your body. The part at the top is where the radiation beams from.

You lie on the table with your head on a little support and your knees on the blue half pipes. They prod you into place so that you line up as above and then leave the room. Like most scanning systems they have microphones and speakers so they can stay in touch with you while you are in the room.

Once they get started the CT scanner and the radiation head rotate around your body in one 360 degree circle. It felt like something out of a science fiction movie and just as I was settling in, thinking “this is interesting” it was all over, they came in and told me I was done and I could go. The whole treatment itself took about 1 1/2 minutes.

I got dressed, went to my car and drove to work for a $4 Subway breakfast sub and a coffee that I had been hanging out for (not from Subway).

Then something hit me like being knocked in the head by an out of control snowboarder in a white out. I felt overwhelmed for a couple of hours. I think it was all the underlying stress that I had been ignoring and the release that the first bout of radiation was completed, I had drunk enough, followed the diet strictly, hadn’t embarrassed myself by having to get  up off the table, all the time reading books and Doctor Google and thinking about side effects, planning for succession at work if I needed to call in sick, all the things I’m trying to get done at work before the Christmas break, a friend who had just passed away during the week, reassuring my family and more. I was in a funk.

I worked my way out of that and had a good day in the office (my colleagues have been awesome), went home and once again felt exhausted. I ended up crashing on the bed for a couple of hours after comfort eating some nuts and my mandatory Kiwi Crush (a pleasant part of my treatment diet).

Now a day later and I’m still feeling a bit tired, but much better knowing I am on my way to dealing with this cancer. I’m getting focused on the future. Things like adding to my bucket list (number one is of course beating the cancer) and looking forward to Relay for Life. My kids have started Team Early Birds. More on that later.

 

Let’s Nuke those Prostate Tumors


Since my first blog 6 men and one woman have decided to go and get PSA tests done for prostate and other conditions, motivated in part due to my blog. That is awesome, not only that they are doing it but also reflecting back to me. I hope I can increase that number through sharing my journey.

For those who I have motivated to get tested, I would like to reiterate the message from my blog about life and other insurances. If you test positive for cancer You Are Now Uninsurable. Please make sure you are comfortable with the level of your life and heath policies first. Once you find out you have a life threatening condition, even once you are in remission, it’s unlikely that you will ever be able to get health or life cover again. Even if you are confident you will be fine (like I did) and are just getting tested, (like I did) because its the right thing to do, or because your partner keeps telling you to (like mine did), if the test is positive, it is now too late.

IMG_2059First I’d just like to sincerely thank those of you who have left comments and messages of support, here, on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other places where I have a presence. I’ve never been in the position of recipient for messages like these before and it’s very humbling. I have also had phone calls and cards from colleagues at work and many messages and prayers from friends, family and acquaintances including some who have survived similar journeys.

A lot of people sent me messages of support for Monday for which my thanks. What you didn’t know is that I wasn’t able to start on Monday as planned, because they had so many people who are starting on Monday with both chemo and radiation.

IMG_2049They wanted me to start on Thursday, but I was down in Christchurch enjoying the balmy weather. It was 32 degrees on Wednesday and 28 on Thursday. I’m usually looking forward to coming home for the warmer weather but it was the other way around.

So how was my first day? New blog coming.