I have Prostate Cancer


HOPE: Taken in the 2013 Relay For Life when I did my first marathon distance (took me almost the whole 24 hours!)

I was of two minds as to whether to share this, but it is one way of telling my friends, readers, colleagues and associates without having to tell the same story to everyone over and over. It’s not an easy subject to talk about. I’m not comfortable telling it and I know other people find it awkward to know what to say to me, so this is an easy option for all of us. Of course most don’t know yet because it was only a couple of weeks ago that I found out that it is serious.

Technically I shouldn’t know that I have cancer. I only know because my wife kept pushing me because of the health advertising and the fact that we have a huge number of people in New Zealand who have it.

I went to the doctor and said I believe there is a PSA blood test I can get and he firmly prompted me up onto the medical bed in his surgery and told me to drop my pants for the digit test. I didn’t want to but had complied before I even realized what was happening. I’ll spare you the details, other than that my virgin sphincter was sore and uncomfortable for a little while. Since that time I’ve become accustomed to being poked and prodded by strangers and am getting used to it. I know on the scale of 1 to 10 of things people endure, this doesn’t even get off the starting blocks. For now anyway.

The main point of this post is that my PSA at the time was 3.2. The doctor had been monitoring it in blood tests previously and whilst it was within normal levels, it had been increasing every test, always up. So we agreed at I should go and see a urologist.

I had a biopsy about a year ago and they found a few small malignant low grade tumors and I opted for active surveillance. I should have had another one 6 months ago but we seemed to miss each other. I tried eating very expensive sea cucumber TBL12, which didn’t agree with me very much in taste and made me feel queasy, but it was worth a try. Some people swear by it.  I also tried Pomi-T, a herbal extract approved by the FDA, but when I had another biopsy in October I was up to 4-5 tumors, still low grade but growing quickly.

So here’s the thing. There are a lot of stories and debates about whether you should be tested. Many people say that you’d be better off not knowing,  but if I hadn’t, in another  year I would probably be in a significantly worse situation and I’d still be in my 50’s. I might think differently if I was in my 70’s or 80’s.

I was keen to continue active surveillance which means more biopsies and tests, because most of the time I wouldn’t be thinking about it (but you do). The specialists strongly urged me to reconsider and having read extensively and asked lots of questions, I have opted for external beam radiation. If anyone wants to know why, I’m happy to explain my rationale, especially if you are going through the same process. Ultimately it’s a personal decision. They all have nasty side effects, but it has to do with age and lifestyle. I start radiation on 7 December for 8 weeks.

This particular blog is going to focus on whatever I feel like writing about, which is not business. It has always been my soapbox. So if you want more about technology, location based services and futurism, I suggest you ignore this one and follow me at SoLoMo Consulting and The Future Diaries.

The one hope I have from this, besides helping me process my feelings through this time, is that someone who was resisting the urge to get tested might give it a go. Already I know of one person who has been putting it off for years has made a doctor’s appointment. I read some statistics that said PSA tests have false positives and only 1 in a large number of people tested actually end up having cancer. Therefore getting tested is a waste of time.

So I’m that one in a large number whose life will be saved through getting checked out, despite having no symptoms or problems. I like living. I haven’t achieved everything I want to achieve in my work, haven’t seen all of the world and enjoyed lots of special family moments yet to come. I have music and songs to write and perform. I have many more trips to make around the sun. I still have a big bucket list.



New Year’s Resolutions and Plans for 2012

This morning on the way into the office I listened to a podcast from Harvard Business Review on How To Keep Your New Year Resolutions. If one of yours is to put more good in, why not listen to podcasts while your in the car. You can find HBR Ideacast here.

So yes, I had resolutions. I’m not going to share them with you here, but so far I am keeping them and I intend to have an awesome year, which I am going to put a massive effort into. Of course I have broken that down into many parts with goals and plans. I am very much into using technology, particularly in the area of lists and plans, time and people management. That’s what I wrote about in my book Unleashing The Road Warrior. The technology has changed a little since I wrote it, I now have an iPhone and iPad instead of a Palm or Windows Mobile, but the principles are the same and even the apps are still very similar if not more visual and a larger form factor.

Anyway, I was working through how I can improve my productivity and one of the things I realised was that in some cases I am a good multitasker, but in general by personality I am a sequential operator and that’s what I do best. I raise this partly as a note to self, but also as something for you to think about. Do you know how you function best? How you get the best results out of the day? Do you know what time wasting activities you get yourself bogged down in? In NLP we learn about different types of people and even school teachers are taught about whether people are tactile, auditory, kinetic etc. I’m a mixture of all of them, which is perhaps what makes me a good connector, but I digress.

I have always thought of myself as a good mutlitasker and in some cases I am. For example I am a songwriter. When I perform my songs, my left hand is up and down the fretboard, my right hand is picking or strumming, I recall the lyrics, sing them and engage with them, I monitor the audience and engage with them, I listen to make sure I am in tune, I make sure I’m breathing from my stomach and so on. That is multitasking. But it is something I have trained myself to do since the age of 9.

I can’t tell you that I can hold a phone conversation, read and comprehend an email, sort out files on my desk and monitor my websites concurrently. I can’t do justice to more than one thing at a time, especially as I get older. But the other thing I have done very well probably also since around the age of 9 is do many things sequentially and to a pattern. For example I have always read 3 or 4 books plus a few magazines sequentially, but effectively at the same time. I read a chapter out of one, then a chapter from another and so on. The same way that many of us today look at web sites, but what I do is give my full attention to those things at the time. I have intense interest but a low boredom threshold. I need stimulation.

What does that mean to my resolutions and plans for 2012? I am going to use my strengths more effectively. I am going to create a list (I like numbered lists) of things I want to achieve every day in business and in my personal life. There will be many but they will be achievable. Some will be repeated several times during the day such as

  1. Calling clients
  2. Contact people in my networks
  3. Meeting clients
  4. Calling potential clients
  5. Checking Emails
  6. Managing my social media accounts
  7. Managing my blogs

But others will be things like

  1. Take a walk
  2. Think of something or someone I am grateful for or to
  3. List 5 daily goals for the next day at the end of each day
  4. Look after my health
  5. Enjoy my family
  6. Remember that the quality of my life is determined by the quality of my thoughts (I borrowed that one from someone else who had a list of 35 tips.

I will end up with a list of perhaps 20-30 things that I will read every day. They won’t be long winded, they will be practical. At the end of this year I will have had an extremely productive year in many aspects of my life and next year you can ask me how it went. Maybe I will share some of it on my blog, but this blog is normally about technology and the future rather than more personal information.

My question for you is how are you going to make this a better year for yourself, your company, your network, your family and the people you care about?

Coping with stress in Christchurch

Never before have we experienced a situation such as exists in Christchurch today. As was seen on Campbell Live last night people are at breaking point. Even the ambulance officers who were interviews, some of whom  had lost their own homes appeared to be close to losing it, fighting on because they are trained to, because “my uniform says I am there to help”. Men saying they “Cried last week for the first time in 20 years”.

The situation is looking incredibly serious. We have our 2nd largest city full of people suffering from Earthquake Syndrome. Interestingly it is very difficult to find information about the psychological impact from a New Zealand perspective, which I blogged about yesterday it seems as if the authorities are keeping it as quiet as possible, worried that it will get worse if people start talking about it.

In the absence of anything else, I think that is exactly what they should be doing, but more on that in my next blog. Maybe its naive of me, but today as a citizen of NZ with no mandate or authority I emailed Dr Martin Seligman of the Positive Psychology Centre at Penn University. In the US they experience repeated incidents of natural disasters in certain areas and of course with their military forces they also have extensive experience in PTSD. In NZ we really have no skills to understand or deal with repeat natural disasters and their human psychological consequences at a level like this, which in my opinion is why we are doing very little about it. We aren’t coping with the demands of repairing buildings, deciding which suburbs stay or go. We still aren’t dealing with the damage to buildings and the EQC is not paying trades people who are close to losing their businesses for trying to help people keep their homes habitable.

If you haven’t seen the Campbell Live tent recordings where they left people in a tent without any interviewers prompting them, to say how they feel, watch the following video and tell me you are not moved.

Electricity, disasters and Feed In Tariffs

I’ve been itching to write more about FIT for ages as you will know if you have been reading my blogs. If you didn’t, my last blog was pretty much a summary of my thoughts which started with the Christchurch earthquake.

Prior to that for a few years I have been wondering why a ‘clean green’ country like New Zealand only went so far as to provide subsidies for roof insulation and clean heating. Where is the NZ Green Party on FIT, I asked 2 years ago. I’m not even sure where the party is on much at all at the moment and its election year, when National has launched its new policies on oil and gas and other efficient power sources like coal.

In fairness I do have to acknowledge that Environment Minister Nick Smith did through caution to the wind at the NZ Wind Energy Conference this month, but he also made the point that you need windy places and probably also noted the frequent opposition any time someone wants to set up a wind farm. Personally I like them and if they are silent, I wouldn’t have a problem looking up at them on a hill somewhere.

Dutch windfarm

I have 2 interests here, the first one is renewable energy in the form of solar panels, with the ability to feed power into the grid, but also the ability to make individual households and businesses more resilient in times of crisis.

The common thread anywhere in the world when there is a disaster is that the power goes off. In my recent posts this month I have discussed a whole range of issues where we are so reliant on electricity today that there are a variety of problems after the crisis is over.

I want to again acknowledge the heroism of electricity workers and supporters who risked life and limb to get things up and running as quickly as possible.

Anyway, back to my story. Imagine if we followed on from the subsidies to put insulation into our roofs, by offering subsidies and Feed In Tariffs for installing solar panels on the roofs. This is something we should be doing anyway, but imagine if a large number of people were still able to have at least some electricity when the grid is down. They would still potentially have phone communication, they would have lighting, heating, the ability to wash themselves and much more.

We could find ourselves with a renewable energy source that doesn’t pollute, makes people much more aware of power consumption, involves the community and provides greater resilience while allowing us to get closer to meeting our commitments to reducing carbon waste that we so obligingly adopted with the Kyoto Protocol.

It has been said that I am wont to be verbose. I don’t necessarily want to change that because I am intensely interested in what I write about, however I don’t want to lose you dear reader (borrowed that from Stephen King). So here’s what I’m going to do. I am going to write an new series of shortish blogs on the benefits of FIT for New Zealand in the hope that more people will understand the massive potential benefits to New Zealand and put some pressure on the politicians and energy authorities to do something about it.

I’ve done some reading on the topic and found the paper by Miguel Mendonca of the Birkbeck Institute of Environment, Birkbeck College, University of London particularly helpful. He also wrote the book Feed-in-Tariffs Accelerating the Deployment of Renewable Energy. You can find more information here. He discovered that FIT could work in the UK, that it had many positive benefits above and beyond the basics of a renewable energy source and I plan to discuss some of these from a New Zealand context. I also find it interesting that some people (who perhaps are the ones who wanted Henry Ford to breed faster horses instead of horseless carriages) say there is not enough sunlight in NZ to create an acceptable level of energy. Kiwis who go to UK for their OE’s don’t often come back recounting stories of endless sunny days.

So lets explore what FIT’s and solar power can do for NZ, for our resilience, for our GDP, for our commitment to the environment, for industry, for entrepreneurs and to generally show the world that we are in fact as green as we say we are. There are some amazing benefits to be had along the way.

Please come back and check out what I have learned.

Doesnt look that shabby

I feel sick and sad this morning

Footnote to my story in November called “Why don’t auckland hospitals work smarter rather than harder.” and the previous one The Hospital is the best place to be when you are sick, or is it?

My friend passed away this morning after an agonising battle with cancer. One has to wonder how much easier it would have been for her if she had received the treatment she was entitled to at the times she was turned away due to strikes and staff shortages. I’m sure she would still be with us today if she was able to receive the treatments and surgeries she was scheduled for.

Her husband is one of those nice old school Kiwi guys who listens to what he is told and didn’t want to rock the boat. He refused to fight through the management or the media to get the treatment his wife needed because he felt that was not the way you behave. Now he has lost his wife and soul mate too soon. We had to respect his right to be true to himself, but I’m not sure we have to accept the system that put him in that position.

My advice, if you are in a situation like that, where lives can be saved or prolonged and the bureaucratic penguins and the system is holding stolidly fast to this is where the line starts and if you’re not there anymore when you get to the end of the line, will the next patient shuffle forward, make a noise like someone’s life depends on it, especially if it does. People who go to the media miraculously get the treatment they need and sometimes before its too late.
We Kiwis need to stop being PC and accepting the bs that comes from our health industry. Note its not the wonderful hospital staff, they are put in an invidious position by the administrators, by the beurocrats and by the politicians who sleep sound at night and whose close ones are probably not getting turned away because “a registrar is off sick and the shift couldn’t run”. They are the ones who have to lie to the patients and their families when cost cutting measures, old fashioned systems full of lost paper files and ancient systems, and cost cutting means many people don’t get their surgeries, live or die in pain.

This person’s story is over. We won’t be going to the media or fighting because it is not what her husbands wanted. I respect that and much as it burns me, I will not add to his grief or risk creating feelings of guilt to him to make matters worse. He came from a generation who said yes sir, I know you are doing your best and genuinely trusted that. She may still have died, in fact probably would have, but she might have had a few more years and she certainly wouldn’t have suffered the degrees of agony of that she did over the last 4 months. We don’t do that to animals.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, make a noise, get your loved ones help, let the media know and as a country we have to get our government and administrators to invest in the new technologies that in the long run will cost less and save more lives.

Why don’t Auckland Hospitals Work Smarter Instead of Harder



What About Your Community in an Earthquake?

How well do you know your neighbours? If you’re in a rural area, probably pretty well, but the suburbs these days are becoming more and more impersonal. Back in the day if you saw a neighbour doing some work in their back yard or putting in a driveway, you would put on some appropriate clothing and go and help them out.

Today many of us don’t even know their names. There are groups who set up neighbourhood watch programs to help reduce crime in the area. I’ve coordinated a couple of those over the years and I’ve even found that if you have neighbours who you think are a bit dodgy, they will often be there for you if they fee you are not looking down on them.

In a case of do unto others, even if you haven’t made contact before an emergency, when one starts is a great time to start. There were many cases in Christchurch where people contacted the media and message boards worrying about elderly or infirm relatives who lived in the area on their own and hadn’t been heard from. Many older people may not own mobile phones and without electricity they can’t be contacted.  The Red Cross were one of a number of organisations who helped with coordinating the location of missing people.  The military and S&R also looked for people, but often time is important especially if people are injured, so its a good idea to check on your neighbours once your own safety is assured.

Food is another issue. With no power, many perishables could go to waste. Some people will have more than others, some may have gas BBQ’s and can cook without power. In Christchurch many people got together and pooled their resources and in doing so got to know neighbours they had never met before.

Christchurch BBQ

There were many cases where people with phones were able to help those without, to let their friends and family know they were all right. When roads were unusable, there were people with bikes and motorbikes who were able to get out and help bring people back together.

I covered a lot of information in my previous blog about getting your own household in order many of which also apply to your community. Your neighbours are your community and by pooling resources and caring for each other, the burden will be much easier. This has been shown everywhere in an emergency. Now would be a great time to start before you need them to get an understanding of the dynamic, elderly people on their own, young families that may get split up and so on. Crises bring communities together and something good can come from them, even if it just psychologically knowing there is someone there if needed.

Disasters like the Christchurch earthquake, the Australian floods, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami are devastating and tend to bring out the best in people, but by being a little more prepared, we can do even better. If you don’t have a list of who your neighbours are and their contact details, especially their mobiles, why not go next door now and introduce yourself. Even if there is no emergency, you can keep a friendly eye out for them and they will do the same for you.