What Cancer Patients Really Think When You Tell Them “You’re Looking Well” AND 4 Reasons I Need Your Help for Relay For Life


IMG_2082

Contains the robes we wore when undergoing radiation treatment

Four of the people who have supported me in my cancer journey were  worse off than me. There was Shelley, who had a fall 2 weeks ago and we had her funeral on Saturday. They had said she had maybe a couple of months, but it spread faster than expected to her spine and brain. Then there is another Shelley who has to have chemo every 3 weeks for the rest of her life. Because she chose a low cost insurance policy (who thinks you’re going to get cancer?) she had to sell her house to get quick treatment to save her life. There is Lee, my colleague and friend who is still fighting. Finally there is my great friend of over 30 years, Daff, who we buried in December, right before Christmas.

IMG_3482I wrote this song about our shared experiences. Things that cancer patients say to each other and to the medical people who support them. Relay For Life helps people like us. Can you?

Isn’t it Ironic

©Luigi Cappel 2017

Verse One

When I’m down on the ground
Where do I go from here
I’m feeling flat, well fancy that
I’m feeling sorry for myself

Pre Chorus

I ought to feel ashamed
I get another day
Others aren’t so lucky

Chorus

But my friend says
In the morning, I put on my face
Wipe away my tears
You don’t see me then

Verse Two

I need to fight with all my might
Put on a happy face
Take off that frown, bringing others down
Impact my fate

Pre Chorus

Isn’t it ironic
The people you use as a tonic
Are worse off than you

Chorus

But my friend says
In the morning, I put on my face
Wipe away my tears
You don’t see me then
I’ve trained myself, sometimes it works
I paint a picture, that hides the hurt

People used to say to us “You’re looking well!” They were trying to pep us up and when I was depressed and fatigued (I didn’t think of it as that, just frustrated) I’d start my day looking in the mirror and say I’m alive and well and I feel great and try to get some endorphins going with a big fake smile. As you know, I shave my head. The other four all lost their hair. They were all struggling emotionally with that but they kept brave faces.

Read the last chorus and this will tell you what is really going on.

Out of 13 countries, New Zealand has the lowest ranking for access to cancer medicines. Relay For Life is working to help that and the Cancer Society who helped us all doesn’t get Government funding. Do you reckon you could donate $1 for each of my friends and myself, to go to the Cancer Society? That would be $5. That could make a real difference, truly. You can do it here.

Thanks for coming a little way into our journey. I will be walking all through the night for them and dozens more in two weeks time, with your support for which my gratitude.

 

Advertisements

Prostate Cancer, Gory Details, Treatment Choices and Relay For Life, Can You Help?


IMG_0817

A sign we walk past during the night in Relay For Life

I’m writing this blog to ask for your help in raising awareness and fundraising for Relay For Life, to support the Cancer Society in raising funds they need both for cancer research and to support people who need help, from counseling to transport and even free accommodation when people have to travel out of town for treatment.

The Cancer Society is funding research amongst others in the area of treating cancer like a virus, which is showing a lot of promise and would mean that people like me in future might not have to go through the treatments and processes I went through.

IMG_4287Can you spare $5 in support or in memory of a friend or family member with cancer. You can do so here. You can do it with a message, you can leave your name or mention the person you are supporting, you can do it anonymously and if you are in New Zealand it is tax deductible. I’ll bet that you, dear reader, know at least one person who has cancer. Several of you of course know me, so there’s one.

Like my previous blog, if I get some donations, I will spare you some of the gory details that we prostate cancer patients have to deal with.

I would dearly welcome your donation, I’m struggling in receiving them this year. Where I am doing well, is that the number of people who have told me that they have been motivated to get tested for cancer has now risen to 20! Every single one of them is cancer free and more importantly know so and have baselines.

So in my last blog, I spared you the gory details of the first visits to the urologist and trading my dignity for hope.  Now I am going to offer to spare you details of some of the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, some of which I endured and some of which I chose not to risk. I had to make decisions based on choosing life (if possible) and the most suitable treatment for my lifestyle and work.

IMG_2184 (2)Some of those side effects included painful urination, short term or permanent erectile dysfunction, never producing seminal fluid again, the length of your penis being reduced, damage to other organs, chronic fatigue, loss of libido and depression. Some of these are experienced by most prostate patients and some depend on the choice of treatment, which of course depending on the seriousness of the condition may not be optional if you want to live. It’s also important to recognise that everyone responds differently to different treatment.

The next steps were a series of biopsies. I’ll spare you the details of how they do that for prostate cancer other than that they approach it from behind. Initially they found 3 tumors and confirmed that they were malignant. Then over the next few months, scans and 2 more biopsies confirmed that I had at least 5 and they were slow growing.

They gave me 3 options. One was to implant radioactive seeds into my prostate a treatment called Brachytherapy. Here’s more if you’d like to know more about how it works. I decided against it because it meant staying away from my granddaughter and pregnant women for about 6 months. Besides not wanting to change my relationship with my beautiful young granddaughter, how do you know if someone in your circle, or even randomly sitting next to you, say on a plane, is pregnant? They might not know themselves.on

IMG_4479Basically you are emitting radiation, which while not powerful, could have unintended side effects for others. The percentage likelihood, very slim, but percentages weren’t working well for me at this time and I wasn’t going to have on my conscience that I could be sitting next to a random stranger, potentially damaging a foetus she didn’t even know existed. Obviously some people do that. You can’t exactly hop on a flight and ask not to be seated next to a young girl going through puberty or a woman of an age that she could be pregnant and perhaps not know it.

The urologist was keen on this option. It would mean a quick procedure and a couple of days later I would be home. It would have minimal impact on my work, but given part of my work is reasonably frequent air travel and what I just told you, it wasn’t a great option. It was a treatment he would perform with my oncologist, who I had yet to meet. Specialists tend to favor opportunities for surgery or treatment that is their specialty of course and I respect that.

IMG_2061The next option was 8 weeks of almost daily radiation on this beast, which includes a CT scanner which would first make sure that every morning, after drinking enough water to fill my bladder and push my organs out of reach of the radiation (where possible), that I was lying in an identical position.

It would give me a 95% chance of killing the tumours. They could accomodate me so that I could go in first thing in the morning, if I got up early and have the treatment before work. They could do it over December and January as well so that would mean 3 weeks where it did not impact on my job.

The third option was to remove the prostate altogether, so if the tumours haven’t spread beyond the gland (pretty difficult to tell), they might get it altogether.

At this point I felt I needed to be informed. What were the risks, benefits and side effects? I thought back to watching Sir Paul Holmes on TV before he passed away from Prostate Cancer in 2013, saying that he wished he had never known he had cancer at all.

So how do you choose? I purchased a book called ‘Winning the Battle Against Prostate Cancer, Get The Treatment That is Right For You‘ by Dr Gerald Chodak. Oh how I wish I hadn’t bought the book, but I’m the sort of person who needs to understand.

It explained in gory detail how the different treatments worked (including some chemical treatments that we hadn’t discussed). Every treatment came with side effects and after effects. I hardly got any sleep for the week it took me to read this book. It scared the hell out of me and whilst you need to be positive, as stress has an impact on your body’s ability to fight cancer cells, it’s pretty hard to make an informed decision that WILL impact the rest of your Teamlife without being informed. I chose the book over Doctor Google, because it was recommended by cancer patient support groups.

So in the end I chose the 8 weeks of radiation and yes it had lots of side effects. Most of these are now over, 2 years later, but I’d be lying if I said it had been easy. If you’d like the gory details, please don’t pop $5 into my Early Bird account.

lava lava

Naked barring my socks, each morning I lay on the scanner, watching them mark with a pen, where the beam should go, trying to hold on to my dignity and my full bladder

Unfortunately soon after 2 months of treatment they told me that I wasn’t in the 95% of people who found themselves in remission after the treatment, but I felt very happy for those who were.

I had side effects from the treatment and scans showed the tumours were still there.

I did work on positivity and put my energy into starting my EP The Cancer Diaries following suppRelaort from my friends when I didn’t have the emotional strength to pick up my guitars or play them. I also took up the offer of free counselling from an Auckland Cancer Society specialist cancer psychologist, one of the services funded by your donations. If you haven’t heard the DEMO of the first song called If I Could Turn The Pages, you can listen to it here.

I hope you don’t want the gory details and will find $5 to shut me up although if you have prostate cancer, or want to know more about getting tested or the journey you are facing, I’m happy to share my experiences with any individuals on request.

Several people have found it helpful to speak to someone who has cancer rather than well meaning people, who haven’t had the experiences or had to make difficult decisions.

Early Birds 2018

Our 2018 singlets have just arrived. The 18 for 2018 is made up of the names of people living and sadly past who we are walking or running for on 10-11 March. The day after my birthday.

So instead of encouraging me to talk in more detail about the physical and emotional experiences I’ve been through in the last 2 years, please drop a couple of coins in the virtual bucket and lets celebrate life and hope and support Relay For Life 18 with my team. The Early Birds.

If You Think You Are At Risk of Getting Cancer


IMG_2290Sort out your insurance before you get tested, so that you know you will be covered if you do get cancer. As some of my friends know, it’s a very expensive condition. One of my friends had to sell her house to help cover the costs of treatment because her insurance cover only paid for 60% of the treatment costs and whilst going to public health is an option, this is something you want to deal with as quickly as possible.

Perhaps like me, there is cancer in the family, or you are getting into your 30’s or 40’s it is worth checking out cancer insurance.

We just found out that Southern Cross has optional Cancer Assist insurance. I wish they had told me a few years ago, although, like you, it never occurred to me that I could get cancer. It’s always someone else that I feel sympathy for.

Unfortunately by the time I found out, I had already been told “You have cancer“. Fortunately I did have income protection insurance with a one-off cancer payout, because the first thing that my insurance broker, Tom told me when I let him know that I had cancer was “You are now officially uninsurable.” Ironically I didn’t know that I had a policy that included cover and my broker volunteered to look for me, even though he didn’t sell me the particular policy. I am extremely grateful to Tom Fox of Canopy Group for helping out. If you need a broker, tell him I recommended him. He took a huge weight off my mind in a stressful time.

Fortunately Southern Cross medical insurance has paid a large chunk of the many biopsies, MRI, CT and other scans, radiation treatment, countless specialist visits and more, but if I hadn’t had those insurances, I’d be under some serious financial pressure right now.

As a male in New Zealand, you have a 1 in 9 chance of getting prostate cancer. If you had those odds of winning a lottery you’d think that was exciting right? Not quite so exciting with those odds of getting an illness.

I can’t remember how many people got tested because of my pushing and prodding, it must be getting close to 20, but I would be horrified if some of those people didn’t have cancer cover before they got tested and found they did have it.

EarlySo here’s my plea to you. Get cancer cover. Sort out your life insurance, then even if you feel perfectly healthy, get tested. Mine was found early and probably saved my life. We begrudged paying the premiums for years, saying what if we had put that money in the bank, but you don’t right?

 

Fighting Cancer with my Family and Friends at Relay For Life 17


2017 shirtGreetings friends. This is a special weekend where we remember those people we have lost to cancer over the years and encourage and embrace those of us who are still fighting this horrible disease.

As you can see on the photo, the team that my daughters created is called Early Birds. That’s because those who get tested and find out early that they have cancer are much more likely to survive and have a good outcome than those who don’t. I am so proud to say that due to my pushing over the last year and a bit, 17 people have had PSA tests and as well as knowing they do not have prostate cancer and in one case no breast cancer, they now have a baseline to allow them to catch it early if they do get prostate cancer like me and their survival rate will go up dramatically if they get a little blood test every year.

You will see the number 17 on the back and my daughter’s name on the bottom of the shirt, which was designed and made by her company Empire Promo. The 17 is made up of the names of the people I mentioned above, family and friends that our team is going to spend today honouring, all night and into the morning walking around a track at Millennium Institute on Auckland’s North Shore. You can see there are a lot of names and with a few late additions to the team there would be more if there had been time.

iPhone 280So today and tomorrow we will be walking to honour our people, to help fund research for accessible cures that save lives and don’t require that people sell their homes to pay for treatment, have somewhere to stay if they are coming to Auckland from out of town, like some of the great people I met when I was having radiation treatment at Mercy Hospital, and to thank those of you who donated to our cause, for your generosity. Whilst we do enjoy the event, the camaraderie and activities, we are here for only one reason, which is to save lives.

If you are one of the many people who donated to my account I want to thank you sincerely for your contribution. This is my 4th Relay and my second as a cancer patient. I am 25% short on my target of $1,000. If you would still like to donate, it isn’t too late and you can do so on my Relay For Life page here. I suspect most of you donated either for me (which is very humbling) and/or because of challenges you and people you care about have faced with cancer. I will dedicate laps to each of you and yours and especially to some very good friends who are still fighting the fight and aren’t in a condition to make it today. You know who you are.

I am planning to post a Facebook Live video at some stage so those of you who are friends with me on Facebook will be able to see a little of the event. For the rest, I will put something on YouTube after the event so you can see it too.

I won’t go on. You can follow me on Twitter under the handle of BluesBro, there will be some photos and tweets there as the weekend goes on. If you see them, please let me know. It would be great to share the event with you.

I do also want to send out a special thanks to my friends and colleagues at the New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport who have supported me in so many ways to date including donations, but much more than that. It hasn’t been the easiest of years and with awesome people giving me encouragement and helping me out during the tougher times, it has given me strength and Hope. iPhone 141

New Facebook page Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies


cropped-feb12-004.jpgSo there’s no point in saying you’re going to do something if you don’t do it, so I’ve set up the new Facebook Group called Musicians with Cancer and other Maladies. I couldn’t resist the pun because there are plenty of other conditions where people suffer similar effects which stop them from playing, practicing and plying the craft they love.

I would love you to join the group dear reader, whether you have a condition or not, because somewhere along the line, with 1 in 3 people getting cancer, then there’s depression, PTSD, Crohn’s, chronic fatigue and you are going to come across someone who could do with a little helping hand.

Since I told a few friends that I was going to do this, I have had messages and encouragement every day and have played every day. I’m not saying it has been easy, but I wouldn’t have played every day without them.

We are also doing Relay For Life again in March and if you have a spare dollar, you’re support there would be most welcome Last year I only managed about 20 km but my friends helped me raise over $1,500 out of a goal of $1,000.

Anyway, my Hairy Audacious Goal has begun and I want to thank Jane McGonigal and her book SuperBetter for helping me to motivate this, because it isn’t about me, it’s about thousands of musicians around the world who are struggling with cancer or other conditions.

If you have time, check out this short video about the book that got me motivated to start this new mission. It is about how we can use gamification to help with life challenges and ask for help from our friends.

 

A Cancer Meltdown


So a couple of weeks ago I felt like things were going OK. I had my cool car and whilst I was feeling really fatigued, I was coping. Then a pile of little things got the better of me. I was late with my tax (which I hate doing, because I normally do that at the end of the calendar year, when I was doing 8 weeks of radiation therapy and was too tired any other time. I’m between test results, so anxious about what the next result will be. My arm is really sore after taking the splint off my wrist from a thumb strain (which impacts on everything from using a mouse to playing guitar. Super busy at work and a number of other things, nothing that would be beyond the norm for any of us in isolation.

20160503_161554.jpgI had words with my wife, something that is very rare and after she left the music room, I lost the plot. I picked up my office chair and flung it at the floor breaking the base and ripping the carpet.

This was not good for our relationship and the following night I was away on business, which was probably s good thing to allow us to both cool down. It was totally on me and something I haven’t done since I was a teenager. I do not have an anger problem, it’s just one of the many emotions that you go through with grief and with cancer. Some people cry a lot (I only get emotional like that when giving speeches at weddings or when I’m watching an awesome concert). I might get slightly bloodshot in the eye when I’m passionate about something, but again that is when I’m happy.

So the following night I found myself in a hotel in Wellington after a 4:20AM start and a long working day. I sat in my hotel room looking out the window and pondering the meaning of life from about 5-7:00, went to bed. No dinner, no TV, a few SMS’s with my wife and slept for about 11 hours.

Bottom line, I really needed to let off steam. But I wasn’t finished and this is the good part. Right through summer when I usually write and play a lot of music, play a few gigs,  I couldn’t play, I had lost my mojo. Well after this exercise I got it back and over the last couple of weeks have written the backbone of a new song, which was the catharsis I needed.

Here’s what I’ve got  so far. It’s a country song, I really like country as a genre for telling stories. I hope to fine tune it enough over the next few week to start recording it, because I like the song as a song, not just a form of letting off steam.

If I Could Turn The Tables

Verse 1

If I could turn the tables I’d un-throw the chair that I just smashed

I’d un-rip the carpet that it tore when it flew down and crashed

Sometimes I feel that I can take no more, sometimes I derail from my track

I’ve got to get this cancer in control and find my way back.

Verse 2

If I could turn the tables I’d unsay the words that I just said

I’d turn down the volume of the voices that keep crashing through my head

Sometimes I feel like I’m OK, then the doubts start to shiver down my back

I’ve got to climb out of this hole and find my way back.

Chorus

Positivity is the frame of mind I ought to be in all the time

Everyone is nice and they want to give advice

Of a treatment they’ve heard of on the vine

Verse 3

I’ve got a lot to live for and each day I add on to my bucket list

I have great friends and family, there are special dates that I don’t want to miss

Sometimes I just want to cry, sometimes I wonder what its like to die

Then I think of those I’d leave behind and find my way back

Bridge

Every day’s a gift

Every day’s a steal

You can’t be the driver

Unless you take the wheel

Take the wheel

Chorus

Positivity is the frame of mind I ought to be in all the time

Everyone is nice and they want to give advice

Of a treatment they’ve heard of on the vine

Repeat Verse 1

If I could turn the tables I’d un-throw the chair that I just smashed

I’d un-rip the carpet that it tore when it flew down and crashed

Sometimes I feel that I can take no more, sometimes I derail from my track

I’ve got to get this cancer in control and find my way back.

-I’ll share a link once I’ve recorded it. It’s great to be back in writing mode and I hope I stay there. I’ve missed writing songs (other than my Pi project). I feel so much better having transferred my emotions into music.

I’ve been wanting to write songs about cancer to share, which might also help other people, be they the patients or friends and supporters. I have one other that I wrote but haven’t recorded yet, it’s more of a soul/reggae number which I wrote about losing my father in-law (also to cancer), but I thought I’d like to do a few covering different aspects.

Anyway, that’s me. Now I have to transcribe the song and publish it. If you’re still here, thanks for coming  on my journey with me.

 

Where I first saw Martin Crowe play Cricket


Grendon RdThis is where I first saw #MartinCrowe play cricket. The Grendon Rd Oval. After school and weekends you would often find Martin Crowe, Jeff Crowe, Martin Foster (also deceased) and others playing cricket on the road. Little did we know that he would become a legend.
 
I wish I had gone to the funeral now, but I was just a kid who chatted with them as we walked down South Titirangi Rd after school. They were thoroughly good guys, but at that time, just ordinary school kids with a passion for sport. I think I would have felt out of place among so many dignitaries, so many legends.
 
I so felt for Hogan as he went through some agonizing times where he felt the world was against him, where misguided people ridiculed him, the classic Kiwi tall poppy syndrome. I think that took a lot out of him, but it didn’t stop him becoming a legend. Things people say, bad jokes and innuendos take a toll on people and affect their self esteem, often for life.
 
I am so happy that he received his accolades including the induction into the Cricket Hall of Fame.
 
His standards, his work ethic and attitude are an inspiration. He proved the point that if you put the effort in, day after day after day, you will get the results. I suspect that his commitment to his sport was one of the reasons he and Grant Fox got on so well, being another person who devoted so much of his time to practice, train, practice. Today many young professional athletes with natural skills frequently focus on the money and not on what it takes to be a star.
 
They say that if you do something for 10,000 days you can become expert at anything. It has been proven in sport, music and other areas. If you have the genetics to go with it, even more so, but ultimately it comes down to attitude and commitment. Also passion. For some people that is there from the start, for others it comes with success.
 
I hope that we as a nation are growing up and that those who like to shoot the tall poppy’s down think about the damage that they do to people. If you see or hear people doing it, don’t just stand by and watch.
 
Another man cut short by cancer and gone too soon. I do relate to Lorraine’s, Jeff and others comments about cancer saving him, giving him a chance to really think about what ultimately matters at the end of the day. “Authenticity, loving and full of prayer”.
 
As a cancer sufferer, I also tried one of the alternative treatments, because I was told he was trying it, a sea cucumber extract. It apparently helped him for a while.
 
As someone with cancer, I relate to his awakening and focus on living in the moment and enjoying whatever life throws at you. It’s hard to do and sometimes shit needs to happen before it really sinks in and even then living in the moment positively, day after day, while you undergo radiation or other treatments and wait each month for results isn’t easy, but it is important to stay positive and it was awesome to see him looking so dapper when he got his recognition.
 
When I do Relay For Life next weekend, I will be be remembering a kid ad his brother I chatted with walking down South Titirangi Rd when I was in my early teenage years. Just local Titirangi kids. I will remember watching him play in Cornwall Park, Eden Park and countless hours on TV.
 
RIP Hogan. You fought your cancer the way you played your support. With dignity and courage and you learned how to make the most of it with your friends and family. I am also reminding myself of my priorities, self, family and friends being at the top of the list. I doubt that you knew that many people suffering with cancer took strength from the way you dealt with yours. I’m grateful for you. We will remember you as a great person and a great Kiwi.