Yesterday S and I visited my radiation oncologist, Dr W. We were a little early but soon I was called by a young woman who introduced herself as Dr W’s registrar. (Basically a doctor in training). It was soon apparent that she knew nothing about my condition. She read the clinical notes and said “you have to have chemotherapy, there are no other options for you.” She had almost as much empathy as a lizard. I say almost, because I had a pet lizard as a child and I am fairly certain that it was more caring than this doctor.
I asked her how soon could I see the medical oncologist? At least 3 months was the reply. I asked if I could see someone privately? She got her secretary to check. “You can see Dr L next week”. It then transpired that Dr L would not see me as I had no private health insurance. I told her I was prepared to pay for the consult. The answer was still no. She suggested I get private cover. Pre-existing condition? I think not. That was it. We were both very disheartened.
As we left the registrar’s office, Dr W was in the corridor. He saw the looks on our faces and told us to wait a bit and he would call us in. What a difference! Dr W examined the recent scan results and explained the extent of the cancer’s progression. He discussed why chemotherapy is the only treatment available to me at this time. The Australian government will not pay for any of the other treatment protocols until chemotherapy has been tried and proven ineffective. The only chemotherapy available is Docetaxel, or Taxotere. The only follow up treatment available is Zytiga, or Abiraterone Acetate.
I asked him about other treatments, Xtandi-(not available in Australia) and Provenge, known as Keytruda in Australia and is only available as part of a clinical trial after all else has failed.
My psa on 14 June was 160. I have been taking an Australian plant based substance called Gumbi Gumbi, a well known Aboriginal herbal medicine, 4 times daily. My psa 6 days later was 140. Is this a slowing of the rate of growth of the cancer? Or is it that the Gumbi destroys psa in the bloodstream? No way to tell apart from nuclear scans. However, I will continue taking it along with Curcumin and black pepper.
As if the cancer is not enough to worry about, I have a complete blockage of my sinuses with a severe fungal sinus infection, that can only be treated by surgical intervention. I was being treated with antibiotics and I am now told that they only made the condition worse. At least now I have an accurate diagnosis and a referral to an ENT specialist and treatment is in the pipeline.
Current status, I have been referred to a medical oncologist for chemotherapy. I am awaiting a date for my first appointment, and there are many pros and cons to weigh up. I have requested a referral to an independent medical oncologist for a second opinion. Now it is just a waiting game, so S and I plan to have a few days away at a seaside resort, while we await developments. After that, I will learn all I can about chemotherapy benefits and risks. All we want to do is get it over and get back to Canada to enjoy what remains of the summer!!