Chemotherapy Begins

Yesterday was the first installment of my chemotherapy regime. Besides the usual prednisone I was prescribed dexamethasone for the day before, during and after. My psa had dropped from 247 to 242 in 2 weeks. A pleasant surprise.

We arrived early and I was seated in a comfortable arm chair for the one hour infusion. The nurse painlessly inserted the cannula, hooked up the IV machine and the taxotere commenced to flow. There was no sensation of any kind and the hour passed quickly thanks to an interesting book.

I did not sleep well last night and was wide awake at 3.30. This morning I had a slight headache and a sore back thanks to overdoing it while lifting a box of groceries.

All in all it was not an unpleasant experience and it remains to be seen what side effects are likely to present themselves. Three weeks from now we will be doing it again. 6 sessions are planned at this stage. I have read of some promising outcomes from this treatment, so here’s hoping.

Greetings to my fellow sufferers, blog friends and interested readers. I appreciate your support.

How long have I got, Doc?

The question we all wonder/worry about and yet it seems to me that the experts never get it right, so, what is the point of asking?

I feel that when the time comes I will know. It is a question so far I have refused to ask, even though it is often on my mind. When i was first diagnosed in 2008, the oncologist bluntly stated 15 years. I didn’t ask. It is now 2019. 11 years down, 4 to go if we can believe that doctor. Frankly, another 4 years would suit me fine,provided I am not in pain, remain reasonably active, retain most of my mental faculties, retain my sense of humour and the ability to be reasonably useful and not too great a burden on my loved ones. Not too much to ask? I am now 72. If I make it to 76 I certainly can’t complain. Many a good person has not made it this far. Besides, I believe in a life in the hereafter, so that is something to look forward to.

I still have things to achieve, a bucket list of sorts. It is not cast in bronze. I want to do some more sailing and I have discovered an organisation that provides sailing for people with disabilities at a very reasonable cost. The days of owning my own boat are gone. I have more cross stitching in the pipeline as long as my eyes and fingers hold out. My latest psa was 247, up from 197 4 weeks ago. Not as big an increase as I expected. Maybe the Zytiga is helping. I have been taking it since my final radium infusion a few weeks ago.

Travel in the USA or anywhere other than Australia or Canada is out as no one will insure me. I don’t know what the record for psa is, maybe I can beat it!! Now that’s something to look forward to!

Final Radium Infusion….Failed

We saw Dr Y today and I had yet another Zoladex injection. Yesterday was my last radium infusion. PSA was up to 179 from 107 4 weeks ago, so that is a concern. Basically it means the radium is not working any more. The recent CT scan shows no soft tissue metastases and that is a great relief. There are however, signs of skeletal advancement but that was expected. So far no signs of fractures and I am being very careful not to slip or fall as a hip fracture would be disastrous.
All the doctors agree that chemotherapy would be the next option. They are looking at commencing treatment (Docetaxel) in about 5 to 6 weeks. I still feel life is worth living so I have decided to give it a go and see what happens. I can always quit if I want to. I plan to write to Dr W in Australia and ask his advice as returning to Australia is still an option. Meanwhile I have increased my prednisone and I have noticed some improvement in how I feel. Better to be fat than miserable.
Next week I will be back on Zytiga for 4 weeks and it will be interesting to see if any effect on PSA. It is just a waiting game, meanwhile we enjoy the good days and endure the bad ones. I still enjoy and benefit from my needlework, and of course there is always Netflix!

Latest results & good and bad days

Dr Tildesley was on leave last week so we saw a Dr Duncan instead. This month my blood markers were all within the normal range indicating no problems with liver and kidney function or bone marrow. However there is some concern about my PSA, now up to 107 from 96 4 weeks ago. The concern is that the Radium is no longer effective, however I believe it is slowing down the rate of psa increase. Some specialists think that increasing psa is an indicator to cease radium treatment. After the 3rd infusion psa increased by around 50%. After the 4th infusion the increase was around 12%. So that must mean something. I was given the option to discontinue radium therapy if I wished. I asked him about Lutetium trials but he said i would not qualify. He suggested that we speak to Dr Yun about possible clinical trials and any other available treatments.

After we came home I phoned Dr Yun. He advised that as the radium was “holding back” the cancer to some extent it would be wise to continue the full course. It appears that the only other options available to me after that would be some form of chemotherapy. Before that can happen I need to be rid of all traces of radium.

I have mixed feelings about chemotherapy. Would I be sacrificing quality of life for a few extra months? How well would I tolerate side effects? I have heard good and bad stories about chemotherapy. It sounds like a bit of a lucky dip, but then such is life. Maybe I will give it a go. I can always pull out if I want to. At least I will have given it a try.

I have to say, I really don’t know what psa numbers really mean. It seems they bear no relationship to how I feel or what I can or can’t do. The fact that the rate of increase in psa is reducing makes me think that the Radium treatment is just now having a positive effect. I have read where patients have given up after 4 treatments. Maybe they gave up too soon. Anyway this is something we will discuss with the nuclear medical oncologist.

On the subject of how I feel, I have good days and bad days. That is too simplistic. “Good” days are days when I don’t feel nauseous or light headed, I can walk to the car and enjoy an outing of 3 to 4 hours, and I feel like eating. They are fairly rare and very unpredictable. “Fair” days are probably most common. On fair days I wake up feeling ok but not fancying breakfast so I have a protein drink. If I walk to the car (about 100 metres) I usually feel dizzy by the time I get there. I feel slightly nauseous with little appetite. I can enjoy doing cross stitch as I can do it while resting in bed.

“Crap” days are fairly common too. On crap days I can do a bit of cross stitch or watch tv. I feel nauseous and dizzy when I get up. I often need an afternoon nap even though i might have slept 12 hours, and my appetite is very poor. “Really crap” days are fortunately rare. On these days I feel impending doom, I can only pick at food and I begin to wish it could all be over. I lose interest in everything. It is really hard to describe and I don’t wish to sound morbid but it is what it is. Fortunately these days are rare, but when they coincide with medical appointments it is all I can do to get there and back. Without S to help me I wouldn’t be able to go. She drives, she helps me with my walker. She holds my hand and encourages me to keep going. She makes sure I am nourished.

It is impossible to predict what tomorrow will be like. All we can do is enjoy the good days, make the most of the fair days and endure the crap days. Don’t worry, life is still worth living and there is always hope that tomorrow will be a good day!

Infusion no. 4

Infusion no 4

PSA has risen to 94, up from 63 the previous month. We saw Dr T a few days later. At least I didn’t have to lie on the couch this time so that is an improvement. It seems the daily dose of electrolytes is paying off as I feel much better than I did last month. We even managed to meet some friends for lunch afterwards.

Dr T didn’t have a lot to say, however he was happy about the blood markers and it seems my bone marrow is ok. There was some discussion about the possibility of soft tissue metastases so a CT scan has been arranged at the end of April. I have no symptoms that would indicate any problem so it is just a precaution.

Two days later it was back to Vancouver for the radium infusion. I was feeling pretty good that day. The dreaded radioactive diahrea hit 5 days later followed by the usual set of days of not feeling too bright.

Hopefully this will improve as time goes on and then it will be round 5. It seems I am developing a tolerance for the radium.

Meanwhile, I saw a Dermatologist about some moles on my back. They were ok, however he found a lesion on my forearm that looked suspicious so he did a biopsy. It came back as a precancerous squamous cell carcinoma. He prescribed a chemotherapy cream that I apply twice a day for the next 8 weeks.

Otherwise all is well and we are looking forward to enjoying Spring and Summer.

Book Review, “Atomic City Girls”

As a child growing up in the ” nuclear age”, I have long been fascinated by the atom bomb and it’s development. At school I was aware of the latest “improvements” in the power of these bombs and there was the ever present threat that Nikita might push the button to start a nuclear holocaust.

Atomic City Girls lifts the lid on some aspects of the Manhattan Project. A secret City was built at Oak Ridge in Tennessee. Thousands of people were employed there and most had no idea what they were actually doing. The scientists had developed a means to separate U235 from U238 and this was the basis of the first atomic bombs. The process required close monitoring and adjustment of controls. I have worked in steelmaking where furnaces are controlled automatically by instruments capable of monitoring and controlling factors such as fuel flow, temperature, air quality and a hundred other things.

At Oak Ridge there were no such sophisticated control instruments. Just a meter and a knob. Hundreds of young women sat on stools, watching the meters and turning the knobs whenever the pointer strayed from its set point. They worked day and night in 10 hour shifts and had no idea what it was that they were actually doing.

Atomic City Girls, by Janet Beard, is a fascinating insight into life at Oak Ridge. Although the characters are fictitious, they are very believable. The book takes you there. It reads like history and has been very well researched. There are many photographs depicting life at Oak Ridge.

S and I found this book hard to put down. We both learned much that we had not known before reading it. Further research confirmed the events described in the book. It is a very human tale and gives an insight into the mind of one scientist in particular, his misgivings about the work and his fears about what this bomb will do… if it works.

Altogether an enjoyable and satisfying read about a time and place that changed the world.

Book review..The Identity Check

I have just finished reading one of the best novels I have ever read. The Identity Check, by Ken Merrell was downloaded from free-ebooks.net where I am a VIP member.

I read this book to my wife, S over several days and we both enjoyed it immensely. The plot involves an inept but vicious wannabe Mafioso who moves to Las Vegas to run a credit card scam. The FBI are on his trail but not getting close to an arrest. The smartest people in town are a group of homeless vagrants who figure out what is going on and team up with a young man on the run from the law to bring the villain down.

There are many twists, turns and surprises as the story unfolds. There were events that had us both fearing the worst, and in between, scenes that had us in stitches. This book has it all, a sex scene that is hilariously unimaginable, characters with rare talents, car chases, acts of vengeance, and justice being seen to be done. We especially loved Smitty and the junk yard dogs!

We liked the way homeless people were portrayed as real human beings. They are the real heroes of the story, helping the main character, Mitch, to clear his name and restore his life. The story has much to say about love, loyalty, forgiveness and acceptance, not taking people at face value. We thoroughly enjoyed the read. It would make a great movie….pay attention Hollywood!

Happy Birthday to me!

Today I turn 72! Actually I turned 72 yesterday because I was born on the other side of the International Date Line in Australia.

Today is not a day to be thinking about cancer and psa, blood work and radium223, it is a day to CELEBRATE!!

Therefore my darling S and I are going out for an intimate dinner this evening where I may even consume a small amount of alcohol and a large amount of dessert!

Actually I have felt rather well the last few days…..

I believe I will make it to 73!!

For my friend, Jim

15516828681882624925177327725700This post is just for my blog friend, Jim, who is suffering the consequences of this horrible disease. I am making this tapestry to leave for my son when I am gone. There is love in every stitch, all 30,000 crosses. As I stitch I think of him and the times we had on board this boat. I often find myself thinking of other cancer sufferers as well and high on the list is Jim. I wish you well my friend.

PSA not to Zero!

It has been quite a trying week for both of us.
First was the news that my psa has risen from 35 to 63.4, not what we were hoping for...

We saw Dr T on Tuesday at BCCA. I was very tired following the MRI on Monday. I had to lie on the examination bed so I wouldn’t faint. Dr T said that the MRI looked ok but he doesn’t have the complete report yet. We discussed the rising psa and he said it looks like perhaps the radium is not working, however he would like me to continue with the radium treatment. We discussed my fatigue, apparently radium does not usually cause such fatigue. Next it was up to the lab for more blood tests and an ecg (electro cardio gram). It was good to get home. The radium infusion was to have been on Wednesay but Dr T has rescheduled it for Friday. Dr T called next morning and said my electrolytes were out of whack and I am dehydrated, which would contribute to me feeling dizzy and faint. I had the option to go in for an infusion or re-hydrate according to his recommendations. I was already taking electrolytes every second day. He suggested l take Hydrolyte daily and double my water intake. After drinking more water and increasing the electrolytes I did feel better on Wednesday and we managed to go out for lunch. I even had a short walk around the shops so it was a good day.

Today we saw Dr Y who was his usual cheery self. I said I was concerned about the rising psa. He said that “sometimes when cancer cells are dying they give off a lot of psa, text book.” Then he said, “don’t give up yet, I will tell you when to give up….never!”

Tomorrow is the third radium infusion….We wait and see how it goes. Must say I have been better since increasing fluids and electrolytes though. Meanwhile the remaining snow is slowly melting away.