Blog

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.

The Angel’s Game…book review

It is some time since I wrote a book review. You can blame Netflix, Britbox and Acorn for that. Just in time, a friend gave us a new book for our evening reading ritual that had somehow become degraded to watching the pixelled screen.

The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón was translated from Spanish to English. The story is set in the late 1920s in Barcelona. David Martín is a talented young writer, with great expectations, hoping to become a famous author. He seals a deal with a publisher only to find himself locked into a contract that requires years of commitment under a pen name.

Some time later he is approached by a dark and mysterious stranger who offers him a way out of his contract if he will write a specific type of book for him. The plot involves two young women, an old and benevolent book seller, shady characters from the recent past and three rather nasty police officers among others.

David lives in an old house that contains many secrets that slowly emerge during the telling of the story. Interestingly, to me at least, is the inclusion of a classic car, a Hispano Suiza. An Australian TV series, Miss Fisher Mysteries also features a Hispano Suiza.

Back to the story. The climax of the story would make a good thriller movie and results in David escaping the somewhat ineffective arms of the law following the tragic death of the woman he loves.

The story closes with a twist that we did not see coming, yet it is hard to envisage a better ending. All in all, The Angel’s Game may not be our favourite book, but it was hard to put down and, on the whole an interesting and enjoyable read.

Radioactive again

My second Radium 223 infusion was just 5 days ago and right now I am feeling rather crappy, tired and nauseated. Is the cure worse than the disease? It isn’t even a cure, just buys a bit more time. Sometimes I have to wonder if it is worth the trouble. I had 5 medical appointments last week, I feel like a voodoo doll.

At the beginning Dr T, radiation oncologist said that R223 would probably not reduce psa but should prevent it from rising too much. The good news is that the psa has dropped dramatically from 46 to 35. Funnily enough I felt better when my psa was over 2000! Dr T also said it is normal to feel pain after the infusion. He was right about that. After the first infusion I had a small slip as I began to get out of the bath. Next day the pain in my back was almost unbearable despite the Fentanyl patch. It took 4 oxycodone a day for 4 days to control the pain and then it just stopped. I told Dr T and he wants me to have an MRI sometime soon.

Just as I was starting to feel better it was time for the second infusion. Two days later the pain came in my sternum and ribs. Fortunately it only lasted one day and responded well to oxycodone. So, I plan to continue to endure this treatment for the time being in the hope that things will improve.

A New Regime

On the last day of 2018 we saw Dr Tyldesley. Psa is up to 46 which means it is back to doubling every five weeks. He showed us the recent bone scan and an x ray. The cancer has spread to some more ribs and also my spine. The main concern however is that now my right femur and right side of the pelvis have significant cancer and there is an increased risk of fracturing my legs. He even mentioned the possibility of inserting rods as a preventative measure, however he thinks the radium therapy might be enough at this stage.
On the second day of 2019 it was back to the Vancouver General Hospital for the radium injection. First we saw a second radiation oncologist who is also a nuclear medicine specialist. He trained in Philadelphia, lectures at the University of British Columbia and also spent 2 years in Brisbane. He explained the process in detail and answered all of our questions. We both feel very confident with this man even though we don’t recall his name. He did mention that the treatment could be continued beyond 6 months if it is beneficial.
Next was the injection. First they inserted a canular  into my arm and connected it to a saline drip. Then comes the radium solution in a syringe which is carried inside a lead container. The solution is then injected slowly into the IV line. I felt no immediate effects. So now I am radioactive. The half life is 10 days. The radioactivity is highest for the first week and any excess is excreted through feces and other body fluids. I miss the French kisses!
Next week it is back to the cancer clinic for a CT scan and more radiation.
After that, who knows? Fatigue and weakness are also becoming major problems. Today I have had a couple of dizzy spells. Is it the radium? Is it due to changes in medications, or none of the above? Time will tell. For now it is fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Decision time….again

Up at 6.0am this morning for the slow wet drive into Vancouver in the dark. I don’t think the sun came up at all today and it’s still raining.

We saw Dr T. and what a change! Whenever we have seen him before he was abrupt, clinical and in a hurry to finish. Today he was totally opposite. The results. The bone scan shows more activity as expected. PSA is up to 20.2, not bad considering.

He discussed 2 options, chemo and radium 223. Radium 223 (Xofigo) is 6 injections of a radioactive isotope that finds rapidly dividing bone cells and kills them. It is not a cure but can give an average additional 3 to 4 months of quality life compared to doing nothing. The injections are 4 weeks apart, cost $5000 each and are flown in from Europe. I would be radioactive, especially Dumpy would be, but not a danger to others and I quote “providing it is not swallowed”!!

The other treatment, chemo, he said would have similar effectiveness re survival time, however, he minimised the side effects. He said the cancer is confined to bone, though if it metastasizes to soft tissue (liver or lymph nodes) radium 223 can’t be used. I asked him what would he do if it was him? He said he would have the radium 223 and then he could have chemo later if need be, but not the other way round. Sounds reasonable to me.

He also discussed giving a single shot of radiation to treat a spot on one rib that gets painful at times. Next it was off to x-ray. They took about 15 x-rays of my ribs, hips and legs. I will see Dr Y. next week and hopefully he will show us the scans and x rays.
Meanwhile I am still feeling reasonably well apart from some blood pressure issues, very high, due to Zytiga. I get tired very quickly and I don’t seem to have the energy I had in the summer. I will have to stop Zytiga before starting the radium223, so hopefully the blood pressure will improve. So, another decision to be made re treatment choices. I suspect I will go with the Radium223.

PSA RISING AGAIN

Got the news last Wednesday…psa is up to 16.7 from 10.2 a month ago. I saw my oncologist today and he said he is disappointed. Me too, I said. It seems likely that the Zytiga is no longer working. We will persist for another month and if still rising I will have some scans and possibly back to the radiation oncologist. I am still recovering from kidney stones and it has not been the best couple of weeks. I also had my 3 monthly Zoladex injection. The nurse said she hates doing Zoladex injections. It is a huge needle that injects a pellet into my abdomen. What about me, I said!

I am still trying to figure out how I feel about it all. Chemo was mentioned and dismissed. Dr Yun also mentioned a radiation treatment involving infusion of radioactive material into the blood stream (Xofigo?) I did some research and it seems BC Cancer Agency is planning a trial next year and I may qualify. Preliminary tests have shown great promise. A radioactive isotope targets cancer cells and destroys them while leaving healthy cells alone. There is still some hope. Google “Lutetium PSMA” for more information.

Next week I will have another bone scan. At least it will give us a picture of where the bone metastases are.

There are things I would still like to see and do. I need to prioritize because there is no way I can do them all. Most important at this time is to finish 3 tapestries, maybe 4 or 5 if time permits. Physical activity tires me quickly but needlework calms and distracts me.

I need to downsize as well. I plan to edit my many hours of video into something watchable. I want to post some of my life on YouTube, maybe someone will enjoy it. A video review of my life for my funeral is another project. I am fortunate that I have time to prepare. I am not afraid to die. What concerns me is that I will miss out on seeing some exciting things, such as great grandkids. Sometimes I feel as though it is up to me to make people feel ok when the subject of cancer comes up. I am still me and I will be til the end. Having cancer sorts out the real friends and I am blessed that I have Stefanie, family and friends who will stand by me. I thank God for such people.