Hair – do we really need it?

Hey, how’ve you been? I’ve missed you; as well as missing most of my bodily hair, which seems to have disappeared from down-under (careful!).

Throughout both bouts of chemo I’ve been very lucky to have kept most of the hair on my head. I still have a bald patch on the top but if I look in the mirror at a certain angle it totally disappears (the Donald Trump wig can wait). What I didn’t realise was that while I was looking upwards to check, I should have been looking down. When I did, I found that my bits are bald: what was bountiful is now bare; what was bushy is now barren (ok, that’s enough about short’n’curlies). Not sure what they were for in the first place but I kinda miss them now they’re gone.

Talking of missing things when they’re gone, after the latest consultation with my oncologist I was more or less reconciled to my PSA level staying around the 60 mark, give or take. Then, after my 8th chemo, that short-lived stability was gone, shattered, blown out of the water. If you’re going to break a record then do it properly – PSA has risen to 74, from 58. That’s doing it properly, no messing about. Will it keep going up? Should make my next chemo interesting.

We don’t hang around here, though; especially with the good weather. In between chemo sessions, Anne and I have been back to Cardiff to see our friends’ daughter get hitched; to the sound of sheep in the background and a male voice choir to the fore (brought tears to the eyes – or was that the tight trousers?). I saw Spurs beat Fulham (my fingernails still growing back). We went to stay with Anne’s sister and brother-in-law just outside Richmond-on-Thames: Ham House = tick; Richmond Park = tick; Kew Gardens = tick; riverboat race = tick; banter = tick; beers = tick; beers = tick (no, not a mistake).

Back on the Denosumab now as well. Hopefully be able to come off some of the painkillers when it kicks in.

It’s all happening. Make sure you don’t miss the next exciting instalment (‘cos I’ve no idea what’ll be in it).

More wet stuff

I got wet again the other evening; this time soaked from the ground up, which struck me as odd. Anne, Victoria and I were in a bar ((no kidding!) in Portsmouth. We’d taken a few days off as I had no medical appointments last week, so headed down to the deep south.

We’d been touristing (?) all day and deserved a reward. A couple of pints of ‘craft beer’ later meant I needed to go and point Percy at the porcelain. Job done and I was washing my hands when I heard a sharp hissing sound. There was no-one else in the toilet and it wasn’t coming from me, so what was it? As I carried on washing it wasn’t only my hands that were getting wet; I could feel wetness spreading up my trouser leg. Again, I knew it wasn’t me (yes, I’m sure), so I looked under the basin and saw a stream of water jetting from one of the pipes. I jumped backwards into what was already a large puddle on the floor and checked my trousers. Every male toilet-goer’s nightmare; a large wet-patch all down my leg. I couldn’t leave with this embarrassing stain on my trousers but couldn’t stay and drown.  I made a bolt for it into the bar and explained the flooding in the toilet to an amused waitress who gave me a handful of paper napkins while staring fixedly at my trousers. Even trying to dry myself with the napkins looked suggestive as I re-joined Anne and Victoria. “Drink up, it’s time to leave. Yes, I know about my trousers. No, now. I’ll tell you about it on the way back.” We left with the noise of a very loud alarm ringing in our ears.

A few days before the great Portsmouth flood, we’d trooped into my oncologist’s office at the local hospital for my regular consultation. It was nice enough to see him again but a bit of a waste of time as the results of my MRI scan hadn’t yet come through. It must be the summer holidays as it’s been two weeks since my scan and he explained that I was the third patient that day not to receive their results. He told me my PSA score wouldn’t change much more with this chemo but as long as it stayed relatively level then we’d stick with it. To be honest, I was rather distracted by the fact that the colour of his trousers matched his chair, so it looked like his legs disappeared when he sat down. Little things.

What’s this wet stuff?

I got wet today.
I stuck my head out of the back door and there it was – rain; you remember, millions of tiny droplets of refreshing H2O cascading down onto the parched ground, exploding like little fizz-bang(?) grenades. My head was soon followed by the rest of me as I walked around the garden, soaking up this liquid phenomenon while getting soaked; a broad smile on my face.
I tried talking to the plants but they ignored me, their little faces staring upwards, collecting as much water as they could while they could. How soon they forget that Anne and I were the ones that watered them religiously while the grass was turning a browner shade of hay. Now not even a “Where’s your hosepipe, big boy?” from them. Mind you, the Sun’s come out again so they’ll soon be begging us for a life-saving drink.
The rain wasn’t the only thing that’s been cascading down this week. I had my seventh chemo and was told my PSA score has fallen to 58. Every cloud has a silver lining.

What’s not to like?

You know how there are some days when you shouldn’t have bothered getting out of bed? Well, there can be weeks like that as well. After all the fun and celebrations of June and July there had to be something untoward hiding around the corner, just waiting to cause mayhem. Little did I think that the mayhem would start with a broken tooth. Three visits to the dentist later and I had a new crown (delusions of grandeur?).

Not so bad then except that the dental work meant that my monthly denosumab injection has had to be postponed for six weeks; which was compounded by my temperature of 38.0c on the morning of my seventh chemo; which meant Anne and Victoria had to take me to A&E as the upper limit is 37.5c; which meant we spent three hours in hospital while they pumped me full of antibiotics; (keep up, keep up), which meant my chemo has had to be postponed again; which is a shame as my PSA count has risen to 66; which hasn’t been helped by the increased pain in my back; which led to me having yet another MRI scan; which means I need a drink.

There are bound to be these little hiccups along the way and never has the adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” been more fitting. Cancer ninjas need a bit of a challenge, otherwise it’d just be boring: so, the tooth’s fixed, my chemo is now next week, my temperature’s down and I’ve had the scan – what’s not to like?

July

This cancer ninja has had a pretty busy time of it during June and the busyness continues into July. I’ve already written about my birthday celebrations, yet earlier in the month, Victoria and Charlotte bought us tickets for two of the all-day ‘British Summer Time’ concerts at Hyde Park. It’s a long time since I’ve seen Santana but they’re as good as ever; the band’s pulsating rhythm creating the trance that Carlos punctuates with his psychedelic guitar solos. The thousands in the audience were all swaying as one.

How do you follow that? With Eric Clapton, of course; one of the original guitar heroes. His slow-hand rock and blues phrasing maximising the tempo and tone of every note sounding from his fretboard. And when Carlos Santana joined Eric on stage we were in heaven (well, actually, my plan is not to visit Heaven for a long time yet). (Heaven?)

The second concert had everything: Bananarama (remember them?), Van Morrison, a torrential downpour and Michael Buble. Surprisingly (or maybe not), it wasn’t Bananarama but ‘Van the Man’ that I was looking forward to, yet the whole afternoon turned out to be fun, jazz/soul, wet and easy-listening pop/swing, in that order. Van Morrison played to the whole crowd while Michael Buble sang just to Anne.

We’d been worried about my ability to last the day as I can’t stand up or sit on the ground for long (bit of a drawback for an all-day concert). However, we contacted the organisers, who were able to find spaces for us in the ‘Accesible Area’ raised viewing platform to see Eric, but not, unfortunately for the Michael Buble concert.

We stayed overnight in a hotel for each of the concerts, knowing how tired I’d be and maybe just a little lubricated. Over the two weeks Anne and I must have become ‘Chicken Cottage’s’ (the fairly fast-food outlet) best late-night customers. I certainly know how to show Anne a good time.

I blinked and there it was

Will you still need me, will you still feed me / When I’m sixty-four (ack. to John and Paul). Yes, it sneaked up when I wasn’t looking.

I’ve been thoroughly spoilt with presents and seeing friends and family before, during and still to come (Sunday will be fun). Victoria and Charlotte organised a rollicking dinner for all of us at an American-themed smokehouse in London, even the live band were BBQ’d; then the wonderful surprise of a night’s stay at the ‘Shangri-La’ hotel at the Shard. Waking up in the morning (late) on the 49th floor, throwing those curtains wide (ack. to Elbow), then remembering I was as naked as a plucked chicken might have sent feathers flying but as I couldn’t even be seen by the ant-sized people crossing London Bridge I don’t believe any more feathers were ruffled apart, perhaps, from those of a passing helicopter pilot who flew over, pointed in my direction and laughed heartily – a little too heartily for my liking.

Just to put everything back into perspective, it’s chemo day again tomorrow. Yey.

Cancer ninja

In a previous post I mused over what to call myself in my superhero guise. ‘I’m not a cancer sufferer; I’m a cancer fighter, or ninja.’ I discounted ninja but, after a nationwide referendum (OK then, Anne, Victoria and Charlotte), it was decided to Leave ‘fighter’ and Remain with ‘ninja’ (any resemblance to another referendum is purely coincidental). So there we have it, I’m a cancer ninja (who cares? – I care).

PSA of 57 – Going down

Slowly, but the count is going down: 62, 60, now 57 for my 6th chemo session. A good start to the new month and an encouraging meeting with my oncologist, to boot. It’s an easy life for him at the moment because the chemo finally looks to be having a positive effect, so continuing for the maximum of 10 treatments is a no-brainer. In fact, he’s having such an easy life with me that he was off to see Madness in concert at Reading that afternoon.

Before I let him go, I did ask whether my PSA count will reduce to the sub-1 levels of last year’s chemo programme. “No”, as it was the hormone treatment alongside the chemo that brought it right down. As we know, the hormone treatment has stopped working, so it’s a different situation this time.

A slight downer on the good PSA news is that my back pain has increased which, combined with the sciatic pain (which itself is much reduced with the little yellow pills), is proving more than uncomfortable at times. His look of closer interest, or was it concern, led to him request an MRI scan for me, which will happen some time in August. “Come back in 6 weeks and we’ll see the results.”

I’d probably have grinned a lot more during the meeting but I’d broken a back tooth a few days beforehand, ruining my perfect photogenic smile. I have to report any dental work (as well as increased/decreased temperature, nausea, potential infections, diahroeh/diahoera/diarrhoea – well I’d report it if I could spell it!), which resulted in having to postpone my Denosumab injections for 6 weeks, as a precaution. Somewhat unfortunate as these injections help keep the pains in my pelvis and leg bones (femurs) at bay.

I’ll holler when it hurts.

June 25: Our 41st Wedding Anniversary

“What? I don’t believe it!” “41 years? You’re kidding?” “You don’t look old enough; well, Anne doesn’t.” Just some of the comments we received (I can’t repeat some of the others) when telling people Anne and I have now been married for two score and one years.

We celebrated with a lovely meal at a restaurant in a nearby village/town (when does a village become a town?). It’s not that far away but we thought we’d make the most of it and stay overnight at a nearby hostelry. I could tell the age of the pub by the number of ceiling beams I walked into. In fact I was so pre-occupied with avoiding the large beam in our bedroom that I banged my head on the hobbit-sized doorframe instead.

The restaurant was only across the road, so easy to waddle back after 3 courses and a bottle of wine. We both thoroughly enjoyed the occasion, although Anne had to endure watching me demolish my rum baba dessert (remember those?). I only ordered it so that we could wind the years back to the 70s, when rum babas, black forest gateau and Benny Hill were in fashion. Anne would be wearing her smock dress and I’d be in a flowery shirt and flared trousers. In those days we’d be eating a slap-up meal of prawn cocktail, Berni Inn steak (cooked medium), followed by a dessert of rock-hard ice cream in a plastic tub, all washed down with a glass of Blue Nun. Ah, the good old days.

I wonder where we’ll go on our 42nd Anniversary.

June 23: Joshua Mark’s christening

It’s all happening this June, where are the days disappearing to? My diary is usually full of hospital or doctor’s appointments, all for good reasons; pills, jabs, jabs, pills. This month the pages are prodigiously (look it up – I had to) filled with places to go and people to see, plus sufficient gaps in between for me to recover before the next one.
Family do’s are always good fun and a christening covers both ends of the spectrum: a solemn Catholic sacrament of initiation into the life of the children of God, followed by a rollicking old knees-up with friends and family (or in my case knees under a table with a pint in my hand).

A chance to catch up and, because this side of the family know all about my fight against cancer and read these posts, most don’t need to ask how I am because they already know. So no head tilts, just getting on with the business of the day; wetting Joshua Mark’s head, England in the World Cup (it’s coming home), Mayo in the All-Irelands, Cousin Brendan in the doghouse (I made that one up). “How’s work? How’s the family? What’s happening out there in the real world? Who’s doing what? Why, and for how long?”
Anne, my brother and sister leave the celebration with everyone’s best wishes and invitations to get together in the future. It was a grand day out, lovely weather and lovely people.
For the record, I’m not a cancer sufferer; I’m a cancer fighter (I decided against ‘Ninja’ due to reasons of copyright and good taste).
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