Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Now I know how a Muppet feels!

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My fight – Weekly Update – 21 Dec 2008

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Dear family and friends

As we approach Christmas, I am quite excited to actually be here.  My GP told me that he did not expect me to see the year out.  Now for next year.

This week, I have been reading quite a few media articles about ignorance of prostate cancer amongst men and I have become angry enough to tell you about it.

The general theme of these articles is that the disease is a result of men’s ignorance about their health. It was reported that four out of five (men) did not know the function of the prostate. Well, I’m sure just as many have no idea of the function of the thyroid, the spleen and a host of other body parts.

One of the most common misconceptions about prostate cancer was a belief that trouble urinating was one of the first symptoms of the disease, Dr Wright said. That is what took me off to the doctor in the first place

“The truth of the matter is that very often prostate cancer can be asymptomatic until they start getting bone pain, from secondary cancer,” he said. “So, in fact, the cancer may be silent until it has actually spread. It means, basically, then that the treatment is palliative.” … and that is how I found out that I had the cancer.

Once you have been diagnosed as ‘palliative’, the information dries up from the medical profession. You are told absolutely nothing unless you ask the specific question.

Upon finding a problem with your prostate gland, your GP sends you off to a Urologist. He is the one who diagnoses your condition. After operating and determining you are a ‘palliative’ case, he only wants to see you every three months to follow your decline progress.

In between, it is just you and your GP. Being ‘palliative’, his role is reduced to prescribing pain management prescriptions and trying to cheer you up.

Ask about alternative therapies or diet modifications and you find these things are not in the script. The typical response is that if it feels good, do it.  I can only put my unexpected survival to this point down to the alternate therapies I have chosen.

The time has come for a review of my situation commencing with a one scan to check the progress or decline of the cancer.  That is on Xmas eve.  What do you think I want for Christmas?

You have to read the following cancer-sufferer’s Blog post on men getting checked for prostate cancer.

Several years back I received an email with oneliners for men who are going to the doctor to get their prostates checked:

{1} “Take it easy, Doc. You’re boldly going where no man has gone before!”
{2} “Find Amelia Earhart yet?”
{3} “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”
{4} “You know, in Arkansas, we’re now legally married.”
{6} “Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?”
{7} “You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out…”
{8} “Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!”
{9} “If your hand doesn’t fit, you must quit!”
{10} “Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.”
{11} “You used to be an executive at Enron, didn’t you?”

And the best one of all..

{12} “Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?

(shamelessly stolen from Living with Prostate Cancer as I have no idea where the original email went)

And this is a story of why is pays to get screened early.

My dad is a bit of a hypochondriac. He’s good about it though: he goes to the doctor regularly and gets checked out.

The other side of it is that he’s also paranoid about drugs. You name it, he can find something wrong with it. Morphine? Addictive. Flonase (a corticosteroid spray for allergies)? Steroids are bad. Tylenol? Bad for your liver. So he avoids drugs like the plague (his drug of choice is often scotch).

We deal with the hypochondria/paranoia by being really irreverent about it. We make jokes about medical treatments.

A couple of years ago, his prostate was enlarged. So he kept going regularly to get checked out and had the blood tests, etc. Long story short, he phoned me back in September some time:

Dad: So I have prostate cancer.
Me: Oh?
Dad: Ya, and for radiation treatment, they’re going to implant some seeds in my butt. So I’ll be glowing out of my ass in time for Christmas.
Me: oh, that’s nice.
Dad: But first I have to go in for some blood tests to check my liver and discuss treatment with the oncologist. And some other test where they put a camera up my butt.
Me: But its early on, yes? And they’ll put the video on YouTube, right?
Dad: Oh yeah.
Me: are they checking your liver too?
Dad: Yep. So I have been very good about the scotch.

(after the blood tests came back and his liver was clear, he celebrated with scotch)

Now, I know prostate cancer is a serious thing. This is how we deal with it as a family.

Dad was scanned early on, and the oncologist put him on a hormone treatment to reduce the size of his prostate. That was about a month ago.

He went in for his 6 month checkup a couple of weeks ago. In his bloodwork, the doctor included the tests for prostate cancer (whatever they measure).

With hormone treatment alone, those numbers had decreased by 50%.

See, what happens is that the cancer actually feeds off of testosterone. So they kill the testosterone production for a bit and essentially starve the cancer. You’ll get some hot flashes, but really, that’s just payback for women having to go through menstrual cramping, childbirth and menopause.

So what’s this mean? Gentlemen, I know its not a comfortable subject, but get checked early, and get checked regularly. Learn the pleasure of being a muppet starting at age 40. Prevention and early detection are the best defense against this: early detection has a 90% cure rate. And quite honestly, if you live in Canada, you have no excuse – this is included in your provincial medical care.

And who knows? You might find Amelia Earhart. )



Written by Greg Naylor

22 December 2008 at 7:57 am

Posted in Greg Naylor, my fight, PERSONAL

Tagged with ,

6 Responses

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  1. As I said, mate, best for tomorrow.


    22 December 2008 at 10:54 am

  2. Um, do you really have to have some bloke put his finger up your arse to find out if you’ve got it, Greg? Didn’t Newman find out just via a blood test? I think I’ll take that option.

    Ray Dixon (Bright)

    23 December 2008 at 9:45 pm

  3. Unfortunately yes Ray. The blood test, or PSA reading, is an indicator only that the (P)rostate (S)pecific (A)ntigen, a protein manufactured exclusively by the prostate gland, level is or is not rising.

    The ‘finger up your arse’, as you put it, will identify any hardening of the prostate gland which is about the size of a walnut. That hardening occurs before the prostate becomes cancerous. So finger > hardness of prostate > preventive maintenance. Outcome: no hardening = no cancer.

    Yes, Sam found out via a blood test – albeit it too late – as the cancer was already there. If he had waited much longer, they may have found that the cancer had broken free of the prostate, as was the case with me. If Sam or I had had the finger test every year from the time we were 50, we both would have avoided the consequences of the cancers developing.

    By taking the blood test option, you are taking positive action to avoid the cancer. If the blood test is not favourable, you will require the ‘finger’ before before being referred on for various scans.

    Yeah, I know, it is a ‘man’ thing and the first time is scary – but is pretty trivial. Get to my stage with the hormone therapy robbing you of your sexuality and you couldn’t care less if they shoved a baseball bat up your arse 😉

    Greg Naylor

    23 December 2008 at 10:53 pm

  4. Oh well, I might as well turn gay then, and have “the finger”!!!

    Ray Dixon (Bright)

    24 December 2008 at 12:01 am

  5. Merry Christmas, Greg, to you and your family. May (God willing) it not be your last one. Cheers mate.

    Ray Dixon (Bright)

    24 December 2008 at 8:45 pm

  6. Thanks Ray, the same to yours especially Corinna. Tell her I am thinking of her

    Greg Naylor

    24 December 2008 at 10:20 pm

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