Posts Tagged ‘cancer’
The world of cancer can really kick you in the teeth at times, the trick is to be able to bounce back and move forward but sometimes it is more difficult to rise and come up smiling when it belts you below the belt. The following story is of events that have overtaken a married couple who are close friends of my wife and I. It took me some time to choose to publish these events as it is such an overwhelming personal ordeal they are dealing with. I wrestled with my thoughts on the moral justification in making their ordeal public and now I have done so in the hope others may be inspired by their story. In the following events I have used the names of Jack and Jill to protect their privacy and as I write I am still wondering at times if all this is not just a bad dream.
Jack and Jill are now in their late sixties. A few years ago Jill was diagnosed with bowel cancer and was at the time successfully treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. A short time after Jill’s cancer treatment Jacks brother was also diagnosed with bowel cancer and he was also treated successfully with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. With all the health and medical issues that had suddenly descended on them Jack and Jill decided to retire, buy a caravan and join the grey nomads touring Australia.
About the time they bought the van Jack fell off a trestle and broke his leg, down toward the ankle so the grand Australian tour departure was put on hold until his leg healed. Eventually they got underway but just a couple of thousand kilometers into their trip Jack and Jill found themselves stuck in Townsville as Jack had developed an infection in the bone where he had originally broken the leg. Townsville is where my wife and I met this pair and we became firm friends. Jacks infection was such that the leg was invaded by a medical steel structure from knee to ankle with rods descending into the leg at various places to deliver the antibiotics needed to the bone. Jack also was treated in the hyperbaric chamber for two months to try to assist the healing. Jack endured nearly twelve months of treatments to try to beat the bone infection without success.
Late last year the medical specialists and Jack started discussing amputation of the leg as the final solution and while these discussions were going on Jack had a colonoscopy which led to biopsies and he was then also diagnosed with bowel cancer. Now Jack and the surgeons had two problems to deal with and a decision was made to have both the amputation of the leg plus the bowel resection done at the same time (a 12 hour operation.) Both of these procedures were completed early in March and Jack is doing OK. He faces a lengthy rehabilitation period for his leg and prosthesis followed by perhaps radiation and extensive chemotherapy for the cancer.
The cruncher to all this came to a head recently when Jill revealed that she had been re-diagnosed with the return of her bowel cancer which had now spread extensively to her liver. The doctors informed her it was incurable and terminal, she could only expect her time left to be between 12 and 14 months. Now Jill had been informed of this some time ago but decided to keep it to herself until Jack had gone through his ordeal. That last sentence says more about the love and respect that one human can hold for a loved one than any explanation I could give. They have offered Jill some strong chemotherapy, not as a cure but to help prolong life long enough for both of them to return to their home once Jack is stabilised. I shake my head with despair for my friends and wonder how these sort of events can overtake good peoples lives.
I offer the following verse I composed for them and anyone else out there who might find some comfort in these words. It was inspired by the words of Gordon Lightfoots haunting ballad called “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” The lead line has haunted me for years “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours ?” Somehow the haunting returned and I built on it in my own words as the timing seemed just right for my friends.
Does Anyone Know Where The Love of God Goes?
Does anyone know where the love of God goes when a cancer turns your time left to hours?
In the dark and despair only faith can repair, what the verdict of cancer has soured.
But his love is still there in fond memories we share, with the love-ones we see that surround us.
The moments are there when the laughter rang out and the hugs and the kisses were about us.
The hard times and fears, the regrets and the tears, were all dealt with and left far behind us.
So does anyone know where the love of God goes? Well I think the answers not hidden.
Seek deep in your soul among your memories there and give thanks to what he has given.
Lee aka Popeye
I am about to enter into the conspiracy view of a subject that has some rational common sense. This is not to say that I am a believer in this conspiracy theory on cancer cure but it is an issue I thought worth presenting here for my readers.
During periods of my life when in a philosophical frame of mind ( most times from the deck of a boat late at night while in a good anchorage) one of the questions I would pose to the universe from time to time was “What could exterminate the human race????? Apart from asteroid strike, comet collision or the sun disintegrating I thought about epidemic disease. The world has and continues to deal with many contagious outbreaks of disease in many forms Eg. Bubonic plague, Smallpox, Malaria and recently Ebola. I am now left wondering if the epidemic disease that deserves more attention as being the worlds largest threat is actually cancer in any of its forms.
Thinking about what I have just written above, raises Some other big questions that need to be answered, such as: “Is the incidence of cancer increasing in the world,” “What is causing any cancer increases” and “Can cancer be cured”??? Well, according to the World Health Organisation, the incidence of cancer is expected to increase by 70% within the next two decades. That means there will be an increase from 14 million new cases in 2012 to 25 million new cases per year by 2032. The scope of that statistic is amazing if you consider it is the equivalent of Australia’s current population, every man, woman and child being diagnosed with cancer every year. Over the same period of time cancer mortality rates world-wide are expected to increase from 8 million in 2012 to 13 million deaths per year.
The causes of the increase in cancer diagnosis is subject to speculative arguments but does correlate to the massive changes in living standards for the majority of rich countries over the past 100 years. The increase in the consumption of red meat, industrialisation and rise in air pollution, the discovery and manufacturing of chemicals used in everyday cleaning and many more influences that found their way into our modern-day way of life. The increase in life expectancy is also a reason given for the increase in cancer rates. The statistics tell us that by the age of 85, 1 in two men and 1 in three women will have experienced a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime.
While medical establishments and governments continue to advise the public that a search for the cure for cancer continues, the cure remains as elusive as ever. What the medical and pharmaceutical establishments have been very succesful at; Is in the overall management of cancer treatment including improved screening methods. Advances in the initial primary treatments of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy have been amazing as has the success of new cancer drugs developed. As a result of these advances the 5 and 10 year survival rate for cancer patients has increased dramatically.
This then brings us to the key issue of this article and the question “Can cancer be cured” ????? Well now, this statement raises a whole lot of other assumptions because if you look at cancer treatment worldwide from a business point of view, you will soon realise it is worth an under-estimated trillion dollars annually and is also a growth industry. The conspiracy theorists could be forgiven for asking the question in this way “ Why would a trillion-dollar a year growth industry want to find a cure and close itself down”???????
If the true answer is in favour of the conspiracy theorists there are two main sides that need to be given more thought: The world is based on capitalism. Even if you happen to be Russian, Chinese or whatever, the money-go-round is essential for our wellbeing. Consider this. Huge profits are made by large corporations and distributed to share holders who in turn will use those funds in other areas. Thousands of individual people including medical researchers throughout the world, also earn a living from this industry. On the other side of the coin, moral issues need satisfying when you consider that every family on earth will be touched by cancer in one form or another. Time will be the judge on this matter in the long-term. As Popeye might of said “It is what it is, and that’s all that it is.”
My personal view is that with advances in screening recently and those expected in the future, most early cancers can be cured successfully. I have a belief that new types of cancers will appear as time goes by as a consequence of lifestyle changes affecting our lives in the future. Generally I feel that sadly, cancer will be with us for many years to come.
Lee aka Popeye
Written by Lee
2 March 2015 at 4:01 pm
Posted in brachytherapy, chemotherapy, external beam, Health, hormone therapy, information, Lee's Page, MEDICAL, oncology, PERSONAL, PROSTATE CANCER, quality of life, radiation, radical prostatectomy, robotic prostatectomy, social comment, surgery, TREATMENTS, TURP, Urology, watchful waiting
Here I sit three months after my radical surgery that has given me a new lease on life and I feel healthier than I have been for the past three years. The surgery has also left me a legacy of dealing with a stoma and the new physical disciplines and mental attitudes associated with my new plumbing arrangements. Very basically there are two types either a colostomy (bowel) or urostomy (urine) both of which utilise a bag or pouch placed over a stoma to collect waste and changed out frequently.
Ostomy surgeries are usually performed for a variety of medical reasons such as endometriosis, crohns disease or cancer. The surgical formation of a stoma can save a patient’s life and provide a near normal quality of life than would otherwise be the case. At the time of my surgery there was a chance that I might have had both types of stoma’s installed as it was unclear if the surgery might damage the bowel as well. However luck was with me and the surgeon when all went well and I received the urostomy stoma only.
A whole new experience opens up for patients receiving a stoma. First and foremost is the arrival into your life of the stoma nurse who is a trained specialist nurse. The stoma nurse is responsible for educating the patients on stoma care and hygiene. The nurse is also responsible for training the patient in the use of equipment necessary to apply to stoma’s. The stoma nurse is also the first point of contact to whom the patient will report to on a regular basis. The patient will find themselves members of the Australian Ostomy Association which allows them access to a free monthly allocations of bags, pouches or other equipment, but postage costs do apply. The association also publishes a magazine on a regular basis with much valuable information for patients.
I have settled into a routine easily enough and am truly grateful for the good health I now feel. I still haven’t got back my strength fully and some days are better than others but overall I feel almost normal. I will never be able to say I believe my cancer is gone for good, but my PSA is now undetectable and I know that at least all the cancer that was known to be still active has been removed. Still, there are some issues with having the urostomy that I need to explain for readers.
Since my urine is now flowing via a conduit through my abdomen (just to the right of the navel) into a collection bag it can be subject to leaks. Leaks occur without warning when seals or base plates degrade, fold up or let go. I have trialled different types with and without seals and have finally settled on what I consider the most reliable. This apparatus normally will give me two days and nights (with daily bag changes) without failure. The bags normally need draining approx every couple of hours or when about a third full and is a simple procedure of turning on the tap over a toilet bowel. For night-time I hook my bag up to a larger night bag and this is emptied and cleaned each morning.
From time to time I have experienced leaks with the worst case being a leak during the night from either the stoma fitting or a night bag leak. I have tried to pre-empt these disasters by using a waterproof blanket under my bed-sheet and a tray under the night bag. Still accidents will happen and I have to deal with them and the clean ups as they occur. Leakages that happen while out and about are dealt with by a bag that I carry with a change of clothes plus equipment to change on the stoma. Even though a leak event is fairly uncommon it is still a mental issue for me and affects where and when I go anywhere and what I take with me. I now tend not to travel if accommodation is a factor and when I do travel, I prefer to be in my own car with all the equipment I need. Heading into the city on business is controlled by my knowledge of the location of public toilets and preferably the handicapped ones.
As I have often said before cancer is as much about the effects of cancer treatments for patients apart from the effects of the cancer itself. Cancer is a catalyst for all sorts of a domino fiasco’s introducing all sorts of impacts on a patients life. My pathway to where I am today is testament to what I have just said, however I would like to say that I am extremely grateful to be still here. Medical opinion was in agreement that my used-by date was approx last christmas if the surgery had not taken place. Learning to cope physically and mentally with my latest hurdle is a small price to pay for the extension of my used-by date especially when I feel as well as I do at the moment.
“I can do this …………and I can do it with a smile.”
Lee aka Popeye
Welcome back for the year 2015. I hope everyone enjoyed the festivities and I sincerely hope that the new year will bring health, prosperity and peace to the world. In this article I have decided to write about a subject dealing with spirituality. I have been inspired to do this by an event that happened accidentally toward the end of my treatment for the gross hematuria I was experiencing. When I was at my spiritual lowest point during my illness, full of despair and accepting that I could be reaching the end of my life, a friend came to me and suggested the following idea.
My friend suggested I create a “God Box.” The idea being that I acquire a small box of some type where I could write down on little slips of paper all my fears, anxieties, problems or prayers and deposit them into the box for God to look after. Once these fears were deposited I could then just let go of them knowing they were in the hands of a higher authority.
Now I have never been a pious religious person who was a regular churchgoer, but I always retained a sense of confirmation that there existed a God that was responsible for all creation. The “God Box” suggestion just captured my imagination and fell in line with my overall belief in a creator. I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, both good and bad. I also believe my life has been directed at certain times by someone other than me when events have caused me to travel in different directions than I thought possible. So the search for a suitable box began and my wife took exactly 2 hours to locate the perfect box in a local op shop for $2.00. ( A picture is included at the head of this article.)
I began depositing my little slips of paper containing my fears just weeks prior to the investigations that revealed the full extent of my serious condition and the surgical suggestion that could (and has done) saved my life. It was during this period that a volunteer chaplain visited me in hospital and seeing the “God Box” at the head of my bed asked me about it. After I told my story she was amazed and delighted and then commented by asking if I included any “Thank You” notes among the little pieces of paper I was depositing. It was then that I realised with embarrassment that my little notes were all one way with no such words of gratitude given by me, I fixed this issue straight away.
Readers can choose what they say or think about my story here but I can say for myself that my “God Box” came about as a suggestion from a friend during a dark period of my illness. This little box changed my life at the time and continues to do so. It gave me great comfort and hope while easing the fears, the stress and despondency I was feeling. From the time I accepted the concept of my little box and proceeded to deposit my little notes, my health outlook took a turn for the better. I believe that little box entered my life at just the right time and brought about changes that resulted in my successful surgery. It also reinvigorated my spiritual awareness.
I originally thought this was quite a unique idea that my friend suggested to me but I have since discovered the concept has been well-known and used for hundreds of years by many religious faiths. I have included a few links to web sites for readers who may be interested in further reading. I decided to write this article in the hope that the “God Box” idea might be of interest and give comfort to other chronically ill patients or their carers doing it tough out there. “Thank you God”
Lee aka Popeye
I recently read an interesting article that has prompted me to present the information here for my readers. At the latest annual meeting of the American Urological Association a presentation was given by a group of Italian researches on the results of a study in the use of dogs to identify prostate cancer. The link to this article appears among other links at the end of this post.
As a young man I spent three years in the Australian army, two years as a member of a unique unit establishing a mine dog section to support our troops in Vietnam. Mine warfare on jungle trails and bunker systems had become a whole new ball-game for our defence forces needing new methods to counter the devices being used. This unit was formed in 1971 and was due to be deployed to Vietnam in November 1972. The new Australian Government however announced the withdrawal of our troops in August 1972, so the unit never deployed to Vietnam. The mine dog section of 1972 however evolved over the years into the modern era, where our soldiers depend on the use of what are now known as explosive detection dogs. Our current forces with these dogs have served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I can recall how amazed I was when time after time these dogs were able to locate explosive targets in all sorts of hidden positions, either buried or concealed in unbelievable locations. The size of the charges did not seem to effect the results, from large caches to microscopic residue found in a car boot. My admiration for a dog’s nose grew larger as we became involved with the early training of the custom drug dog training team. Two custom officers joined us for a period of time and together we successfully re-trained two of our mine dogs to locate drugs of all types. They of course went on to build the current drug detection units we see today.
So it was no surprise to me when I read the presentation and results on the study of dogs detecting prostate cancer at the AUA annual meeting. Further reading by me had me asking myself why this type of research has taken so long to be recognised and more widely promoted. I can only hope it will lead to a safer non evasive method of detecting cancer of all types for patients.
The following information may be of value in understanding what the results of the study could lead to in cancer detection. There are 220 million olfactory cells in a canine nose, compared with 50 million for humans. When dogs are trained to sniff for a target, they are detecting the chemicals emitted by the target. These chemicals are microscopic and are referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s. The particular VOC’s emitted by explosives and drugs have been identified and hence electronic sniffers for these compounds are now in use as can be witnessed at airports.
It is the same for the detection of cancer. Specific microscopic VOC’s have been found in the breath of lung cancer patients and colon cancer patients, as well as in the urine of prostate cancer patients. The most recent findings have spurred increased interest in dog cancer detection research, including efforts to determine the identity of the VOC’s emitted by different types of cancer. This would assist in the development of electronic devices that can mimic the accuracy of a dog’s sense of smell in detecting cancer in humans.
Now to the study results referred to at the beginning of my article. Two German Shepherds called Liu and Zoey (Ex Explosive Detection Dogs) were able to detect the presence of prostate cancer with an accuracy of 98.1 percent among more than 800 samples tested. These included samples from men with very low-risk disease, men with metastatic disease, healthy males, healthy females, and patients with non-neoplastic diseases or non-prostatic tumors. The dogs were able to detect low-risk and more advanced prostate cancers with equal facility.
In other areas Dina Zaphiris, a recognized dog trainer in America who works with canines on federally funded studies in detecting early cancer in humans. In 2009, Zaphiris, a dog trainer for 25 years founded the In Situ Foundation, a nonprofit organization that trains cancer detection dogs and conducts research in the field. In her studies, patients exhale through a tube on to a cloth, which captures molecules, or VOCs, of a malignancy. Trained dogs then sniff the cloths for cancer presence.
This information seems to back up the cliché that a dog is truly a mans best friend. The possibilities opening up with this work may be life changing in the early detection of cancer.
Lee aka Popeye.
In this article I would like to offer some personal views regarding fatigue and cancer. I present this subject here as I believe it is a major issue for any cancer patient. Since my diagnosis in March 2012 (and in hindsight much earlier than then) I had been and still do, experience varying degrees of fatigue over varying periods of time. This personal experience gives me some understanding and experience to be able to discuss fatigue and cancer from my point of view and from other information available.
I bet that if the question was asked of cancer patients ……How do you rate the effects of fatigue on your quality of life??? The replies would almost be a unanimous 10, where 1 would be no effect and 10 the worse. This should not be surprising, as studies have demonstrated that fatigue is a significant issue long into cancer survivorship. Between 70% and 90% of cancer patients will experience cancer fatigue and in some cases prior to diagnosis, then throughout the treatment period and extending into months post treatment. More than 50% of cancer patients will continue to experience fatigue symptoms for many years post curative treatment.
So what is my cancer fatigue like.
Cancer fatigue is very different from the everyday tiredness experienced by most people. I think of cancer fatigue as exhaustion of the body and the mind that is not relieved by sleep or rest. It is caused by both the disease itself when cancer cells produce toxins and by treatments such as drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and the like. As an example of cancer fatigue I will attempt to give a personal view of my experience with this side effect.
There is an old John Denver song I love that just about sums it all up with the lyrics….”Some days are diamonds….Some days are stones.” My fatigue comes and goes with just a few warnings of its arrival and no advice as to how long it will stay on each visit. It tends to hang about for at least a day or two but has been known to settle in for a few weeks. Each fatigue event slowly subsides and there begins a period of recuperation from the effects, a bit like climbing out of a hole in the ground. Then sometimes the fatigue will return before you actually get out of the hole and you tumble back down.
I have discovered a few small warning signs that indicate my bad periods. The return of bad disturbed sleep, a weakness in the legs leading to an increasing difficulty climbing stairs or slopes. These always herald the return of cancer fatigue and back down the hole I go.
- The weakness in the legs slowly spreads to hips, back and arms.
- My IQ seems to dwindle as I become muddle-headed and forgetful. I find it an effort to even talk and when I do sometimes my speech is slurred.
- I find I cannot multi-task, I have to concentrate and focus on one thing at a time.
- I seem to make many mistakes when trying to organise or complete a set task.
- The time it takes me to complete any task is multiplied by ten from normal .
- I become clumsy and accident prone.
- I can become breathless to the point it seems a real effort just to breath.
- I keep my jacket handy as I can feel cold at odd times even though it is summer and I live in the tropics…….Very strange this one.
- I can drop off to sleep at the drop of a hat at any time or any angle, doesn’t matter if I am in the car, sitting at the desk, in a shopping centre or entertaining visitors.
- Everything seems such a huge effort with no relief.
- Negative thoughts increase and I need to monitor these carefully.
So how do I or you manage this side effect of cancer fatigue
Management is the key word here and part of the answer, is to advise your medical team of the problems and symptoms you may have. Some of the tactics I advise are as follows but please remember I am not a doctor so you should seek medical advice:
- I wrote a previous article promoting the regular use of citrus juice and pulp mixed with cold water that I use daily. The citrus juices I recommended were lemons and limes. I still hold the view that this has been extremely beneficial to me personally in keeping my energy levels up.
- Doctors may be able to prescribe drugs to lessen fatigue issues when it is found they are related to a diagnosed causal effect of symptoms, or to lessen the effects of treatment drugs.
- Stay as active as you can and follow some routine daily exercises such as walking.
- Practice good nutrition and a balanced diet. Possibly work with a dietician to achieve this.
- Ask for help in achieving routine chores if you need to.
- Be flexible and set realistic goals.
- Shift your focus from thinking about your fatigue, distract yourself and do something else eg listening to music.
- Consider learning and practicing medication, yoga or tai chi.
“Some days are diamonds……Some days are stones……Some times the hard times won’t leave me alone.
Some times the cold wind, blows a chill through my bones……Some days are diamonds……Some days are stones”.
Lee aka Popeye
Written by Lee
1 December 2013 at 10:30 pm
I know it seems a while since I have published anything for readers on this site and I do have a couple of excuses to offer for my lack of effort. I Thought my last two articles could stay up front for a little extra time due to their content, and the possible benefit a person might receive who might also be doing it tough. My other excuse is that my health over the past four weeks has not been good at all, and as a result I have undergone a series of tests and scans to try and resolve some health issues.
I decided to put this article together and call it Spicks and Specks. It contains a bunch of stuff that has been happening to me over the past couple of months, plus a personal comment from me regarding cancer in general. Spicks and Specks was the title of a BeeGees song released in the mid 1960’s and I loved it. The title just seemed appropriate for this bits and pieces article.
Touching on the BeeGees has just reminded me to let my readers know that since September 22nd I have been the proud owner of a Ukulele given to me by my family as a birthday present. Prior to this and for many years I played the guitar poorly and sang even worse, however my family knew I harboured a desire to get hold of one of these little fun instruments and give it a go ( they most likely had, had enough of my guitar playing) . So here I sit looking across at my happy little hippy friend all decorated with stickers, and yes I do play Spicks and Specks on occasion. Everybody should have a Uke.
My latest blood test results were excellent and the PSA result was 0.02 almost undetectable. However I have been experiencing quite a bit of pain in the hips, groin, leg and lower back area. I also had a problem with weakness in the legs and huge fatigue issues. So after presenting to the doctors, they decided I should undergo some scans and tests which I completed and the results were all clear of progression, with one small area needing further investigation. It seems I have blood in the urine and this will involve the insertion of a camera to inspect the urethra and bladder and I will report back when the procedure has been completed.
While all this doctor visits,scans and blood tests was going on, it occurred to me how having a cancer diagnosis is all about management. My current view of cancer is that I see it as a chronic illness, just like any of the dozens of other chronic illnesses that abound. Cancer may be more prevalent than other chronic illnesses but it seems to me that having cancer of any type is still, all about the management of treatment designed to cure, or lessen the impacts and maintain and extend a patients quality of life.
Research for a cure for cancer goes on and over time humans have made many discoveries and strides forward in cancer management and treatment. When looking at some of the statistics it is interesting to see just how far we have come with testing and treatment. Consider the following:
- One man in two will receive a cancer diagnosis by the age of eighty-five years and for women it is one in three.
- Over 120,000 Australians will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year.
- The good news is that the survival rate from cancer has increased by 30% in the past two decades.
I might expand on this subject of living with and managing cancer in future articles from my own personal experience and from other information freely available. It is an interesting way of life, this living with cancer stuff and it has many different facets to explore.
In my small rural community and amongst the residents I personally know, there has been one other man diagnosed with prostate cancer and three ladies diagnosed with breast cancer. All of us have been diagnosed within the past eighteen months and this has been a bit of a shock to me regarding the prevalence of cancer among us. I now have to admit that when I was healthy and cancer free I never previously noticed those less fortunate at the time. It is interesting how blind some people can be at times, myself included.
Even with pain and fatigue issues I am still able to get about and contribute to the workings of our household. I still try to do my daily walks and exercises but most days I need a pensioner nap in the afternoon. I have been able to put my recent mental melt down behind me with the help of counselling from the Queensland Cancer Council. That event was a bit scary for me but I have learned a great deal about myself and the human response to moments of despair from the experience.
And that my dear readers is my spicks and specks for the moment.
“All of my life…I call yesterday…..The spicks and the specks of my life gone away. Everybody…. spicks and specks…..spicks and specks now…..spicks and specks.”
Lee aka Popeye