Wednesday, 14 October 2009

An Attitude To Life

As I mentioned a few days ago I have received Good News about my cancer. I don't fool myself that it's gone. I've been here before and cancer never actually goes completely. But it looks as though I'll be blogging for a year or two yet. If I don't do something silly like get hit by a bus or fall out of a plane at 30,000 feet or .... well, you get the picture.

So how do I feel? I feel strange, is the answer.  I had come to terms some years ago with the cancer and its seemingly relentless decision to inhabit my body.  The fact that I've never ever been able to feel it nor been affected by it (apart, of course, when I had the operation and the radiotherapy) has made the fact of its existence rather unreal.  But mentally I had completely come to terms with it and, having seen Andy die such a horrible death, had taken the decision not to go for quantity over quality of life.  I had come to terms with the likelyhood of death coming rather earlier than the family norm of the nineties.  I accepted it as a probablilty.  After all I'd been told that the implants had limited efficacy and when it returned more vigorously last year I'd been told that radiotherapy wasn't an option.  But things change.  And nowhere more rapidly than in the field of cancer treatment.  Five months ago I was told I could have radiotherapy but that it only had a 20% chance of targetting the right area. And bingo!  They hit the 20% and I got the jackpot.

So, I ask myself again, "How do I feel?".  What is 'strange'?  The answer is that I don't feel the joy and elation that I might have expected.  I feel pretty much as I did before I had the news.  However there is a big BUT in all this.  And that is how did I really feel before I got the latest good news?  What effect has the knowledge of a life-threatening disease really had?

As I said in the last posting it has been an incredibly positive experience.  It still is an incredibly positive experience.  I have learned more though this than ever I could have hope to learn through any other experience. I shall not go into too much detail 'cos that would be boring but I can say that I am sure that my outlook on life has altered for the better.

When I first went to New Zealand it was for a long holiday.  The cancer was becomming troublesome again.  I decided that I was going to do everything and anything that I wanted to do.  Carpe diem was my motto.  I was determined to seize the day.  I decided that I might, realistically, not have another such wonderful opportunity to do the things I had never tried before for a myriad of reasons.  I paraglided off a hilltop and soared above the birds. I white-water rafted over the highest commercially run drop in the Southern hemisphere. I helehiked up a glacier.  I did lots of things.  For the record I did not bungee jump and have no intention of so doing!

And I've lived my life like that ever since. 

That's just one aspect of how I feel and how I've been affected.  It was a very positive experience.

I've learned not to sweat the small stuff.  And it's almost all small stuff!

Oh.  I could go on.  I've learned so much.  But I will confine myself to one more thing.  Possibly the most important thing I've learned:  to play The Glad Game.  The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when the fictional character Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna's father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because "we don't need 'em!".  Sometimes it's a bit hard but I've yet to find a situation where I've not been able to play the game  for myself.  Having said that it's sometimes very hard to play it for others; very hard.

There is one more feeling and that is Guilt.  I'll blog about it separately. 

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Good Day And Some

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was going to the Beatson Centre during the summer for radiotherapy treatment for the recurring cancer resulting from the escape of cancerous cells after my operation for prostate cancer in 1998. Well I had the treatment and I met some wonderful people whilst I was having the treatment.  See The Last Day at Eagleton Notes.  Since then life's been pretty hectic.

A few weeks ago I had my bloods done for my PSA reading.  PSA is an indicator of the prostate specific antigens in the body which in turn are a general indicator of prostate cancer.  My reading was 0.03.  That is almost as low as it's been since I was operated on but still indicates the presence of potentially cancerous cells, however minute in quantity.

On Friday morning I was due to have my follow-up consultation with the oncologist to review the treatment's effect.  So on Friday I was in Ayr.

Friday was a Really Good Day. In the morning I rang my Doc's and the receptionist gave me my latest PSA results which were down to 0.01. So when I got in to see the oncologist the consultation took 30 seconds. He asked if I had any lasting ill effects from the radiotherapy (I have not) and then said "Well the PSA count is about as good as it gets. I'll see you in 6 months when you get back from New Zealand." All this way for 30 seconds! I had a longer chat with the nurses afterwards because one of their number (who was at lunch) is shortly off to live in New Zealand. The others didn't know where though. By coincidence I have a theatre nurse and her husband living in The Cottage at the moment. They love it so much they don't want to leave! I can see me ending up in my own spare bedroom when I get back!

All the travelling on Friday (from 1015 until 1630) enabled me to do some reading and I managed the Times 2 Crossword (not cryptic!), the Codeword and the Polygon. I only failed on 1 clue in the crossword: Picasso painting inspired by a bombed town. Even with half the letters I just didn't know. Otherwise I was quite proud of myself.

So I bought a bottle of Champagne on the way back to Anna's (the friend with whom I was staying as Gaz had gone off on Thursday to kite surf in Egypt).

All in all it was, as I said, a Very Good Day.

It's made me think too and it's also been tinged with the sadness that at least one of the Three Musketeers has not so far had such good news.  I'm just hoping that all my positive thoughts will help him through the devastation he's feeling at this moment.

A newly found friend in Blogland made the point that she didn't know how she would cope living with the presence of cancer hanging over her.  It's funny but I've never consciously seen it like that.  To me cancer has been the worst things in my life - particularly watching Andy die such a horrible death through cancer - and one of the best.  My own cancer has taught me so much.  It has been, and continues to be, a completely positive experience.

And that is where I will leave it tonight.  But I will continue my thoughts on it soon.