Sunday 19 October 2014

Out of the blue..

I'd almost forgotten about my cancer blog.  It's a period of life that is somewhat thankfully behind me and the fact that I'm able to live a normal life with few physical reminders is testament to good fortune, good doctors/surgeons and support of family/friends, as well as resilience of the human body and mind.

I was reminded about my blog couple of weeks ago when contacted by David who is currently going through a similar story - same cancer, similar spread and similar failure of high-dose chemo and is now faced with lung surgery the same as me.....even from the same surgeon!   It's good to be able to help in some small way, even if its just answering a few questions, putting minds at rest about the prospect and after-effects of major surgery.  It's a journey into the unknown for cancer sufferers - the chemo, the surgery, the after-affects and there seems little first-hand information available to put minds and rest and give hope.

I recently watched an online video of a muscle-sparing thoracotomy operation similar to that I had.  Not sure it was a good idea as it's pretty major invasive stuff, but despite having two operations and seven bits removed from my lungs there has been no real affect on lung-function or life-style.  The pain from the operation is temporary but the cure in terms of finally removing the last remnants of active tumours was permanent.

As I write, David has just undergone his surgery and fingers-crossed it will be the only one he needs, and he too can look to the future and getting back to living.

Friday 16 September 2011

Love & Support Are Priceless - Guest Post

I was asked by David Haas if I would host a guest post and am only too happy to oblige.

Love and Support Are Priceless

Love and support are priceless commodities, especially for cancer patients. For many cancer patients, they do not have people in their close network of friends who know exactly what they are going through; therefore, they turn to support groups to be surrounded by other cancer patients.

Support groups are not just for patients with common cancers like breast cancer or skin cancer, but they also can be utilized by people suffering from rare diseases, such as
mesothelioma. Cancer groups are for literally anyone. They are for people who are in remission, people who have mild cancer and for people who just want a genuine perspective on cancer and how it affects people's lives.

These groups are more than inspirational to many people; these groups are life changing. Without them, many patients would have a rough, lonely journey. Patients in remission can give helpful advice to new patients, and new patients can learn things that only another cancer patient could teach them. Doctors do well to give patients all the technical information they need to know, but they can't offer what many patients really want: care and sympathy.

Writing about your feelings and talking about your feelings are therapeutic; they really help people understand themselves in a better light. Moreover, talking about your feelings can help your mind to ease and relax, which in turn helps the body operate more efficiently. When the body is relaxed, the organs and immune system can do what they need to do to help the body recover from intense surgery and radiation treatment.

Support groups help emotionally, as well. Every patient can lean on each other and be an emotional support for other patients. It is empowering to know that there are other people who are not only going through the same situation, but also strive to help keep other patients positive. By being optimistic, patients can help encourage each other, helping them to embrace anything that is thrown their way.

If you have cancer, or you know someone who does, find a support group that you can attend. There are even
support groups online, where patients write to each other and join in on discussions. The love and support from these groups are priceless.

By: David Haas

Tuesday 23 November 2010

3rd year and clear!

Well, its not been much of a blog of late, but that because thankfully there had been little to report.  My check-ups at the Royal Marsden had slipped to every 4 months.  My last visit was a couple of weeks ago and despite the usual slight trepidation and sudden conscious niggles and aches that always seem to appear in the couple of weeks beforehand, my tumour-marker blood-test and chest x-ray was normal.  I have a CT scan booked for January and then the Prof is happy that I can go down to 6-monthly check-ups.  Next month will be the third anniversary since my last surgery, so definitely cause to celebrate.

The trip to the Royal Marsden is always a salutary reminder of how many people are fighting their own battles with cancer, struggling with the mental and physical effects, coping with the stress and strain on their family and loved ones, and the courage and fortitude people shown in adversity.  For each good news story there are plenty of others less fortunate and we should all remember them.  Those who do pull through are an important inspiration for others, even they don't know it. Everyone needs that hope and realisation that people can and do get through it. 

I was lucky - testicular cancer has a high clear-up rate (approx. 98% if detected early) and chemotherapy has a high success rate (85%) even if the cancer has spread.  I was in a smaller minority with recurrent secondary tumours in both lungs and high AFP markers and my cancer became chemo-resistant but even so the survival rate for stage IIIc and categorised as intermediate-risk the 5-year survival rate is still around 80%. Three years down, two to go - I'll take those odds, and take each month/year as it comes.

Saturday 23 January 2010

......And Again!!

This week has seen the awkward few days wait between having a CT scan and getting the results. I trundled over to the Royal Marsden this morning to receive the news from Professor Dearnley that my scan was clear and the 'lump' which was visible on my lung from my last scan has actually shrunk slightly, which backs up the consultant's original view that it was probably scar-tissue from my last operation. It's now two years since my last treatment, which is a bit of a milestone having previously twice re-lapsed after 6 months, and the risk of recurrence is diminishing with each passing month. I think I need to treat myself to a mountain-top or two to celebrate!!

Friday 24 July 2009

All Clear...Again!!

I had my follow up CT scan on Monday with the intent of checking whether the new 'thing' in my right lung has grown at all. I met Prof. Horwich at the Royal Marsden today and he confirmed that everything seems fine. My AFP tumour marker is still normal and the scan shows no apparent abnormalities in my lungs. They the believe the slight thickening on the edge of the lung picked up on the previous scan is probably scar tissue from my previous surgery - it seems to coincide with the area that I had a drain inserted into the lung.

Panic over! Thanks to all who crossed their fingers...again!!

Thursday 16 July 2009

John Hartson...our thoughts are with you.

I was shocked and sorry to hear the news that John Hartson, the ex- Arsenal, Celtic and Wales footballer, has been diagnosed with testicular cancer that has spread to his brain and lungs. I understand he has undergone emergency surgery to the brain and remains in critical condition.

I would like to wish John and his family my best wishes at this difficult time and hope they can remain positive and draw strength from the thoughts and support that everyone will give. John has always been know for his strength and fighting spirit and this should stand him in good stead.

I know too well the effect and shock of a sudden diagnosis but he is in good hands. There are so many unknowns but there are also so many experiences from other people to draw inspiration from, in the same way I did.

Unfortunately, its also a salutory reminder that this insiduous disease silently affects so many people, yet only gets media airtime when it affects somebody in the public eye. Every day around the UK there are people being diagnosed and we must ensure that we all do everything can to support the fight against cancer. For that I applaud efforts by people such as Lance Armstrong in his crusade to raise awareness through his LiveStrong foundation and also the efforts of thousands of people across the UK raising money for worthy causes every week, in their own little way. We can all make a difference!

Friday 22 May 2009

The Verdict

Back to the Royal Marsden today to find out the results of this weeks PET scan. When the consultant popped his head round the door and said "I just need to pop upstairs and see the radiologist, I can't make head or tail of his comments!', I immediately feared the worst. How difficult could "all clear" be to understand? Clearly its wasn't, so I was left hanging for a few more minutes. When he did arrive he still didn't really choose his words that carefully. "The report said the scan showed there was some activity.." Ok, that's not really what I wanted to hear. "...but the scan results were amplified so much that everywhere showed some activity and the activity was deemed to be no higher than normal tissue, so the radiologist has concluded its a negative scan". That's good news! I know he was only trying to explain himself but he really couldn't have managed to give good news so badly if he tried!

The upshot is that I do have a nodule in my right-lung but the PET scan doesn't show it as active. It could be scar tissue from previous surgery or there is a type of my cancer (differentiated teratoma) that does not show on a PET scan. The plan is to have another scan in 2 months to see whether there is any change in size and if so I'll be under the knife again.

More bloody waiting but such is life on remission. Today's news is the best I could of had so I'm grateful for that. Thanks to all who crossed their fingers (and toes) on my behalf and any inconvenience it may have caused!!

Thursday 7 May 2009

Mixed News..

My latest meeting with Prof. Dearnley at the Royal Marsden was to review my recent CT scan and blood test. When he started with the words "It's mixed news..." I knew there was something not quite right. The blood test showed my AFP tumour marker to be normal, however the CT scan showed a nodule on the bottom edge of my right lung. This is slightly unusual in that each previous re-occurence of my cancer has been marked by an associated increase in my AFP levels - which thus far has shown to be a reliable indicator. There is a chance the nodule could be scar tissue from previous surgery or benign but I've been scheduled in for a PET scan to check. Back to the waiting.......should have crossed my toes as well!

Friday 17 April 2009

The Waiting...

My consultants appointment has been put back to the 6th May, so I'll need to wait a little longer to get the results of my latest scan and blood test. Reckon I'll get cramp in my fingers if they are crossed for that long!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Quick Update

Haven't posted for a while as all's been well and I've been concentrating on my other blog.

I'm due my first post-remission CT scan on Thurday, back at the Royal Marsden.  As usual there's a little trepidation ahead of getting the results (which won't be for another week), but fingers and toes are crossed as ever!!