Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - A Much Better Year

At this time last year, I did a year in review piece (see here) and it is therefore only right and proper that 2011 gets the same acknowledgement.

Wow, have things changed this year.  It would be very easy to gloss over the many events of the year, because when push comes to shove, surely it is the end result that is important isn't it?

That is where I struggle a bit.  My "new normal" effectively dictates that I don't take life for granted any more and that means I end up both analysing and in most cases appreciating things that have had an influence on my life.  So with this 'ethos" in place, here goes.

The year started with a return to work full-time and while I did struggle with energy levels, etc initially, I'm now back to doing full days without any noticeable side effects.  I did start off by being very diligent with my hours and concede I've fallen somewhat back into longer hours, but 2012 is a new year, so will tweak things back a bit.  Important thing here is I acknowledge I've "fallen off the wagon" and need to adjust for the long term gain.  Given the events of 2010, it has been really good for me mentally being fully immersed into work again.

During the year, the Gang of Seven continued to play their part and as I sit here now, I feel the last of my concerns have finally been addressed. With the aid of the thyroxine (late October) I finally got control back over regulating my body temperature and I've been able to enjoy the recent lovely hot weather.  And in late November the hearing aids finally provided some relief with regards my ongoing hearing issues.  The subsequent tweaking of the volume has only enhanced the experience, and I'm sure the next/final tweak in early January will complete the process.

The one thing I struggled with for most of the year was my inability to accept that I had beaten the cancer, with each pending clinic appointment bringing on a bout of anxiety.  I think I've finally beaten that as well.  I'm looking forward to moving on without that fear as I know it has held me back a little.

It has been a good year as well as far as the other "potential" health issues go.  The annual diabetes check has me back to normal levels, and the hemochromatosis is now also back down to levels that are within the desired range. 

Sure, the good old saliva issues are still there, but like so many of the other "minor" inconveniences, I have found ways around it.  My eating is pretty much back to normal (albeit that mealtimes still require more time than they used to as I compensate for restricted jaw movement, etc) and I'm even eating a bit more bread "comfortably".  I still have to be careful with anything spicy (having even found the need to experiment with things like tomato sauce to find one with low/no spice content), but I consider these adjustments are now just part of life.  And I must be doing something right as the weight is remaining nice and stable.

There are still some things from my past that I still can't eat, but I've moved on and no longer really miss them.  In most cases they have been substituted for something else - and it is normally something that is better for me.  I will say though, that I'm pleased to be able to eat a bit more chocolate now than I could at the start of 2011, although the quantity is way down on what I used to be able to consume.  The same applies to alcohol- while I can at least drink a couple of beers now, I certainly can't handle the quantities I used to.  I'm pretty much in designated driver territory now. Wine is still pretty much 100% off the "menu" though.  What I've tried to date is just too dry on my throat and I can't be bothered even trying now.

My general energy & stamina levels are also continuing to improve in leaps and bounds.  I'm now regularly walking for a solid 60-90 minutes without any problem, and currently alternating the walking with biking for 40 minutes minimum.  The workout from the bike rides is so much better/satisfying that I'm actually leaning more towards the cycling whenever practicable.  It is more challenging and I can really feel I'm pushing myself, whereas walking doesn't deliver that same buzz any more.  Hills still present a challenge, but I'll get there with time.  

Ongoing issues being taken forward into 2012 are actually pretty minimal.  I'm still receiving treatment for my tight neck muscles and everyone concerned (osteo & acupuncturist) are happy with progress to date.  Hopefully we'll have a major breakthrough early in the year and will be able to tick that off as well.  Worst case is we'll hit a plateau where there is no further improvement, and that will be my new normal as far as that is concerned.

While I'll never forget what I've been through (and nor do I want to), I must say I'm no longer "haunted" by the experience and am really just moving forward with my new life now.

I said some time ago that I'd continue this blog until such time as I received the final all clear from the Oncologist.  I've still to get that, but I'm also in the mindset now that it is almost a matter of process now.  I think once they're happy with the results of the thyroxine (next appointment is late March) they'll stretch the appointments out and that will signal the start of the final stages.  See PMA still working.

The Russell going forward into 2012 is, I believe, a considerably stronger person both physically and mentally than the one that started 2011, so watch out everybody.  I hope you are all looking forward to the new year as much as I am.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Most Important Lesson?

The last week has seen a couple of reasonably high profile local deaths as a result of cancer.

Last Thursday, Kiwi racing driver Jason Richards succumbed after a very brave 14 month fight and just yesterday Natalie Murphy, the young Auckland mum whose plight captured the hearts of many, also passed away.  

Both these victims were young being in their mid-30s, and both put up a bloody good fight, living every day to its potential and delivering what I consider to be an important message.

I appreciate this posting might come across a bit "heavy" and quite honestly I probably wouldn't be so passionate about it if I hadn't been through a battle with cancer myself, but I did and now I feel I have to do what I can to get people to appreciate how precious life is.  So, I'll make no apologies.

I'll never really understand how I  came to be lucky enough to be one of those chosen to be a survivor, but I'm just bloody grateful I was.  I've said on many occasions how I'm now living my second chance and treat every day as something precious.  Life is for living, not for moaning about what-ifs.  

So, why do so many people not embrace the privilege that is good health?  You never know when your number is going to come up, so surely you owe it to yourself, and all those that you love and who love you, to make the most of every day and be the best person you can.

To just go through the motions and moan about "everything" is existing not living.  Sure, some people have been dealt a cruel hand, but by-in-large they are also the fighters who don't wallow in self-pity.  Why do people expect good things to happen to them or for others to support them because they have a "woe-is-me" outlook?

I have a very close friend who has been dealt the double blow of redundancy and pretty serious health scares this year, but they aren't just curled up in a ball waiting for somebody else to fix it for them.  No, they are getting on with life and making the best of what cards they've been dealt.  Sure, things are bloody hard for them, but they know others are worse off.

I said early this year that I now have a "new normal" and my tolerance for negative people was now pretty non-existent.  Not surprisingly, I continue to observe people who do nothing to better their situation/outlook by carrying on about how tough things are for them, while doing nothing to try and change it.  I don't think I actively seek them out, but I can't avoid them either.

I dare these people to front up to the families of Jason Richards, Natalie Murphy (or even my family for that matter) and try to extract sympathy from them.  These people have lost loved ones who epitomised the most important lesson of life - life itself is a gift, not a right, and as such is worth fighting for with everything you have.  

Terminal illness will always win on the sympathy stakes (and so it should) and never more so than when the patient is doing everything they can do to fight for every last minute with their loved ones.

While this is the season of goodwill, I must admit to finding it a bit harder than normal to show tolerance for the moaners of society.

Please, all I ask of you is to stop and take a look at your life.  Think about how lucky you are to be alive and start to make some changes (if you need to) so that you become one of those positive people who enjoy the gift that way too many people are currently taking for granted.

Positive Results Keep Coming

Last Thursday I had my annual diabetes check-up.  Prior to my cancer challenges, I was diagnosed as borderline type 2 diabetic.  Before we could do much about it, the cancer made itself known and all efforts went on fighting that.

At my check-up last year, things were looking pretty good, but again as I was still in full recovery mode, they were more than happy to leave that as the priority.

This year I'm obviously "fighting fit", so it was going to be interesting as to what the results were.  I had to fast for 12 hours before blood tests on the Saturday (a bit of a bugger as that was the night of the work Christmas party), but I duly obeyed and "donated" 3 vials of blood.

Come Thursday, the moment of truth arrived - and it was all good news.  My results put my levels fair and square in the "ideal" range, they were happy with my weight and my feet (I presume there is a reason they check them) passed muster as well.

All good for another year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pump Up The Volume

Sixteen months or so ago, that term would have referred to my need for more morphine.  Today, it refers to tweaking my hearing aids.

It's quite amazing how far things have come in that time, and while the comparison may seem weird, in reality it is a perfect snapshot of how different things are now versus the same time in 2010.  I am really looking forward to a "normal" Christmas this year - and many more to come.

Back to the hearing aids.  Nicholas has tweaked the volume and what a difference it makes.  While there is a slight distortion to the sounds now, I think that will settle down as my brain adjusts.  Even typing this, the noise of the keys is really loud and knocking my watch strap against the desk is also really noticeable now.  They still aren't set to maximum level, but that will be reviewed at my next appointment in early Jan.

The level of the various notification beeps (like low battery) has also been raised, so hopefully I'll hear them in the future.  Speaking of which, the batteries had to be changed again yesterday.  That means the first ones lasted 8 days, while the second set only lasted six.  Obviously I'll need to be aware of the varying battery life and make sure I've got spares readily to hand.  It will be interesting to see if the increased volume impacts on the battery life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Not So Ugly

The Good - OK, I'll concede/accept that the Thyroxine is indeed doing everything expected of it.

I'm enjoying my new-found "normal" body temperature (although most of my summer shirts are too big for me now - damn!), my weight is stable, energy levels doing fine and my water intake has stabilised somewhat.

With regards the energy levels, I finally got around to dusting off my push bike and going for a ride.  The outbound trip was hampered by lower than ideal tyre pressures, whereas the inbound leg showed how correctly inflated tyres dramatically reduce resistance.  I'd forgotten how much different the workout you get from riding a bike is to walking.  I was absolutely knackered after a 20 minute spin, whereas I'm more than comfortable walking for 90 minutes or longer.

I'll now take up the challenge (weather gods willing) to get out cycling more to build up that level of fitness.  Damn it, I really like these sorts of challenges now.

The Bad - I'm getting this vibration in my ears.  It happens with and without my hearing aids, and only in my left ear, so I'm pretty sure they aren't to blame.  I'll be just going about my day and then this vibration kicks in.  It's quite weird and lasts for a few seconds, then goes away.  There is no structure to when it happens, so will bring it up at next hearing appointment.  

Another issue is, by mistake, I used some moisturiser over the weekend that contained SPF, and I'm allergic to pretty much all sunscreens.  Net effect - I've got an annoying rash around my neck and have had to resort to Telfast to try and control the itch.  That will teach me for not reading the label properly first.

The Not So Ugly - I've had my hearing aids for nearly a week now and I think I'm adjusting to them fine.  I'm actually amazed that I don't feel self-conscious about them at all.  That is no doubt helped by how discreet they are, but thinking back I was never really bothered about Jake or the morphine pump either.  They were/are all part of the hand I've been dealt, so there is no point trying to hide them.

I have a follow-up appointment next week where the audiologist will tweak the aids.  At the moment they are on a "learner" setting, so next time they'll be adjusted to "normal" operating status.  At the moment, I think there is indeed some improvement in noisy environments, but not sufficient as yet to say it is worth all the money.  I've tried to compare sounds with them in, then quickly take them out to see if there is any change, and in quiet situations the difference isn't really noticeable, but as I said before, in loud situations there does seem to be benefit.  With them on, I can hold a conversation with someone close to me and not get lost with the background noise, but it is pretty much dependent on how soft the other person is speaking.

I am tempted to try and bring the appointment forward, but another week of getting used to them probably won't hurt

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Music To My Ears

Well sort of.  Today was my appointment with the private hearing clinic and as a result I'm two weeks away from a pair of hearing aids and hopefully a degree of "restored" hearing.

This hearing test was slightly different to the others I've had in that after the "normal" bits (which produced results that were remarkably in line with the test done by Mr Morrissey), I was given a couple of dialogue recognition tests.

The problem with my hearing is at the high frequency (2kHz and above) and this causes issues where there is background noise that simply gets in the way of me being able to hear properly.   The first test was very interesting.  A male voice speaks a series of words and the volume changes along the way (getting softer).  I have to repeat back what I hear and, if need be, I'm to guess.  As the volume drops, so does my ability to hear/guess the words correctly.

It seems that my hearing loss means I have trouble with consonants and only hear parts of some words.  Hmmm.    On to test 2.  In this one a woman speaks sentences and I have to repeat what I hear.  The twist is each time there is more background noise - in the form of people talking.  After a couple of sentences, it is all just noise and I have no idea what "my" lady is saying.

The audiologist then moves on to what type of hearing aids he thinks will best help me.  There are low, mid and high ranges as far as prices goes and a surprising number of different types.  Given my hearing is only affected in the upper range, the full in ear type is discounted (this would effectively suppress my existing hearing and place all the work on the aids.  The behind the ear type (technically open-fit  canal receiver technology) is apparently most suitable, so based on my needs a model (and colour) have been selected.

I will have them for a 2-8 week trial period and at the end of it, assuming they do the job, I'll need to stump up the $6,000 odd for my hi-tech aids.
They are actually quite a technological marvel, and tiny.  They use wireless technology and effectively talk to each other.  You can program one to increase the volume and the other to decrease the volume, and it will then adjust both aids.  They also have blue-tooth technology, so if I was to buy the right accessories, they could be paired to my phone.  This would mean I could play my music directly via the hearing aids and they would also provide the speakers for answering the phone.  Me thinks one step at a time though - get used to them before trying to do all the extra stuff.

I'm actually looking forward to getting them and ticking off what is effectively the last of the major side effects of my treatment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

At Last - A Sting In The Tail

Throughout my experiences over the last 18 or so months, the system has worked bloody well for me without a doubt.

All the medical systems, etc have been spot on, I've been blessed with the support crew I've had around me and I'm now a better person for my journey.

Let's admit it, for all those dark times and experiences, the end result is I'm still alive and for me that is the best outcome.  Sure there are some residual side effects that can be a tad annoying, but in the overall scheme of things, when balanced against the alternative they are minor.

The pessimist in me was always waiting for something to deliver a "gotcha" moment, but it never happened.  Was I just lucky, or is this the norm?  There are sadly too many stories of the unlucky ones for me to even remotely consider buying into the argument it is the norm, so I was happy to accept it as my good fortune.

Today, however, the gotcha was delivered.

I've just got home from my follow-up appointment with Mr Morrissey as he tries to address my hearing issues.  I had another hearing test first, and the results are pretty much in line with the last one, which means things haven't gotten any worse.  Good start.  Then the fun begins.

Seems he still hasn't managed to get a copy of the tests done by Wellington Hospital, but did manage to find a note in my file that said the test was normal.  I told him the baseline test wasn't taken until after treatment had actually started, and the effects had already appeared by the time the test was done.  "We might have a problem then"  was not what I really wanted to hear.  Firstly, my hearing loss is not what he would expect in someone of my age, and it is highly likely that I would indeed benefit from hearing aids.  The issue is who will end up paying for them.

With the hospital having been tardy with doing the baseline test, there is no proof that my hearing was actually OK before the treatment started.  Couple that with a change in ACC policy and it seems the system has found a way to give me a not too gentle nudge.

ACC used to fund treatment related side effects, but it seems it was costing them buckets of money, so they changed the rules so that they now only pay for rare and abnormal post-treatment "ailments" (terminology might not be right, but you get the idea).  Suffering hearing loss from Cisplatin treatment is neither rare or abnormal, so I'm out on a limb now.  Without a pre-treatment test, we can't prove it is treatment related.

Sure, I have the option of just grinning and bearing it, but honestly, it does irritate me at times when I can't hear properly in certain situations/environments, and as such it holds me back, so if there is something that can overcome that, then bring it on.

Mr Morrissey has given me a referral to a hearing clinic and I'll now see where that takes me, but it seems if the decision is that hearing aids will benefit me, I could be facing 100% of the approx $6,000 bill.  Merry Christmas.  On the plus side, there will be a trial period where I can actually assess if they are beneficial, so it isn't as if the money gets spent and I might not get any benefit.

At this point, in my "previous life", I'd be pretty annoyed (note the careful restraint) that the system had screwed me over like this.  I've paid my taxes, etc, etc.  But quite honestly, I'm sitting here with a more philosophical outlook on it (and those that have known me for many years may will struggle to believe it).  

Given I'm still breathing, in reality this is a pretty small price to pay for the life I've now got and plan to enjoy for many years to come. If the hearing aids last say 5 years, that is only $100 per month and that is one hell of a small price to pay to still be breathing.  

Life is too precious to me to worry about the cost of something like this if it improves my quality of life.  I'll worry about the money when the time comes, just means the weekly lotto ticket takes on added meaning.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Jury Is Still Out

It's now just over a week that I've been taking the thyroxine and I have indeed noticed some changes.  I'm just not sure they can all be attributed to the pills.

One thing that has been somewhat of an annoyance over a prolonged period of time has been the inability to regulate my body temperature properly.  I've felt the cold when those around me have resorted to t-shirts and my dependence on thermals to keep my body temp up has well and truly lost its appeal.  Sure, I understand my body has been through a lot and is still settling down, but enough already.  So, the fact that I have been thermal-free for a week now is indeed cause for celebration.

This is where the conflict starts you see, because I started the thyroxine at basically the same time that the spring temperatures also finally decided to step up a gear.

I am however going to give the kudos to the drugs.  When we've had warm spells before, it hasn't come close to enabling me to put the thermals away in the drawer.  This time is different.  Even with the slightly cooler days (like today where the wind knocked a few degrees off) I'm still comfortable sans-thermals.

Moving on to my metabolism / hunger.  Well, things seem to be changing there as well.  I do seem to have stopped snacking as much and after my meals, I'm not still feeling hungry and craving more food.  In fact, I'm now making the conscious effort to break that snacking cycle - it has become somewhat of a normality that I need to break the cycle of.

And rounding out the picture, my weight is also staying static - no weight losses / gains from the drugs.

That really only leaves the lack of stamina / energy to discuss.  Well, that might have just started to pick up as well.  I went for a quite demanding walk over the weekend - it was over an hour and 1/4 all up and at dusk as well (just to test the body temp thing out).  I came back feeling pretty good and ended up feeling warmer than when I left (what I'd consider a normal reaction) whereas in the past I'd have been rugged up like it was the middle of winter, and come back basically the same as when I'd left.  This was of course a lot longer walk than normal as well.

So, it would seem that the score is 4-0 to the pills over the low thyroid symptoms.  But, I'm still not prepared to totally buy into it yet.  It is still early days and I'm picking the weather changes due over the next couple of days will test my ability to continue with my new found "nakedness".

One thing I have noticed is I'm drinking more water  and the throat is definitely feeling drier more often.  This could be a weather related change, or it could be a side-effect of the pills.  Time will tell.  My vision issues as mentioned in the last post as a potential thyroid related condition have not corrected themselves yet either and that will remain under review.  And, my sleep patterns are a bit screwed up as well.  I'm waking up 20 minutes earlier than normal.  Going to bed later doesn't overcome the problem, so just something else to watch.

Don't get me wrong.  If things settle down nicely and the cost of that is taking a pill everyday for the rest of my life, I think that is a bloody good deal and fully subscribe to it. It's just that I don't want to raise my hopes on the strength of only one week.  The gang of seven said it would probably take a full 3 months dosage to turn things around, so as I'm only a week in, I'm happy to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Return Of Drugs To My Life

One would have to say this has been an interesting week.

My head cold finally seems to be getting under control, thanks to Otrivin nasal spray.  Things started to clear yesterday, but this morning has dawned with even more improvement.  Some residual sniffle will curtail weekend activities (keeping warm remains priority), but at least we're moving forward again.

Wednesday was Gang of Seven day and was to end up being a strange old day.  The Gang of 7 was the Gang of 4 to start with - a new oncology registrar I'd seen only once before, Paul the dietician, Shirley the speech therapist and one of the Dental team (who's name I keep forgetting, but he is a really nice guy).  Things were plodding along nicely, then another couple of people joined in and I have no idea who they were.  One was obviously a senior oncology guy - he took over - but doesn't exactly possess a good chair-side manner.

Anyhow, after the usual touchy feely thing with my neck, he decides he wants to put the scope down my nose to have a look at my throat/tonsil.  With the head cold, we agree the right nostril is the least congested, so they numb that up and run the scope down.  Despite having this procedure on a number of occasions so far, it doesn't make it any more pleasant.

The results were mixed - his view was screwed up by the build-up of gunk in my throat, so he ended up not that much ahead.  It was however interesting that he described that gunk as saliva - given the ongoing issues, maybe there is indeed some degree of recovery that I'm not really noticing or just taking for granted now.

So, the discussion moves on to the blood tests and thyroid results specifically.  Seems the last two tests have shown slightly low TSH levels and they want another set of bloods to see how it is now.  If results are still on the low side, they'll call me directly and I'll need to go onto thyroxine to try and stabilise it.

Here comes the technical bits.  The thyroid gland regulates the body's metabolism in conjunction with the pituitary gland.  Every cell in our body needs thyroid hormones to function correctly, so if the thyroid levels are out, things go wonky.  TSH = Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, and its job is to balance out the T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (Thyroxine) levels in the blood stream.  With my TSH level being low, it means it can't produce enough to keep T3 & T4 in balance, thus by boosting the thyroxine, it can return to doing its normal level of duties.

Side effects of the low TSH level go a long way to explaining some of my recent symptoms (I know I've mentioned them before, but it seems appropriate to restate them here) - increased appetite, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, increased anxiety, sleeping difficulties, temperature regulation problems and eye/vision issues.  This last one has actually crept up on me over the last week or so and I had no idea why, but this does sort of fill in the picture now.

Before I move on, end result of Gang of 7 was another clean bill of health.  My weight has stabilised as far as they're concerned and they'll see my again in 3 months.

Thursday morning I got a phone call confirming the the TSH level is indeed still low and they'll mail out as prescription for Thyroxine directly to me - it arrived yesterday and I'm off to get it filled shortly.

So, it seems my pantry will once more contain drugs that I'll need to take on an ongoing basis.  Fortunately it is only one small tablet and I've already set up a daily reminder in my phone to ensure I take the thing each day.

I will also resume weighing myself every couple of days to make sure I don't start gaining weight as a result - not an outcome I'm prepared to go unchecked.

Next medical interlude is the hearing update on the 9th of November.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No Doubt Who Is In Charge

And it isn't me.  Despite all the progress over the last year, my body still likes to exert its authority from time to time.

Yes, I should know better, but as I've started to feel more "normal", the usual warning sniffles seemed to be less of an inconvenience, and more modest in impact.  Damn it, the body was obviously lulling me into a false sense of security.

Maybe I was getting a little cocky, but the weekend was actually quite full on and I was feeling pretty good.  Out for dinner on Friday night, trip to the butcher on Saturday, some gardening and housework to round out the day.  Good day, but that night there was an inkling of sniffles coming. On Sunday, the weather was pretty good, so I spent my first day without wearing my thermals and was pretty comfortable temperature wise - well, I thought I was.  The day was filled with cruising, shopping and some more gardening.  That night it was off to the club to watch the rugby final and I made sure I was warm all night (thermals back in the picture now, I'm not that stupid as to overlook the obvious temperature drop at the end of the day), even on the trip home .  But, come yesterday morning, the sniffles were really starting to take hold and despite a good night's sleep, I was starting to feel decidedly flat.  The day was pretty low key, no risks taken re body temperature, but still the sniffles marched on.

This morning, it's fair to say that the sniffles have become a minor head cold.  My nose is running, throat is a little hoarse and I'm certainly not on top of my game energy level wise.

So, it would seem I've pushed the envelope a tad with regards what my body can tolerate and I can't abandon my thermals just yet.  I certainly hope that time will come when the warmer weather finally takes over, but in the meantime, it looks like I'm going to have to be more conservative in my approach and take a bit more care.

It certainly hammers home that I'm still "special" in that my body still requires me to do things differently and the fact it is warm isn't a signal for me to follow others and dispense with the extra layer of warmth that my body obviously still needs.

Oh well, Gang of Seven tomorrow, so that should provide a distraction from feeling sorry for myself.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Acupuncture Might Just Work

In the past I've related my change of attitude towards needles.  From a healthy dislike, to "just get on with it", to weaning off the seemingly daily occurrence and back to a healthy dislike.

It is from this position that I started going into the initial acupuncture session on Wednesday afternoon.  After some initial chatting, it was top off and lie down on my stomach on the "table".  I must admit I didn't feel most of the needles going in and it was only when the therapist pressed on certain ones to ensure he had the right spot - and I could indeed feel them - that I really knew they were there.

The needles were inserted along my neck, shoulders, the tops of my feet and between the thumb and forefinger on each hand.

After 20 minutes or so, the needles came out and the therapist massaged my neck and shoulders quite rigorously.

At the start of the session, he had managed to find a very tender spot on my left shoulder, yet working the same area after the needles did not induce the same severe reaction.

I also thought the movement in my neck was a tad easier.  This acupuncture thing might just work.

It seems the therapist has had pretty good success with this type of treatment with other cancer survivors and it seems also with people suffering from stress.  He says it will take 3-4 sessions for things to really start to show long term improvements, so I'm happy to give it a go.

I'm not sure I fully grasped what he told me, but it goes something like this.  The body normally gets rid of toxins by converting them to CO2 and water - we therefore expel them by breathing and peeing.  In my case, because of the "events", my body hasn't managed to get rid of the toxins and they have been turned into lactic acid.  What we're now trying to do is break things down to let the body resume it's normal duties.

I saw Melissa for osteo on Thursday, and she felt there was some degree of increased movement.  Coupled with my own perception, that was indeed positive news.

So, in summary, it seems we might be on to a bit of a winner with the acupuncture and as I have another appointment this week, will have a better idea after that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good Old Fashioned Service

Sometimes thing happen that restore your faith in society.  We've all moaned about a decline in community standards, moral values, dedication to service et al that we've seen over the last few years and personally one of my gripes has been the way that doctors now only give you a 15 minute appointment and just seem to process you as a number, not a person.

In all fairness, that started to change when I got this little challenge handed to me last year.  I've said it before and only too happy to say it again - the service I received from the public health system has been second to none.  Apart from praising my GP, Tatiana, I've never really acknowledged how my appointments with her are almost a trip down memory lane.  There is no pressure on me to be in and out within 15 minutes and I feel I'm actually talking a my personal GP,as opposed to just another patient that they don't really know the history of.

This change was driven home even more on Sunday.  While at home and happily watching the Great Race that is Bathurst on the TV, the phone rang.  It was Tatiana with my blood test results.  When was the last time your doctor actually made that sort of effort on the weekend to contact you?  I've actually had to ring and chase test results in the past myself, so was really quite impressed when I got the call.

The results were all good.  As previously noted, I had tests for diabetes, cholesterol, prostate - these all came back clear - as well as my haemochromatosis and thyroid function.  It was these two that Tatiana wanted to talk about.

The previous haemo tests had my level pushing the 1,000 mark, which was getting very close to requiring intervention (I'd already greatly reduced my iron intake to try and keep it at bay).  The level now is down to 600, so no longer such a potential time bomb, even though it will still need to be monitored from time to time.

The thyroid function came back as being slightly elevated, but not to a stage that necessitates medical intervention right now.  They'll keep an eye on it though.  The slightly high level would apparently explain my body heat retention issues, so that's nice to know.

So there you are, a tale of good old fashioned service that just continues to add to my new found faith in the medical system.

Tomorrow sees a new direction in my efforts to overcome the muscle scarring around my neck.  Melissa (my osteo) has referred me for some acupuncture to see if that won't accelerate the blood flow and help to loosen things up.  Will let you know the outcome later in the week.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Peace Of Mind - At A Price

And when you look at it, the price wasn't too bad.

As I mentioned last time, I've had a few niggling concerns over the last few weeks with regards some changes I've noticed.  On Wednesday I got to see my GP, Tatiana, to discuss them all, and here is the results of that appointment.

I went in armed with a list of my concerns (didn't want to forget any) and after telling each one to Tatiana, the first comment she made was "the cancer is gone and your body is still adjusting to everything it has been through".  To be fair, that set the tone for what was to come, and it was great to hear her say the cancer was gone.

Weight Loss:
So, we know my body is still adjusting to things and unless it continues to drop, it's nothing to get too concerned about.

Increased Appetite:
Obviously my metabolism has also taken somewhat of a hit and has adjusted as well.  Again, nothing to worry about, in fact it's really a good sign as it means my body is seeking more nutrition and is therefore returning to a new normality.

Combined, these two are quite interesting - I'm eating more, but still losing weight.  We also discussed what my ideal weight should be, and while Tatiana says she would be happy if I was carrying an extra 5 kg, she accepted my current weight was perfectly OK as well.

Unable to retain body heat:
Reality is because of all the weight lost, along the way I've also lost fat lipids, so no longer have the previous "mass" to retain body heat like I used to.  Looks like my thermals and me will continue being buddies for a while yet.

Energy Levels:
Again, give the body time to recover.  Don't do any more exercise than I'm comfortable with and just build it up over time.

Itchy Skin:
Seems just as my throat now gets dry, my skin in certain parts of my body (forearms & legs) have also been affected.  There doesn't appear to be any medical reasons other than this for the itchy skin.  Solution is to moisturise every day instead on just in response to the itchiness.  Great, another addition to my daily morning routine.

Immune System Recovery:
Normal for this to take 1-2 years, so I'm effectively half way there.

Thyroid Levels:
An interesting one this.  While it is indeed possible the weight, appetite and itchy skin issues are a result of a change in thyroid function, Tatiana feels it isn't the cause.  Interestingly enough, the Gang of Seven haven't been passing on the results of my blood tests to Tatiana, so I went and had a comprehensive set of blood tests for thyroid, diabetes, cholesterol  prostate (why not seeing as I'm there), hemochromatosis (as haven't looked at that since this journey began) to give Tatiana some updated base levels.  We'll see what comes back in due course.

So there you are.  My increased awareness of changes in my body had raised some issue, and thankfully all of them fall into the "normal" basket fortunately.

The price of this peace of mind? - a modest $41.

And one closing piece of news.  As part of Tatiana's consultation she weighed me - and my total weight loss now comes in as 29kg. While beating the cancer is obviously the single greatest positive to come out of my journey, this weight loss has to rate as #2. It is indeed part of the 2nd chance I've been given and I have no desire to return to all those bad habits.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Gives

Normally when I sit down to write a post, I look back at the last one to see if there is anything to update.  It is quite interesting to just see how things have changed between posts.  This time, I'm just going to wing it.

Over recent weeks I've noticed a potentially alarming change in my eating habits.  For many months now I've been eating my 3 meals a day and have felt satisfied after each one.  Of late, I'm still feeling hungry after my meals and looking for snacks. So, why the change? I'm not doing any additional exercise that would justify the increased appetite, so why am I still hungry?

Hot on the heels of this increase in appetite, I've noticed my jeans seem a little looser than normal.  So after a quick trip to the bathroom scales, it seems my weight has dropped another 1-2 kg.  I've mentioned before the variations in weight that can occur depending on the time of day you chose to weigh yourself, but this current loss is based on weighing myself at the same time of day.

Eighteen months ago I'd have been happy to have this dilemma - eating more and losing weight.  But that was pre-cancer, and now I'm mindful of any and all changes in my body.

At the April clinic appointment Mr Hamilton raised the issue of thyroid changes as a result of the treatments, so now I'm wondering if this explains the current situation.

After both the April and July clinics, I had blood tests to monitor the thyroid levels (April was the base level and July was the comparison) and have heard nothing from the medics to indicate there is anything wrong, but does that just mean the change has only recently kicked in?  Or is there something else at play?

I don't want to jump to conclusions or speculate, so logic says it would be prudent to talk to somebody about this.  There arises the next little issue.

My next clinic appointment isn't until late October, and Tatiana is on leave until the end of this month, so getting her input is a couple of weeks away.  Yes, I could go and see another doctor, but that would mean talking to somebody who isn't across all the history, so I'd rather wait for Tatiana to return than deal with all of that.

Between now and then, I'll just continue to keep an eye on things.

Oh, and did you notice there is now an email notification option on this blog?  If you sign up for this, you should get an email whenever I add a new post.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Right is Might

One thing that I keep forgetting to mention when I talk about the changes I've undergone, and the adjustments I've had to make, relates to my eating habits.

I'm not talking about what I eat, but more how I eat.  Yes, the limited jaw movement alters how I tackle food, yes the saliva issues affect what I can eat, yes the lack of wisdom teeth means I tend to eat more "centrally" to avoid the gaps left behind, but the biggest change is my dependence/preference to eat with the right hand side of my mouth.

The radiotherapy concentrated on the left hand side of my head, after all it was the left tonsil that was causing trouble, so it is therefore logically the side that has suffered the most "collateral damage".

While I have previously commented on the partial "recovery" (that might be too strong a word, but I'll take every little improvement I can) of the saliva, in reality all the activity appears to be on the right hand side.  The left side is undoubtedly still the poor cousin and it is  very much an effort to eat on that side, in comparison to the right.

I've been quite happily ignoring this favouritism for some time, but over recent days, the reality finally hit me.  Since the "revelation" I've been making a conscious effort to try and use the left side of my mouth more, but honestly, it is a real effort and will take quite some time and perseverance to see if I can make it a viable option.

Being left handed (making the right side of my brain dominant apparently) I therefore find it somewhat ironic that I'm now relying so heavily on the right side of my body for something quite important.

Just goes to prove what a truly wonderful machine the human body is.  In my case, it has sort of rewired things to overcome a fault, and while it isn't a perfect solution from a "user interface" perspective, you just can't deny it is pretty damn effective.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Pendulum Swings

Friday was Daffodil Day - The annual fundraiser for the Cancer Society - and it ended up being a pretty good day.

The weather was good and my work had organised a fund-raiser (including auction) for the end of the day.  All up, we raised close to $1,000 from the proceedings and it was humbling to see everybody dipping into their pockets for a cause that is obviously close to my heart.

I've decided it is time to take another little look at how things are progressing for me and I must say that I think the pendulum is actually swinging more in my favour now.

Firstly, while I struggle to retain body temperature these days, with the help of thermals and a decent jacket, I can cope.  The big challenge has been trying to keep my fingers/hands warm, but after a couple of false starts, I've finally found some effective gloves (a perfect case of you get what you pay for - they were by no means cheap, but at times like this, money couldn't be allowed to rule the outcome).

Secondly, the saliva situation seems to have settled back down.  While there is definitely no return to pre-treatment levels, I'm pretty sure that there has been some recovery and certain foods are slightly more manageable.  Sure, some things are still too much of an effort to even bother with, but by the same token, with a little bit of care and patience, some other things can at least be tackled in small quantities so as to at least give a glimmer of normality.  The biggest "nuisance" is now probably the restricted jaw movement.  While a normal person can open their mouth to fit in 3 fingers, I can only manage two.  That means you have to take smaller portions and coupled with the saliva issues, adds to a slow but steady approach to eating.

I say the jaw is a nuisance, but in reality it is merely one of those side-affects that I have yet to find a workaround for.  While other side-effects are relatively easy to compensate for (I know what the limitations are and adjust accordingly), for some reason this little issue still catches me out from time to time.  It doesn't impede anything really - I've made allowances for it - it is just annoying.  Other things have "improved", but this bugger is just plain stubborn.

Speaking of stubborn, the one thing that doesn't seem to be enjoying any movement from the pendulum is my hearing.  I'm still waiting for the experts to get back to me, so in the meantime just have to ask people to repeat themselves and/or move closer to them to hear.  Noisy environments just exasperate things, but again it is perseverance to the fore.

Where does that leave things?  Well, sleeping is good, energy is steadily improving, weight is holding it's own (maybe a kg or so down), eating has settled, I've adjusted to the saliva status and the winter blast hasn't claimed me as a victim health wise.  My diet is still pretty much on the healthy side (the system throws a number of obstacles at me with regards the "goodies" I used to love and in all honesty I don't miss them), the osteo sessions seem to be making good headway and apart from a seasonal financial reporting glitch I'm still managing my time at work well.  The report card is therefore looking pretty good.

Long may it continue.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Rebirthday

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my last radiotherapy treatment and is now officially my rebirthday.  It seems to me that as it is the day that marked the new beginning, it deserved to be recognised on an ongoing basis.  It was something I decided on doing a year ago and still seems appropriate now.

I had great intentions of filing this post yesterday (doing the big yippee!! type thing) and even had an idea as to what the content would be, but it just didn't seem right.  So, with the extra day, a celebratory beer in hand and a slightly clearer head, here goes.

My treatment was due to finish on Friday the 13th of August 2010 and that seemed sort of poetic in some warped way.  However, through the 7 weeks of treatment we missed one day (the fact it was only one was pretty bloody good all things considered), so Monday 16th August became the magic day.  To say the last year has gone by really fast is the obvious cliche, but in reality that is exactly what has happened.

While it was meant to be the start of a new chapter of healing, in reality it was a new chapter in pain as my body continued to process the treatments.  

When I look back at this time last year, my blog paints a very different picture than the one of today (check this out for proof - so what next) and it is times like this that I'm absolutely gob-smacked about how matter of fact I was being about what I was going through.  It was probably drug induced stupor to some degree, but I think throughout this lengthy process I've downplayed the sheer brutality of it to myself.  Sure, those on the front line with me were very much aware of the challenges, but I seem to have gone with the flow pretty much and that is why looking back at these old postings still unnerves me a bit.

While I have nothing but good things to look forward to, I have no desire to actually forget what I've been through, or how lucky I've been. 

So, over the next few weeks I think I'll actually take the time to reminisce by reading some of those old postings and maybe then I'll finally be able to get things aligned in my own mind.

To all those people who were on the front line for me - another big thanks and this celebration is as much about your love, personal sacrifices and perseverance as is it about me actually beating the odds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


The gang of 7 clinic appointment this afternoon went very well.  It went the way of others before it - everybody was happy with where I'm at.

Mr Hamilton got another good look at the offending tonsil and it seems I'll be "excused" the quarterly nitrous induced trip to the dentist now as a result of this new found ability.

I had another blood test to check the thyroid level.  At the last clinic in April, Mr Hamilton decided they should keep an eye on my thyroid levels as it seems they can get screwed around with the cisplatin / radiotherapy (another side effect to consider - great).  Given my energy levels still aren't back to a level we'd all be happy with, he thinks maybe the thyroid level is a bit wonky, so the test today will be compared to the "base line" one they took last time.

The gang of 7 was actually the gang of 8 today with quite a few new faces.  Four of them had a poke and prod around my neck/throat and there were a few anxious moments when one of them thought there was something of potential concern.  The majority decision however was it was merely the result of the tissue damage from the treatment (the scarring, etc that the osteo is trying to loosen up).  Whew!

My weight has indeed stabilized and Paul the dietitian was happy with my progress / variety with regards my eating.  As an aside, peanut slabs have returned to my menu, sort of.  The standard 50gm slab is still too much to handle, but the new snack size ones are a three bite luxury.  While even that presents some issues, they are worth it, yum.

So, another tick in the box thanks to the experts, and almost instantly all that apprehension I had been feeling over the last few days disappeared.  The only reason I can think of why this visit made me so anxious is that it is effectively the anniversary clinic.  August 16th is the anniversary of my last treatment, and by my logic that makes it the day I beat this thing.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll be more relaxed / accepting  come the time of the next clinic.  Here's hoping.

In the meantime, it is onwards and upwards and I'll just keep on pushing myself to find my new limits.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Jitters Are Back

It's now only a couple of days until my next gang of seven clinic and, as has become the norm, the jitters are back.

It doesn't matter how many positive outcomes I get, come the time for these clinics, I always hunker down into a state of "fear" and doubt.  By now I should be accepting of good news - I've certainly had enough of it over the last year - but I just can't overcome that latent concern that as some stage things won't be as rosy at one of these visits.

I shouldn't be worried really.  After all, my last appointment with Mr Gillingham delivered a clean bill as far as he was concerned, and Mr Morrisey gave me a good poke & prod while he was doing the hearing test a month ago - he was also happy (and given he was the one who confirmed the diagnosis, that does speak volumes).  My weight seems to be staying pretty static (clothes may maketh the man, but they also screw around with the result if you don't remember to wear the same clothes each time you step on the scales - and you've got to also remember to weigh yourself at the same time of day ), my eating has settled down and levels of energy continue to creep upwards.  Sure the immune system is still a tad dodgy, but you can't expect miracles, especially at this time of year with all the winter weather challenges.

So why do I still feel apprehensive about Wednesday afternoon?  I honestly don't know.  At this time in the cycle, I end up kicking the PMA into overdrive to compensate for this "negativity" and each time I think I've got this under control.  Three months later and inevitably I'm going through it all again.  With each passing cycle, the odds of bad news surfacing lessen, but my concerns don't.

I'm putting it down to it just being a perfectly normal reaction that any survivor of a potentially terminal disease will feel.  Maybe it has something to do with not accepting you've beaten the odds.  Oh well, it's only for another couple of days.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Life Is Full of Ups and Downs

know, it's somewhat of an overused saying, and I almost used another one - Life is like a roller coaster, but managed to resist (for now anyway).

Wow, it's been a couple of weeks now since this head flu knocked me around and quite honestly, I'm still not 100% over it.

The Codral Cold & Flu pills I was taking had some effect on drying up my nose, but they also had a downside - they really dried my mouth out overnight.  It took me a day or two to realise why my throat was so dry, so I stopped taking them and low and behold, the dryness abated after a couple of days.

By that stage, fortunately I was feeling well enough to "risk" going drug free and by and large, I have coped well.  As I said earlier, I'm still trying to shake the remnants - a goal not helped by the current cold snap that seems hell bent on keeping me sniffling for weeks to come.  Fortunately I've still got my nasal spray, but there is another down associated with that.

You see, I've started getting blood noses again.  Today was a pearler - I blew my nose when I got up and spent the next 10 minutes trying to stem the flow of blood.  All day I've had to resist giving my nose a good blow, and when I've succumbed, it has largely been blood as opposed to "nasal congestion".  It normally settles down after a day or two, so just another fun thing to deal with.  Fortunately, the bleeding nose is not too frequent an occurrence, but inevitably, the timing is inconvenient.  Taking nasal sprays during these times just doesn't really work.

Another up and down.  Melissa, my osteo, is making good progress with getting my upper left quadrant loosened up and working again.  The range of movement is certainly improving and my posture is returning to a more normal upright stance.  Great, but thanks to my cold, I've gone backwards over the last couple of weeks.  Seems when the system gets blocked up, the muscles, etc in the upper torso contract.  Hmmm.  And to add salt to the wound, I've also been getting headaches caused by all of this.  I initially blamed my new pillow, but after being beaten up by Melissa, my sleep pattern has now returned to normal.  Well almost.

Just before the cold took hold, I'd started to basically sleep through the night again. Wow, was that great.  It took a couple of nights to actually accept it, but it was one of those changes I was happy to embrace.  The damn cold soon fixed that.  My liquid intake has increased again during the time I've had the cold, so I'm up during the nights again.  I try to convince myself this extra flushing is good for me, but I'd quite honestly rather have the sleep.

So, as you can see, things are a bit up and down at the moment.  I think the ups are starting to overtake the downs (muted yippee) and given it is now only a month before the anniversary of my treatment ending, I'm not going to let these "annoyances" hold me back from moving forward.

Despite all of this, there is one overriding positive - it is life itself.  This time last year I was still engaged in an all out war with cancer and the fact I've come out of it the victor sure as hell trumps anything else being thrown at me - see, the PMA lives on.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Score: Winter-1; Immune System-0

Last night bought back all sorts of memories and not many of them good.

In a short space of time after getting home last night, my nose started to run and my head started to hurt.  Damn it, I've got a head cold! 
Last year, everyone stayed clear of me, so I avoided any colds & flus.  This year, I don't even know where I got it from, but I'm feeling all sorry for myself as a result.

So, last night was spent running around after my nose (fortunately I had a stock of tissues to call on) , then when I went to bed, the routine started to resemble the heady times of last year - up to the loo almost hourly, struggling to get comfortable, blowing my nose seemingly endlessly and eventually having to sleep on my back in an elevated position.

On the plus side, at least I know this is going to pass in the next couple of days, whereas last year, the routine seemed to be without end.

The one obvious lesson - take your immune system boosting pills Russell.  They are sitting on the table, but I just kept forgetting to take them.  Won't do that again.

And the obvious observation - my immune system is still a tad "delicate", so I'll need to continue being careful.  I will admit I thought it would probably be almost back to normal by now, but I was obviously wrong.  

I'm actually at home now trying to shake off the cold - in the past, I'd have just continued going to work (and share it around).  This time however, and as much a precaution for myself as anything, I left work at lunchtime and don't intend going back until I'm feeling better.

Hearing Test Outcome

I had my hearing test on Monday morning at Hutt Hospital and it was interesting to see the differences between Hutt & Wellington.

I've had 2 hearing tests at Wellington now and I must admit the equipment, etc looked pretty old.  Don't think that altered the result, but it seemed to somehow fit with the fact they are situated in the oldest part of the hospital.

Hutt, by comparison was a bells & whistles environment.  The gear looked newer and I was actually in a separate sound proof room for this test.  Some of the tests were also different in that they added additional noises to "confuse" my ability to hear the beeps and tones they had me listening out for.  And the results were printed out on a proper printout, not just handwritten!

End result - my hearing in the upper registers is definitely not what it should be, and that confirms what the second Wgtn test had shown.  Mr Morrisey didn't have the results of the Wgtn tests, so he couldn't confirm the loss was indeed treatment related, but I'm pretty sure the Wgtn before and after tests did show a significant drop from one to the other.

Now it's another waiting game for him to get the Wgtn records and then make a decision (possibly another 3 months before I see him again).  He was talking about getting Mr Hamilton to start the ball rolling with lodging a medical related ACC claim.  I may have to stump up for part of the cost for hearing aids (if they are deemed necessary) as good old ACC will play the age/degeneration card.  As in so many other aspects of this journey, a small price to pay for still being alive.

Oh, and Mr Morrisey suctioned my left ear to remove some debris and wax - a strange experience, but meant he could confirm both ear drums are A OK.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Body Tweaks

As I've discussed before, my body is still making adjustments post-treatment. While I've come to terms with or made allowances for most of these, some still catch me by surprise.

In my last post, I mentioned that something was afoot and since then, to be honest, something else has also surfaced.

Newest first.  As a result of the radiotherapy, the hair follicles along my jawline (ears to chin) and under both sides of my jaw got nuked.  This meant that as far as growing facial hair went, I was limited to effectively a goatee style.  I have no desire to grow one by the way, but one other side effect was it meant there was less to shave each morning.  Seems those days are coming to an end.

Over the last week or so, the jawline hair - both sides - has made somewhat of a comeback and now requires daily attention.  While I can cope with the additional effort required, it has caught me somewhat off guard as I was led to believe the hair follicles were nuked for good. This then raises the question of what else will/might come back?  I've already mentioned the changes in my hearing over the last few weeks, coupled with this I'm now wondering what else is going to burst back into life.

Which leads me nicely to the original comments about something being afoot.  While it is early days yet, it seems that I may possibly be recovering some of the saliva glands as well.  I'm playing down this possibility / significance as there may be other factors at work that are behind this, but regardless, it is indeed an interesting development.  

What I've found recently is I have a slightly lower reliance on my water bottle (is it a seasonal thing due to the colder weather?) and have even ventured out on short trips without it!  I can also now eat 2 pieces of garlic bread - might not seem a biggie to you, but given the problems bread has caused up until now, this is actually quite an achievement.  My mouth also seems to be "retaining" moisture better - I don't have to rely on the water as much to stop it being dry.  Given most of my time is spent in an office, the change of outdoor temperature can safely be ruled out as an influence here.  I also seem to be very slightly more tolerant of meat that is "turning" from being moist to slightly dry.

All little things sure, but I'm also having less middle of the night bladder issues - this means I'm getting close to six hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.  Is that weather related? Is my lower water intake the reason, or is something else also starting to return to normal?  My diet has changed slightly over the last couple of weeks as well, so is that having some perverse impact?  

I don't honestly know, but needless to say I'll be monitoring things with interest over the next week or two.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Unexpected Side Effect

You'd think by now I would be pretty much aware of all of the lasting side effects of the last year, I know I thought I was.

Well, I got a wee surprise today.  I went to buy a new pair of shoes and it seems that along with my waistline, my feet have also gone on a diet and I now take shoes a 1/2 size smaller than before.  Bugger me, wasn't expecting that.  Also, in some cases I needed a wide fit, whereas now I'm a standard fit.

This hasn't really come to light before now because I was quite happily wearing shoes I already had and they seemed to fit just fine.  I'll potentially disappoint the females out there - I do not see this as a reason to rush out and buy heaps of new shoes just because of that.  I'll happily continue with replacing them on an "as required" basis.  I will however check all my existing shoes to make sure I don't wear anything that has become too loose and therefore uncomfortable.

While I'm at it, I have been somewhat remiss in not updating the blog for a couple of weeks now.  In all honesty, things have been ticking along quite nicely of late.  My weight is staying stable, I'm feeling a bit stronger physically and my stamina seems to hold up to longer, more frequent exercise as well.

I'm still aware I'm not 100% in some areas, but the list seems to be either slowly diminishing, or I'm adjusting somehow so some things don't hinder me as much and I move on.  Life is all about adjustments now, and as I've said before, I have to admit many of them are good ones despite the "background".

Oh, and the 27th of May was rather an "auspicious" day.  In fact one could say it was one of 3 x 27th's that day.  Confused?  In the mail on the 27th, came the details of my next clinic appointment - 27th July, and joy of joys, my hearing appointment - the 27th of June.

The hearing has been a bit "strange" of late.  I was watching TV yesterday and in an instant, the whole sound level just changed.  I'm used to the ringing, etc in my ears now, but imagine if you can,  listening to something with a lot of treble notes (making it sound a bit "rough"), then in an instant it becomes bass note intensive and strangely quite clear.  Sorry, best I could come up with as an example of the extent of the change.  It was rather short-lived though and the ringing, etc is back "to normal".  
There are times when I struggle with the fact that although my hearing has been affected, loud noises still "insult" my ears.  Weird.  Never mind, only a couple of weeks to go and hopefully I'll have a better picture of the way forward.

There is also something afoot in another area that is quite interesting, but I'll keep that under wraps for another time to see if it is an apparition or something more. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Constant Reminder

As I've progressed through this experience, I've worked hard on maintaining my PMA (positive mental attitude) as with everything going on, staying focused on the end goal was the only way of tolerating some of the "abuse" my body was being subjected to.

Yes, there were times when it was hard, but the one thing that always brought me back into line was that I was/am one of the lucky ones.  Along the way there were constant reminders of those who weren't as fortunate, and experiencing first hand the aftermath of my hospital room-mate Rory finding out he wasn't going to come out the other side and how he had to tell his young son and wider family, well, it just made me feel even more lucky - and determined.

I've said on many occasions how I'm not going to waste this second chance I've been lucky enough to be given, and I certainly feel I'm living by that.

However, that constant reminder of how indiscriminate the disease that is cancer can be continues to "haunt" me.  
Before I was diagnosed, my exposure to cancer sufferers and/or victims was quite limited.  My mum died from secondary liver cancer, my best mate lost his wife too young to the beast, my sister-in-law won her battle with breast cancer.  I'm sure if I trawled back through the memory banks I'd find a handful more.

Given my age and the number of people I've crossed paths with, I consider this is a pretty low number, especially as they used to say 1 in 3 people has cancer. But, since I've completed my treatment, there seems to have been a constant stream of people that I've become aware of who are or have been battling the beast.  Unfortunately some are losing or have lost their fight.  I'm not saying these people are even in my close circle of acquaintances, but what I am starting to think is that once you or someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer, it seems to open a sort of Pandora's box.  All of a sudden you are faced with the reality of how this thing in it's many forms, just keeps on coming.  Until then, it was never "personal".  Or is it just because I'm a little more sensitive to it now?

Just as I had a "why me?" moment or two during my battle, I am now constantly having "bloody hell, I am really lucky" moments now, and sometimes wonder why I was/am the fortunate one.  It obviously doesn't do much good to dwell on such thoughts, but it is still a great leveller.  We are placed in many situations throughout our life and while we might think it is our health, wealth and/or intellect that gets us through, the reality is a fair bit of it is plain old dumb luck.

I'm living proof that luck can indeed be on your side in some of the darkest moments and I also believe you can make your own luck at times.  I  put PMA into that category, especially when you're dealing with cancer.  The experts all say those who go in with the right attitude have a better chance of success.  I'm  not going to even think about debating that, but I do know that when faced with all the challenges the treatments throw at you, you have to believe in what they are trying to do for you and work with them.

During the treatments, you cling to every glimmer of hope because let's admit it, nobody wants to die, but I really believe that if you make the conscious effort to consider yourself as a fighter not a victim, your brain will help your body fight that little bit harder.  And every little helps.

This might all be starting to sound a bit philosophical, but I make no apologies.  As the title of the post says, I now have constant reminders of my lucky escape (and even have the physical one in the tattoo) and all b.s. aside, my life now is guided to a large extent by my experiences of 2010 fighting this thing.  Things are still evolving for sure, but I can't (and don't want to) forget what I've been through.  I despair at the way some people take life for granted, and have previously talked about my intolerance for people who "sweat the small stuff" and think they are "hard done by". 

While I would never wish my experience on anybody, there are times when I wish I could give some people a real hard dose of reality to make them see how lucky they really are and just how insignificant their petty quibbles are in the grand scheme of things.  Maybe some day I'll find a way to do just that.  In the meantime, I'll just have to be happy with doing the best I can to ensure my luck holds.