My Prostate and Me – Part 11


“See you all in six months !!!”

So said I, five years ago. A lot has happened in those five years although not a lot in the land of the prostate. Or perhaps I should say, not a lot, to my knowledge.

In 2015 we retired, and since then, we rebuilt our conservatory, holidayed in France – 2months and Italy – 8  days. We have spent 3 stints in Australia. Those 3 Ozzie visits totalled 12 months in all with the last trip stretching into 7 months, in part due to the pandemic.

And so to my prostate …

After our return from the latest Ozzie adventure, I was scheduled for a Urology Consult (telephone) 28th July. As is the norm, these are preceded by the taking of blood samples. As my GP had requested a blood sample to check my blood sugar levels, it seemed appropriate to combine them. So on Wednesday 22nd July, at eight in the morning, I presented myself at my local surgery and provided the necessary samples. I then sat back to await the consult scheduled for the following Tuesday. The next day, Thursday 23rd, I received a call from the GP surgery, could I come in and give another sample.

Apparently they wanted to rule out any potential issues with the analysis of the previous sample. As you can imagine my brain went into hyperdrive, what had the blood sample shown. I duly presented myself at the surgery and gave up some more of my blood. Although the person on the call didn’t know why I needed to give another sample, the nurse taking my blood was a little more forthcoming.

It appears the first sample showed my PSA level was up.  This second sample was to determine if there had been a balls up in the lab or if something more sinister was happening.

Friday I received  call from the surgery asking if I woud be prepared to have a telephone consult, with my GP Dr Mannings,  on Tuesday evening. I pointed out that I also had a telephone consult with the Urologist on Tuesday morning. That’s great quipped the receptionist, you’ll be able to tell the doctor what the results are and what your urologists plans are.

With all this interest in my blood and doctors left, right and centre wanting to speak to me my curiosity was definitely peaked.

So Tuesday 28th duly arrives and I have my telephone consult with the Urologist, Mr Hodgson. Yes, he confirmed, my PSA has risen.

Apparently last June my PSA was 3.6 but these latest blood tests show my PSA at 7.9 and 8.9. A sure indicator that something is going on down in the nether regions although still lower than the 13.3 which was where I was at before having the Brachytherapy

Because of this my consultant wants me to have a series of scans. CT, MRI and full body bone scan. The call is ended with the promise that I will be contacted with appointment details.

Sure enough, later in the day I receive a call from the Scanning Dept., would I be available on the morning of Saturday 1st August, for a CT scan ? Yes of course, and so I am duly booked in for 09:00.

Later the same day I have my consult with my GP. He already knew about the consultants plans but is like a child being handed a bag of sweets, so excited, when I tell him that already have the first of my scans booked.

The NHS is actually working very swiftly and efficiently. Obviously I have Covid-19 to thank for this, the hospitals are operating in a very stripped back mode. All to my advantage.

Over the next few days I receive calls and set up the remaining appointments. Monday 3rd August @ 19:00 for the MRI and Tuesday 11th August for Full Body Bone Scan. The bone scan is in two parts. I have to turn to at 11:15 for a radioactive injection. Go away for a while, then return at 14:30 for the actual scan. Apparently, after the injection, due to its radioactive nature, I have to steer clear of any pregnant women and young children Same advice I was given after I had my Brachytherapy.

I duly attended the three scans. One thing I noted is that I am able to lay completely still during these scanning sessions. They each have taken anything between twenty minutes and forty five minute. At home I find it just about impossible to keep my legs still, whether I am sitting watching TV or laid in bed. Maybe I need to get a huge doughnut installed at home.

For each of the scans I also had an injection. The one administered during the CT, I was warned, would trigger a warm sensation in my nether regions. Something akin to wetting oneself. Not something you want to consider when typically any sensation in the bladder region typically turns into a pee panic. As it happens, the sensation I felt was around the neck and up around my ear. Something like I used to feel when my Mum had caught me out in a lie. For the MRI I was given an injection of Buscopan. When I mentioned that my wife takes Buscopan for her IBS te doctor said it’s the same stuff but won’t hang around as long but that it might affect my eye sight i.e. blur my vision. He assured me it would have cleared my system before I got back to my car for the drive home. As for the bone scan and the radioactive injection I was informed that, other than having to stay away from pregnant ladies and young children, there were no side effects, that I wouldn’t be aware of it in my bod.

All that remained was for me to await the results. I assumed that I would receive a phone call from my consultant, Mr Hodgson.

I did receive a phone call, but not from Mr Hodgson. It was from a yong lady, I assume from the Urology Department reception.

She informed me that she was calling to book me in for a Pre-op Assessment !!!

My heart dropped, my stomach did a flip. “Pre-op ?” I said, “pre-op for what ?”  “Well, you came into Urology yesterday” says the young lady. “Nope” says I, “I didn’t, I haven’t had any contact with Urology since the 28th July”. “Oh !” she says “And you haven’t seen the letter ?” Again “Nope” says I, “In fact I would have expected a phone call from Mr Hodgson, not a bloody letter”. She is really apologetic and puts me on hold briefly. When she comes back on line she asks me if I want to wait for the letter, or she could read it out to me. I take the latter option. So, she reads the letter to me. My heart and stomach resume a more calm state.

None of the three scans suggest any spread of  the disease.

Needless to say, this news was not what I was expecting. Nevertheless, it was encouraging. The letter, from Mr Hodgson, set out the next steps to be taken to determine if in fact my cancer has recurred.

Those steps are

  • A PET CT
  • Template Biopsy (to be carried ot under GA and the reason for the Pre-Op)

The PET CT has been scheduled for Tuesday 25th August @ 15:00 and I have had the Pre-Op. This was in two parts. Part 1 was on Tuesday 18th, a telephone assessment which was then followed up with a hospital visit on Thursday 20th, where they carried out an ECG, swabs for MRSA and took a urine sample.

So there we are, all up to speed. I’ll post my next episode after the PET CT and when I know the date for the biopsy.

Hands Off Our GPs – NHS: A serious threat


I received an email from 38degrees and have pasted the entire message below.

Having paid into the NHS via taxes for over forty years. I have had little or no need to call on the NHS throughout my early life. So, as you can imagine, I am disgusted to find, just when I am reaching an age where I may need to the services of a GP a little more frequently, the government has an eye to limit my access and make me pay, AGAIN !!.

It is hard enough to get to see a doctor at the best of times. The last thing we need is a limit on the number of visits you are allowed.

Take a read and see if you don’t feel the same way. If you do, add your name to the petition.

This could be very serious. The Conservatives are floating plans to cap the number of times we are allowed to visit our GP. [1] If we run out of visits – because we’ve got a sickly child or long-term health condition, for example – we could be forced to pay to go elsewhere.

At the moment it’s just a proposal. [2] But if the Conservatives don’t see a big public backlash, it could soon be a grim reality. So let’s raise an outcry as quickly as possible and push them to drop the idea immediately.

Please sign the urgent petition now: tell health minister Jeremy Hunt to rule out limiting our access to NHS GPs:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/dont-cap-GP-visits

Jeremy Hunt will be watching the public’s reaction carefully. He is an ambitious politician with an eye on his own popularity. If he sees a huge petition growing fast, he’ll realise this is damaging his ratings. So if enough of us sign, we could play a key role in getting this idea dropped.

Being able to visit the family doctor when we need it is a bedrock of a decent health system. GPs are often our first port of call when we’re ill. [3] Limiting access to GPs could mean a dangerous illness is left undetected until it’s too late – unless of course you’ve got private medical insurance…

But this isn’t just about GPs. This is about a principle at the heart of our battle to protect the NHS. Since the NHS was created, everyone in Britain has been able to rely on visiting a doctor as often as we need to. Limiting access would undermine the NHS at its very foundations. So let’s send the Conservatives a strong message: drop this terrible idea.

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/dont-cap-GP-visits

Thanks for being involved,

David, Rebecca, Travis, Blanche and the 38 Degrees Team

PS: Here’s what the chair of the Royal College of GPs said about these proposals: “This was obviously written by someone who has never been unwell, or has never met people who work in the health service.” Let’s not let the idea get any further – please sign the petition now: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/dont-cap-GP-visits

NOTES
[1] Daily Mail: Fury as Tories look to limit the number of times you can see your GP each year:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2331068/Fury-Tories-look-limit-number-times-GP-year.html
Independent: Cap on number of GP visits being considered by Tories:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/cap-on-number-of-gp-visits-being-considered-by-tories-8632396.html
[2] The proposal is contained in a “Conservative Policy Forum” paper on NHS policy, you can see the whole thing here:
http://www.conservativepolicyforum.com/policy/local-health
[3] See for example this campaign on the importance of going to see your GP early if you could have symptoms of bowel cancer:
http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertypes/Colonandrectum/Symptomsdiagnosis/Symptoms.aspx

My Prostate and Me – Part 1


Here I am in my 60th year. I have made it through most of my adult life without suffering anything worse than the common cold and the occasional bout of flu. A couple of years back I was diagnosed with hypertension and have been taking tablets ever since to keep things under control. All has been well until earlier this year when I was asked to provide a blood sample as part of the regular monitoring. This time my GP said he noted that I hadn’t been checked for prostate cancer so he added it to the list of things for the lab to check out. Part of their preventive maintenance plan I guess. He told me to call in a couple of weeks to find out the results. and me being me, I forgot all about it and did nothing.

Until ……

Some time later I decided to go and see the doctor about a couple of moles on my shoulder. During the exam I mentioned the blood test and asked about the prostate element. After he pulled up my notes and following some chin rubbing he said “Your PSA is up a bit, perhaps we should book you in for an examination”.

Don’t you think that someone might have said something when my blood test came in ?

After all “No news is good news ….. Right ?”

Did they check the other stuff pertaining to my blood pressure ?

So I was left to go and make an appointment. While I am at the reception desk he calls me back in to the examination room. “Since you are here we might as well do it now” he says. A few minutes later he’s got a rubber glove on and I’m laid down on the couch, facing the wall with my knees tucked up under my chin.

After what can only be described as a “strange and unusual experience” he informs me that his exam was inconclusive, that he really isn’t an expert and feels it would be better if I was examined by someone with more experience. Personally I would rather that he had chosen someone else to practice on.

A week or two later I am up at The QA (Queen Alexandra hospital, Portsmouth) and I’m laid down on a couch, facing a different wall, with my knees tucked up under my chin. This time it is the lovely bubbly Vanessa with the rubber glove. This time I’m told that because I am tall, my prostate is quite high up and perhaps this is why the GP couldn’t feel my prostate. There then ensues a discussion about the length of my GPs fingers, me saying I hadn’t noticed from my position at the time if he had pianists hands and comparisons with Elton Johns chubby pudds. Meanwhile back on the couch… Vanessa thinks that we, I, should have another blood test to compare with my earlier one and that, based on that comparison, a decision would be made as to the need for a biopsy.

An appointment date is set and I am left to arrange a visit to the vampires at my GPs practice. I manage to fit in a  fortnights French holiday in between times, get the blood drawn and await the results.

On Thursday, July 26th, I have a short but bubbly telephone call with Vanessa who informs me that my PSA is once again elevated, that it is probably nothing, but why don’t we, meaning I, have a biopsy just to be sure. You can guess how enthusiastic I am about that. I haven’t been sitting idle, wasting my time. I’ve been on the interweb and found out how these biopsies are performed.

An appointment is made for Tuesday, July 31st. All too soon I am sitting in the Urology Dept waiting room and my name is called. They hadn’t warned me, but en-route to the torture chamber, they ask me to provide a urine sample. If I had known I would have made sure that I had plenty to drink. Needless to say I could not perform. Not a drop. “Stage Fright” says Vanessa.

Once again I find myself with my trollies down round my ankles, laid down on a couch, facing yet another wall, with my knees tucked up under my chin and my bum hanging over the edge. Now that’s an image to scare the kiddies don’t you think.

So the procedure gets underway, cold lubricating gel and the ultrasound wand is put where the sun doesn’t shine, anaesthetic is applied and the numerous biopsy samples are taken with the device clacking away with the sound of an industrial stapler. Job done, my bum is wiped and a man-sized pantyliner applied and I am packed off home, advised not to do anything strenuous. As if.

Thursday, August 30th, and I am once again at the QA. The Urology Dept. waiting room isn’t any more attractive. My name is called and introductions made. This time I am seeing Dr Dominic Hodgson. Where is the lovely Vanessa ?  After the pleasantries I am sitting waiting for Dr Hodgson to give me the “All Clear”.

So it’s all a bit surreal when he tells me that the biopsy has shown that I do in fact have Prostate Cancer.