The last few months have been difficult. My PSA has been rising since the start of the year. In September, as you are reading the magazine, it is likely that my doctor will be offering another course of treatment.
I thought I would cheer myself up by going to Blackpool, visiting my younger brother and taking him out for dinner on his birthday. It was worth the trip just to see my brother’s reaction when the staff turned up singing happy birthday and carrying a cake, two numbered candles indicating “62.”
I have been visiting Blackpool for nearly twenty years but going up the tower was one of those things that I was always going to do next time. The 25th June 2022 was when Mark finally climbed Blackpool Tower, (within the safety of an electric lift,) and reached the viewing platform. The view was spectacular. My brother and family had all declined as they don’t like heights. Standing on the glass floor and looking down gave the impression of floating in space as the pavement was the next thing in view.
A trip to the Sandcastle Water Park on Blackpool Promenade saw the old Mark finally restored as I raced around like an eight-year-old attempting to get to the next water slide, my niece, her partner and two children trying to keep up with me. It was so refreshing to shout out in near terror as I was launched into oblivion sat on what looked like an old lorry tyre inner tube.
There was one moment during the trip which could have caused some conflict, I asked my brother was he still getting a regular PSA test. He replied he had not had one yet. I felt rather let down as I had advised my brothers to get tested as they were now in a high-risk group due to my diagnosis, a 1 in 4 risk of PC as opposed to the standard 1 in 8 for the general population. I have now made a point of reminding all three of my brothers, apart from standing in the room when they have a blood test there is not really a lot I can do – just provide regular reminders. I just wish someone had spoken to me about PSA testing 4 or 5 years ago!)
The weekend brought me to one of those, ‘Is it just me?’ moments. Visiting a popular local coffee shop and listening to the orders, I found myself longing for the old days when the options for coffee were with milk or without milk. The person in front of me ordered a decaf latte with lactose free milk, I found myself thinking, just go for a glass of tap water, probably more taste and benefit, hopefully much cheaper. The following day in another popular coffee chain I watched the barista create a masterpiece with ice, cream, flavoured syrups and toppings, but no coffee. Again my mind shouted, It’s a coffee shop. Is it me?
I have been keeping myself busy. Along with my regular exercise and volunteer work at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway and Spetchley Gardens, now finding it hard to fit in new things. The cathedrals challenge is complete, but I have started visiting some of the old Abbey or Priory churches. Before Henry VIII had his run in with the Vatican there were over 900 Abbeys, Priories and Monasteries. Many survive as parish churches, such as Bath, Pershore, Tewkesbury and Great Malvern.
I have certainly become more emotional over the last three years. Things which had no impact years ago can now “set me off.” The recent passing of Deborah James, also known as Bowel Babe, saw me having to avoid news programmes for a few days for fear of upsetting myself. It’s strange, I am normally able to talk very openly about my own cancer, but somethings are taboo, the passing of Dame Deborah was one of those subjects.
As I mentioned at the start, my PSA has started to climb again, rising from 3.8 to 7.7 in 8 weeks which caught me completely unawares, I had expected a slight rise to maybe 4 or 5, but 7.7 really knocked the wind out of my sails. Coming to my rescue was Emma, one of the nurses working in the chemotherapy unit on the day of my visit. She sat with me, calmed me down and then went to find one of my medical team to see if any action needed to be taken.
I have already been through Plan A, basic hormone therapy, Plan B, first line Docetaxel chemotherapy, Plan C, radiotherapy and Plan D, second line hormone therapy. I am told that Plan E is more chemotherapy, this time 10 cycles of Cabazitaxel over 7 months. I am really hoping there is a Plan F, as the cupboard is looking decidedly empty after Plan E. Needless to say, having already had chemo, I am not looking forward to a second course, but this time, should I decide to proceed, I will be prepared, I know what to expect and have a good idea on managing the side effects.