Today I had the privilege of being treated at the renowned Velindre Cancer Hospital in Cardiff. It was the next stage in the necessarily long-winded programme of treatment for my prostate cancer. The purpose of the appointment was to have tiny gold implants inserted in the prostate to act as markers, which will guide the radiotherapy machine when we get to that stage later.This was done by the same doctor who has been in charge of my treatment from the beginning at University Hospital, Cardiff and, as these are teaching hospitals, there were additional persons present. The idea of a student and other staff being present doesn’t bother me. It is important that they train on the “real thing” where possible and I am happy to contribute to that training.
It was an interesting experience, slightly uncomfortable but perfectly bearable. I won’t go into the gory detail except to say that the procedure was very similar to the prostate biopsy that I had some time ago, except that instead of taking tissue samples, the doctor was actually inserting (permanently) tiny bits of gold. So I guess that my scrap value is a bit higher today than it was yesterday, which can’t be bad.
To minimise the risk of infection following the biopsy, two antibiotics were supplied at my previous hospital visit. The same applied this time. Three tablets of each antibiotic were supplied complete with instructions. These must be taken exactly as instructed, that is, one of each two hours before the appointment, another one of each six hours after the appointment, and the last one of each the next morning. It is important to read the instructions on the packs and in the leaflets that come with these tablets because the timing of the doses are not the only details that the patient needs to know. For example, alcohol should be avoided while one of these antibiotics is being taken and, when taking the other, it is important to avoid milk, indigestion remedies and medicines containing iron or zinc. So, given that the third dose will be taken at breakfast time, breakfast cereal, porridge etc. with milk will be avoided together with milk in tea or coffee. Similarly, I will not start taking another daily tablet called Stronazon until the day after my third dose of antibiotics, because Stronazon contains three varieties of iron oxide.
I’ll bet that you never thought of rust (iron oxide) as an ingredient of medicine! I will tell you about Stronazon in Part 8.
After the treatment I was asked to remain in the hospital until I had passed water without problems and to have a blood pressure test. When I was ready, daughter Jennie kindly returned to take me home, saving me from the discomfort of two bus journeys and an extra hour of travelling each way.
The hormone injections (leuprorelin acetate) that I have been having at 28-day intervals will continue at least until some time in April, when I will be assessed following the radiotherapy which is expected to occupy most of March. The injections might continue for some months after April, depending on how I respond to the radiotherapy. The only obvious side effect has been hot flushes but I gather that they are nowhere near as uncomfortable as those suffered by pregnant women. Indeed, so far as I am cencerned, they can be a bonus on cold days!
The next appointment will be really interesting. This (as I understand it) is where I will take up my position on the radiotherapy machine and my treatment will be planned in detail, especially for me. I visualise that this will entail adjusting the machine to target, very accurately, the cancer cells in my prostate and retaining the settings for when the actual treatment takes place. It will mean that I will have to occupy exactly the same position on the machine every day of the treatment (five days per week for four weeks) and there is more… …as I will attempt to describe in due course.