The next step in my prostate cancer treatment took place today. This was the “planning meeting”, in which (after a quick scan) small, permanent dots were marked on my skin on both hips and in the centre between them to guide the machine that will be used in a few weeks for the radiotherapy treatment. The point of all this is to target the cancer cells in the prostate very accurately so as to minimise, or avoid completely, any damage to good cells. This calls for great accuracy in focussing the radiation. I was very carefully positioned on the bed of the scanner before all this started and the challenge will be to return to that position, exactly, at each radiotherapy session.
There is little use in being in exactly the same position for the radiotherapy, day after day for several weeks, if the prostate gland is being moved around depending on whether bladder and rectum are full or empty. The clever people who design these treatments think of everything and have decided that the best combination is for the patient to have a full bladder and an empty rectum. So there is a bit of preparation to be done involving the timely use of an enema to ensure the empty rectum and sufficient drinking in the hour before the appointment to ensure the full bladder. Ample instructions were provided and it is all a lot easier than it seems at first.
Soon I will receive a letter giving details of the radiotherapy appointments and I know already that they are expected to start on March 26th and to continue for four weeks and possibly a little longer depending on progress.
At my last appointment at Velindre Cancer Centre back in January, my doctor prescribed Stronazon capsules in the hope that they would reduce the frequency of my visits to the bathroom at night, thereby helping me to get more sleep. This problem is a recognised side effect of the hormone treatment. I tried the Stronazon for eight consecutive days but it made no difference. This was a few weeks ago and I don’t know whether the Stronazon has a delayed action but, recently, my sleep has had (on average) fewer interruptions.
I then stopped taking the capsules, not because they seemed to have no effect but because I started to have some mysterious chest pains. There were no other symptoms, just mild chest pains and at first I wondered whether the Stronazon capsules were to blame. In retrospect I don’t think they were. The chest pains were coincidental – but also worrying. The conventional advice is that chest pains justify calling an ambulance. But the pains didn’t follow any physical exertion, there were no other symptoms and, in fact, I felt fine. The odd thing was that they tended to be there when I woke up in the morning and then wore off after I had been up and moving about for a while.
So I consulted my family doctor, who examined me carefully and concluded that I was still alive but ordered an ECG by way of confirmation. We also talked about diabetes. I am still trying to lose a bit more weight and she kindly ordered more blood tests (sugar and cholesterol in particular) so that we can see what progress I am making thanks to my slightly revised diet. As I have not received any urgent phone call from the surgery, I am assuming that the ECG results were unremarkable. We will discuss the blood tests at my next appointment in ten days time.