Nine months, almost to the day, after the routine general check-up that alerted my family doctor to the possibility of prostate cancer, the real treatment started this week. Granny-Anne and I have been pinned down for all these months by the avalanche of appointments for scans, blood tests, biopsys, injections, eye tests and laser treatment, supplemented more recently by investigations into possible diabetes and those mysterious chest pains, plus visits to the dentist (for a check-up, with treatment later) and optician (for new glasses). I am also a part-time carer for a disabled friend in the almost complete absence of any predictable help from the normal sources following her three months in hospital last year, I have been her regular shopper and have provided her transport (including wheelchair) for appointments at her doctor’s surgery and at no fewer than three local hospitals. Fortunately, she is now getting more attention from the medics and more support generally, but why not 3-4 months earlier?
So, seeing our opportunity, Granny-Anne and I set off for a few days away in Devon last week, and very pleasant it was too. We stayed at the Manor House Hotel near Okehampton. This is one of a pair of “sport and leisure” hotels on an estate of several hundred acres and it certainly lived up to the description. There are excellent facilities for guests to participate in dozens (no exaggeration) of sports and craft activities at little or no cost, the accomodation was adequate and comfortable and the food was very good indeed. We are hardly “sporty” people but we wanted to stay somewhere where there would be things to do, regardless of the weather. As it turned out the weather was bright (even sunny) and dry almost all of the time but there was a cold wind. So we found lots of indoor activities and, afterwards, I wished that I had had time to try more of them. I managed to fit in sessions of rifle and pistol shooting and proved to be pretty useful at both. I also tried three other activities about which I have wondered often but never attempted. One of these was archery. What fun! The arms aren’t as strong as they were but, even so, I might start looking for a local club.
The second activity was falconry. This was very interesting. The falconer had four birds tethered to their perches. One of them was just being trained to get used to being near people but took no active part in the proceedings. The other three birds (two falcons and a large owl, all of them American with names that I had never heard before and thus forgot almost instantly) were used for demonstrations in which a dozen or so guests queued up to take turns. The birds flew to each of us in turn as we held out an arm wearing a big gauntlet on which a small piece of meat had been placed. The birds were well trained but still kept tethered on a long cord so that they would not be tempted to fly away to the nearest tall trees, in which the local feathered population were letting it be known that they were not happy about these fierce intruders.
Thirdly, several varieties of bowls were available so, having no previous experience whatsoever, I settled for a short session of indoor bowls coaching. I found it a challenge but would like to do more. Indeed it was unexpectedly stimulating to try the new activities (the rifle shooting being the only one of which I have previous experience).
The Morris Traveller managed the trip to Devon and back with considerable aplomb and returned us to Cardiff in time for my birthday celebration lunch, kindly hosted by my lovely Daughter Jennie and her family at their impressive new house. It was a glorious, sunny day unspoilt by any wind at all, cold or otherwise, so we lunched outside and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Actually, we had not been the first house guests in the new home. That honour had fallen to Henry (our tortoise) who had stayed there the previous week while we were away. Henry is still brought indoors overnight but now spends several hours daily in our garden, not going very far but eating vast amounts of mixed greens etc. including lettuce, red cabbage, sliced carrot, sliced apple and the occasional grape or strawberry. There cannot be much wrong with an animal that eats with such consistent enthusiasm.
So this week it was back to the real world and I have had three radiotherapy sessions already. It is too early yet to offer any new information about the experience but it is quite boring really. The radiographers move me into exactly the right position on the linear accelerator and then I have to lie perfectly still until the procedure finishes. The machine is very accurate and fires strong Xrays at the prostate cancer cells from various angles causing damage from which they cannot recover. If healthy cells are damaged the difference is that they ARE able to recover. Everything that has happened to me so far has been a preparation, albeit an essential preparation, for this radiotherapy, which is why I refer to it as the “real treatment”. There is a bit of preparation to be done each day before I set out for the hospital but that is straightforward enough and, as always, ample instructions are supplied. The radiotherapy itself lasts only a few minutes and is totally painless. There are recognised side effects which may or may not occur. I am feeling quite tired already as a result of the Prostap injections and of the totally disrupted sleep of the past several months and tiredness is listed as a side effect of the radiotherapy as well. So you may see my next post or three tailing off…..into…..a bunch of disjointed…..mutterings…..(then again, would you notice any difference!)…..or I might just…..drift off into…..ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz