About this blog

Fear and Discovery by Jo Lawrance
Why this blog? 

There are thousands of blogs and sites with great information about cancer so why another blog? Well writing for me is more about coming to terms with cancer - and answers or clarity often comes when I am writing. So this blog is about my challenges, adventures, learning and delights that have come following my diagnosis. This blog may well be useful to others but it is more about me getting my head straight about what I can do on my journey to wellness, a good life and in time, a good death.

Why the title?

When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2017, I was uneasy with the language of ‘battling' cancer. Yet I was so engulfed in confusion and fear, even terror, and trying to unpick treatment options in those first weeks, that I found myself also adopting that language. 'I will beat this. I will win. I will conquer it'. The subtext of course, is that we are either cancer’s attackers or its victims. If you survive, you have 'beaten' cancer; if you die you have 'lost your battle' - however bravely you fought.
 


I thank Sophie Sabbage for helping me see it differently. In her inspiring, life-changing book, ‘The Cancer Whisperer’ with the wonderful subtitle 'Finding Courage, Direction and the Unlikely Gifts of Cancer’, she wrote about how she had cancer, but cancer did not have her; how cancer brings us an invitation to look within ourselves and decide who we are and how we wish to live. So rather than seeing cancer as the enemy we can see it as a teacher or guide. To fight it, felt like going to war with myself. Cancer is in us - and rather than a war, it is a chance to work at putting things right.

Sophie Sabbage asks: ‘What if cancer is the body’s last attempt to save its own life? What if its purpose is not to extinguish us but to heal?’ If this is so, and it feels intuitively right for me, then cancer can be a guide to our healing - but certainly an unexpected guide! As Chris Wark, another cancer ‘thriver’, writes; “If my body created cancer then maybe it can heal it”.


In this blog I hope to explore more about what this might mean for me, but am also acutely aware there are other ways of viewing cancer that will work for other people. I’m certainly not here to say viewing cancer as a battle is wrong but it doesn’t sit well with me.

My own journey?


PSA testing May 2017
The Cotswolds Prostate Cancer Support Group arranged an awareness evening on 31st May 2017 at Marling School in Stroud. I went along and it was suggested that I film the event to help raise awareness. While there, I joined the other 435 men to have a PSA test. At the end of June a letter arrived saying it was 18.96 ng/ml. Nothing to worry about as I had no real symptoms and PSA tests are not very reliable. However this led to a further PSA test, MRI, bone scan and a biopsy. On 19th September 2016 I was told I have an ‘invasive’ prostate cancer (for those liking numbers it was 56cc, Gleason (3+4) 7 and T3a). Great news in many ways as it looks like it hadn’t spread, but I was also told that because of my age (56 then), this was ‘serious and needed attention’. 

Clinic in Germany
The treatment offered was surgery or radiation with about two years of hormone treatment. I had many discussions with various people including doctors about those options and other treatments that might be available like a HIFU trial. I also explored what was happening in other countries and after much thought I decided to try a German Medical Clinic that has a good record of treating prostate cancer with Transurethral hyperthermia. I flew there at the end of November 2017 for the treatment and when I got home this was followed with 6 months of taking three hormones. It is these hormone and the way they work, that mean I am unlikely to get a PSA test that is even slightly useful until Christmas 2018. In a future blog I will no doubt share more about the journey after diagnosis, the controversy around the PSA test, why I made some of my decisions and my journey since then. I note again this was my journey and I am certainly not about recommending any particular path for other people to follow.

A bit more about me?

Philip - photo by Steve Hurrell
I live in Ruscombe, near Stroud, Gloucestershire with my partner, whose two daughters and three granddaughters live within walking distance. I moved to the area in 1993 brought by the creative energy, beautiful countryside and work - and totally fell in love with it all.

Here’s a bit taken from another website: "I am fortunate to be working part time with a Gloucestershire charity, helping people imagine and build more welcoming and inclusive communities. I have long been passionate about building communities and environmental and social justice. My previous work roles have included leading on inclusion for a Learning Disability Partnership Board, managing a mental health team, managing a day service, work as a generic social worker and work with Australian Oxfam. In my own community, I have enabled many new projects to flourish, including community allotments, street parties, Transition Stroud, conservation groups, helping organise Stroud Film Festival and Stroud's Sacred Music Festival, local film-making projects (made over 350 films) and I co-founded Stroud Community TV to celebrate local stories (now with over 3,000 films embedded on the site). I was also a Green Party District councillor for eight years (2006-14) and had a blog that was listed as the fifth best Green blog in the country and was in the top ten of councillor blogs"

Back in 1995 I did not work for 7 years due to chronic illness (ME/CFS); much of what I learnt in that experience is already being useful on this new journey. During that time I also helped establish and run the Expert Patient Programme locally where people with chronic illness facilitated courses for others with chronic illness. It was also a great learning time which stood me in good stead with my cancer diagnosis; I already was aware from research at that time, that there were ways to compliment treatment. Again a blog post in the future will perhaps look at all this.

Follow me on Twitter at
@GlosUK

Disclaimer


While I am sharing thoughts about my own journey to wellness, that does not mean this path will be for others. The blog is certainly not intended as recommendations for anyone’s healthcare or as a substitute for professional medical advice. Any medical problems should be directed to your doctors. This is about my personal journey, if anyone wants to follow suggestions or approaches I have used then I would ask that they discuss those with their doctors.

Thanks

 Particular thanks to my wonderful cousin Jo Lawrance for original cartoons for this blog.

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