OK so I started radiotherapy on 22ndNovember—the first of 20 sessions. Its ok – had an MRI and CT scan the week before to set me up. I have to give myself a mini enema 45 minutes before my session and then 30 minutes before drink two large glasses of water. First session they mark 3 little tattoos on my hips/tummy which they will use along with the laser to get me in the exact position every time. Once I am in position the staff disappear and the first thing is the machine performs a CT scan—this is used to make sure everything is in the right place and it takes them about 5 minutes to do their checking. Then the radiotherapy head pivots around my lower tummy which takes about 40 seconds and is completely painless. Then I’m off home.
I get into a routine of drive to Newcastle 6.30 am and arrive at the Freeman hospital about 7.00 am. I then go for a short walk around a local park to help my ‘constitution’, go into the hospital (sorry about the detail), empty my bowels before any enema, buy a paper and a drink then sit out side the radiotherapy suite, perform the pre-treatment rituals and wait to be called. Even though my appointments are at 9.00 am being early they often fit me in and I can get home. I am usually home by 10.00am.
That was all fine until the Sunday morning following my first radio session when I had a blockage ---very very painfull — my wife drives me almost screaming in pain to our local hospital. Just after registration etc I manage to pass the blood clot but they take all my vitals including a blood sample and send me up to Urology where they monitor me for 3 hrs then let me home. Monday is ok but then 4.00 am Tuesday morning another blockage this time more serious and even more painful so back to hospital where eventually they inset a catheter in theory for a couple of weeks. This means that I will not be able to train and will complicate my radiotherapy---I now have to clamp off my catheter to stop my bladder just emptying into my leg bag fitted to my calf. At night I connect to a 2 litre bag which I fill ---I have no idea where it all comes from but at least I get a half decent night’s sleep, the first in months.
The next week passes ok until the following Monday. I am on the radiotherapy table and after the CT scan I just cannot hold my bladder as the pain is too great and I stop the procedure, let some fluid out and we try again. This time despite my best efforts my bladder by-passes my catheter and I wet myself—procedure stopped again and very embarrassing. They will not do more than two CT scans in a day so I am off home which is very upsetting as I need this treatment! After another couple of days of difficult but just about manageable procedures my Oncologist calls me and says they are doing away with the bladder filling bit as the radio machine is sophisticated enough to manage without it. I can tell you that was a relief!
Over the next couple of weeks I finally complete my 20 sessions. The last week it has become very tiring not helped by a chest infection making me cough for England most of the day—this certainly is not funny with a catheter fitted. My oncologist has said it must stay in not only until radiotherapy is finished but for a couple of weeks after to allow me to heal---I actually have an appointment for the removal of said catheter on 9thJanuary.
There is a tradition at the Freeman Hospital that when you have finished your course of treatment you can ring the Macmillan bell nest to the radiotherapy suite. My wife Dot, who has been super throughout these last months, is with me for this final session and boy did I ring that bell. I apologise for the photograph—I don’t look quite as bad as that but it was early morning and at the end of a week of a chest bug—plus I’m crap at posing !!
I have been getting a blood test every two weeks by Lloyds Clinical Homecare when a nurse comes out to check me over and usually my next supply of drugs arrives before her visit. She then sends me a text the following day with my PSA result. So it started at 21 back on 29thAugust and has gone down to 6.7 then 1.9 then 1.4 then 0.557 then 0.27 then 0.144 and the latest as of 18thDec 0.092—that apparently is as good progress as could be expected.
I am however still not in a happy place as over Xmas I seem to have developed an infection in my bladder/catheter which is very painful resulting in a visit to hospital, full examination with bloods to check kidney function (its fine ) and prescribed a course of antibiotics. At the time of writing the jury is still out as to whether they will work but it is early days.
The toughest part of all of this, and I’m sure I am not alone, is the one step forward two back—its very disheartening despite my ‘Ironman’ will. In addition I have always held my emotions close—now with zero testosterone I find I can become tearful at the least thing—even when walking by myself along the coast for my 2 mile early morning constitutional.
By the way an update on my two friends mentioned in the original Blog with PSA’s of 4.5 and 5.2—they both had their prostates removed two weeks ago. They were frankly in a mess for about 10 days one more than the other but have now just about returned to normal but sedate life until they are fully healed.