Saturday July 2, 2016
There’s been a lot of bad news in the UK recently – political, economic and meteorological.
So when I saw the consultant this week for my first check up since the end of my radiotherapy treatment after the recurrence of prostate cancer I feared the run of bad news was about to continue.
But in fact, it was encouraging news.
The blood test shows there has been a definite response to the RT. The PSA level, the marker they use to detect the presence of cancer cells, has dropped by nearly 90% (for those who like precise figures it’s gone from 0.259 ng/ml to 0.028 ng/ml.)
So far, so good.
Now it’s back to the waiting game – another check up in 3 months to see what the PSA level does. What we hope for is that it stays stable or even drops still further.
I can’t pretend that it isn’t sometimes pretty trying (for my partner and me) to live life in 3-month instalments – especially as we’ve been here before.
After the surgery to remove my cancerous prostate in January 2015, my PSA dropped like a stone from 18.96 to 0.05. But nine months later it had started climbing again and I was on the road to more treatment.
So you can see why I’m not exactly dancing down the street.
The sensible bit of your brain says the only rational response is to keep calm and carry on. Worrying about it really isn’t going to help. Seize the day. Drink deep from the cup of life and enjoy.
But in the darker corners of your mind the doubts fester. Give them half a chance and they will dash out and expose themselves like demented flashers. And sometimes the devils of doubt can be cunning little beasts.
They wait until you’re tired or struggling with a difficult piece of work before they rush out and start jabbing you with their keen, well-honed anxieties.
Unfortunately the further I travel into the land of uncertainty the smarter the demons get. They’ve moved on from the early days when they would simply scream incoherently about impending death.
Now they whisper poisonous reminders about what happened before. They insist it will happen again and recite with glee the grim side effects of the hormone therapy the doctors will press upon you as the final line of defence.
Their latest ruse is a sort of Trojan horse technique. They find a vivid, naïve unicorn of a dream, which has nothing to do with cancer, and smilingly encourage it to romp across your dreamscape in stunning colours. In 3D with rich 5.1 digital dolby sound. The experience is so vivid it half wakes you.
“Well now this is an exciting dream,” you say to yourself in a curious semi-conscious state.
And at that moment the little devils of doubt flip open the door in the side of the dream Unicorn and come pouring out to run riot over your defenceless semi-conscious mind.
But these days I know how to fight back. The trick is to wake yourself and get up, no matter how exhausted you feel, to read something.
At first the words flow through your brain as meaningless gibberish. It’s like trying to recite poetry to an unruly class of bored teenagers.
You may have to read the same page 3 or 4 times but eventually the teenage demons begin to realise that you’re ignoring them and they drift off to find someone else to torment.
And then dawn breaks and it’s over. You’re left with a sort of emotional hangover as the small but painful wounds the demons of doubt have left heal up.
Like an ordinary hangover it makes you irritable and not much fun to be with. If it’s a bad one, it may take several days, but it does pass.
And then you’re ready for another drink from the cup of life. The grim political landscape gives a bitter edge to its taste but fortunately I rather like strong, bitter tastes.
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass – it’s about learning to dance in the rain.