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07 February 2017 @ 09:40 am

I'm the sort of person who likes to quantify, measure and record the data for future reference. Perhaps I'm a little obsessive.

Here are two graphs of aspects of my health which show trends in opposite directions, but which are both positive for me. I had a radical prostatectomy on November 23 and since then I have been working on gaining body weight, with 60 kg as my target. I want to re-gain weight the lost due to surgery, but also to put on some weight in the hope that it will help strengthen my osteoporotic thoracic spine.

Body mass change since just before prostatectomy, as recorded on my FitBit app.

I have had considerable help from daiskmeliadorn in achieving this weight gain goal. She has been making an absolutely amazingly delicious chocolate-walnut sourdough bread for me, which I have been consuming voraciously.

Chocolate-walnut sourdough bread made lovingly for me by daiskmeliadorn.

A second graph shows a trend in the opposite direction - declining mass. But this is the decline in daily total mass of urine collected in my incontinence pads, so it is also good news for me.

Measure of my urinary incontinence since prostatectomy.

Today I have decided that my incontinence has diminished enough that, although not completely abolished, it's become reliably small and I don't need to keep tabs on it anymore. I see my surgeon in two weeks, and I suspect he will declare me to be now 'continent' - one of his main outcome measures.

There's a much more important outcome measure, of course - whether I'm still alive. My surgeon told me the statistics indicate a 10% chance that my cancer will kill me in the next ten years. And the best predictor of that occurrence is the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in my blood. If all is well the level should be "undetectable". A non-zero value would probably indicate the presence of hitherto undetected metastases. In a couple of days I will front up at the pathologist to have blood taken for a 3-month post-op PSA measurement.  I'm hopeful, but nonetheless I will be anxiously awaiting the blood test results.

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01 February 2017 @ 03:27 pm
I have travelled further down the road to recovery.

three drinks

I now have a choice of three drinks. Bottom: decaf, Top: full caffeine, Right: Sugar-free Chocolate

After my surgery I was advised by the Australian Cancer Council to not drink coffee. The only hot drink I consumed was Avalanche sugar-free hot chocolate. It turned out that their advice was not based on scientific data, so I have decided to ignore it.

I started trying decaffeinated coffee: TCR99 Decaffeinated Organic. Not bad for a decaf, and no adverse effects were apparent.

I wanted, however, to return to normality as much as possible.

Today I've had my first cup of full caffeine (Campos) coffee since 02 December 2016.

Mmmmm....good. Good to feel more normal, I thought, as I read my book about a Sydney woman who discovers she has stage 4 cancer. I don't know yet how her story will end up, or mine, but I'm going along for the ride and I'm determined to enjoy it as much as possible.

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18 January 2017 @ 09:46 am
Daiskmeliadorn is heading off to New York today for a three week 'investigative' holiday. So yesterday we had the perfect excuse to get together for vegan muffins at Mecca Ultimo.

[vegan muffins at Mecca, Ultimo]

vegan muffins with dasikmeliadorn at Mecca Ultimo

As usual for these meet-ups with daiskmeliadorn, we had a great conversation about things that matter, including her plans for the trip to America. She's going to do a training run in Central Park next Saturday with members of the New York chapter of her running club, FrontRunners, and then she'll be joining the Women's March on New York City. She's also going to travel upstate and talk to some people at Binghamton University, with a view to possibly returning as a grad student. I'll miss her over the next few weeks, but she's on an exciting adventure and I'm loving being able to share some of that experience. We agreed meet back at Mecca in three week's time.

On my own life 'adventure', yesterday I had my first coffee since before my surgery for prostate cancer - decaffeinated, but it was coffee!

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11 December 2016 @ 12:42 pm
Yes, I survived radical robotic prostatectomy.

Life without a cancerous prostate is not great, however. We all know about this issue - the side effects of the surgery (impotence, incontinence) are not good, and lots of men have prostate cancer which never kills them, so the benefits of prostatectomy are not clear-cut.

Well, I definitely wanted this procedure and I'm glad that I had it. My cancer is a rather 'punchy' type, and probably would have killed be without surgery. Now, my surgeon tells me, I have only about a 10% chance that my prostate cancer will re-emerge to kill me in the next ten years.

In the mean time,

  • I am wearing a wad of Kimberly-Clark product between my legs to catch my urine and I wake every 2 hours at night to empty my bladder, to attempt to avoid wetting the bed

  • I am not allowed "bladder-irritant" drinks: coffee, tea, alcohol, carbonated drinks

So I have thrown out these packs of coffee beans without even getting to try them. I was particularly looking forward to the Indonesian one.

Two packets of coffee beans thrown out

I carry incontinence pads with me and have them located in lots of places at home and at work  . . .  just in case.

I have taken a few more steps down the slippery slope of old age dependency and life style restriction. Maybe incontinence will improve (most do improve over a couple of years) - or maybe not. In any case, I expect my coffee enjoyment days are over.

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21 November 2016 @ 10:32 am

[apple and raspberry juice]

[if I can see through it, I can drink it]

I'm definitely counting down the hours. Tomorrow I am scheduled for a radical robotic prostatectomy at the Sydney Adventist Hospital. I stopped eating yesterday, and today I am allowed to drink - but only if it's transparent. Apple and raspberry juice is OK, black coffee is OK too (yay!).

In two hours' time, I start flushing my bowel. I will be glad when the surgery is over. Watch this space for a report.

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09 November 2016 @ 11:18 am
In August I developed a sore back while running to work. Over a few weeks it gradually got better and I started running to work again. After about a week of running the same thing happened again.

Suspecting something significant I visited my GP. She did a bunch of tests and now I can summarise:

  • I probably fractured two or three thoracic vertebrae

  • I have osteoporosis in my spine

  • I've got coronary artery disease and have probably had a heart attack

  • I have prostate cancer, detected by:

    • high Prostate Specific Antigen levels in my blood

    • a specialised prostate MRI scan indicated likely cancer

    • a trans-perineal prostate biopsy found a "punchy" form of cancer

    • a bone scan and CT scan showed strong evidence that the thoracic vertebral fractures were in fact due to prostate metastases, and I have "advanced" prostate cancer

[minimal blood loss immediately after 29 needles were inserted through my perineum into my prostate]

[minimal blood loss immediately after 29 needles were inserted through my perineum into my prostate]

It hasn't been too physically traumatic so far. The prostate biopsy was my first ever hospital admission & anaesthetic, so I was a little anxious about it beforehand. But it turned out to be not too painful, with little blood loss on the day and rosé-coloured urine for a week afterwards.

Despite the evidence collected so far, my urological surgeon, Dr Kris, is not quite totally convinced that the prostate cancer has developed beyond redemption. There's one last test that can determine the state of the cancer and hence my likely future options. It's 68Ga-PSMA (prostate specific membrane antigene) ligand positron emission tomography (PET). It's expensive and not widely available, and so I'm travelling a long way and paying a lot of money to have one done the day after tomorrow. There's an unlikely but important (to me) possibility that the bone & CT scan reports are wrong and in fact my prostate cancer is still confined to the gland itself, which would make it potentially treatable with surgical removal. On the other hand, if the PET scan confirms the current diagnosis of bony metastases, there's very little that can be done, and certainly nothing that carries that hope of a cure. In that case Dr Kris will put away his gadget arms and refer me for palliative treatment.

I won't get the PET scan results on Friday so I'll inevitably spend the weekend contemplating the possible directions and duration of my future life. As I reflect, I will be very aware that my experience of the past few months has taught me how wonderful my family is and how lucky I have been to share my life with such loving and caring people. On Monday I should find out the PET scan results. In the short term that information is sure to have a big emotional impact on us all. But we will move on from there, and I am confident we'll face this uncertain future together and make the best of my (indeed our) remaining life time, whatever that turns out to be.

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06 September 2016 @ 03:41 pm
A few years ago my sister died, aged only 60. Then, a couple of years later, her husband died, aged 61. Now, my brother's ex-wife has died, aged in her 50s.

In contradistinction, it seems as though my mother is going to live forever, much to her own disgust. Every single time I see her, she tells me she wishes she were dead. Although she has dementia, she has told me this often enough, consistently enough, and over a long enough time, that I'm sure she does really mean it.

Recently, however, she defied both my predictions and her own desires, and she became a nonagenarian.

[congratulatory phone call]

[Receiving a congratulatory phone call from Scotland]


[cutting the cake]

[Cutting the cake]

It isn't 'fair',  but why should we have any expectation that fairness would prevail?

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15 June 2016 @ 10:12 am
It was a cool early winter morning, just after sunrise, as I walked up King Street, Newtown.


King Street Newtown

[King Street, Newtown.]

I was meeting daiskmeliadorn for breakfast in here, Handcraft Specialty Coffee. Neither of us had been here before, but I had walked past a couple of weeks ago and it looked interesting enough to explore further.

Handcraft Specialty Coffee

[Handcraft Specialty Coffee, King Street, Newtown.]

They had only just opened (at 07:00) and I was the only customer in the shop.

Handcraft Specialty Coffee

[inside Handcraft Specialty Coffee - nothing out of the ordinary here]

While I waited for daiskmeliadorn to arrive (I was early, of course), they gave me some iced water - with a sprig of mint in the bottle.

iced, minted water

[iced, minted water]

"That's a good start", I thought. Definitely a class above the plain, unrefrigerated tap water provided at most cafés.

It wasn't long until daiskmeliadorn arrived, hungry for something substantial to get her through a busy morning to come, working in the campaign office of the local Greens candidate. She ordered the granola, but without yoghurt and with soy milk instead.

granola with fruit and soy milk

[granola with fruit and soy milk]

The granola came beautifully presented (my photo doesn't do justice to the thinly sliced apple on top) with apple, strawberry, passionfruit, kiwifruit and banana, and with the soy milk in a cute little bottle.

We both ordered long blacks, hers made with the standard house blend while I opted for one of their single-origin coffees. I chose the Ethiopian as I have had good experience with another Ethiopian coffee, and I have a soft spot for that country. It is, after all, the birthplace of coffee.

Ethiopian coffee

[Ethiopian coffee]

My coffee turned out to be absolutely top drawer! Excellent flavour and extra hot. We talked while we enjoyed our breakfast, and the attentive staff replaced the cold water as we drank it, without us have to request it. As usual we covered a fair bit of ground in the conversation, but obviously the status of daiskmeliadorn's brother, and the Greens campaign for the forthcoming Federal election were the major topics. We also talked about daiskmeliadorn's employment, with the good news that she has been offered a job . . . two jobs, in fact! One is a public service position - secure, permanent, and moderately well paid. The other would be working as a researcher-activist for the international transport workers' union - pay and duration unknown. You can guess which position she's likely to accept.

I loved everything about Handcraft, and I was especially grateful that they didn't follow the trend of most Sydney hipster cafés of providing hard metal seating. At Handcraft they provided very comfortable cushions.


[yes, even a cushion!]

It was a very good morning, and I went on my way rejoicing.

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10 June 2016 @ 11:23 am
OK, it's nothing like the real thing, but I like this stuff. I make sure I have a spare jar or two, both at work and at home (it comes from America!)

empty jar
[empty Strawberry Fruit Spread jar & full jar ready to open]

There are no strawberries in this. Further, its texture is more like jelly ('Jell-o' to you North Americans) than jam, but it contains no gelatine. It's very hard to extract from the jar because it slips off your knife. But it's sweet, has a vaguely strawberry-like flavour, and it's moist. Given that most of the dumpster-derived freegan bread I eat is up to a month old, sometimes I need a spread to liven up the toast. Or I just need to satisfy my sweetness addiction.

The best aspect is that it has (supposedly) zero calories! There's nothing nutritious in it!

There's one other good thing about it. The empty jar is just the right capacity to hold the 85 g of coffee beans I use in one day's coffee (that's four cups), with a bit of extra space if I think it will be a day when I need stronger coffee than usual.  So I can line up 3 or 4 jars of coffee beans and know the next few days of my life are adequately catered - in the style of J. Alfred Prufrock.

strawberry spread jar recycled as coffee storage jar

[strawberry spread jar recycled as coffee storage jar]

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08 June 2016 @ 11:12 am
My son works with customer relationship management software called CiviCRM. The community of CiviCRM programmers and users was having a get-together in Fort Collins, near Denver, Colorado (He lives with me in Sydney, Australia). Seamus decided this get-together, CiviCon2016, would be good to attend - as a holiday from the intensity of recent work, as a CiviCRM learning experience, and to build on his CiviCRM network. He booked to stay on the Colorado State University campus.

Unfortunately, on his first morning at CSU, he slipped in the shower area and landed on his outstretched hand, producing a classic fracture of the distal radius and ulna.

radiograph of radius before treatment

[text book case of forearm fracture with distal fragment of radius substantially displaced]

Of course, we all know about the potentially enormous costs of American healthcare. He opted for the cheapest and easiest treatment alternative: a heavy dose of ketamine followed by closed manipulation to attempt to restore a good position of the fractured radius. Here's the result:

radiograph of radius after treatment

[distal fragment of radius is now in a much better position]


The hospital provided a splint and a follow-up appointment at a nearby clinic and wished him luck. His smile on that day probably hides a certain amount of anxiety about how this was going to impact his trip.

smiling after the emergency treatment

[Smiling after the emergency treatment.]


Dealing with this sort of situation isn't easy, even if you're at home in a familiar environment. His travel insurance company was good and everyone involved was really helpful (CSU, all the hospital staff, the Emergency transport people, Loveland clinic, orthopedic surgeon etc), but he's not quite out of the woods yet! He has been able to participate in most of the conference and post-conference events, but still has to negotiate traveling back to Australia with only one (non-dominant) hand free to do the work. He has a date with a specialist wrist and hand surgeon at the Royal North Shore Hospital on the day he lands back in Sydney, and it looks likely that some titanium might find a new home in his forearm.

My other son will be headed back to RNSH for surgery soon, too. Maybe we'll have both sons in hospital at the same time - how lucky would that be?!

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