Visitors since 20 January 2010

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Homoeopathy and Goldfinches

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s dank. And suddenly the garden is full of spring. Eight goldfinches on the bird feeders at one time yesterday – together with Great Tits, Blue Tits and fierce Robins – on the ground Blackbirds and Thrushes. When I took Jack out, whilst it was just getting light - what a glorious chorus of bird song.

For some time I have wanted to address the phenomena of alternative medicine – but I have been reluctant to do so because many very good friends of mine have suggested various flavours of complementary medicine that they think would help me – homoeopathy, aroma therapy, acupuncture, prayer and many others – these were all suggested honestly and out of compassion and care for me. Then I saw – on another blog – this video and realised how evil the promise of alternative medicine is.

During the journey of Cancer treatment I have been on I have met many, many people who are desperate to find a cure for the incurable and statements such as the ones made in this video by Gemma Hoefkens, that she was cured of cancer by homoeopathy, feed into that desperation.

In case you don’t know homoeopathy is a form of alternative medicine, first proposed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, (not 2000 years ago as stated by Hoefkens in the video) that attempts to treat patients with heavily diluted preparations which are claimed to cause effects similar to the symptoms presented. Homoeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with shaking by forceful striking, which homoeopaths term "succussion," after each dilution under the assumption that this increases the effect of the treatment. Homoeopaths call this process "potentization". Dilution continues until none of the original substance remains. For such remedies to have pharmacological effect would violate fundamental principles of science. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that such homoeopathic remedies work beyond the expected placebo effect.

A good example of an homoeopathic remedy would be a popular treatment for the flu - a 200C dilution of duck liver, marketed under the name Oscillococcinum. As there are only about 1080 atoms in the entire observable universe, a dilution of one molecule in the observable universe would be about 40C. Oscillococcinum would thus require 10320 more universes to simply have one molecule in the final substance.

It should be very easy to test if any of the alternative therapies work – take two thousand people suffering from the target disease treat a thousand of them with the alternative therapy and give the other thousand a placebo – then after a suitable period of time compare the two groups. The same could be done with any alternative therapy and indeed prayer.

There is one area where alternative medicine scores heavily over conventional, evidence based medicine. Alternative practitioners spend a great deal of time with their patents and that in itself may well help the healing or curative process and is something that conventional practitioners, Doctors and Nurses, could well consider bringing into their own medical practices.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Telling it Like It Is!

Yesterday there was an article in “The Independent” – “'It's terminal': How to break bad news” and it was about how so many Doctors fail to give the “bad news” in a proper and caring manner. Certainly for us this was true. When we had the “Bad News” interview in November 2006 – Dr “E” the Oncologist was very, very blunt – and strangely I have absolutely no problem with this – I don’t want false hope raised and I do want the opportunity and time to ask questions. This we had. We were also told that I could have chemotherapy in two versions – a mild one which would give me a life expectation of around 3 to 6 months or very aggressive chemotherapy which would give me a life expectation of around 6 months to a year. I took the latter.

My objection was that when our consultation was over we were offered absolutely no support – in an ideal world we should have been given a private room to sit in for a little, whilst we adjusted to this horrendous news; and even better we should have been offered a cup of tea and someone to sit with us and help us understand. Instead, at 5 o'clock at night, we wandered out into a rainy November car park and sat in the car and wept.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A Normal Day – HURRAH!

At last – and the first since Thursday – A Normal Day! - Up while the sky is dark and empty the dishwasher, read emails and take my “morning meds” . Then out with Jack for a walk – poor Daisy has to stay at home as her hips are gone and although she can make it round the garden she can’t really go much further. She seems happy enough and rules Jack with a paw of steel though. Anyway, Jack and I only have a short walk as it’s snowing and I don’t enjoy it very much. Then home for breakfast – muesli, tomato juice and a nice pot of tea.

By this time emails are pouring in – these are from people who were at my old School, as was Clive Woodward who – on Desert Island Discs - referred to the school as a nasty cruel place. Well I’m with Clive Woodward – I think that the school was a nasty cruel place and with very poor educational standards too. The only good thing I can find to say of it was that it was in the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and I expect that there are not many people who got that name into a blog today. Anyway lots of emails from people on both sides of the divide. I really find it quite surprising how many see the school as “Mother” to whom they owe everything.

Dr."K" rang - just to see how I was and to find out how I was getting on with the pill version of "Oxynorm" - I tell her OK but that Gavin thinks that I am coughing more now. Anyway we have agree that I will have bloods and a chest X-Ray before I see her on March 8th.

Then Tesco delivers - the usual bizarre substitutions which I reject. Gavin is giving Jack his lunchtime walk and it's still snowing but not settling.

Moving on to lunch – half a ripe avocado pear squashed onto two rounds of hot buttered toast with the other half of the avocado pear blended with a pint of milk and magic “Splenda” not sugar. (I am a diabetic after all.) After lunch I would normally go to bed but decided not to and spent the afternoon writing bad tempered emails about School!

In the evening I watch the news on television and have my tea – I leave some – just too much I’m afraid but nice – a “Quorn” pepper steak with new potatoes and green beans followed by stewed apple and cream.

And so to bed and a good night’s sleep at 19:00.

A normal day, and it might sound dull but it was wonderful and the more so as it was shared with Gavin and the dogs. There is no better sort of day. - HURRAH – may there be many more.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Now Where Are My Marbles

I blame the “Oxynorm” – it can’t be age as it is a well known truth that there are no gay men over the age of 50 and so I am 49 years old and have been for some 14 years! Any way, recently – since I started the “Oxynorm” – I become convinced that I have done something, and can remember in detail doing it – but then it turns out I haven’t done it at all. Now when it’s cucumbers I believe I have ordered from Tesco for the weekly delivery that’s one thing, but it’s something else when I am convinced that I have ordered flowers for Gavin to be delivered the morning of Saturday the 13th in time for Valentine ’s Day. When they don’t arrive I start checking and I haven’t made the order – even though I clearly remember doing so and even recollect looking at the emailed receipt! Now where did I put my marbles!

Since we went out to lunch with my cousins on Thursday I haven’t been very well, nausea, giddiness, fatigue and not wanting to eat – however, having spent a lot of yesterday in bed I realised that not eating was stupid and would make me sicker – so bearing in mind my promise to Gavin and Dr “RB” that I would eat, at 19:00 hours downstairs I came and had a bowl of muesli and two slices of toast and Marmite. I didn’t feel much better after having it but I did feel .... well I suppose ..... self-satisfied and pleased with myself.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Lunch in Posh Places

I have already blogged about our visit to Dr. “RB” on Thursday morning – but that was only the start of the day. Soon after we got home Cousin “PC” and his wife ”RC” arrived from Canterbury. After coffee and chatter we went with them to the Caistor Hall Hotel just outside of Norwich where they were staying. Usually the food is excellent - although we have been disappointed in the past at Dinner Dances when the tables were pushed much to closely together, but for Gavin and I it's a romantic destination as it is here where held our Civil Partnership on May 18 2007. (By the way Macmillan Nurse "D" was among the guests - see if you can spot him in the photo book that the last link points to)

We had a most delightful lunch - the food was excellent - Gavin and I are both vegetarians and frequently vegetarian food in non-specialist restaurants is horrible - but not in this case - Gavin had "Roasted Celeriac with Wild Mushrooms, Parmesan Crisp and dressed leaves" followed by "Goats Cheese Potato Gnocchi with Basil Oil and toasted Walnuts" which he really enjoyed. I had "Pan Fried Goats Cheese,with a caramelised Pear, walnut and watercress salad" followed by "Wild Mushroom and leek Pithiver, with a shallot,herb and sherry creams sauce, and a dressed salad" and yes I didn't know what a Pithiver was and had to ask - but it turns out to be a sort of pastry disk. My main course was a little rich for me but non the less delicious! For the first time and about an hour before we arrived at the hotel I took some liquid OxyNorm as well as the capsules I had already taken - I had been told that I could do this but I do suspect that my table conversation was perhaps a little fuzzy, inappropriate and non-stop!

Home at about 2;30 and then I spent the rest of the day sleeping - firstly on the couch and latterly, from about 6 pm, in my bed. In fact I really didn't feel well at all from about 4 o'clock onwards - I think that this is a price I shall have to pay any time I go out or do something and it's about tiring myself. A visit to the Doctor AND lunch with my friends, cousins and partner was too much. But we had a great time.

Moving the Goal Posts

I was paid a great compliment the recently by one of my cousins – “JM” - he said that he enjoyed reading the blog because it told him what to expect if he got cancer but – and – here comes the compliment “There is an underlying sense of a life well lived”. Thank you “JM”

Now I plan to move the goal posts of this blog a bit – probably down to the other end of the pitch because if I don’t I shall have nothing to add for another couple of weeks when I again see the Doctor. Let me know what you think – I am, as are all blog writers, excited and pleased by any comments. And the changes? - more about me I'm afraid and what I hear, see and read - I just hope that it all doesn't turn into a chintz and kitten blog.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Feelings of Betrayal and Humiliation and Good Fortune

We still have not been contacted by my new Macmillan Palliative Care Nurse – the replacement for “G” who we really, really didn’t get on with. We have also heard that “G” is no longer working in the City. I cannot pretend that I am not pleased about that – although when I was asked if I wanted to take my complaint about/with her any further I did answer No. All I wanted was for her not to be involved with me or Gavin in any way. But there is a down side – and I found my reaction quite surprising.

I asked about Macmillan Nurse “D” – now you will remember that “D” was a very close friend of mine and Gavin’s who gave us a great deal of support, as the only one of our friends and family who knew about Cancer and Chemotherapy. Our conversations with him were of immense value both practically and, more importantly, personally. Then about 30 months ago he stopped communicating with us in any way and with no explanation. Anyway, at the same time that I heard that “G” was no longer in the City I heard that “D” had been at a meeting and that “He knew all about my treatment” My immediate reaction was one of feelings of betrayal - I really, really don’t want “D” knowing all details of my treatment and – in particular – both Gavin and I discuss very personal things with Dr “RB” and Dr. “K” and I suspect in the future we’ll be discussing other personal issues with our new Macmillan Nurse – I really, really don’t want "D" to be a party to those. But I guess that I have to be “Grown-Up” and accept that the Macmillan Nurses are a team and it’s – as far as I can tell – “One for all and all for one”.

I don’t want to have to deal with these people in the closing stages of my life, and I don’t want to be a “Grown-Up” any more – I want to be like Violet Elizabeth Bott and lie on the floor and "I'll squeam and squeam 'till I'm thick” – But I can’t, I have to be “Grown-Up”, I have to smile nicely and accept that “D” has only my very best interests at heart, even if I don’t want him knowing “all about my treatment” and accept as well that I am too small to stand in the way of the avalanche that is the system.

To happier things – we saw Dr “RB” today and nothing has changed with my treatment. Although both Gavin and I think that the coughing may be worse it is no-where near as debilitating as it was before "Oxynorm". It is always a pleasure to see Dr "RB". We have decided that I’ll have another chest X-Ray sometime around the beginning of March –although I guess we know what it will say – growths increased in size! Dr "RB" assures us also that "D" only knows the physical details of my treatment - he is not privy to the more personal conversations. I must say when I see Dr “RB” or Dr. "K" I, and I guess Gavin always feel part of the decision making – We am fortunate!

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Man Whose Dog Jack Bit

I met my GP’s Surgery Manager in the Pharmacists yesterday – he’s the owner of the only dog – when a puppy – that Jack – our West Highland White terrier has ever bitten. That was a long time ago but very embarrassing! Anyway I felt it was about time to come clean about this blog to him and the Doctors in the surgery – in particular my Doctor – Dr. “RB” and so I emailed him the address of the web page.

Although I knew “GM” the Practice Manager, to be a good man I was pleased, relieved and surprised when he emailed me back to say that he thought that the blog was “very fairly and evenly put” – However he did note that there was no mention of himself in it – so “GM” here you are and thank you.

I have now been on the pill version of “Oxynorm” for a couple of days and I’m not certain if I like it as well. It works in the manner expected – I’m not coughing – but I think that I am coughing more than I was when I was on the liquid version. Also at about the 10 hour mark – I take the pills every 12 hours - the effects of the pill seem to run out of steam. I felt much more in control with the liquid and taking it every four hours which I could extend if I wanted to 5 or 6 hours.

Am I getting more bad tempered? Is this a side effect? To me it seems that I am but I hope not. Perhaps I’m just being irascible.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Seeing Doctor “K”

Yesterday I had an appointment with Dr “K” at Pricilla Bacon Lodge and Gavin came along. It is so nice to see someone who has time and we covered and discussed all sorts of things.

Anyway the upshot is that we agreed that the “Oxynorm” or as it’s also known - Hill Billy Heroin - is working really well – I don’t cough anywhere near much as I did, although the side effects are a little alarming – the first – the feeling of being of being fuzzy round the edges should be taken care of by moving me to a different, long lasting version of Oxynorm – this is a pill as well so easier to take – I’m told that I can still use the liquid Oxynorm if I want to and for some special reason – going to a film for instance – that’s to stop me coughing not to make me feel fuzzy.

The other side effect – and to be blunt – constipation - is alarming but I am now on Movicol and wonder of wonders it seems to be working – The drug that I was on – besides tasting horrible (Movicol is not great in the taste stakes either) was Lactulose and the only effect was huge and constant farting – not good in public places.

We also covered many other issues and it was nice to hear Gavin expressing what he felt – the Macmillan Nurse issue also seems to be covered and we’ll be getting a visit from a new Macmillan nurse in the near future who will be in charge of our co-ordination.

I am still feeling intensely relived and also very happy that everything now seems to be working out all right and that at last we are getting the attention and treatment we should have been getting in the first place.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Results and Movements

Dr “K” rang me on Tuesday with my results from the bloods taken on the previous Friday – nothing out of the ordinary although Calcium levels were at the high end of normal, but as they are in the normal range no treatment as yet. I also told Dr “K” that we would like to change our Macmillan nurse. And that will be discussed when Gavin and I see her next Tuesday!

Today I saw my GP Dr. “RB” and had a long chat with him about this and that – although he had received a letter from Dr “K” I was able to fill him in with details of our “chat”. We discussed how well the new treatment for the cough was working - that’s “Oxynorm” or as it’s also known - Hill Billy Heroin – if you don’t believe me have a quick Google! The only problem is that it constipates me and thus a lack of movements! So I have all sorts of “shifters” prescribed as well.

Dr. “RB” also noticed that I was losing weight – it’s difficult to know what to do about this – I really don’t have very much interest in food at the moment but I have promised both Gavin and Dr “RB” that I will force myself to eat – that will be difficult – particularly when constipated but I have to try.

Something that also came up in my conversation with Dr. “RB” - we were talking about the Palliative care system and he said that he thought that I should have been accessed by a Palliative Care Doctor when I was first returned to my GP - this would be my previous GP who has now retired - from the Oncology department at the hospital – I agreed and said that I knew now that this should have happened – unfortunately Macmillan Nurse “G” threw some sort of “Hissy Fit” and I never got that assessment.

Now that I have Dr. "K" and my GP Dr. "RB" I feel so much happier. Now all we have to do is sort our a good Macmillan nurse.