Saturday, 10 February 2018

On the increase in Jamaica

A great take on Prostate Cancer by a Jamaican doctor...

Dr. Franklin Johnston

There are too many men dying of prostate cancer. The numbers dying from cancers before time is close to homicide, but spend is minuscule compared to the security budget. Are all lives of equal value? Many of high and low estate left and faced this implacable foe in silence.
In this 21st century cancers are still spoken of in hushed tones, so is it seen as personal failure or embarrassment? We don't know to avoid cancers, but we should avoid smoking and alcohol, as well as embrace healthy diets and exercise. The Institute of Health Metrics & Evaluation reports the major causes of premature mortality in Jamaica as diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, cancers, and road traffic crashes — and we add murder near top of the list.
A Pan American Health Organization report in 2012 indicates that for men the order was lung, prostate, and bowel; and for women breast, cervix and bowel cancers. The local cancer profile is “some 4,981 cancers in Kingston and St Andrew between 2003 and 2007-2536 in males and 2445 in females” (Jamaica Cancer Society).
Good national stats are hard to find, so we should do a better job as maybe cancer, not murder, is our real enemy. Cancer Research UK indicates death from prostate cancer has moved above the breast cancer rate. Is it so here? 
In Britain, there is debate as to why funding for breast cancer is twice that of prostate cancer given the death rate and the major donors are men. We wrote of the generosity of local Masonic lodges and enlightened self-interest works, but why do men give more to breasts than their own prostates and longevity?
Prostate health is important as prostate cancer is not inevitable. Men need to pay attention from early and do a routine prostate screening. We must eat healthy, good portions of fruit and vegetables, limit salts, sugars, fats which add allure to a meal but in excess is bad. Men's minds move to the extreme with regard to prostate cancer, but it is not a death sentence with regular screening, which is why deaths are so painful. Men need to care themselves as women do.
Prostate screening needs innovation as internal medical screening is technology intensive, and rarely invasive, which reflects research and development spending. Prostate screening is feral. Surely science can do better than sticking a digit into a man's anus? Is global research and development at fault, or trickle down not working? The Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) is the first step to declare prostate health, then a prostate-specific antigen blood test; imaging the prostate and finally a biopsy to harvest small tissue samples for testing. None is painful, but all have discomfort. Most men hate the DRE as the antithesis of manliness; some believe homosexuality is nurture, not nature, and fear that 50-year-old Mr Brown will “catch it” and emerge from doctor's office gay.
Peeps say women are used to vaginal exams since teenage, and it is still upsetting so consider a man who comes to DRE as an adult — see, where yuh a put dat? The prostate is sized like a coolie plum and grows with age, so as the space between “balls, penis and bladder” is small, it pushes the other furniture around and the small passage may be squeezed so urine dribbles or spurts irregularly not a steady flow. Some men have no symptoms of prostate cancer — no blood in urine, pain, frequent urination at night. But a few beers, lots of water or coffee late evening can also have the same effect.
Men own most things; have most money and big jobs but do not fund prostate things as imagined. Why? Some died and never gave donations. Peeps say more men donate, yet even after gaining the knowledge, men donate more to breast cancer than to prostate. Are men wary to be identified with the prostate but not with the breast? Peeps say men avoid prostate as people may think they have it or put “goat mouth” on them-superstitious despite iPhone and degrees!
What can we do? The order of premature deaths among men is murder, lifestyle diseases (heart, diabetes), cancers and car accidents. Prostate cancer is a big man killer and, as Cabinet is a powerful caucus of men, it should assist the Jamaica Cancer Society big time. Politicians moan about slavery and reparation they can do nothing about, but they can save black men's lives today. Will they? The Jamaica Cancer Society needs a user-friendly website with a discrete area for each of our five main cancers to lend clarity. The Prostate Health section would have cutting-edge reports (or links) on diagnostics, screening, symptoms, therapies and cures. Even politicians with cancers choose to die quietly “after a short illness”, not stand by the Jamaica Cancer Society. Why? Ronnie Thwaites, Member of Parliament, is in a Jamaica Cancer Society advert as a breast cancer survivor; who else? Minister of Health Christopher Tufton must publish approved local cancer remedies as many are duped daily. The Jamaica Cancer Society website must link YouTube or create local videos to demonstrate the DRE, PSA, diet, exercise, etc. We need a financial regulator to help people in a health crisis as many lose savings, car and house chasing fanciful cures when most vulnerable. Public education targeted to dozens of Mechanics and Freemason lodges; drivers, sugar estate, farm workers, male-dominated jobs and schools, colleges can all help as sustainable prostate health begins before 40. We can change the male health profile in a few years. Stay conscious!

Franklin Johnston: Feruary 2018

Sunday, 14 January 2018

£100 gene tests could identify men with three times the chance of deadly prostate cancer...

New £100 tests could identify men with three times the average risk of developing deadly prostate cancer.
Scientists have discovered 54 genetic markers which predispose men to suffer from the most aggressive form of the disease.
The research, published in the BMJ, developed a prediction tool by analysing more than 200,000 gene variants from more than 30,000 men, to find those most closely linked with the aggressive form of the disease.
On average one in eight men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetimes.
The majority of cases will develop slowly in old age, and never prove fatal.  
But current screening methods are unreliable, meaning thousands of men undergo unnecessary biopsies, hormone treatment and traumatic surgery for slow-growing tumours which were harmless.
The new risk tool, tested on more than 6,000 men, found those with scores in the top two percent had almost three times the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, compared with average risk.
The discovery by US scientists means such men could be closely monitored, and targeted for screening, with thousands more saved from needless tests, biopsies and treatment.
Researchers from the Center for Multimodel Imaging and Genetics, in La Jolla, California, said such tests could be offered relatively cheaply - decades before prostate cancer was likely to develop.
The study, also involving the Insitute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, found the methods were far more accurate than checking family histories at predicting the likelihood of aggressive disease.
British researchers said the gene tests could cost health services less than £100 per patient.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer for men in the UK, with 47,000 diagnoses annually.
Researchers said those found to be at heightened risk would be encouraged to have blood tests which check for raised levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
Currently, the NHS does not have a national screening for PSA testing, but men aged 50 or over can have tests if they ask for them.
Researcher Dr Tyler Seibert said: “These results are really useful because they can guide men and medical professionals, to see who should be being screened often - maybe annually - and who are in such low-risk groups that they could skip screening altogether.”
The cancer specialist said: “For those in the most high-risk groups, I would also be thinking about starting screening earlier, perhaps in their 30s.”
Charities welcomed the research but said further tests were needed to show that risks could be detected at a younger age.
Dr Matthew Hobbs, deputy director of research at Prostate Cancer UK said the findings “add another piece to the jigsaw” in the search for a test which could be used routinely.
“In the meantime, any man at risk of prostate cancer should have a conversation with his doctor about whether he should have the PSA blood test,” he said.
It comes as the NHS was accused of taking a "backwards step" in breast cancer care after recommending that a genetic test which could help almost 10,000 women should no longer be funded. The Oncotype DX test - which helps to predict the risk of breast cancer recurrence and whether or not a patient would benefit from chemotherapy - was previously recommended for use for certain women on the NHS.

Man prostate 
Prostate cancer treatment can involve hormone therapy CREDIT: ALAMY
But in new draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it did not recommend routine use of the test, along with several others, to inform such decisions.
Nice said the cost-effectiveness of the tests was “highly uncertain”.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at the charity Breast Cancer Now, said the move was a “backwards step”.
"Tumour profiling tests like these can help accurately predict the risk of breast cancer returning, aiding doctors and patients in decisions about whether chemotherapy is necessary and enabling some women to safely avoid its grueling side-effects.
"It's therefore very disappointing that Nice has been unable to recommend any of these prognostic tools to help guide chemotherapy use on the NHS,” she said.

Research information: Daily Telegraph January 2018

Thursday, 4 January 2018

What the dying teach me

This wonderful experience by my good friend Susan Dustin shines a light on a subject that many find difficult to embrace...

Of Amens and Inclusion….
Working with religious clergy within the end of life settings I have noticed a frequent overriding need to become more human and a tad less saintly! Conversely, for laypeople, the need to actualize a greater sense of meaning and spirituality greatly increases. I have no empirical evidence to back my claims, but rather recurring observations have piqued my curiosity! 
It is understandable that for those of us who are novices as our lives draw to an end and our bodies begin to fail and fall away our spiritual persona comes to the fore. We may possibly seek to give or receive forgiveness from others. Our need to know that our life has been of value; that we have loved and are loved in kind may also carry greater significance. There may be a return to or seeking out of a religious foundation in order to securely embrace an afterlife. 
I have no doubt that the clergy also experiences similar things, but perhaps being that a large part of their lives have been spent in such pursuits they’ve ticked a few of the “be right with God and karma” boxes. Obviously religious traditions and practices bring great sustenance to the pious during the time they prepare to discard their earthly robes and enter another realm. However, perhaps to obtain a holistic life-balance, a need to be close to the family and friends once denounced as worldly, immerges. 
Today, I had the opportunity to sit bedside with a nigh-on octogenarian and highly respected Abbott of a nearby Buddhist temple. Increasing symptoms of metastasized cancer necessitated his recent hospitalization, a serious operation, and the fitting of a colostomy bag. Addressing him in a religiously respectful manner while referring to myself as a layperson I introduced myself and asked if could visit with him. He readily agreed. In full patient mode, he told me what he understood of his illness, his operation, and showed me his colostomy bag. He informed me that the pain had been unbearable and that now thankfully it was much better. He was waiting to hear what the doctor suggested next. Moving him on from a medical show and tell, we became more personal. He told me that he had been an Abbott for as long as I had lived in Thailand. We had unknowingly been neighbors for several years. He had been born a Muslim within a community attached to a mosque that my daughter played in as a child. As a young boy, when his Muslim father died, his mother, as a Buddhist, had him enter monkhood to earn merit for her departed husband. He liked it so much he stayed on. I asked if he thought he had unwittingly fulfilled his destiny. He chuckled as he affirmed that he had. As we chatted, discovering the things we shared in common, a trainee nurse listened on amused as she busily injected medications through a syringe port in his hand. 
At one point, I don’t know what made me ask the sweet-looking young nurse what she was injecting into her patient, but I did. Facing me and ignoring the Abbott she answered, “Potassium”. I asked her to explain the need for potassium to the Abbott himself. She couldn’t. So I did and by so doing drew her into our conversation. I gently proceeded to tell her in a friendly and informal manner that each time she met with any of her patients she could always enlighten them as to what she was doing. Not only would she better remember what she was learning but would also provide her charges an empowered part in their own treatment. I explained that if we are able to understand what treatments and medications were used for and how they basically worked within our bodies then the power of positive expectation would possibly assist treatment and outcome. “At the very least the patient would feel included” I whispered. The Abbott became animated and heartily nodded at me in agreement as I covered the need to engage those within our care, especially their minds with a sense of understanding if they so wished to know. “For out of our thinking springs much!” I concluded. 
The encouraging change that came over my elderly “sacred orange-robed friend” was noticeable. I realized that he, like any of us, wanted to know what was being done to his body. He desired to be talked to in a humanly engaging manner and not only treated as the patient in bed number 12, nor even as a holy man who should have already ticked all of his boxes. 
A group of visiting monks signaled it was time for me to take my leave, but not before promising to return to continue our conversation. 
Today, I better understood that whether a religious devotee or otherwise, whether in full health or when facing life-shortening struggles, there lies a common essential requirement of needing to be seen, heard, and recognized. From criminal to Abbott, each of us deserves to be treated humanely in order to be pain-free and have our symptoms managed so that we are comfortable. Beyond basic care, our yearnings to retain dignity as we are nurtured, supported, validated, loved, and respected in our most vulnerable of states must also be met. To do so is very possibly comingling the sacred and the practical in a balanced manner of holy and whole!

Susan Dustin - January 2018

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Happy Christmas everyone

Happy Christmas and a very Happy New Year

Let's try and make 2018 another year where we reach out and help people everywhere

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The State of Cancer

I received this e-mail from Healthline (USA) who have been tremendously supportive of my blog over the past 3 years.

I am happy to share their recently published report on 'the state of cancer' and I'm sure you'll find it very beneficial reading, whether for yourself, a friend or family member.....

Dear Daniel,

As a major source of inspiration, information, and support for cancer patients and those who love them, Prostate Cancer - Our Journey is changing the way individuals relate to their cancer. 

Healthline understands this because we recently published a report on the State of Cancer, an in-depth research report and thorough survey complete with clear statistics and infographics. Prostate Cancer - Our Journey helps by:

  • Providing answers and support: 74% of newly diagnosed individuals went online to find answers within one week of diagnosis. Many of those people searching for answers and support found you.
  • Breaking through the “doctor speak”: several patients interviewed noted that they felt more anxious about their condition after talking to their doctors, and turned to the internet to find understanding.
  • Building long-term community: 59% of millennials & 51% of Gen Xers stay engaged in groups after remission.

When individuals get diagnosed, they turn to you for information. The more information you can provide, the stronger a resource you can be for those who look to you. With this end in mind, would you consider sharing our State of Cancer report with your readers?

Healthline wants to thank you for participating in the sharing of information and empathy. We hope we can continue to work together to make the world a stronger, healthier place. 

In health,

Shelby Drabot
Outreach Coordinator

Monday, 11 December 2017

My wonderful Christmases in the 60s

Christmas back then didn't start in September, as it does now; it started just a few weeks before, which made it oh so much more special. Can you imagine, Christmas when only one person in the street owned a car, everybody was employed, and nobody had a telephone? Writing letters was the way to keep in touch, and if you had to call, there was the big red phone-box at the end of the street; and I was still trying to work out buttons A and B because now I could reach them.

The TV was becoming affordable, but even so, very few had one where we lived. It would soon arrive though, firstly in black and white, with blissfully just two channels, and we'd all pack into Daphne's house when she shouted, "Lone Ranger's on!" Her husband, Dobin, worked in the Army stores, so they were almost middle class! She also predicted that TV was an evil that would destroy future generations of children, but it also brought me Robin Hood and William Tell, so I wasn't listening.

My Grandmother would send a chicken (dead), all the way from Ireland! Yes, it smelt pretty bad when it arrived, the postman would always hold his handkerchief over his nose and mouth, but it tasted delicious once cooked. You had to use the vegetables from your own garden, everybody did, and being Irish we were good at growing potatoes, which we swapped with the neighbors who were good at sprouts, making everyone happy. My parents were very poor, but I have to say they always made Christmas feel like a magical time. Along with my teachers, they planted and cultivated an imagination that lived and grew with me to this day. In fact, only Disney films could compare with what went on in my mind back then and often still does!

Christmas Cards were essential and not getting a card was like being 'unfriended' on Facebook. You sent and received cards from everyone you knew and cared about, and they often had their latest address on so you could be sure to know where to send their card. If you were lucky, there would be a 10/- note or even a £1, but as soon as my Grandmother's card arrived, it would always contain a British £5 note; which wasn't that easy for an old lady living on a small farm in the Republic of Ireland.  
Putting things into perspective, my father was earning £15 a week; my pocket money was one shilling (there were 20 in a pound), and a new car cost around £950. We never did afford one, but it didn't seem to matter, our legs, a bicycle or the bus would take us everywhere.

There was always loads of snow from around December to February and no better site than looking out the window on a cold winter evening, with the coal fire at your back, and seeing giant snowflakes starting to fall gently in front of the yellow street lights. The following morning we would go out to a carpet of new crunchy white snow, often up to my waist, then we'd build massive snowmen and have snowball fights until our hands went blue. Some of the ice slides we made must have been the length of the street, and we'd play for hours, regardless of falls, cuts and bruises.
It usually ended with some miserable old person pouring boiling water and throwing sand over our ‘work of art', and as that older person now, I can, at last, understand why!

Just as well I had all those outdoor activities because when it came to Christmas presents, there were very few. I had a clockwork fireman, I'd wind him up, and he'd climb to the top of the ladder and slide down again. How could that keep me occupied for hours? It did! Jigsaw puzzles were all the rage, and the more complex, the better; I even had one with just a cloudy sky! The only Christmas decorations were paper chains that you'd lick the ends and make yourself. I wish I'd thought of the wet sponge sooner as I found out the glue was made from old dead horses. I could never understand that, because when you touch a horse, it's not that sticky, is it?

Meccano was to change my life forever; I could now build machines, but my attempt to make my very own electric motor was a bridge too far resulting in my first electric shock; such a scary feeling. I engaged my younger brother in switching on future experiments; he was a willing victim.

As the 60s wore on we became a bit better off and Christmas saw my Mum switching from Emva Cream sherry to Harvey's Bristol Cream and my Dad choosing Castella cigars over his pipe. Soon, Blue Nun and Mateus Rose started washing down Vesta Chow Mein and spaghetti bolognaise as immigration, thankfully, began to change our diet in a way we couldn't have imagined.     

The postman delivered on Christmas Eve, right up to 4 pm and though he had the next day off, he was there bright and early on Boxing Day. But, even the milkman delivered on Christmas Day morning, and after a sherry at every house, I often wonder what his evenings were like!

My favourite Christmas hits of the 60's?

1962 Elvis Presley – Return to Sender
1963 The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand
1966 Tom Jones – The Green Grass of Home
1967 The Beatles – Hello Goodbye
1968 Scaffold – Lily the Pink

Did Father Christmas exist? That was the terrible question I had to deliberate one day and though I had no doubts, it did lead me onto the shameful path of trying to prove to other less faithful followers, that he was as real as them. I thought very logically about how this obese man could fit down our chimney, even though the coal fire was in full blaze, and carrying all those presents. Surely at the very least, he'd get utterly filthy? There had to be another explanation, and that could only be ‘magic.'
So having accepted that it was possible for this guy to park a sled and team of reindeer on our council house roof, and drop in with all those goodies, I'd have to catch him in the act. I'd tried all the usual stuff, leaving out the mince pies and the sherry, and sure enough, they had all gone in the morning, which proved what?  My parents filled the sherry glass, as usual, that night and along with the mince pies, left them by the fireplace. My mother was very ill that Christmas and my mind did not link that to the sherry I'd half emptied and topped up with bleach. Father Christmas was indeed a superman; even poison couldn't slow him down, he had proved himself beyond doubt.
That someone ate them? I wanted conclusive proof but was told that if Father Christmas heard me, he might vanish so quickly, perhaps even forgetting to leave presents. After years of failed attempts, in 1966, I came up with the perfect plan – I would make him sick enough to slow him down and that way I'd at least see him as he struggled onto the roof.

I was told that if I stopped believing in Father Christmas, he would stop coming, and that was a risk I wasn't prepared to take. Aged 12, I was still shouting down the doubters, like a preacher trying to uphold the word of God; nobody was going to convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

2017 – My year without alcohol!

That was the target I set myself back in December 2016. Why? Because I'd been drinking regularly since the age of 15, probably earlier, and at 65 I wanted to tweak a few things in my life, to see if things could be done differently. I guess the driving force was sort of a ‘bucket list’ item: I wanted to see what it felt like to be a non-drinker again, just one more time.

So, why not give up for a week, even a month, wouldn't that do it? Well, I tried that last year when I gave up for 90 days, and here's what happened. After 30 days you realise that you're starting to come out of a mental haze, a numbing cloud that's always there with you, but you’re never aware of when you're a regular drinker.

I had no idea how thick that cloud was, after all, I'd never tried walking out of it before!
After 60 days, the cloud was getting noticeably thinner, but I was still moving through it and felt that I hadn't yet reached the edge. This was even the case at 90 days, and because I'd reached my target, I had a bottle of wine that night to celebrate, and a few beers. If only I'd continued, would I have found the edge of that cloud? Would I have one day been able to look back at that fog, see it from a distance and say, "hell, I was trapped in there once." I concluded that 3 months was probably not enough time to know what it felt like to be a non-drinker. The answer lay further into the future, and I was determined to find it, but the time had to be right and I had to be ready.

My top tip: Don't try and stop drinking with willpower alone; it simply doesn't work.  
You'll be forever walking past bars full of ‘happy' people and couples sharing bottles of wine, and you'll be wishing you were sat right in there with them. That's not the way! You need to do what I did first and change the way you see alcohol and the role it plays in the lives of all who allow it to run their agenda. See how we are brainwashed almost from birth into thinking that this substance is our friend, used at every celebration, a reward for a hard days work and such a cool thing to do.

No better book taught me this than one written by Annie Grace, 'This Naked Mind.'
You need to turn that switch in your mind before embarking on this adventure; you have to change what you have always believed about this ‘nectar' and start to question the benefits that you get for the money you spend.

When you reach the 90-day mark, yes, it's a significant achievement and probably the hardest point to reach. Friends will try and steer you the other way, and there will be many, many times when you question your judgment. You'll be continuously reminded of what fun it is to drink, on films, advertising, almost everywhere you look. This is also the time when many people fail, but if you can crack the 90 days, there are huge rewards ahead.

It's somewhere after the six months point that you suddenly realise that you've ‘broken the habit.' You don't want a drink of alcohol anymore; you've replaced that habit with other types of drinks and activities. Maybe we’re all creatures of habit, rabbits that stick to the same runs, day in, day out, so if we do choose a habit, better to try and pick some good ones. There were physical and mental changes for me, some very unexpected. I lost over 10kg, which meant I had to buy more shirts and trousers, but hey, I was feeling healthier than I had for years. I'd started to dream again, that surprised me! I'm told it's because you sleep far deeper when there's no alcohol involved, even though it may take you slightly longer to get to sleep, and you sure do wake up feeling a hell of a lot better than after a skin-full the night before.
You can ignore the restraints that alcohol used to put on your life, such as what time you go shopping because it has to coincide with licensing hours, and when you can and can't take the car because now you can drive at any time. The money I save, although not the driving force was a massive bonus and I can now treat myself to things I used to view as extravagant. I drink more coffee than I used to and certainly eat a bit more chocolate, even the occasional cake, but on balance, I'm happy with my diet.

Did I ever like the taste of alcohol? I remember the first time a tasted whiskey, it was probably the worst thing I'd ever tasted and couldn't spit it out fast enough. Years later though, after absorbing enough adverts and cowboy films, I wanted to be that ‘wild west hero' who shot all the bad guys, pulled all the chicks and then hit the local saloon for a large Jack Daniels. I was hooked! I grew up with Guinness in Ireland, as much part of the culture as the Catholic Church and the second word I learned to spell.

The Guinness brewery in Dublin draws its water from the bogs that feed the River Liffey. As is tradition, my Grandfather and I stood at the edge one day and sent our joint waters into those marshes, knowing that we would both unite and become part of the Guinness forever; such is the tragic magic that weaves Irish folklore into the shareholder's dividends of this national brewery.

 Yes, I can look back now and see that cloud, and wow, it was far bigger than I could ever have imagined. I walked out of that mass without really knowing how far from the edge I was, or even if there was an edge. Was I an alcoholic? I don't think so. I didn't get the sweats or shakes when I stopped, or contract any mental health problems. Did I have a bad habit? That more fits the bill. Yes, I had a bad habit!

Will I drink alcohol again? I'm not setting any more targets, that’s a sure way to fail, but right now, I can't imagine going back into that cloud, not now that I can see the world again as it really is.

For support: Take a look at a fantastic UK based organisation run by Andy Ramage and Ruari Fairbairns. 

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

New today (5th December) in Thailand. Big advance in detection of prostate cancer announced!

This sounds like an amazing advance in prostate cancer detection and the possibilities for its application across all cancers is mind-boggling.

This test is more accurate than anything ever imaginable a few years ago. But- I feel that I am 'cancer free' 7 years after surgery and I'm delighted with that. 
Having had a quick read I see only one drawback. If this test can detect tiny microscopic metastatic prostate cancer cells in my bones, that might never bother me in my lifetime, would I really want to know about that; also knowing that nothing could be done?

Bangkok, Thailand –  X-ZELL, a global biotech firm specialising in rare cell detection technology, is launching a revolutionary new prostate cancer test in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The test – aptly named X-ZELL Prostate™ – will be available FROM TODAY via Chularat 9 Hospital in Bangkok, conveniently located near Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
According to X-ZELL CEO, Dr Sebastian Chakrit Punyaratabandhu Bhakdi (pictured above), the launch on Thai Father’s Day not only demonstrates the company’s commitment to protecting men’s health, but also marks a historic milestone for the start-up, with Thailand becoming the first country worldwide to have access to the game-changing test, which is able to find a new type of cancer cell that has been considered undetectable until now.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

They will never forget how you made them feel....

When I was diagnosed with cancer, some seven years ago, I thought I was about to say goodbye to a life I had, in the main, really enjoyed. At the time, my friend Charlie became a great support, sending many an encouraging mail. We joined the Army together as 14-year-old boys on 9th May 1967; hard to believe when I look at kids that age now! We were both top of our tree when it came to athletics and a guaranteed gold medal for our unit every time we competed. We both went on to gain Regimental and British Army colours! I guess that’s why we both look at our bodies now, and think, what went wrong?

Charlie Dowie
How sad I was then, a few years back, to hear that Charlie had been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND), putting him now ahead of me in the river of life, but still not far enough ahead to hear the falls! Of course, none of us really know where we are on that river; the falls can come at a seconds notice. I may yet overtake my friend, life’s like that, and all that Charlie and I can do for now, is the same as anyone else - enjoy the river. 

When we are gone, all we really leave is our reputation and how we made others feel. Charlie’s reputation is very much embedded in this letter he wrote to me recently and has given permission to publish. At a time when you might think he would be caving in, he’s thinking of those around him and making it as easy for them as possible; that’s the mark of the man!

Swim on my friend, there's many a bend yet, and I'm right behind you...

Daniel Sencier

 Hi Dan,

Many apologies Dan – like you I got caught up in things to do – not least building up a presentation and preparing for a Q&A session with my local Hospice – and the local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group). I attend the Hospice once week – daycare – for a bit of light relief and a chat with a few other MND affected people as well as a few cancer patients. It is quite humorous talking about what will, in all likelihood, kill us. It is a no holds barred discussion about what is affected, the cures, the care system and end-of-life stuff – quite uplifting too. The hospice staff are a great bunch of people and it was they who wanted to know more about MND and in particular how it is affecting me. The CCG are coming along too because they also want to know more about my experiences with the care system and how they might improve things – they want to give a presentation to the CCG Board of Directors so I took the opportunity to double up on the day. Quite looking forward to the day.

I was recently rather perplexed by the host of questions the hospice staff were asking about my mental state – they have a set of standard questions that give them a ‘score’ indicating ‘state of mind’. I had scored a ‘zero’ in all their graphic scores – not heard of before – and they thought I was maybe hiding some issues from them – but I have been tested many times and always come up with zero issues. My explanation is simple:

                ‘…you can sit on your RS and tune into black box of bad news (BBC etc) and rant at the perceived injustices in the world – OR – take a hold of the ‘black dog’ and screw it up tight and stuff it in the waste bin – and get on with living my life and not someone else’s…’

Seem to have done the trick. The neurologist suggested that it was OK to get angry at the way this disease gets to you – but I replied that ‘I could’ but it doesn’t help Mags – the main carer – to see me getting angry with myself or feeling sorry for myself. It is a fine line between sharing and caring. I tread that line with great care – but err on the side of humour and positivity. I think it helps her a great deal to know that I am OK with MND and whatever it will bring.

About that ‘ hereafter’ stuff: science would have us believe that matter (in whatever shape or from) remains constant – just gets changed – so I can see how those Roman soldiers are still ‘with us’. But thinking about that – if we are just a collection of atoms arranged in a particular way for a period of time then why not believe in ‘re-incarnation’ of atoms – so with that logic we must all have something of the past within us – and something of the universe too – star child springs to mind (Arthur C Clarke). What if we could find those ‘particular atoms’ and recreate them – hey – Frankenstein!. 

Thanks for thinking about stopping or reversing MND – one day I’m sure – but just maybe not today – but I live in hope. 

I still don’t hear the crash of the waterfall – but like you – I know it’s there.

Take care Dan  


Monday, 20 November 2017

Emergency? Do you know what to do?

Of course, while we are all busy thinking of cancer, which is relatively long-term, we can find ourselves faced with sudden emergencies that can end life even sooner, if not dealt with immediately.

Would you know what to do if the person in front of you collapsed at your feet?

I recently organised a 1st Aid and CPR training course kindly provided by BNH Hospital in Bangkok. Everyone left feeling far more confident that they now had some valuable skills.
Ask at your local hospital to see if you can do the same.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Slowed the progression of prostate cancer in 80% of men

Six injections of OncBioMune Pharmaceuticals‘ prostate cancer vaccine ProscaVax stopped the progression of the disease in 80 percent of patients in a Phase 1 clinical trial, the company announced.
The results applied to patients who had been treated for 19 weeks. All the participants had cancer that had returned after other treatment regimens.
“All the data to date is consistent with previous study data showing ProscaVax elicits immune responses to fight tumor growth in prostate cancer,” Dr. Jonathan Head, chief executive officer of OncBioMune, said in a press release. “We are impressed that 80 percent of the patients treated with ProscaVax demonstrated stable disease” — that is, no progression.
ProscaVax immunizes patients against the protein prostate specific antigen, or PSA, high levels of which are associated with cancer. The vaccine includes PSA plus two immune system activators, interleukin-2, or IL-2, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, or GM-CSF. It is designed to boost the immune response against prostate cancer cells.
The ongoing Phase 1 trial (NCT02058680) is evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness against recurrent  prostate cancer in patients whose PSA levels had increased for more than six months before the trial started. The study is also assessing the vaccine’s safety.
In the Phase 1a part of the trial, the 20 participants received vaccine shots at weeks 1, 2, 3, 7, 11, and 15.
At 19 weeks, in the first patient follow-up, researchers discovered that the cancer of 16 of the 19 patients had failed to progress. Among the four patients whose disease progressed, three had higher PSA levels. Imaging indicated that the cancer of the other had spread to the brain.
Researchers also found the vaccine to be safe. They observed no serious adverse events or dose-limiting adverse events in the 30 days after vaccination began.
OncBioMune is conducting additional analysis to determine whether the vaccine can increase patients’ immune response against PSA and decrease PSA doubling times — a measure of cancer progression.
“We look forward to continuing to follow the patients in this study to collect additional data and also to conducting a larger study to further validate the therapeutic benefit of our vaccine platform technology,” Head said.
The Phase 1b part of the trial will involve patients receiving booster shots at weeks 27, 35, and 43, along with IL-2 injections at weeks 23, 31, and 39.
The Phase 1 trial is being conducted at the University of California San Diego Medical School, with support from the U.S. Navy Cancer Vaccine Program.