Tag Archives: survivng pancreatic cancer

Salute to the Queen

11 Jun

Sometimes you just have to see the sunnier side of a situation. Yesterday, I had another treatment at Ichilov. Sacrificing my Sunday golf to put a distance of one more day between this treatment and our Friday departure for South Africa.

The more I’m at Ichilov, the more I’m aware of its administrative mess. This time registration and retrieving my file was a relatively simple process – only to be “compensated” by an almost two hour wait for a blood test. Then the usual interminable wait for their results, and an even longer wait for the chemo to arrive from the pharmacy.

But as they say in the “Life of Brian” – “Always look on the bright side of life”.

My middle daughter came with us for this treatment – which was a pleasure in itself. Having been allocated my comfy-chair, it was well into the afternoon before we settled down to watch the Nadal/Djokovic final on the personal entertainment system. Nice. But while flipping through the channels we came across a replay on BBC Entertainment of the Jubilee concert for the Queen outside Buckingham Palace. Someone must have been looking after us. The sound – which is normally limited to head-phones only – came through loud and clear. The likes of Stevie Wonder, Elton John et al soon put us in the mood. Our sing-along was in full swing.

And when Paul McCartney morphed his magic into the national anthem – I couldn’t help myself and stood up and saluted the Queen!!! How many cancer patients can claim that feat during a treatment? (or would want to….)      

My daughter took some photos of me, hooked up to my medication, standing and saluting the Queen – with Her Majesty smiling serenely back from the screen. But as I’ve said several times before, my narrative in this blog remains in the medium of the written word only, and I’m not tempted to document it with photos. “CAN CANcer be fun?” (my blog of Jan 12, 2012) remains the only exception.

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The Passion to Survive Pancreatic Cancer

4 May

Recently I’ve found myself being criticised for being too “passionate”. I’m not referring to any lurid lechery but more mundane matters. For example, when I let out one of my expletives on the golf course. My golf partners can hear me calling myself “twit” or “you silly boy” – strong stuff indeed. Then I’m told to calm down – it’s only a game. Or letting my emotions get the better of me when West Ham concedes yet another goal. “They don’t care about you – why should you care about them”, I’ve been reprimanded. Or little idiosyncrasies of people in the service industry that tend to irritate me. Being told “Why do you take things so seriously? Don’t take them to heart” – is not exactly heartening.

I look at these minor infractions and ask myself whether they have any meaning. My outbursts on the golf course are only aimed at myself, and last no more than the moment. I demand a high standard of myself and if I can’t hit that little stationary b… ball, why can’t I be irritated with myself? And wishing West Ham win? It’s only a game – and for its duration, why can’t my team win?

The question is whether my attitude today is any different from before I was diagnosed, and whether it makes any difference? The answer to the first question is a definite “no” but to the second question a definite “yes”.

To those who know me, it’ll come as no surprise that I can often be ignited from a very short fuse. I may go “bang” but then it’s all behind me. The bashing is basically at myself – and I’d be sorry if anyone felt slighted.

As to whether it makes any difference?  Cancer hasn’t changed my character. I’ve always been passionate about causes that concern me. I see my passion as a spark that is able to ignite my continuing fight.

This week I went to the funeral of a work colleague. A “Yekke”  born in Berlin in the 20s who came to Palestine as a twelve year old and became a legend in his own life-time defending the country. There were a number of old-timers there, many of whom I hadn’t seen for a while, who looked at me as if to say “What, you’re still here? You really must be amazing”. I don’t see it as such. Deeds of daring deserve their due, while I struggle to find the answer as to how I’m hanging in.

Perhaps passion is part of the plan. In the meantime, West Ham are surviving in the play-offs and I want to see them play in the Premiership next year. Maybe it’s not only a game.

 

      

 

Keith’s Perspective

1 May

Other than Pam’s two perspectives, the only other contribution so far, not written in my own hand, was from my brother-in-law Pip “Can Cancer be Fun”. Now, it’s my brother-in-law Keith’s turn to give his professional perspective. I have no words to thank these two incredible human beings:

 

Shortly after Martin’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Sheila and I flew to Israel, painfully aware of the dire situation and the grim prognosis. The initial ultrasound assessment had showed a possibly benign cyst in the pancreas, but the MRI scan was far more sinister – highly suggestive of an invasive pancreatic cancer.  A diagnostic laparoscopy confirmed the worst–adenocarcinoma of the pancreas with multiple metastatic deposits in the peritoneum.  Aggressive treatment with radiotherapy and gemcitabine chemotherapy was started the day following his laparotomy. Within days Martin was gravely ill, primarily as a result of side effects of his treatment regime.  We arrived to this awful scene, finding Martin severely weakened and exhausted.

I needed to spend time with Martin and Pam at the hospital during his treatments. Sheila took to spending hours researching conventional and alternative treatments for pancreatic cancer.  Just prior to flying out, we had become interested in the growing movement showing various health benefits to a low carbohydrate/ gluten free diet. Surprisingly, some of the research Sheila was investigating showed this approach might influence tumor progression and growth.  Unfortunately no well- researched studies have ever been done in this area, so we had to be guided by the basic science and our instincts. There certainly was evidence that individuals with metabolic syndrome, elevated blood glucose and diabetes were more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.  Martin’s blood testing had revealed glucose intolerance.  The basic science also made sense – pancreatic cancer cells lose the ability to switch to metabolize ketones instead of glucose – an ability normal, healthy cells retain. The theory was simple and compelling – decreasing the amount of glucose available to tumor cells would choke their growth and lead to cancer cell death. This is the metabolic approach to tumor genesis, known as the Warburg hypothesis (proposed by Nobel Laureate Otto Warburg).

Could a simple dietary intervention be effective in treating such an aggressive cancer? What other safe interventions looked promising?  The research showed Curcumin (an extract of tumeric) effective as a synergistic agent with standard chemotherapy, resveratrol as a powerful antioxidant with activity against tumor cells, and metformin (a glucose lowering drug used for diabetes) to be the prime candidates. How though to convince Martin to embark on this restrictive diet and multiple supplement regime, with a dearth of scientific evidence to back it up? Well-intentioned oncologists and nutritionists were treating him with intravenous glucose infusions and encouraging him to eat ice cream and sugar in order to “gain weight”!

Somehow Martin found the strength to live up to the challenge, and became the most compliant and faithful “patient” I have ever seen! Since hearing the theory and explanation, he made his decision to embrace the diet and supplements and has stuck 100% to a ketogenic lifestyle subsequently.  His blog attests to the remarkable progress he has made. At the time of writing, his disease remains in a stable remission, he has done numerous overseas trips (including a fantastic visit to us in Canada!), plays golf regularly and for the most part has good energy and no pain.  There have been various changes in his chemotherapy regime, which can be read in his blog.

There is no way of telling what factors have led to such a remarkable outcome. Perhaps it is a combination of medical therapy, diet and genome.  It is highly unlikely that a good double-blinded study will be done soon on the ketogenic diet effect on cancer. Rather than wait for that day, Martin has made a lifestyle switch, which seems to have had a very positive effect on his condition. He has by chance or fate become part of the “paleo” movement, which sees the modern Western diet as the source of many chronic diseases and he has shown that eating a more “ancestral” diet can be a healthy and possibly therapeutic choice.

We pray that our “experiment” will go on for many, many years!