Bit of a setback - but table progressing well

09 Jan 2012

I'm sorry to have to start 2012 with a a bit of a down-beat note but  I had slightly disappointing news when I saw my oncologist today. The latest CT scan shows a small deterioration in the tumours. It's not much but is discernible.

It's a bit if a surprise as I have been feeling well and have been out cycling and walking regularly and have had a good rest from work. But that's one of the odd aspects of cancer - you don't always feel unwell with it.

However, there are also some positive aspects. Firstly, my consultant is surprised and pleased at how well I am. Second, the growth of the tumours is very slow and, overall, they are still smaller than before the chemotherapy. I also take some comfort from the fact that the CT scan doesn't prove that the tumours are growing now, only that here has been growth since the last scan which was 4 months ago. It could be that the growth happened some time back and has now been arrested (of course, it could equally be that it has only just started....but I instinctively feel that I have grown stronger after the Christmas/ New Year period of rest from work).

So it is a setback, but that just means I need to increase my focus on getting well again.  

So I now have two treatment options: either chemotherapy with a different drug, Docetaxel or a tablet called Erlotinib (trade name Tarceva). Actually there is a third option: to shun the conventional medical approach and keep going with my many complementary methods and with diet and exercise.

My consultant set out the options very clearly and fairly and left me feeling that it was my choice, which I greatly appreciated. He also made clear that I have already fared far better than would be expected in the average case and that - while the body doesn't always reveal the extent of the cancer - it is a positive sign that I am feeling well. 

I quickly rejected the idea of more chemotherapy. From what I have read, chemo does not have a good success record (even though it is one of the main tools in the medical armoury). I still have the side-effects of the last treatment in the form of numbness in my feet. I also don't like the way it attacks the healthy cells too, leaving you feeling so weak and unable to resist the cancer.

 I prefer the tablet option. However, Erlotinib is mainly effective when tumours have the EGFR mutation. My tumours do not. On the plus side, the side-effects are not so bad. Mind you, they aren't a picnic either. They usually include an acne-type rash on your face, neck and trunk and tiredness. So spots and an inability get out of bed ...sounds like a return to teenage years!

On reflection, my current instinct is to take neither of these routes just yet but to continue with complementary methods and further changes to my diet and even more exercise. However, I may in time go for the tablet option, depending on how things progress. 

Meanwhile, I have also signed up for a medical trial which involves further tests on the molecular structure of my tumour (from a biopsy taken earlier). The drugs involved in this trial are still in the research or pilot stage but they may offer another option further down the road, although it was stressed to me that the trial is mainly for the benefit of future, not current, patients. 

One reason I wish to wait a bit before taking more drugs is that I have been impressed by a book I'm reading: 'Cancer Concerns by Xandria Williams (Xtra health Publications, 2011). More of this when I have finished the book but the central thesis is that while the medical profession is all about detecting and trying to remove the tumour, her approach sees cancer more as a 'process' of which the tumour is only the end point.

Williams argues that cancer is a 'complex sequenceof biochemical and physiological activities that may have been going on in your body for many years before any sign of tumours'. So her response is not a 'full frontal attack' on the tumour but involves learning about - and reversing - the cancer process, by removing the 'predisposing factors' and by changing the cancer biochemistry.

The book is well argued and based on scientific evidence but drawing more on biochemistry than medical science. The 'treatment' varies according to individual cases but one approach it advocates is focused on dietary changes, starving cancer cells of the things they thrive on (glucose) and encouraging healthy cells through increased consumption of enzymes, vitamins, and  nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables and fruit.  For non-scientists like me, it is not an easy read, but it's worth the effort.

  Anyway, that's enough of the serious stuff. The picture above shows I am making progress with my table at the furniture-making classes (top marks if you recognised that I'm using a spokeshave). It's now nearly finished - yes, after a mere 5 months! I'm now open to ideas for my next project. 



User Comments

Hilary - 09 Jan 2012


I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 07, with activated lymph node and had FEC and docetaxal (3 sessions of each). Yes, not fun, but I am still here and positive. I strongly believe that this is our strongest defence. Whatever you choose, I wish you the best of luck. Stay upbeat - and as a teacher, I appreciate your education news too... Take care.

Sean Coughlan - 09 Jan 2012

Turning the table

Happy new year Mike. Keep at it. Understated courage like your is always the most impressive. Look forward to seeing you in 2012.

Stephen Heppell - 09 Jan 2012


Flip - before I claim my top marks for spotting the spokeshave (impressed!) I just wanted to say it seems only yesterday that 100 days was a fab achievement, and that is eons ago now. In amongst all that, you have set a lot of us of onto a more healthy lifestyle, I'm down 22kg already, eating better too. Hope to see you soon - seems ages; well, that in itself is pretty good isn't it?

Graham Game - 09 Jan 2012

Sorry to hear your news . .

Hi Mike - Really sorry to hear about the tumors. I was amazed by how well you looked over Christmas & I'm sure that a fit body & positive mind will be able to overcome any setbacks.
Chrissie was reading a book called 'Conscious Medicine' which I am now reading too - it really is an eye-opener & very well written & researched. Take care & we will see you again soon.

Gary - 10 Jan 2012


Mike, as always inspirational to read your blog and I hope all goes well for you in 2012 and especially in those trials you are part of. I must admit my carpentry skills are negligible (indeed they were even in my woodwork classes many years ago) so I hope to see your table laid with tea and cake in the future

Steve Taylor - 10 Jan 2012

You are an inspiration..

Happy New Year, Mike. Your whole attitude is an inspiration to everyone, and I wish you all the best for the coming year, whatever route you go down. Love to you and all your family.

Christine Herbert - 10 Jan 2012


the most important thing to remember is that there are many right ways to treat your cancer and the only one who can really make the choice is you. That lays a heavy burden on you, and often we want someone else to take that responsibility which is where things usually start to go wrong. So follow your gut instincts, keep reading and informing yourself and you will be doing the right thing for you. The messages you are picking up from Xandrias book are all well established in alternative cancer treatment and are important - but not everything is going to be right for you. Carpentry is a great way to keep grounded and let those choices happen more easily - keep it up. all my love Christine

Andy Davies - 13 Jan 2012

Best wishes

Dear Mike,

I have been following your blog since it started (and your education work for a long time before that) and this is the first time I have written. I just wanted to send all my best wishes to you and your family.
Best wishes

John Izbicki - 20 Jan 2012

Cancer blog

First of all, have a very happy New Year and may it be better than 2011 and 2010!! Your slight setback is fairly normal in cancer. One has ups and downs but the downs don't always turn out to be nasty. The main thing is the way you feel in yourself and, from what you say, that's fine. Keep it up and always remain positive. You are and always have been a true survivor!

Angela H - 22 Jan 2012

Sending you good wishes Mike. Sorry to hear of your set back but heartened by your positive approach. It was lovely to see you in the autumn - and that table looks fab.

Ronnie MacFarlane - 01 Feb 2012

Cancer treatment

Dearest Mike - I had coffee with Wendy the other day and I am ashamed to confess I didn't know about your blog until she told me. I will follow it religiously now I promise! You are amazing. You are the most upbeat correspondent I ever worked with and if anyone deserves a break, it's you. Good luck with this diet. Your determination is an absolute inspiration to everyone, sick and well.
Very best wishes, Ronnie.

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