Thoughts on Cancer and Life


This is a work in progress as of 1 September and will very quickly contain more information. I intend to get most of the basics in by mid September and then add posts as they come to me. Please feel free to email or post a comment below.

Welcome to this blog which is aimed primarily for men, like me, who have heard those three little words, ‘you have cancer’. It is NOT meant to be a definitive or official guide and is NOT affiliated to any organisation. It is purely the thoughts of a man (me ) who has been through the journey and treatment of cancer and gained some insights into making life more bearable when the going gets tough. I hope that in these pages you will find something which will help or aid you or your loved one through difficult and challenging times. I wish you love and respect.

I was diagnosed with Intra-vascular B Cell Lymphoma in December 2010 and after treatment with R Chop Chemotherapy over a period of 4 months I was given the good news that I was cancer free. These times were ( and sometimes continue to be ) extremely arduous and frustrating but now, being in remission, I have the luxury of hindsight. I will be passing on what I think could be useful information to any men who find themselves in a similar situation.

The first thing to say and in no way flippantly, in the now famous words of Douglas Adams, ‘Don’t Panic!’, ask questions of your doctor.

Obviously this is a far easier thing to say with the benefit of hindsight, however it is a true reflection of my feelings from the day I was told by my consultant that I had cancer. It is possible/probable that anyone receiving a diagnosis of cancer will go through a torrent of emotions and that the words,’you have cancer’ will have a wide range of effects including devastation, disbelief, anger, fear, denial, apathy and many, many more. Whatever you feel is exactly that and is not wrong. Everyone will react differently but my suggestion stood me in good stead at the diagnosis stage and all the way through treatment to the present day.

As I listened to those words being spoken to me back in December 2010, a thousand questions sprang to mind, intermingled with horrible thoughts of my past life, death, joy and suffering not only for me but for my family and loved ones.I decided to take a deep breath and concentrate on the present moment, on what was being said and what I could find out from my consultant.

This then is how my first thought came about, ‘Don’t Panic! Listen to your doctor and ask lots of questions.

What you ask at this point can be anything and please, please take the time you think you need. Armed with information from your doctor you will feel more confident about your situation and be better armed to face the journey. All through my treatment I would ask questions of anyone who I thought could provide me with information. I have written a separate page of questions and answers which you may find helpful. Please feel free to email or comment below. I promise to reply.


Treatments for cancer include, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, hormonal therapies and biological therapies. See Macmillan for more information. The treatment which I received was a course of R Chop Chemotherapy. R-CHOP is named after the initials of the drugs used, which are, with links to more information at MacMillan:

  • rituximab – is a monoclonal antibody
  • cyclophosphamide – a chemotherapy drug
  • doxorubicin  a chemotherapy drug that has the chemical name hydroxydaunorubicin
  • vincristine – a chemotherapy drug that was originally known as Oncovin®
  • prednisolone – a steroid.

On the same day as my first cycle, just before the R-Chop chemotherapy was ready I was given anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs.  I also began a five-day course of 100 mg per day of prednisolone tablets followed by 16 days of just 20mg of prednisolone. That made 21 days or three weeks for the cycle known as R-CHOP21. Other drugs I had to take were, 300mg Allopurinol, 305mg Ferrous Fumarate, 480mg Co-Trimoxazole, 900mg Valganciclovir,500mg Calcichew, 50mg Diflucan, 20mg Omeprazole, 5mg Odansetron, 15mg Metocloprimide, 10g Sodium Bicarbonate, 400mg Dipyridamole,.Sub Cut injection of Lenograstin. Some of these drugs were treatment for the kidney transplant which I had received.

After the rest period the same treatment was repeated again, which began the next cycle of my chemotherapy. Usually 6–8 cycles are given over a period of 3–4 months. I received 6 cycles which made up a course of treatment.

I found myself taking a lot of drugs and it was obvious that I had to have some organisation in order to make sure I took the right drugs at the right time and also to ensure that I had adequate stocks.  With my partner we developed a simple chart with the drugs to be taken and the times on the left side of a sheet and days of the week across the top. I also took stock once a week to ensure that I had sufficient drugs in hand, I settled on ten days supply as being the re-order point and along with the pharmacy obtaing repeat prescriptions from my doctor I rarel found myself short of any drugs. Some drugs had to be taken 3 or 4 times a day others just once a day or even once per week. Reading the instructions on drugs was very important became second nature to me. I found that some HAD to be taken on an empty stomach, at least one hour before food and you could not lie down for at least 30 minutes. Other drugs HAD to be taken just before food or even just after food. Using the drug sheet to keep track of the different requirements was really useful and saved me from going totally mad.

As well as these treatments there are also what is known as complementary therapies, most often used by people like me with cancer. These therapies are used to to give support through cancer and its treatment. I had regular sessions of Reiki which I found to be effective on two levels. Firstly I found that it had a relaxing and calming effect and secondly it helped to make various pains more bearable with less drugs.


Because I live in England I would normally pay for prescriptions as follows;

Prescription costs as of April 1 2011
The current prescription charge is £7.40 per item.
A three monthly PPC is £29.10. This saves you money if you need four or more items in three months.
A 12 month certificate is £104.00 and saves money if 15 or more items are needed in 12 months.

For people living in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland all prescriptions are free. Because I have cancer I applied for a certificate (FP92A – clearly marked 1 January 2009) to allow me to get free prescriptions. The exemption certificate (FP92A – clearly marked 1 January 2009) for cancer includes, Cancer, The effects of cancer or The effects of cancer treatment. The certificate lasts for 5 years and can be renewed as many times as I need. I just the certificate to the pharmacist when I go to get my medicines. Application was via my GP or I could have got it from my cancer clinic.

If I had already been entitled to free prescriptions, i.e.over 60 years or under 16 years of age or receiving a relevant benefit, such as income support, I could have still applied in case my financial circumstances had changed.

Most pharmacies are ( like mine ) happy to help out by doing repeat prescriptions and may even have a delivery service. This will ensure that I always have enough stock in hand.

Exposure To Sunlight

Too much sun is bad for you! Ever heard that? The sun is a known cancer-causing agent and can promote for skin cancer development even though some melanomas are not sun or UV-light related.  On top of that some of the drugs used in chemo can make your skin more sensitive to damage from the sun. So because I was receiving chemotherapy I had to be extra careful of sunlight, specifically ultraviolet (UV) light emitted by the sun or an artificial tanning device, such as a tanning bed or sun lamp. UVA and UVB light can both be harmful. UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent. They are present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year, and can penetrate clouds and glass. So beware year round.

I never used sunlamps so that wasn’t a problem and I have fair skin so after treatment I always coated myself in a factor 50 sun lotion. Now I always ensure that I have sun protection and this has become standard for me now even after treatment. Try to get this on prescription from your doctor. lt was also important for me to cover my head ( having gone bald )  to avoid sunlight so the Bandarfs were great see JML Direct. I ignored the photos of women demonstrating because if they’re good enough for Johnny Depp and Adam Ant they’re good enough for me. I found some headgear with specific protection against UV light at mountaneering, camping and ramblers shops and although they were a little more expensive I thought they were worth buying.

Another factor which I had to take into account was my recent kidney transplant and the immunosuppressive drugs I have to take now for the rest of my life. Suppressing the immune system limits the body’s ability to recognize cancer cells and eliminate them. Research shows that immunosuppression (suppression of the immune system) is associated with a 4-to 5-fold increased risk of developing melanoma. The risk increases if the person has one or more atypical moles or has already had melanoma. So its coverup for me every time for me.


Hair Loss & Skin Care.

Before I started the course of chemotherapy I was advised that some of the drugs would probably cause hair loss. I didn’t get a lot of advice about this aspect apart from an offhand comment that, ‘you’re probably a ‘bandana man’ and a nod of the head. My only thoughts about this didn’t have time to form but when I chatted with a female friend going through exactly the same treatment she told a different story. She had been offered specialist help via Macmillan and had an appointment to be fitted with a wig and receive some beauty therapy. Whilst it was unlikely that I’d want the same things I was a little disappointed that my own hair loss was being looked at so lightly. I decided to look for alternatives myself. Although being bald is possibly not a great problem to some men I felt that my hair was important to me and that in some ways the sudden loss could be a little upstting, especially as it was all to do with the cancer.

I and my partner researched the subject and had lots of fun coming up some crazy dyeing opportunities prior to hair loss through hats , caps and bananas to use when my hair fell out. My hair started falling out in handfuls in the second week of Chemo and I decided to shave it all off completely and take to wearing Bandarfs or Buffs or various names, which are simple headgear made of a tube of patterned material. I bought 6 to start me off from JML Direct online. I would say don’t be put off that usually they are pictured on women. I simply pictured myself as Johnny Depp and walked around like a pirate trying to keep the oo ahs to myself.. They can also be bought at walkers/ramblers/mountaineering shops and come in a variety of materials which are sweat proof and sunproof. Alternatively you can ask your specialist nurse or doctor about wigs which come free from the NHS. Initially I hated being bald thinking it made me look like a hard case out for trouble but there are so many men who shave their heads now that I was probably amongst the majority.

Miscellaneous Info

From the moment I heard those three words, ‘you have cancer’, I went through a gamut of emotions from denial to anger through guilt and remorse to total acceptance of the worst possible outcome or the best possible outcome. If you’re like me your emotions will swing back and forth every day or even two or three times a day. I think it is only natural to swing back and forth but I found the trick was to stabilise matters a little by asking questions and gaining lots of information. Here are some recommendations on problems which I had, in no particular order.

1. Hair Loss and Skin Care.
2. Exposure to Sunlight.
3. Prescriptions.
4. Drugs.
5. Dry Mouth or xerostomia.
6. Anxiety/Low Feelings.
7. Infertility/Impotence.
8. Side Effects.

Side Effects

Many people who have cancer or who have been treated for cancer develop symptoms or side effects that affect their quality of life. Sometimes the side effects of treatment, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, are more noticeable than the disease, especially in the initial stages. Care given to help patients cope with these symptoms or side effects is called palliative care, comfort care, supportive care, or symptom management. There is a useful fact sheet online produced by the National Cancer Institute, Palliative Care in Cancer, which answers many commonly asked questions on this topic.

Remember that there are treatments available for most side effects. Always talk to your medical team and ask for a solution and take their advice.Here are some effects that I suffered from with possible solutions;

Ulcerated mouth Corsadyl mouthwash1111
Dry mouth, no saliva 1111
Ulcerated mouth 1111
Ulcerated mouth 1111
Ulcerated mouth 1111
Ulcerated mouth 1111

9 Month Update

I have reached 9 months after I received a kidney transplant the news that I had Intravascular Lymphoma. A lot has happened in that time but the main items are;

1. My kidney Transplant is doing well.
2. Cancer is in remmission.

There are still problems in the aftermath but I feel a lot happier about dealing with any issues that come up. Recently I started meeting with a new therapist and have so far had 3 sessions. They have been useful in several ways. Firstly it is good to have someone to talk with in an unrestricted way. Dealing with friends and family can be difficult at times because there are complex issues involved. First and foremost is the feeling that you want and need to protect loved ones and although people say that sharing a problem is good, in my mind I always tread carefully and try to filter any information that I pass on. The fact is that nobody likes a moaner and sometimes I have felt that if I pass on everything that is happening to me then people will get;
A. tired or fed up of me.
B. inured to my situation.
C. scared or anxious when there may be no need.
I know that loved ones are keen to help in any way they can and that it is right and fair to involve them and share my experiences with them. It also helps to bond in the bad times as well as the good. In my mind though I did and still do feel a burden of responsibility to take care of others, even though they are taking care of me; it’s a fine balance.

For me it has been important to have people and/or organisations outside my immediate family. One of the first organisations I contacted was MacMillan Cancer Support and they had an office in the hospital. They do a tremendous job in supporting people in many ways, publishing brochures and a web site with information on every aspect of cancer, one to one consultations, advice on money worries, providing volunteers to help you or your family and much more. They undoubtedly provide a fantastic service and are always there for you. I met with several people there and they were lovely down to earth people who obviously wanted to help, however, I did feel that perhaps my broader needs would be served elsewhere.

My second call was to an organisation called Wirral Holistic Care Services who provide therapeutic cancer care. They offer hope, comfort and support to the many thousands of people living with cancer, through their network of qualified and highly dedicated nurses, therapists, clinicians and specialists – all of whom kindly volunteer so much of their time and energy for the benefit of patients. Therapies include, accupuncture, aromatherapy, healing, counselling, massage, reiki, reflexology, shiatsu and a lot more. For my first therapy I chose a a course of Reiki, meaning “universal life energy,”

Reiki is the name applied to a system of natural healing, which has evolved in Japan over the last century and is a non-intrusive technique carried out by practitioners using gentle placement of their hands in a sequence of positions over the recipient’s body to channel vital, therapeutic energies. It is a holistic therapy that treats the whole person – not just the symptoms – and has proven itself to be successful in mobilising a person’s natural healing processes to counteract stress and pain. The therapy can be administered through clothing with the recipient generally lying down or in the sitting position.

I went every Thursday for 10 weeks alongside some of my Chemotherapy and always found that it relaxed me and seemed to ease pains and tensions. It may not suit everyone but I can heartily recommend it as I looked forward to it every week and felt calmer when it came to having my Chemotherapy.