Tuesday, 21 June 2016

BEWARE! Your choice, surgery or radiotherapy, is about to disappear...

When diagnosed with localised prostate cancer, if the cancer is low grade and still well contained, you may be offered other treatment, such as brachytherapy or even just watchful waiting, to see how things progress.

However, if treatment is recommended because the cancer is starting to become well established, there are usually two choices on offer, surgery or radiotherapy.
After talking to the specialists involved, only you can make that choice, nobody makes it for you. The outcomes are roughly the same and each has its equal share of advantages/disadvantages, so it's no easy choice. 
I opted for surgery, simply because I wanted to leave my cancer in a 'bin' at the hospital and not carry it around in my body as a dead radiated lump. It seemed cleaner, I have no regrets.
Surgery costs around £30,000 and radiation, less than a third of that price. 
I'm now wondering, with the NHS run extensively by accountants, if there will soon be only one choice, and this is how we are being sold it.
What do you think?

Read this from the BBC today...


Hard-and-fast prostate radiotherapy 'a win-win for NHS'


  • The NHS could save money and patients' time by giving fewer but 
    stronger doses of radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer, say experts.
The UK doctors told the Lancet Oncology there was now enough proof the hard-and-fast treatment worked just as well and did not cause more side-effects. 
For a patient, the new regime would mean 17 fewer trips to hospital. 
Nationally, it would free more than 150,000 visits, saving the NHS tens of millions of pounds each year.
Prostate cancer makes up more than a quarter of the workload of UK radiotherapy departments, and many cancer centres are already making savings by following the new regime.
Prof David Dearnaley and his team, from the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital, say others should do the same.

Win-win

They estimate about 10,000 men a year could benefit from the new treatment regime.
The treatment is given over four weeks instead of seven and a half, and uses higher doses of radiation to zap the prostate gland and kill the cancer. 
Studies in thousands of men suggest giving 20 high doses for a month is as effective as giving 37 standard doses over two months. 
Prof Dearnaley said: "There are no losers with this. Everybody wins - the NHS and patients."
The work was part-funded by the Department of Health and Cancer Research U.K.
Prof Arnie Purushotham, of Cancer Research UK, said: "It is clear that this is safe and effective, so it is now up to the NHS to ensure all men who are suitable are offered this treatment immediately."

Friday, 17 June 2016

Good news for future treatment...

Laser that can zap prostate tumours: Pioneering therapy could stop thousands of men needing surgery 

  • Technology 'fuses' MRI scanner with ultrasound to identify diseased cells
  • A precisely targeted laser fibre is then heated up to annihilate them
  • Expert says procedure is 'akin to a lumpectomy for breast cancer' 


A pioneering therapy using high powered laser beams may cure prostate cancer, according to research.
The sci-fi style technology doesn't require surgery and has already been successful in zapping the tumours of 19 men.
It 'fuses' an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner with ultrasound to identify diseased cells. A precisely targeted laser fibre is then heated up to annihilate them.
A pioneering therapy using high powered laser beams may cure prostate cancer, according to research (stock image)
A pioneering therapy using high powered laser beams may cure prostate cancer, according to research (stock image)

Urologist Professor Leonard Marks, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: 'Our feeling was if you can see prostate cancer using the fusion MRI and can put a needle in the spot to biopsy it, why not stick a laser fibre in the tumour the same way to kill it.
'This is akin to a lumpectomy for breast cancer.
'Instead of removing the whole organ, target just the cancer inside it.
'What we are doing with prostate cancer now is like using a sledgehammer to kill a flea.'
The technique, called focal laser ablation, was first used on eight participants by guiding the laser fibre into the cancerous tissue just with MRI.

Six months later there were no serious side effects or changes in urinary or sexual function.

A follow up study involving eleven subjects then showed the clinical potential of the therapy using a machine known as Artemis that combines both MRI and ultrasound.
The procedure was well tolerated under local anaesthetic, after four months, they have also had no problems.
Prof Marks said if the laser treatment proves effective in further studies it could mean thousands of men avoiding surgery and radiation, which can result in erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
The sci-fi style technology doesn't require surgery and has already been successful in zapping the tumours of 19 men (stock image)
The sci-fi style technology doesn't require surgery and has already been successful in zapping the tumours of 19 men (stock image)
Up until now, capturing an image of a prostate cancer has been difficult because the healthy and tumour tissue appear so similar.
Accurate non invasive treatment has proved difficult as a result.
The new fusion imaging method provides real time ultrasound that more clearly delineates the tumour.
It has already proved successful at performing biopsies in difficult to diagnose prostate cancers.
Such biopsies are usually 'blind,' meaning physicians take a tissue sample based on what they believe is the location of a possible tumour.
The researchers say they have proved in principle laser ablation can be done safely and effectively with MRI, although longer term follow-up is needed as well as continued assessment to ensure cure,
Prof Marks said: 'This focal therapy provides a middle ground for men to choose between radical prostatectomy and active surveillance, between doing nothing and losing the prostate.
'This is a new and exciting concept for prostate cancer treatment.'
The laser treatment is not yet approved for use in prostate cancer by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Added Prof Marks: 'I think we were so successful in this effort because of the experience we gained doing the targeted biopsies.
'That allowed us to go from biopsy to treatment.'
The first study has been published in the Journal of Urology, while the second was presented at the American Urology Association meeting in San Diego.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3640085/Laser-zap-prostate-tumours-Pioneering-therapy-stop-thousands-men-needing-surgery.html#ixzz4Boqy1YXs
 

Monday, 13 June 2016

The 90 day challenge! Did I make it?





But feeling stronger....


It was day 61 when I decided to jump ship.

Why? 
It wasn't a desire to drink, that had gone after the first month. 

So what was it?
The numbers game was doing my head in, 43 days, 51 days, 55 days, who cares? I didn't get into it for that reason, I wanted to change my relationship with alcohol, and at 60 days, I had. My daughter Chantal said, I could claim success when I no longer talked about it, when it was no longer a 'big deal'. With a countdown number arriving every day, I couldn't stop thinking/talking about it, but now I can.  Would any other changes have occurred in my mind, had I stayed on to 90 days? It's possible, my guess would be yes, but I was delighted with what 60 days brought. It showed me a far better life outside the 'cloud' that all regular drinkers are mainly unaware of. You can only become aware of that 'cloud' when you've been off drink for at least a month. 

It's so worth anyone trying the 30 day challenge, just to feel how amazing even a month off the booze can be. 

So now, I'm about a stone and a half lighter, I've a clear mind every day and saved a lot of money. I never, ever drink Sunday to Thursday, and IF I drink on Friday or Saturday, it's a very small amount. I went to a party at the British Club on the weekend, and watched the Australia v England rugby, with some very 'shit faced' fans, while I happily drank water and lemon soda. I'm sure I look healthier, I've got so much more energy and I sleep like a stone; I'm happy with that. I'd like to think I can stay on board with the OYNB crew because you've got it so right guys. In the next 365 days, I may drink on 50 or 60 of those, that's a big drop from 365.

Join up here to experience a better life...
https://www.oneyearnobeer.com

Sunday, 5 June 2016

"I've made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven't lived in vain."


His daughter said this morning that when he died, all his major organs had failed, but it took 30 minutes for his heart to stop. Guess that didn't surprise any of us.

I was the only one in the room with my Father when he died, and it was exactly the same; he just wouldn't stop living. He'd been in a coma all day, and I'd sat with him, occasionally nodding into sleep. A few hours before he died, he raised his hand and gave me a thumbs-up sign. The doctors had to stop his heart to let him go, and that was a relief for both of us, as at last he could rest. 

My earliest memories are sitting and listening to the legendary (Cassius Clay) fights on the radio, and it was also these rare occasion that my dad would sit with me; maybe because we only had one radio! Boy did he love those fights, he would punch the air as he listened and even smile sometimes. It was great to have that in common and to share rare moments that seemed to melt the ice that was always there.

I feel very sad at the passing of Mohammad Ali, a link to my childhood never to be forgotten. Wish I could travel back in time and listen to that radio again.


 

Prostate cancer aggression 'linked to waist size'

 Prostate cancer cell

Image copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image captionNearly 11,000 men die from prostate cancer in the UK every year

Men with larger waistlines could be at higher risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer, a study has suggested.
Research on 140,000 men from eight European countries found that a 4in (10cm) larger waist circumference could increase the chances of getting the cancer by 13%.
Men were most at risk when their waist was bigger than 37in (94cm), the University of Oxford study found.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
The study, which was presented at the European Obesity Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, looked at the association between body measurements in men in their 50s and prostate cancer risk over 14 years.
In that time, there were about 7,000 cases of prostate cancer, of which 934 were fatal. 
The researchers found that men with a higher body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference had an increased risk of high grade prostate cancer, an aggressive form of the disease.
For example, men with a waist size of 37in (94cm) had a 13% higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men with a waist of 33in (84cm).
Scientists also observed a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer with increased BMI and increased waist circumference.
NHS Choices says there is a higher risk of health problems for men with a waist size of more than 94cm (37in) and for women of more than 80cm (31.5in).

Prostate cancer facts

  • About 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK
  • More than 10,800 men die from it every year in the UK
  • One in eight men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime
  • More than 330,000 men are living with or after prostate cancer
Source: Prostate Cancer UK

Dr Aurora Perez-Cornago from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford said the study showed that the association between body size and prostate cancer was complex and varied by disease aggressiveness.
She said it was likely to be down to cancer-causing hormones in fat cells, but this had not yet been proven.
Her advice was that "men should try to maintain a healthy weight and if possible lose weight around their waist".
But she added that the study had not specifically looked at the impact of losing weight on prostate cancer risk.
A spokesman for Prostate Cancer UK said: "Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active can protect against many diseases, including cancer.
"This research adds to a growing body of evidence that shows that weight and waist size could be another crucial risk factor for men to be aware of when it comes to protecting themselves against prostate cancer."
Thea Cunningham, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said more research was need to get a clearer picture of the link.
"It isn't clear whether excess weight itself is causing men to develop aggressive prostate cancers, or if prostate cancers are less likely to be picked up at an early stage in overweight men, meaning their prostate cancer may be aggressive or advanced by the time it is diagnosed.
She added: "Keeping a healthy weight can help men reduce their risk of several other cancers including bowel cancer."

Monday, 30 May 2016

You will never ever share those particular dreams again...

However it ends, whether through death, divorce, or the destruction of the relationship, there is such a sad sense of loss! Everything you've safely known is stripped away. You are left empty, raw, thin, and vulnerable! Even if you were ready to go, or kindly let the beloved go, the departure mangles and angers you. 
Yet, somewhere in the mess of the dividing asunder of souls and spirits, there is gratitude and celebration that for a time you collaborated as joint artists. There is sacredness in memory of the special dreams and understandings once unveiled in succulent and intimate ways. There is also a hope that hope itself will begin to heal and fill the emptiness spaces. Not as before, never as it was, but with new colors, a new palette of dreams, and possibilities of unfolding previously uncharted scapes. 
You sense that you'll slowly pick up your brush again. You will bravely stand silent in front of an intimidatingly large and empty canvas. You'll wait for the slightest soul-stirring to possess your heart and hands and move them into action! 
The first stroke will be the hardest, but assuredly the most freeing! 
Suddenly, you'll begin to think in colors you forgot were possible! 
“One of the difficulties of leaving a relationship is not so much leaving the person themselves - because by that time, you’re ready to go. What’s difficult is leaving the dreams that you shared together. And you know that somehow, no matter who you meet in your life in the future, and no matter what species of happiness you will share with them, you will never ever share those particular dreams again, with that particular tonality and coloration. And so there’s a lovely and powerful form of grief there that is the ultimate in giving away, but making space for another form of re-imagination.” -- David Whyte

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Healthline's top prostate cancer blogs 2016/17

I would like to thank Healthline for once again choosing my blog, to be amongst the top prostate cancer blogs of 2016/17. 
When you consider how many blogs there are out there, this is really something I'm proud of. The other 10 selected blogs are all amazing reading in their own way, and in the world of prostate cancer, there's is something for everyone.








Take a look at the other blogs...

http://www.healthline.com/health/prostate-cancer/best-blogs-of-the-year#1





Sunday, 8 May 2016

Could this dramatically reduce the amount of prostate biopsies?

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At the convergence of urology and radiology, TRINITY® is a premium performance mobile ultrasound imaging system used to assist every prostate biopsy procedure with 3D imaging, prostate mapping, and intraoperative image fusion capabilities within the usual clinical routine.
Its optimal ergonomics with respect to workflow and tactile interface make it the ideal assistant to urologists for the development of an innovative clinical program for prostate cancer management.

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50 days no alcohol...

I'm enjoying this, not that I haven't fancied a beer with temperatures here tipping over 40C, it's knowing that I can look at the booze and just leave it, enjoying a glass of iced water or juice instead.
My mindset has changed for sure, I feel stronger and have applied the theories learnt in OneYearNoBeer to other habits that I wanted to rid myself of. It works every time! Excersise is the one thing that I need more of and haven't managed yet, mainly due to the incessant heat outside, but I've changed other habits to give me more exercise. I try not to use lifts and escalators and I'll always choose the long way around. If there's a more difficult or strenuous way of doing something, I will sometimes do it, to the great amusement of others. But that's not enough, I've got to do better, so there's a challenge.
Probably my main concern when I started the 90 day challenge, was how it would affect the chemical balance in my body. Having had cancer surgery 6 years ago, there's always the chance of a bio-chemical recurrence, and in my case, depending on where you look, that chance can be up to 30%. I have 6 monthly blood tests, and last week's result was more anxiously awaited than at other times. But it came back OK, I'm still clear, the alcohol obviously had played no part in keeping the cancer away, how could it? Pomegranate juice is one of my weapons against recurrence, and a low dosage aspirin a day, so far, so good.
Waking up in the morning is still the main problem, my sleep is so deep. If I get up when the alarm goes off, I just feel drowsy until I've had a shower, but if I have a lie in, like this morning, drifting in and out of sleep, I go into what I can only describe as a depressed state, lasting hours. Why is this?

The evening 'habit' has been replaced by coke-zero or iced water, I don't even think about it now. I laugh when the old 'reward' habit kicks in, like it did last week when I found I'd got a job. Wow a job, where's the nearest bar to celebrate? Instead I treated myself to an iced coffee and a snickers bar. 
Look out Daniel, there's a habit to replace every habit!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Promising new drugs for aggressive prostate cancer...

  • 2 May 2016
  •  
  • From the section Health

Dividing prostate cancer cellsImage copyrightScience Photo Library
Image captionDrug-resistant prostate cancer is difficult to treat and does not respond to hormone treatment

A new type of drug could benefit men with aggressive prostate cancer that is no longer responding to treatment, researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research have said.
In a study on mice, Hsp90 inhibitors were found to strip cancer cells of defences against hormone treatments.
This makes the drugs particularly promising for treating drug-resistant cancers, the research team said.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK.
About one in eight men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. It mainly affects men over the age of 50.
The cancer can sometimes be treated successfully with hormone treatments, which target androgen receptors linked to the growth of male hormones called androgens.
But some prostate cancers don't work that way. Instead they create an abnormal form of androgen receptor which is not linked to the growth of hormones and therefore does not respond to standard hormone treatment.
This is the most common form of resistance in prostate cancer which leads to aggressive, difficult-to-treat cancers.

'Network drugs'

The latest research, published in the journal Cancer Research, found that a new class of drugs reduced production of both receptors.
Professor Paul Workman, study author and chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said it was an exciting discovery.
"We call Hsp90 inhibitors 'network drugs' because they tackle several of the signals that are hijacked in cancer all at once, across a network rather than just a single signalling pathway. 
"These drugs can hit cancer harder than those targeting only one protein, and look promising for preventing or overcoming drug resistance."
Prof Workman said the next step was to test the Hsp90 inhibitors in clinical trials on patients with aggressive, drug-resistant prostate cancer.
Prof Johann de Bono, a professor of experimental cancer medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research, said: "These drugs are already in clinical trials for several types of cancer, and I am excited that our work suggests they could also benefit men with prostate cancer who have otherwise run out of treatment options."

PLEASE if you follow my blog, this is close to me heart...

Please take a minute to vote for Joanna Slater and her amazing 'MyNotes Medical' app that she's spent so much time developing. It will take less than a minute to vote, but this app could save thousands of lives a year, at a time when our NHS needs all the help it can get. It could directly benefit you...

 Click here to vote

Joanna Slater...."My mother had a standard hip operation in 2007 and fell ill soon after. I started writing notes day by day as a reminder of all the things that was happening to her. Unfortunately, she passed away still in hospital 6 months later. Eventually, I started a blog www.strength-in-numbers.co.uk and posted all my mother’s notes. In 2011, the Mail on Sunday contacted me after seeing my blog and published extracts of my notes then my life changed forever. I received 1000's of emails from people saying they wished they had taken notes and the difference it would have made. That's how the idea of MyNotes Medical was born to help others from my experience by documenting everything. I am committed to the cause of improving patient care and believe that MyNotes Medical will lead to more effective communication between patients, their carers, GP’s and doctors - the key to better treatment. I am on a quest to create a patient-led programme with my business partner Brad Meyer co-founder of MyNotes Medical that will help everyone become more engaged in their own and loved one's medical care to safeguard against medical mistakes."

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

40 days no alcohol....

As I move to day 40 without alcohol, is there any difference from day 30?

A few:
My weight has stopped dropping, stabilised at 13st 12lb and I know I'm eating less as a result of not drinking. I've improved my water intake, so don't feel as tired when I wake up, but I'd still like more improvement there. Best thing of all is my blood pressure which on average is around 115/70, bang in the middle of what is considered average. Two months ago I'd have come in around 135/85 which is not bad, but a little high.
I feel good in myself, which is surprising considering it hits nearly 40 every day in Bangkok and I'm still trying to fill my days with interesting stuff. I don't have the same desire for a beer/wine as I did, the BBC programme 'Drinking to Oblivion' from Louis Theroux helped cement that. If you haven't watched it then please do!

Can I answer the big question yet? Will I start drinking after the 90 day mark? No I can't, but I can say that I'll never go back to what I was. I've seen a clearer better life beyond the cloud; I'm enjoying it.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

I was 12 when I died...

I met Susan in Bangkok soon after I moved here, she's helped many people through transition at the end of life. It's not a job you see advertised anywhere, and I guess you're just lucky if you know someone like that when it's your turn. We started talking about death because we had both died and come back, and even though the circumstances were different, the experience had striking similarities. 

I was twelve when I died.

My Mother had sent me to the local swimming pool with Ena, a girl a few years older, who was going to look after me. I'd never seen a public swimming pool before or any large expanse of water with people in it. I got changed in the men's room, and Ena told me she'd meet me by the side of the pool. When I came out the pool was packed, chaotic, with people diving and splashing everywhere. I didn't know what it was to 'tread water', all I knew was that one end of the pool had a lot less people in, and it couldn't be very deep because smaller kids than me had their heads above water. 

I jumped in! I remember holding my breath as long as I could, and I could see all the feet kicking in the water above me, but the shock alone caused me to inhale very quickly. When you inhale water, it's not like when you drink water and it goes down the wrong way, and you cough and splutter until you're clear. You start to breath the water, like it's thick air, like you're back in the womb I guess. I wasn't panicking, it was really peaceful, but over several minutes, I was slowly drifting into unconsciousness. The feeling was serene, peaceful, beautiful and yes, even at 12, my life started to 'flash before me'. Maybe when you're older, it takes longer to drown? 

Drowning is a great way to go if you want to end it all, take my word, but be sure, because you don't want to go through revival, which is what happened next. Apparently, someone saw me, lifeless at the bottom of the pool, and everyone started screaming, like I was a shark! The lifeguard pulled me out, dumped me on the edge of the pool and then started what lifeguards are there for, saving my life, bringing me back. First he pumped as much water out as he could before starting on my heart, and at first there was no response. After what he described as 'ages', I exploded, gasping for air, filling my pants and struggling to fight everyone off until I could be calmed. Coming back was far worse than dying, that's for sure.

So it was when Susan said at the end of a recent article..."living is the tough stuff, dying is easier", I was prompted to share that experience.


I'd also like to share what Susan said, when describing being with someone who is nearing their end in this life...

"One thing I have learned is, you never know quite what you'd do until you get there. Plus, what your family, friends, or medics expect from you. Also, how you'd react if it were your loved one. For myself, I'd like to think that I'd take the least invasive route, meaning no intervention as much as possible, plus as much pain meds, comfort, whiskey, and irreverence, fun, and loving time together. The people I transition with are not all Christians, some have faith to go, others do not...we are all different. What I find very important is to respect people's rights to live and to die as they feel best. Also, supporting, loving, and caring as they make their choices, which often change along the way. There is loss, grief, even horror when you see people truly suffer. Life and death can be messy, but they can be more than equally beautiful. It's raw, it's real, it's amazing....you have no idea until you've cleaned up endless vomit, shit, body fluids, tears, fears, anger, pain, regrets, and come to a place of love, joy, peace and absolute beauty....but yes, myself, having died already, I know living is the tough stuff, dying is easier, or was for me. I long for that place again, but I love life, and hold onto it while I have the gift of it..."

Friday, 15 April 2016

No alcohol for 4 weeks...how's it going?

Before I started, I studied, even wrote down, how a drinker (me) feels at different points of the day. 
I never had a desire to drink during the day, as it made me sleepy, but evenings were different. Between 6-9 pm really, I guess I though of it as some sort of reward. For what? It didn't matter! If I'd had a good day, a bad day, there's always a reason to sit down and have that drink. Did I enjoy it? Yes! Can't say the taste of wine or beer ever appealed to me, and I rarely drank spirits, it was the buzz and the social habit that hooked me. Take any TV action thriller, courtroom drama, whatever, drink flows throughout; as it does through our culture. We grew up with it and it's traditionally used to celebrate every event, be that a wedding, christening or funeral. St Patrick's Day this year, I was a guest of the St Patrick's Society in Bangkok and what a great night out. It was 'normal' for people to be laying on the floor semi-conscious at the end, and they would be tomorrow's 'heroes' in the office. The Thai wait-on staff may have been traumatised, in a state of shock, but oh not I. I've been there, done that, felt the pain next day; haven't you?

4 weeks in, and it's a lot easier than the first two. Because I was addicted? No, because if I had been, I don't think I'd have made it past day two. I've never been an alcoholic, I think that some people are just more prone to that than others. I've known light drinkers who simply couldn't do without the daily fix, and heavy drinkers that could stop for weeks. There seems to be no fast rule. 

Physically I feel great, I've lost 6 pounds and that bloated feeling has gone. I'm sharper and have a clear head all day, not living in 'the cloud' that all drinkers are in, a mist that they're blissfully unaware of. 
How thick is that mist? After week one, I thought I could see the edge, the 'light', if you like. But as each week passes, I realise that there's always a bright edge and I look forward, probably nearer the end of my 90 days, to coming out into the clear and 'looking back at the cloud', as others have described. 
After initial constipation, my motions are fine and regular, with a consistency, smell and colour of the perfect poo! No getting up to the toilet and breaking my sleep anymore, the habitual glass of water by the bed no longer needed. No sweats at night, which in a Bangkok summer is a miracle in itself. An MRI scan a few years back showed a trapped nerve which caused back pain, but that's gone. A dental crown fell out, maybe unrelated, who knows. I don't wear reading glasses anymore, my hearing is sharper and I get massive erections, but that's all in my dreams.
Sleep is a worry! It's so heavy now, and I dream a lot, even remembering my dreams, which is new to me. When I wake in the morning I feel like I've been drugged, and it takes me 10 minutes to 'switch on'. I wonder if that'll change, it's not a big deal but I thought I might feel more alert first thing.

Mentally, I'm not sure! I need to swim further into the 90 days, then experience what others have before I decide if I'm a, 'non-drinker'.  Reading the stories and updates from One Year No Beer has been an amazing support on this journey, and where as I think I could have done it without them, it would have been a far lonelier place.

My guess is I will drink occasionally, but never go back to the daily ritual, which was always a health worry and I didn't enjoy. I don't miss going to the supermarket and handing over all that money, which often came to more than the cost of my food. I don't miss going to the weekly bottle bank, hearing all those empties screaming as they slid from my bag! I laugh watching films, noticing the importance given to drink in every day life, which of course it used to be with cigarettes. My earliest memories include my mother smoking and me thinking how stupid that was; she died of it! I don't look at drinkers that way yet, but will that change?

Why the 90 day challenge? Anyone can give up drink for a week, a bad hangover's good enough to keep you off the bottle for days, but I wanted to feel how a 'non-drinker' felt. 
I want to meet part of me, a part I haven't known for 50 years.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Join me on the 90 day challenge...

Nearly 6 years since I started this blog, and who would have guessed in June 2010, that 
I 'd be writing and living in Bangkok, 2016. That's after having being in Johannesburg for 2 years, getting married, graduating from the University of Cumbria (BA Hons) and passing my CELTA, qualifying me to teach English Language.




So, driving on, I've set another goal, inspired by the One Year No Beer campaign. 
I'm taking the 90 day challenge; 90 days without alcohol. This has been gathering steam for years now and I've really psyched myself up for it. 




Since moving here, I've so many friends who don't drink, they'll think it remarkable that I'll find it a challengeI'm not a heavy drinker, never during the day (apart from St Patrick's), but nearly always a few glasses in the evening. A habit formed over years, something I do without thinking and very much part of my culture.

I've had alcohol since I was a child, it's never been something that was hidden in our house, but having said that, neither of my parents were alcoholics or heavy drinkers. Being half Irish, drink was always going to be difficult to avoid as it's somewhat a national pass-time. Find me a town in the world without an Irish Bar, I'll find you a town in Thailand without a Wat. My kids either don't drink or very rarely do, which is a credit to them.

When I joined the army, you couldn't have possibly been a non-drinker. You would have been grouped with the gays and blacks, then socially exterminated! Those were my heaviest drinking years, when getting drunk was something so normal, you couldn't recognise people unless they appeared blurred. There were two main categories...

The violent drinkers: a good friend of mine Dave, referred to it as the 'red mist', which would come down after a certain level of consumption. They couldn't help but pick a fight, and next day, couldn't understand why they had been beaten up, again!
  
The passive drinkers: (Me) First I would start to slur my words, my eyes would go into 'independent control' mode, and I would need to sit down. I couldn't drink over a certain amount as I would be sick, a great safety valve (not always). I would then just fall asleep, regardless of where I was.

Along with children came responsibilities, too many sometimes! Drink became an evening thing, rarely during the day, it was a 'before bedtime' habit that lasted through my entire life, until now! Yes I've had some of the best times of my life with a Guinness in my hand, and I'm not sure if I would change that if I could. Just as smokers congregate around smokers, drinkers are much the same. If you lose your habit, you lose many of your friends, not because they disown you, because you are not doing the same thing any more. Like when you have babies, most of your friends become other parents, because your child-free friends are moving in different circles.

At the age of 62 my Father became allergic to alcohol, so at 60 I thought I might be lucky too. He wrote to me, and talked about how different life had become without drink and how his perception of everything changed as the 'fog lifted'. You can read that letter on my 'family blog'; which brings me to the subject of blogs. 
I was going to start one about my 90 day challenge, but decided not to, because how many blogs can you keep up with? It'd be like having 8 diaries and wanting to start a 9th. THIS is my main blog. I know a lot of it is about prostate cancer, but I never wanted that to be the main theme, it was always about life during, and hopefully after. I have several blogs relating to my degree in Wildlife & Media which I never update now, even one on the 6 Nations rugby which I tried one year and gave up on. I have a 'family blog' which is by subscription to family only and other blogs which are parked until the end of this year. 
So THIS is my one stop blog.

What after 90 days? I simply don't know. My idea is not to become a 'non drinker', it's to not let alcohol rule my every evening and every morning (that feeling). I asked my friend George why he gave up, and he said, "Because I got fed up with feeling that way every morning". That comment was a key moment for me, but he said it 4 years ago.
I rarely eat meat, but I'm not a vegetarian. I don't want a label, but I don't want to have alcohol as a regular partner, thinking I'm missing something if I don't comply. After only 3 days, I feel huge benefits, more alert in the morning (Beverley would disagree), less tired during the day, eating less and spending less.

If you think this might be for you, read on... 

Join (FREE) and look at www.oneyearnobeer.com , it could change your life for the better. You don't have to give up alcohol for a year or become a non-drinker. You can take the 30, 60 or 90 day challenge, just to show yourself how different you could feel without 'the beer'. I chose 90 because many have said you don't feel the full benefit until 4-6 weeks.

My only fear is that because it's such a drastic change to my body chemistry after all these years, that if something happens, like a recurrence of my cancer, or another disease creeps in, the tendency will be to blame my lack of alcohol. I've also read that it can increase my chances of having a stroke, but hey, so can some of the things I see every day in Bangkok.

Read this, from Ruari Fairbairns, co founder of  'One Year No Beer' who was born on The Isle of Mull in Scotland....


In an earlier blog post I explained that I experienced a number of fringe benefits during my 90 days off the sauce. I wanted to explain what I mean by this and also share with you this particular experience. I hope this helps…

When I say “fringe benefit” I mean there were upsides to going dry that I never expected. I had the typical expectations in my head when I started the challenge, such as weight loss, getting better sleep, being less irritable and feeling generally a lot healthier. However, I experienced much more than all this.
The main fringe benefit that I experienced was about anxiety. At the time, work was full on, a lot of travel, presentations, responsibility, blah, blah, blah. We all have a lot going on, I realise that. I won’t bang on about it.
After just a few weeks in of the OYNB challenge, I noticed the change. Firstly, because I was simply better at my job – I was able to focus on work more, I procrastinated less, made decisions quickly and generally worked smarter. Secondly, more importantly, I worried about it all less. Rather than tying myself up in nots about all the little things, I let it go. I was able to pick my battles better rather than always feeling like I was on the back foot.
These advantages were mostly professional at first, but they did have positive affect on my home life because I wasn’t bringing any work crap home with me. I was able to separate my work and home life much better. I played with my kids without having that sense of loathing and anxiety about the impending work day.
So every was rosy. I was happy. Mentally I was chalking up another ‘win’ for me and my little social experiment. Woop!
 But… It seems there is always a ‘but’. In my experience, and I believe other OYNB members agree, there are many bitter/sweet moments with this challenge. There are huge upsides, but sometimes these leave you feeling flat when you realise how bad the situation had become. It dawned on me that I had never before had any problems with anxiety, ever! I didn’t even notice when this one crept up on me. In fact, I still considered myself to be a laid back guy, like a teenager. One of my late Step-Father’s friends once gave me the moniker “the white Jamaican” because of my over-use of the phrase “no worries” (He was Jamaican. I took it as complement). So what had happened to me? How long had I been like this? It seemed to me to be dramatic shift from my core personality.
I felt like Edward Norton in Fight Club, that moment when he realised he had been leading a double life with an alternate persona.
Now, I can’t in good conscience tell that the blame lies squarely with alcohol. I am not na├»ve, there are many influences to anxiety and I don’t need a scapegoat for my own behaviour which was also to blame here. Sometimes daily life, both personal and work, beats you up a bit. I will admit that, on occasion, I had a few drinks to deal with it. Never a lot, less than a bottle of wine each time. I wasn’t drinking until I blocked it out or anything nefarious like that, it was just a few drinks. I was/still am just a moderate drinker. Which is why I was so surprised when I realised I had anxiety. I came to the conclusion that this must have happened over a long period of time, but ultimately the combination of life and alcohol has my changed my personality.
This was a big wake-up call for me. I wanted to find my inner teenager again. Do the things that I held true to be my core personality. Of course this had to be a measured response. I have two kids so I wasn’t skipping off to a rock concert anytime soon. However, I found that even small steps that I took to regain my personality feel like giant leaps forward.


An earlier post from Ruari....


addict (noun): "to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively"
I find it interesting / convenient the word 'addict' is more commonly associated with drug taking than alcohol consumption. Why is that? I will tell you why, it's because we don't like to share any commonality with this group of social outcasts. We all like a drink, so bringing up addiction and alcohol is too close to home for most of us. Statistically, at least one person in your close social group will consume more than the recommended average. More than 9 million people in England drink more than the recommended guidelines - that is 1 in 5 people. How is it possible for this to be the social norm? 
We live in a time where people are more self aware and health conscious than ever before. So why is it so hard to stop doing something that's killing you?
x
Taking a look at the NHS guidelines it is easy to see where the problem is. The NHS say we should consume no more than 1 pint of (strong) beer / 1 standard glass of wine (which is small by today's standards) a day, or 7 a week. For many of us, who clock up a week's worth of units in one sitting, this is so far away from reality it becomes easy to dismiss as unrealistic, or out of touch with today's society. 
Let's talk about our illustrious society for a moment and you can draw your own conclusions about how alcohol has a strangle grip on everything we do: 
  1. Alcohol companies have been advertising to you since you were old enough to drink, earlier probably. 
  2. Almost every social gathering is deeply associated with drinking. Well, it would be rude not to bring a bottle wouldn't it? 
  3. Christmas, although originally a religious holiday, must be the biggest season for booze companies. Everyone suddenly wants a 'Christmas drink"
  4. There is almost no alternative. Imagine yourself in most bars, your choice of non-alcoholic drinks are water, coke, lemonade or fruit juice - or even a granny style tea or coffee. That's it. It's a f@#ing joke. There is more choice between the dusty bottles of champagne behind the bar. 
So there it is, we are destined to fail. We have all, every single one of us, been tee-total at some point, either the designated driver, on medication, or maybe mandated by a significant other. It is no wonder why this was the most sinfully boring experience. 
It is time for change. We are the rise of the Tee-total Socialites, It is time to listen to our bodies, and not the strange societal conventions we are now accustomed to. It's time to stop associating sober with boring.

Follow these 5 hacks to survive a sober stint: 
  • Don't be a Hermit - so many people fail giving up alcohol because they change their very natural requirement - being sociable. So just do it differently. Take up a new sport, go hiking or, mountain biking on Saturday mornings, try a spin class, juice bar crawl. Everywhere you will meet people on the same journey
  • Build your Stats - Everyone says, I stopped drinking and I felt better. What does that mean? Go get your body composition done, track your sleep, take the online NHS wellbeing test, weigh yourself - then do it again after you've given up for 90 days and show people in hard FACTS... this is how much better I felt.
  • Replace the Booze Go to www.alcoholfree.co.uk and order a mixed case of beers - dump the old ones and restock your fridge. So when the neighbours come round for a bbq you will be holding a bottle and they will barely notice. Plus you get all the psychology of drinking, and none of the hangover. AWESOME!
  • Why are you not drinking? - At some point someone is going to ask you.. why are you not drinking? It's not a time for weakness - you need a well prepared answer that hits back. "Are you kidding me.. kids + hangovers don't mix" "I've entered the London marathon and I want a sub 5hrs" "I'm doing a year off and I'm on day 57" etc. 
  • Find people just like you - You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Are you a booze fiend? or a healthy, happy, loving caring individual? Join a club / community / sport and get among others like you.
These are just some of the hacks that we have an abundance of in our new challenge One Year No Beer. Whether giving up for a month, 3 months or a year - we have a thriving community to support you and tons of tools to make it easy.