Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Klingons, the Bishop & Madame Zingara...

I've got my BA hons in 'Wildlife & Media', a 2.1 which is a 'B' overall.  
I'm delighted with that, after all, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the start of year one, so wasn't sure what graduation would look like.
Hard to believe that 6 years ago the process started when I had to first take an NVQ in both English and Maths just to qualify for the access to art year. That year was still the best of all my years at the University of Cumbria. The worst was the final year which I spent making a training film for Cumbria Wildlife Trust. We were told that one day we would be making films for paying customers and we had to listen very carefully to what the customer asked for. I went one better, I found a real customer, worked with them on making this film to their exact requirements. I added stuff they wanted and took bits out when asked.
 They were 100% delighted with the final film, so much so they embedded it on their website and sent me a great thank you letter, asking if I would work on other projects with them. To me that had to be an 'A', don't you agree? What I should have realised, and you must realise if you ever take this degree, is this… Whatever anyone tells you, you are making this film for the person who marks it. If they like squirrels, make a film on squirrels, if they like Star Trek, make a film on Klingons, but if they like drama, DO NOT make a film on planting Junipers! You will fail!

The world cup dominates everywhere and no more than Luis Suarez with a ridiculous 9 match ban for leaving an affectionate nibble mark on an Italian drama queen. I've seen legs broken deliberately in football and not even a yellow card given. Suarez was executed by the media and the competition will be a duller place without him. I'm still thinking the Germans and Dutch will meet in the final, but what do I know, I'm second from bottom in the fantasy league with Beverley way out in front. How is this possible?

I went to my daughter Luci's 30th birthday party dressed as a bishop a few years ago. The fancy dress shops just didn't do the quality I wanted so I ordered from an ecclesiastical suppliers, Hayes & Finch Ltd. They do everything from a glitter/gold bishop's robe to a 5 litre box of communion wine, just about all of Christ's blood represented in one carton, on tap. Well a year went by after receiving my holy shirt under the name of 'Bishop Daniel Sencier'; even the postman had a strange respect after that delivery. 
I then recieved an e-mail from Hayes & Finch last week asking if I had been disappointed with their service in some way, as I hadn't placed an order for over a year. I had to tell the truth, there was no other way, so I replied….

"Hi Andrew, thanks for getting in touch. Your company and products are great and I'd recommend them to all. I just went through a phase of dressing up as a bishop, I'm not sure why, I blame my parents, but it's ended now! I went to a pub in Glasgow with my new outfit on and everyone wanted to kiss my ring and buy me drinks, it was amazing, especially as my girlfriend went as a comedy pig. People look at you so differently when you are in those clothes; with such hope and faith, it's been an experience I'll never forget. I ordered from your company as I had to have the real stuff, I didn't want to look a cheap fraud. I've attached a photo. I hope to use your services again one day. I'm currently dressing as a paramedic!"

Best wishes


Did I do wrong?

I met with Iain from the South African Prostate Cancer Foundation this week, a really nice guy. The UK are so ahead in this field compared to South Africa. I sent him loads of links including to the UK Prostate Charity and Macmillan's.
You can see these links at the top of the blog. There is so much research duplicated around the world, maybe it should be just in a few specialist centres, with support and awareness more of a localised thing.

We are hoping to go back to the UK for a few weeks soon, only been away 8 months but can't say I've missed it very much. What am I looking forward to most? Paying over double for my poorer quality food and drink? Paying double for my petrol? Paying 20 times the price for my TV license? We were out shopping this morning and as always, were stunned by the variety, quality and prices on the shelves. It's like being in some dreamland, even better than France! I'll look forward to seeing my kids that's for sure, but to be fair, I have more contact now than ever before. I guess I'll become a reality TV show to the grandchildren on Skype.

Me with Madame Zingara
I can't talk about our work on here, sensitive stuff, but since forming our new company it's been a dream. Not having to tip-toe around, afraid of upsetting others, making decisions for ourselves and working hard to achieve goals. All sorts going on and stuff in the pipeline, I've never had such variety in a day/week/year! At the same time we are having fun and doing things that neither of us ever dreamt we would. Let's see how South Africa turns out before we decide to head off elsewhere. We are temporary residents here now so can return anytime to live.  

If you ever get a chance to see a show called 'Madame Zingara', then go! You will never, ever attend a better performance or have a more amazing evening!
As you eat a 4 course quality meal, delivered throughout the evening, the performance happens all around and above you. It's an experience of a lifetime! 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The new £10 prostate test...

The £10 prostate test: New cancer check is twice as accurate - with no need for that embarrassing examination.

New urine test is twice as reliable as the existing blood test for the disease.
It also tells doctors how serious it is - and no need for rectal examination.
Prostate cancer kills nearly 11,000 British men every year.

Breakthrough: A new test can more reliably diagnose prostate cancer AND tell how big the tumour is - without the need for a rectal examination

A cheap, easy and accurate test for prostate cancer could be in surgeries within months.
Studies show the new urine test to be twice as reliable as the existing blood test for detecting the disease – the most common cancer among British men.
It also tells doctors how serious the cancer is.

This means it should not only save lives but also spare men painful, embarrassing and unnecessary tests and treatments.
The new test – described as potentially the biggest breakthrough in prostate cancer diagnosis in 25 years – does not involve a rectal examination.
It is likely to cost as little as £10 a patient, and the price tag, combined with its accuracy and simplicity, could even lead to all older men being screened for the disease, as women are for breast cancer.
The test’s Surrey University creators have struck a deal with two companies and it is hoped it will be in doctors’ surgeries later this year. Private patients will be the first to benefit but NHS use could follow.
Inventor Hardev Pandha, a professor of medical oncology, said: ‘This new test could lead to faster detection that could save hundreds of lives and also offers the potential for huge cost savings.’
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in British men, killing nearly 11,000 people a year, and doctors do not have a 100 per cent accurate way of spotting it.
The blood test routinely used measures levels of a protein called prostate specific antigen, or PSA, but it is wrong more often than it is right. This means many men are subjected to the pain, worry and embarrassment of unnecessary biopsies. In other cases, fledgling cancers are missed until they have spread elsewhere in the body and are harder to treat.

The new test uses a urine sample, dispensing with the need for needles. It searches the urine for a protein called EN2, which is not made by healthy people but is pumped out by tumours.
In trials, it detected about 70 per cent of prostate cancers, making it twice as accurate as the PSA test.
But the test has a second advantage. Unlike PSA, the amount of EN2 in urine corresponds with the size of the tumour.This is important because prostate cancer is not always life-threatening. It often grows slowly and does not always need to be treated straight away.Many men with tumours that will do them little harm are subjected to surgery and radiotherapy, both of which carry a high risk of incontinence and impotence.

The new test uses a urine sample, dispensing with the need for needles. It searches the urine for a protein called EN2, which is not made by healthy people but is pumped out by tumours, and is 70 per cent reliable
Professor Pandha, who created the test with Dr Richard Morgan, added: ‘Our trials have shown that levels of EN2 accurately reflect the amount of cancer in the patient’s prostate gland.
‘Small prostate cancers do not require treatment and can be safely monitored; larger volume cancers require prompt treatment.
‘The EN2 test allows for the  urologist to determine which option is best for the patient.’
Tim Sharp, of the Prostate Project, which part-funded the research, said: ‘This is potentially the most exciting development in the diagnosis of prostate cancer for 25 years.’
Prostate Cancer UK said Professor Pandha’s results were encouraging but added that large-scale, long-term trials were needed.
Dr Peter FitzGerald, of Randox Laboratories, one of the two companies that will turn the research into a kit for use in doctors’ surgeries, said: ‘With prostate and bladder cancers being among the top ten common causes of cancer death, accurate diagnosis is incredibly important.’

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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Tselane Tambo - Welcome

I can't tell you how delighted beyond words we are that Tselane Tambo has offered to be an ambassador for our company, 'e-perceptum Ltd'. She is an inspirational, very deep person, artistic in every sense and truly connected to South Africa, past and present. This has been the icing on our cake in a week that has seen us visiting the Department of Basic Education in Pretoria and laying out our plans for e-learning in a country that is thirsting for education. Tselane said that, "Everything that anyone ever wants to know today is on the Internet. E-learning is the future. The future starts now and South Africa needs to be with the programme". Who could disagree?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Jeffrey Archer does a great job on telling it how it is...

During my annual check-up with my GP Dr Page, among other things I always have a blood test.
This time, when the results came back from the lab, Dr Page phoned to tell me that my PSA level was slightly on the high side at 6.8 ‘What does PSA stand for?’ I asked, ‘and how bad is 6.8?’
‘PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen,’ he replied, ‘and 6.8 is fairly normal for someone of your age [I was 73], but it’s heading in the wrong direction, so perhaps you should visit a specialist.’

As my wife Mary and I live in Cambridge, Dr Page made an appointment for me to see Mr Nimish Shah, who is clinical director of the Department of Urology at the city’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
The first thing Mr Shah wanted to do was take another blood test so that he could double-check my PSA level. Same result – 6.8 – so I had to face the possibility that I might have prostate cancer.
‘We should conduct an image-guided biopsy,’ announced Mr Shah, ‘and have a proper look at your prostate.’
So I had a short procedure under anaesthetic, during which Mr Shah’s colleague, Christof Kastner, took several tissue samples from my prostate. Later Mr Shah confirmed that I did have prostate cancer.

‘So what do you recommend I should do?’ I asked.
‘You have three choices,’ Mr Shah replied. Option A was what he called active surveillance, and he then produced a chart showing that I had a 90 per cent chance of dying from something other than prostate cancer during the next  15 years, which sounded pretty good to me.
After all, 88 is not too bad an age to finally report to the Almighty.
But Mary, who accompanied me on the consultation, was pointing to a 37 per cent risk of mortality from my particular cancer on the chart, so I had no choice but to listen to what else Mr Shah had to offer.

Choices: Lord Archer was tempted to forgo treatment altogether, but was swayed by his wife
Option B was to have an operation to remove the whole prostate with the cancer, while Option C would mean commencing hormone therapy to shrink the tumour, followed by a seven-week course of radiotherapy.

Prostate cancer kills one man every hour in the UK.
It is the most common cancer in men: one in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease in the UK. The risk is higher for black men, who face a one in four chance of being diagnosed.
Prostate cancer affects almost as many men as breast cancer affects women, yet in the UK in 2013, only £22 million was invested in prostate cancer research compared with £40 million into breast cancer research
If you are over the age of 50 or have a family history of the disease, your risk of developing prostate cancer is also higher than average and you should speak to your GP about your risk.
Join Men United, Prostate Cancer UK’s army  of supporters, to help fund research that will revolutionise how prostate cancer is detected and treated.
Visit the website to sign up for the team and find out how to donate.
Anyone with concerns about prostate cancer or prostate problems can call a Prostate Cancer UK specialist nurse on 0800 074 8383 or visit the website

If I had to do something, the operation seemed preferable to radiotherapy – a short, sharp shock rather than a longer-term experience with repeated hospital visits.
The other major difference between operation or radiotherapy is the effect it may have on your sex life. If you have the operation, you will become infertile.
So if you still want children (not a problem for me at the age of 74), you will have to opt for radiotherapy. You may also become impotent, though with the help of Viagra you can still experience the same sensation.
Mr Shah confirmed that if I wanted to have an operation, he could fit  me in in four weeks’ time.
So did I spend the next few weeks becoming anxious, fearful, even paranoid? Certainly not. After all, I had witnessed my wife going through a far more demanding and stressful experience, when she’d had a cancerous bladder removed three years ago, without a murmur.
She attended a board lunch at the hospital nine days after the operation and was back chairing the board two months later, so I was not going to make a fuss, even if I wanted to.
At 7am on December 17, I checked in at Addenbrooke’s with an overnight bag as instructed, having  been told not to drink any alcohol for at least 24 hours, and that my last meal should be dinner the previous evening.
I am now about to describe what happened during the next six weeks in layman’s language, so this may be the time for the squeamish to turn the page.
After I had stripped down to my pants and donned a hospital gown, I was taken to the operating theatre, where Mr Shah introduced me to his team of six, which included a robot from California called Da Vinci.
Mr Shah next showed me the six places on my stomach where he would make small incisions to allow Da Vinci’s little fingers to enter my abdomen and remove my prostate. He would be operating the robot, he explained.
I did ask, because I’m human, how many times he’d done this before. More than 500 was his reply, which seemed satisfactory.
He then told me that after I’d had an anaesthetic, the operation would take about three hours and when I woke I would feel sore and exhausted, but the job should be done.
Actually the operation took almost four hours because, as Mr Shah later explained, he needed to remove my lymph nodes as well, as there was a concern that the tumour was just about to escape from my prostate and he needed to be sure that the cancer had not spread to other parts of my body.
Although Mr Shah felt the operation had gone well, he couldn’t confirm that all the cancer had been removed and had not spread elsewhere, until all the results came back from the labs, which would take about two weeks.
Now for the details. When you wake up, you find that a long thin plastic tube, which they call a catheter, has been inserted into your penis while the other end is attached to a balloon-like bag that is strapped around your thigh into which the urine drains constantly without you realising it.

Back in health: After an arduous recovery, Lord Archer is back on his feet and in the garden of his Cambridgeshire house once more.
Once the bag is full, you release a little tap at the bottom to allow the urine to drain into a bucket or the loo so that you can begin the whole process again: unpleasant, but you get used to it.
The one time you have to be sure the bag is empty is just before you go to bed, because if the bag is full and you want to pee, it has nowhere to go, which is extremely painful. But I’m jumping ahead of myself.
You spend only one night in hospital, maximum two, because they want you out of bed and walking as quickly as possible, and not just because they need the bed for the next patient.
However, you are not allowed to go home until you can prove to the ward sister that you can walk up and down the long corridor outside the ward 20 times, a distance of about a quarter of a mile – not that easy with the tube and bag as your companions.
I just about managed it, so Mary was called for, and I was allowed to go home. The next seven days were the worst, despite the fact that Mr Shah had described what to expect in graphic detail.
This is the period when the tube and bag remain in place, and have to be drained every two to three hours, while at the same time you’re expected to increase your walking, so that by the end of the week, you ought to be covering about a mile.
During the week, you don’t feel like eating but you have to drink lots of water, which only helps to  fill up the bag and adds to your discomfort.
You also don’t feel like washing or shaving, but Mary insisted that I had a shower so she sprayed me down, and I must admit that I felt a lot better afterwards.
On the seventh day, I returned to Addenbrooke’s to have my tube and bag removed, and I was more than ready to get rid of those unwelcome attachments.
I had imagined that the pulling of the tube out of my penis would be painful, but not so: once the little balloon that had kept it in place was deflated, it just slid out in the expert hands of the nurse, and moments later, the bag and tube were dropped unceremoniously into a hospital bin, and I breathed a sigh of relief, convinced life was about to return to normal.
Not quite yet! For a week I had been peeing happily away, like a child, not giving a great deal of thought to it, so the brain and body had already accommodated themselves to a new routine, which they were quite happy to continue without consulting me.
For the next seven days, you become a baby again and need to wear a large nappy to make sure that if you can’t get to the loo in time you won’t water the carpet and everything else on the way.
And just like a child, you have to learn to control yourself. For this you need another specialist, a physiotherapist, who will teach you to do exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor – a part of my anatomy I didn’t know existed until then.
You do ten firm uplifts, holding the new position for ten seconds, before relaxing. This should be done three times a day, so that by the end of the week you can replace your nappy with a large triangular pad that fits neatly into your pants.
You will find by the second week that you no longer pee uncontrollably, though you do leak from time to time.
This improves fairly rapidly as long as you go on doing your pelvic-floor exercises, while the triangular pads get smaller and smaller, until you are able to dispose of them completely and return to normal attire.
After that, just the occasional leak when you least expect it – which is embarrassing if you’re at a restaurant or the theatre.
So how do I feel now, some six months later? Well, I would advise any man over the age of 50 to visit his GP and find out what his PSA level is.
I have asked several of my friends in that age group this question and, with one exception, none of them had a clue.
Two out of three of you will discover that your PSA is nearly zero, or so low (less than four) that it’s not a warning sign.
But if you’re in the other smaller group of one in three with a raised level, you ought to make a decision – that is, if you want to add another ten years to your life. So get on with it.
Two weeks after my operation Mr Shah wrote to tell me the interim results from the lab were encouraging.
Four weeks later he sent me the full findings, but I was only interested in the bottom line. My PSA was 0.02, virtually undetectable!
Thank you, Mr Shah, and thanks to all of you who work in the NHS. But thanks are not enough.
I have joined Men United and am proud to support Prostate Cancer UK, because if I die before the age of 88, the diagnosis won’t be prostate cancer.

Committed: Mary Archer helped her husband through his ordeal
In sickness and in health – that’s what it says in the marriage contract, and that’s what it feels like when your husband or partner is diagnosed with prostate cancer.
If your man is anything like Jeffrey, he won’t be good at getting regular medical check-ups or admitting he may have a health problem.
That’s why, when I heard that Jeffrey’s PSA level was slightly higher than it should be for a man of his age, I encouraged him to have a thorough check-up.
I was very glad I did, because the MRI scan and biopsy that he then had showed quite a bit of cancer in his prostate, though fortunately it didn’t seem to have spread.
Something needed to be done, but what? This is a key point in the cancer journey where a family member can be really helpful, by going with the patient to discuss treatment options with the specialist.
Jeffrey had little hesitation in opting for surgery, and a couple of weeks later he had a robot-assisted radical prostatectomy.
The surgeon had told us what to expect after this surgery and that was very helpful. Jeffrey did not like the catheter he had in for a week afterwards,and I was able to help with catheter care and practical issues of washing and taking regular medication and exercise.
Then, when the catheter came out, he didn’t like the poor continence he suffered for the next few days any better. I was very sympathetic about that as I had had a similar experience three years ago, after my operation for bladder cancer.
I’m fine now, and that helped Jeffrey believe he would be fine too.
So my advice to any woman finding herself in the same situation as I was last autumn, with her man facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer, is to stay connected for the journey. It’s much easier to travel the road together.

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Top 10 Prostate Cancer Blogs 2014. Did we make it?

Healthline, an international company with headquarters in SanFrancisco, have just voted our blog 2nd in the top 10 of all Prostate Cancer blogs 2014. 

Here's what they said….

"Daniel Sencier started his blog, Prostate Cancer – Our Journey, after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June of 2010. What began as a means of keeping friends and family informed of his health now acts as an engaging diary.
Daniel writes about his travels, the people he meets, and, most recently, about moving from England’s Lake District to South Africa. He has retained a PSA of 0 for the past three years. Prostate Cancer – Our Journey reflects this shift, chronicles his journey, and offers bits of wisdom about life beyond cancer."

Saturday, 7 June 2014

"We get up in the morning, we do our best, nothing else matters"

People in South Africa and neighbouring countries treat their old people with so much dignity it overwhelms me to see. Their opinion is sought before any family decisions, they are shown respect by the young, they are always put first and they are looked after at home until the day they die. 
I compare this to the UK where people are far wealthier, but the majority of old people are simply not wanted or respected. They are eventually left to die alone in their homes, care homes or hospitals. This film has so many messages to make you really think about how you should think…young or old...

"I see life as a privilege, not a right"

"There is no past we can bring back by longing for it, only a present that builds itself as the past withdraws"

"The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment; as you always must"

"Can we be blamed for feeling we are too old to change, too scared of disappointment to start it all again"

"All we know about the future is that it will be different. Perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same, so we must celebrate the changes"

"The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing"

"We get up in the morning, we do our best, nothing else matters"

I've watched the film six times now and it just gets better. Be careful, it might change you!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Old photos

Whoever sent me the old photos, thank you. The envelopes weren't sealed so I don't know how many fell out! When I look at a photograph, I always think of the person taking it, because it was they that had the thought to pass history down to you. There are very few pictures of me as a child. I was always taking them.