[cranberry-fig sourdough, made by my daughter, daiskmeliadorn]

I ate this delicious bread for breakfast this morning and enjoyed it enormously, savouring every single mouthful. It yielded a whole variety of wonderful textures and delicious flavours while I read my book about a father-son relationship and drank my first coffee of the day, while sitting in a nice quiet sunny window seat. Overall a fabulous breakfast experience.

In a couple of weeks’ time, however, on Monday 10 April, I will be eating white bread without crusts – with no enjoyment and indeed a certain amount of trepidation. I will be preparing for a date with Dr N on Wednesday 12 April when he will explore as much as he can of the inside of my gastro-intestinal tract. He will make his exploration in two journeys, beginning at each end of the gut. To prepare for this I have 24 hours of ‘low residue diet’ (nothing more exciting than white bread) on the Monday, followed by 18 hours of just clear fluids, then 6 hours of fasting. I then front up at the hospital to have an endoscope and a colonoscope inserted by Dr N. That can’t be much fun for me, can it?

Since my cancer diagnosis a few months ago, I have been attempting to make the most of each day, not knowing how many days there are ahead, and what those future days might hold. So I will continue to enjoy daiskmeliadorn’s bread while I have the chance.

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It’s that time of the year again.

chocolate-banana vegan pancake, Shrove Tuesday 2017

I like the idea of Lent, of spending a period focusing on something different from your ‘normal’ life in the hope that you emerge somehow as a ‘better’ person. Traditionally, the day before Lent is designated Fat Tuesday, or the French would say Mardi Gras*, when the rich foods (such as eggs & butter) are eaten to get them out of the house in preparation for a period of fasting, penitence and abstinence.  daiskmeliadorn  pointed out to me that for a vegan to eat pancakes on Mardi Gras is a little inappropriate, given that a vegan pancake wouldn’t contain those rich ingredients anyway.

I am a traditionalist in many ways, however, and I couldn’t resist the symbolic act of  pancake consumption, almost as though the eating of the pancake was an acceptance of the absolution.

I didn’t have any of the egg replacement recommended by  daiskmeliadorn  (ground flax seed) so I used an alternative no-egg vegan pancake recipe. It wasn’t great, but the addition of banana and chocolate (fair trade vegan, 85% cocoa) probably rescued it as far as the rest of my omnivore family were concerned.

So  what does a vegan, this vegan in particular, give up for Lent?

daiskmeliadorn suggested giving up rocket and spinach might be an appropriate penitential sacrifice. I gave up broccoli a few of years ago, but given the parlous state of my physical health at the moment, I’m reluctant to rule any nutritious food out of my life, even for a few weeks. So I have decided instead to attempt to give up criticising other people and organisations. I am not, however, simply going to put on some rose-coloured glasses and pretend that all’s right with the world. I will still think critically about actions and statements, but where I had been inclined to jump in and criticise an individual or organisation, I will instead spend some time trying to figure out why they are behaving/speaking that way. What is the good outcome they are seeking? How might their actions be slightly modified or words be better expressed to give a more positive result. Mr Trump, I’m looking at you…but there’s lots of examples close to home that will challenge me to find the good in the badly expressed.

I will also use the Lenten period for self-examination., perhaps focussing on why I am too inclined to be critical of others.

*The connection between Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and the festival of the same name which is now a major LGBTIQ event in Sydney, is not immediately clear to me. One day I will investigate, but the historical facts are rather irrelevant – there’s no direct connection now except for the time of the year in which they occur.

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Critical measurements

I’m the sort of person who likes to quantify, measure and record the data for future reference. Perhaps I’m a little obsessive.

Here are two graphs of aspects of my health which show trends in opposite directions, but which are both positive for me. I had a radical prostatectomy on November 23 and since then I have been working on gaining body weight, with 60 kg as my target. I want to re-gain weight the lost due to surgery, but also to put on some weight in the hope that it will help strengthen my osteoporotic thoracic spine.

Body mass change since just before prostatectomy, as recorded on my FitBit app.

I have had considerable help from daiskmeliadorn in achieving this weight gain goal. She has been making an absolutely amazingly delicious chocolate-walnut sourdough bread for me, which I have been consuming voraciously.

Chocolate-walnut sourdough bread made lovingly for me by daiskmeliadorn.

A second graph shows a trend in the opposite direction – declining mass. But this is the decline in daily total mass of urine collected in my incontinence pads, so it is also good news for me.

Measure of my urinary incontinence since prostatectomy.

Today I have decided that my incontinence has diminished enough that, although not completely abolished, it’s become reliably small and I don’t need to keep tabs on it anymore. I see my surgeon in two weeks, and I suspect he will declare me to be now ‘continent’ – one of his main outcome measures.

There’s a much more important outcome measure, of course – whether I’m still alive. My surgeon told me the statistics indicate a 10% chance that my cancer will kill me in the next ten years. And the best predictor of that occurrence is the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in my blood. If all is well the level should be “undetectable”. A non-zero value would probably indicate the presence of hitherto undetected metastases. In a couple of days I will front up at the pathologist to have blood taken for a 3-month post-op PSA measurement.  I’m hopeful, but nonetheless I will be anxiously awaiting the blood test results.

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Three options

I have travelled further down the road to recovery.

three drinks

I now have a choice of three drinks. Bottom: decaf, Top: full caffeine, Right: Sugar-free Chocolate

After my surgery I was advised by the Australian Cancer Council to not drink coffee. The only hot drink I consumed was Avalanche sugar-free hot chocolate. It turned out that their advice was not based on scientific data, so I have decided to ignore it.

I started trying decaffeinated coffee: TCR99 Decaffeinated Organic. Not bad for a decaf, and no adverse effects were apparent.

I wanted, however, to return to normality as much as possible.

Today I’ve had my first cup of full caffeine (Campos) coffee since 02 December 2016.

Mmmmm….good. Good to feel more normal, I thought, as I read my book about a Sydney woman who discovers she has stage 4 cancer. I don’t know yet how her story will end up, or mine, but I’m going along for the ride and I’m determined to enjoy it as much as possible.

Posted in emotions


Daiskmeliadorn is heading off to New York today for a three week ‘investigative’ holiday. So yesterday we had the perfect excuse to get together for vegan muffins at Mecca Ultimo.

[vegan muffins at Mecca, Ultimo]

vegan muffins with dasikmeliadorn at Mecca Ultimo

As usual for these meet-ups with daiskmeliadorn, we had a great conversation about things that matter, including her plans for the trip to America. She’s going to do a training run in Central Park next Saturday with members of the New York chapter of her running club, FrontRunners, and then she’ll be joining the Women’s March on New York City. She’s also going to travel upstate and talk to some people at Binghamton University, with a view to possibly returning as a grad student. I’ll miss her over the next few weeks, but she’s on an exciting adventure and I’m loving being able to share some of that experience. We agreed meet back at Mecca in three week’s time.

On my own life ‘adventure’, yesterday I had my first coffee since before my surgery for prostate cancer – decaffeinated, but it was coffee!

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Alive – but not a great life

Yes, I survived radical robotic prostatectomy.

Life without a cancerous prostate is not great, however. We all know about this issue – the side effects of the surgery (impotence, incontinence) are not good, and lots of men have prostate cancer which never kills them, so the benefits of prostatectomy are not clear-cut.

Well, I definitely wanted this procedure and I’m glad that I had it. My cancer is a rather ‘punchy’ type, and probably would have killed be without surgery. Now, my surgeon tells me, I have only about a 10% chance that my prostate cancer will re-emerge to kill me in the next ten years.

In the mean time,

  • I am wearing a wad of Kimberly-Clark product between my legs to catch my urine and I wake every 2 hours at night to empty my bladder, to attempt to avoid wetting the bed
  • I am not allowed “bladder-irritant” drinks: coffee, tea, alcohol, carbonated drinks

So I have thrown out these packs of coffee beans without even getting to try them. I was particularly looking forward to the Indonesian one.

Two packets of coffee beans thrown out

I carry incontinence pads with me and have them located in lots of places at home and at work  . . .  just in case.

I have taken a few more steps down the slippery slope of old age dependency and life style restriction. Maybe incontinence will improve (most do improve over a couple of years) – or maybe not. In any case, I expect my coffee enjoyment days are over.

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[apple and raspberry juice]
[if I can see through it, I can drink it]

I’m definitely counting down the hours. Tomorrow I am scheduled for a radical robotic prostatectomy at the Sydney Adventist Hospital. I stopped eating yesterday, and today I am allowed to drink – but only if it’s transparent. Apple and raspberry juice is OK, black coffee is OK too (yay!).

In two hours’ time, I start flushing my bowel. I will be glad when the surgery is over. Watch this space for a report.

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