First post RT check-up

Had my first 3 month post radio therapy check-up yesterday. The doctor examined my abdomen and neck checking for lymph node swelling. Nothing strange to report. Blood was also taken to check for AFP and beta-HCG markers. No x-ray or CT was ordered. I had lots of x-rays taken during the RT and they were all clear. I expect the blood tests to be normal as well.
So that’s that done until February 2004 🙂
I actually feel really well. I was in New York and Toronto last week on holiday and walked about a million miles! Had loads of really good food and still lost weight 🙂 I’m down to my cricket bowling weight again! Walking is really, really good exercise. Much better than that gym nonsense 😉

After the zapping

My zapping (or radio therapy as the medical staff insist on calling it) finished on 5th August. It’s been a month since I finished my treatment for TC so here is an update on how it went.
Over the three weeks of the treatment it was similar to the description given in the previous entry. There was mild nausea a few hours after the sessions. some days this was worse than others and it got slightly worse towards the end of the treatments. An unexpected side-effect was that the incision site of the orchiectomy got slightly sore and swollen again. At least this showed that the x-rays were having an effect 🙂
I started back to work a few days after the last treatment and started mild exercise in the gym a few weeks later. I played cricket about three weeks after the treatment ended. After this I was sore all week so I think it was a bit early for this. The cricket season in over now until April 2004. My goal is to get fully fit for it so lots of gym time over the winter is needed I think.
I will have an appointment with an oncologist in October for a checkup. Will probably get x-rays or a CT scan to ensure there are no other tumors. All the evidence is that there wont be. Previous CT scans and tumor markers were negative. So hopefully my brush with TC is behind me with the exception of the periodic follow-up checks.


Three days into my radiotherapy treatment (or zapping). Actually this is day 4 but I get Saturday and Sunday off for good behaviour 🙂 Very strange feeling.
The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. Or it’s like the muscle strain felling I get when I start cricket training at the beginning of the summer. Of course with the training pain it’s my whole body that’s sore (even bits I didn’t know I had!).
I felt really nauseous a few hours after the sessions on day 2 and day 3. Same this morning but its not too bad at the moment. Nearly chucked this morning after gargling with mouthwash. The action of leaning forward to spit it out nearly triggered further action!. I have tablets to take for the nausea. One a day. Plus I’m drinking lots of water. I feel like I do when I have a viral infection that my body is fighting off. I don’t think I have an infection but rather it’s just the feeling on my body repairing the damage done by the X-Rays. Just as I was starting to feel okay again after the surgery. Still better than some of the other alternatives though.
The worst part is pain in my pelvic region related to the scar tissue from the surgery. I think this is a result of the manipulation to fit the lead shielding to protect the remaining testicle from the radiation 🙁 Liberal does of Panadol Extra for that issue.
12 more sessions to go over the next 17 days. Chin up as they say!

The reason the Earth exists?

Some people think (incorrectly in my opinion) that the Earth exists for some profound reason. Well, if I’m wrong, then I think that a reason as good as any other is that the Earth exists to give Kate Bush something to stand on when singing.

She does after all have the voice of an angel. For the last few hours I have been listening to her complete collection on my iPod in random play mode. Current track is “In Search of Peter Pan” from the Lionheart album. Pure bliss. The title track “Oh England, my Lionheart” has just started.

Now where is that new album we hear about? Like all her stuff it will be worth waiting for.

Eclipse lyric

I wrote this little ditty in 1999 when there was a total eclipse that tracked over Europe. The recent interest in the annular eclipse in Scotland reminded me that it was lurking on my PowerBook hard drive. The appearance of Brian May on The Sky at Night show in the UK and Brian’s thoughts about the eclipse on his web site prompted me to send it to his Soapbox email address. I got a reply from Brian and the lyric is also posted on the letters section of the Brian May web site (page it was on no longer available).

Anyway as it is now out in the wild I may as well post it here. Nothing serious. Just a bit of fun.


Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
First contact thrills us as
The sun sets in the day
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
Twilight comes and light fades
In a spooky way
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
It gets colder and the wind blows
In a peculiar way
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
The atmosphere dances madly as the
Shadow bands play
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
Totality is upon us now as
Beautiful as they say
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
The corona shimmers brightly as
Prominences dance and play
Dead of night will fall again
In the heat of day
Blazing forth the diamond ring as the
Moon goes on its way
Dead of night will fall away
With the return of day
The eclipse it is behind us
Time we were on our way

Orchiectomy follow up

I had my first appointment with my oncologist this morning to discuss follow-up treatment after my orchiectomy on May 12th. During the appointment I had a very long detailed discussion about what I should do next.
It was confirmed that I had a Stage 1 seminoma that had some vascular invasion.
The option of surveillance was discussed at length as an alternative to getting radiotherapy immediately. The decision was that I should get the radiotherapy now as –
1) Young men are notorious for not following surveillance regimens. Whilst at this minute I would obviously say 100% that I would follow any regimen, who knows what I’ll be doing in a few years time.
2) The doses that are given are very low as seminoma is very susceptible so the risks of causing other cancers are low.
So I have an appointment on Monday to plan the treatment in detail. They will inject me with contrast solution to outline the kidneys etc. then. The treatment itself with last 3 weeks and will be every weekday. As a result of some past history of surgery in my case (that I won’t go into) they are going to irradiate both the retroperitoneal lymph nodes in my back and the left inguinal nodes in the lower pelvic region of my abdomen. As a result I will be banking sperm before the treatment. I can’t get the image of Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun 33 & 1/3 out of my mind 🙂 Were he is under cover in the fertility clinic and has to give 3 samples so as not to blow his cover 🙂
The remaining testicle is covered with a lead protection cup during the treatment and sperm production should not be effected. Even so the recommendation is not to father any kids for a while (a year?) after the treatment. Even though it’s covered there is always scatter of radiation during the treatment. The banking of sperm is a precaution just in case something goes wrong and sperm production does not recover. I have no plans for any kids in the near future anyway 🙂
I’ve just got the following from another member of the TC support list about the effects of radiotherapy:
> Btw, when you have RT, you will need to avoid whatever sun you get in
> Belfast, for a year. No problem, I know. :).
> Nausea and diahorrea are common side effects of RT and you can expect
> body hair to fall out towards the end of the routine..
> Afterwards, you can expect it to be a year before your stamina fully
> recovers.
> Itr just means you have to life the Liffey water with two hands !
> Good luck with it.
Hmmm. Hopefully it wont be quite that bad 🙁 If nothing else it’s give me an excuse for a sedentary lifestyle with lots of studying.

Complete short stories – H. G. Wells

800+ pages of excellence.

After recently re-reading Wells’ “War of the Worlds” and seeing the Hallmark produced mini series based on some of Wells’ short stories on the UK Sci-Fi channel I ordered a copy of his complete short stories. I’ve only read about 10 of them so far, out of the 84 it contains. But they really are excellent stuff. Incidentally it says in the editors introduction that Wells said of his short stories: “I would rather [they] were found in the bedrooms of convalescents and in dentists parlours and railway trains than in gentlemen’s studies”. I’ve been reading them whilst recovering from surgery. So his wish has come true in my case!

The edition I got is on Amazon UK here.

Seven wonders

We all know about the seven wonders of the ancient world. Whilst these were certainly marvels there are other marvels that really intrigue and delight me.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a web site for people to post their seven wonders for a long time now. I’ve just never got round to it. The site would be for people to list seven things that really inspire, delight or intrigue them. They would have to outline the workings of the items, not just provide a list, so that others could gather some details of why they are included.

My seven are listed below. In this soapbox entry I’m going to break my own rule and just give the list. I’ll flesh it out later either here or on the web page if I ever get round to it. My seven wonders, in no particular order, are –

• Chemical bonding
• Plate Tectonics
• Music
• Aerodynamics of a cricket ball
• Mitochondria
• Books
• Star and planetary system formation

Letter to express concern at the teaching of creationism in some UK colleges

There has been much media discussion of the fact that creationism is being taught in science classes in Emmanuel City Technology in Gateshead. It is a ridiculous state of affairs that taxpayers money is used to foster this lie on the pupils of the college. The text below was drafted by two friends and myself for sending to the UK government Education Department, the Shadow Education Secretary, The MP for the constituency where the college is located and the two main teaching unions. It was also cc’ed to Dr. Stephen Law and Professor Richard Dawkins. Whilst we don’t expect to change the policy of the government with this single letter we hope it will add to the existing outcry about this situation and hopefully encourage others to also express their concerns.

The text –

For attention of –

Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke MP
Secretary of State for Education and Skills

Dear Sir,

We write to you to express our concern, and dismay, at the inclusion of so called “creation science” in science classes in Emmanuel City Technology College, Gateshead. We are also concerned that this ethos will be replicated in other colleges, under the control of the same parent body, in the near future.

Evolution is the basis upon which the modern biological sciences are founded and affects every aspect of our lives, from the standard of science education received to the quality of the medication issued when we fall sick. The dangers posed by the so-called “creation science” movement in The United States of America (USA) are well known and documented. It was therefore distressing when it became publicly known that Emmanuel City Technology College was encouraging its teachers to promote “creation science” alongside evolutionary theory in the science classrooms. While we understand and indeed applaud Prime Minister Blair for actively promoting the mantle of high education standards, this should not be allowed to be utilised as a cover for sneaking pseudoscience in through the backdoor. If ideas such as “creation science” are to be addressed in the curriculum then their place is in Religious Education classes or comparative theology classes. In these it can be discussed alongside other creation stories such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism and the numerous other religions.

In this light, we are deeply concerned at the announcements that the group which runs Emmanuel City Technology College is planning, with the backing of local and governmental authorities, to expand and open up yet another school to be run along the same lines. This new school will also be permitted to introduce creationism to its pupils as a form of valid scientific thinking. This is not only disingenuous and doing a grave disservice to the standard of teaching the pupils will receive, it is a matter of grave concern that teachers who call themselves Christians would willingly lie to the pupils entrusted to them.

It is unacceptable for HM Government to try and sweep these events under the carpet on pretence of the schools’ otherwise fine academic record and to pretend that creationism does not pose a threat to the United Kingdom. While it is true to say that creation science does not have the same following yet in the UK as it does in the USA, it is noticeable that young-earth creationism (which posits that the Earth is only 6000 years old) is on the rise here in these troubled times. Such data was adequately presented by Dr Stephen Law at the recent Darwin Day celebrations held by the British Humanist Association. An overview of the presentations given and a transcript of Dr Law’s paper is provided online at – <>.

Given this background, it is of even graver concern that the group co-ordinating the setup of these schools does itself have connections with the influential American young-earth creationist organisation “Answers in Genesis” –

We believe not only that “creation science” should not be permissible in science classrooms but that the teaching of evolutionary theory in the current biology curriculum should be brought up-to-date and strengthened at all levels of schooling, from primary through to university level.

This is the responsibility not just of the Department of Education & Skills and the respective local educational authorities, but indeed of the teacher unions, influential university staff members and clergy, of all denominations, who can bring the relevant pressure to bear upon the Government and local authorities, but also concerned members of the general public who wish to see the children of this country receive even higher standards of scientific education to better enable understanding of the world around them and prepare them adequately for the real world which awaits them.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Brass
Oxford, UK

Ian Robinson (contact for correspondence)
Technical Design Consultant
Belfast, UK

Alan Wilson
Chartered Engineer
Congleton, UK

Cc to:
Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation
Damian Green MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Phil Willis MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills
Rt. Hon. Joyce Quin MP, Gateshead East & Washington West
Professor Richard Dawkins, New College, University of Oxford
Dr. Stephen Law, Heythrop College, University of London

Pathology results

I got a telephone call from my urologist this afternoon with the pathology report on the testicle removed during my orchiectomy. I will get a copy of the actual report later but basically the doctor said it was –

Seminoma only
No spread to the sperm tubes or other areas
Did have vascular invasion

So it could have been worse. This is in addition to my negative CT scan and negative blood markers.

I’m being referred to another doctor to discuss options for further treatment. The protocol in Northern Ireland seems to be give everyone preventative radiotherapy. I’ll discuss the option of surveillance with him.

So all things considered, happy days.