Challenges To Come

Monthly Blood Tests = Russian Roulette

Tests, treatments, infusions, samples, needles, tubes and more : Kev's routines nowadays
Kevin has already been told he has an incurable, inoperable & effectively terminal disease but he also has to endure something every month, something that most of us would find completely untenable just the once; blood tests that could significantly reduce the current stay of execution.

On a Monday every four weeks he goes in to hospital, has some blood taken and this is sent off for analysis. He then has to try and keep his head screwed on for two whole days until he is summoned back for the results. Just think about how you would handle that few days' process just once and then consider that every four weeks -every FOUR weeks- he gets to repeat the whole thing until one day he gets the results he is not ever wanting to hear: that the drugs are not working anymore.

Below are his thoughts on the whole process and how he manages to keep his mind together throughout.

"I tended to live in 3 month cycles. After every good result I knew I had 3 more months during which I could realistically plan for, safe in the knowledge that I would not be dying of prostate cancer more-or-less immediately...
but that time ticked away."
Kevin Webber
"With prostate cancer blood tests are what drives how you are treated, when you are treated and how often. There is a score, called a PSA score and that flipping thing rules your life.

"When you are first diagnosed the score is high and anything above 2 may be bad news. Mine was 342 which was obviously terrible but, then again, some peoples are in the thousands. Wrongly or rightly I liken it to a raffle, the kind of raffle you seriously never want to win. The higher the number, the more likely it is that you will 'win' the raffle. Although it is possible to 'win' with just one ticket the odds are fairly straight-forward and in line with your score; the higher your PSA, the higher your chance of 'winning'.

"After I had undergone my chemotherapy treatment I went on 3 monthly tests. The tests are painless, just a small jab and in 20 seconds they have 3 vials of your blood to send off for testing. And then it's the worst time ever, as you have to wait for two days to get the results back. Two days. Two whole days you have to sit and mull over that you're about to hear your fate.

"And so I tended to live in 3 month cycles. After every good result I knew I had 3 more months during which I could realistically plan for, safe in the knowledge that I would not be dying of prostate cancer more-or-less immediately but that time ticked away. Think about it. Time can ebb away really rapidly. Two months, one month and then, suddenly, panic again; more days when I could not face work even though I had learnt to 'smile and wave' most of the time."

Life & Death in a Doctor's Notepad

"Waiting outside the doctors room, always on a Wednesday, waiting for the result with the inescapable feeling that he has life and death right there in his note pad. You think, 'if I don't go, I wont know and I can go away in ignorance'. That's only short-term escapism I know but I can't tell you how many times that that thought has run through my head. Sometimes they were running late! Sheer agony, mental torture. I know that they are busy but do they realise what it does to cancer patients?

"And then it's your turn, you're in and the doctor comes in the room. Its like that insidious game of 'Russian roulette'. He has a gun, there are lots of empty chambers but inside one of them is definitely a bullet. Of that there can be no argument. He starts talking -the equivalent of picking up the gun and pulling on the trigger- and then "click"! The score is still low, I have 3 more months. Relief, smiles, thank-you's... and you are out the door.

"But not every time, I have been in the room and its gone "bang!", the score is increasing. It's doubled in 3 weeks so do the maths. Cancer is like bacteria, so if it doubles every 3 weeks a low score of, say, 10, becomes uncontrollable with a score of over 1,000 in less than 6 months.

"On the way home it's just like suffering from shock. All the anxiety of the previous days and final hours are suddenly gone and now, in it's place, is a dull emptiness. But then one day even though the score was still low (good) I am told that I need to go on to monthly blood tests. Again, sheer panic sets in. Flippantly I am told that I have done so well on the drugs that they are expecting them to fail soon and when they do they may fail spectacularly, so 3 months is too long to wait between tests.

"Should I be happy about surviving so long or scared about being told it will may grow very fast when these drugs fail? Not only that but now the cycle of 3 months, or even 2 months, is now down to a monthly panic. It is now a 1-month panic, 1-month panic, 1-month panic."

"I get to play Russian roulette lots more now and we all know what that means; great."


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