How do you know if you have cancer? When I was writing my first book I studied everything I could about cancer, made phone calls to various authorities, visited specialists – only to discover that until cancer has developed to the point that it had become obvious there was no earlier form of detection.
When I was diagnosed with cancer the tumour was already huge – and there was more than one, just to add to the fun. And this was despite keeping on top of my PSA readings. The specialists I saw along the way seemed to be quite content to let a tumour grow until it was something that they could see and act upon. This strikes me as being quite unscientific.
My prostate cancer was not typical – it grew within the organ itself, rather than on the outside which is more common. Therefore, the ‘early detection’ method of a finger up my bum did not find anything. But because I had a much smarter urologist by this time, my PSA of 13 was followed by an MRI, which showed tumours existed. This was followed by a biopsy which found two tumours with a Gleeson score of 8, and a 17mm core sample from the largest one. This was serious.
To cut a long story short I embarked upon a immune system boosting nutrition plan, doing all of the things mentioned before, as well as a treatment plan (described in the next section), which turbo charged my immune system. The results were very revealing.
For the last few months of my battle with cancer I was living in a very unhappy place. You can imagine the impacts on the psychology of a person diagnosed with a serious, life threatening disease. Well that’s what I assumed too. However, although I used every tool in the shed to beat my cancer, and the second MRI showed that the tumours were being impacted by the program, after nine months I opted for surgery.
That nine month period gave me plenty of time to think about the next step – to understand it and get comfortable with it. I’ll discuss this more in the next section on treatment, but in context of early detection, this was to be a major lesson.
With my immune system in hyper drive, my prostate came out. After a few days in hospital and nearly two weeks with a very annoying catheter causing me grief I became extremely well. Not just a little bit well, but incredibly well.
Now that my immune system did not have cancer to deal with it had plenty of new found ‘spare capacity’ – and it took care of anything else that was weighing on my well being. I feel the best I have felt in 40 years – with more energy than I have experienced in a very long time.
Most importantly my ‘mental health’, which I measure by emotional well being, shot through the roof. I went from months of being in a very dark place, to as bright as sunshine. And therein lay the clue to early detection.
There is an abundance of science that has described the connection between immune function and emotional well being, and notably depression. There is a distinct correlation between a compromised immune system and misery, basically.
When I took a retrospective study of everything that has happened over the last few years it is clear that as my PSA went up, my emotional well being was going down. The more my immune system was preoccupied with dealing with my cancer, the less happiness I was experiencing, until it reached a point where I was absolutely not okay.
Allow me to suggest that emotional wellbeing, or rather a steady decline in emotional wellbeing, is the first indicator of cancer.
Naturally there are other causes of immune system overload, but cancer comes with a decline in mental health, and notably depression. This will also be associated with anxiety, feelings of stress (of being overwhelmed), and anger. Put it another way, if you are experiencing a slow emotional decline into hell, immune system overload is a likely cause. A possible cause of immune system overload is chronic disease, and within that, cancer.
I am not suggesting that if you are having a bad day it means you have cancer. What I am saying is: in retrospect there was a clear association between emotional well being and the advent of the disease. While not every day was a bad day, the trend was definitely downward.
I started to get moody, irritable, depressed and stressed. While life is not always a picnic, I found myself getting more and more emotional about less and less significant matters – over reacting to trivia basically. And as there was no visible sign of disease I found myself doubting myself more and more – and so did those around me. This was a slow wind up over about three years – the same period that my PSA was accelerating upwards. The reverberation of my deterioration was undermining the quality of life my family was used to. I was becoming the bad guy. And I was very distressed by this – which probably added to the problem.
We could argue that I am imagining all this, that it is anecdotal and therefore unscientific, but when I look at what I experienced, and the conversations that I have had with others who are currently going through this, I am prepared to bet on it – and I am not a betting man. This is no less scientific than waiting for a tumour to get big enough to find with a finger up your bum.