Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Some people who stumble on this site – whose theme is surviving prostate cancer – might also be interested in reading of my life as a journalist and writer.

I’ve just published the first part of my memoirs, which can be obtained by emailing me at jimtuckermedia@jimtucker The price is $NZ25.

If you want details of the book – which is in digital form only at this stage – go to my main website: https://jimtuckermedia.com/my-books/

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My prostate cancer has still not reared its ugly head after 11 years, but the news is not so reassuring for my brother, Rob.

His has been stabilised at a single tumour, but it’s close to his spine and he is needing a lot of pain management.

There is a possibility, though, the pain is coming from another unrelated condition – deterioration in the structure of some vertebrae. The medics are investigating the possibility of him have the culprits fused so they don’t press on the spinal nerves.

Hopefully, such an operation would give him a much more comfortable life.

Meantime, he’s had a wonderful week of tributes to his more than half a century of work as a photo-journalist. Go to YouTube and take a look at a video I put together about it all.

Tributes to Rob Tucker – photo-journalist

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I should be cracking a bottle of fine bubbles about now – I’m more than a decade past my prostatectomy and there are no signs of prostate cancer.

Is it tempting fate to write that? Of course it is. I met someone a year or so back who got to 13 years with no show of C…then he got it.

Unusual, that. A decade was considered the magic milestone when I was writing about prostate cancer regularly (the first couple of years after my op). What is it now, I wonder? Is there even a safe zone any more? I’d rather not know.

The only time I think about it is when I hear from someone looking for a bit of advice and encouragement. Or when I look down at my greatly shortened appendage, the result of having your urinary tract sliced to get rid of the prostate and sewn back together again.

Nobody warns you about that. After the scars have all but disappeared, a short dick is just about all that’s left to remind you of the op. Small price to pay for life, of course, but irritating, nonetheless.

My wife, bless her, says she doesn’t even notice (she just said something indecent I can’t repeat here – yes, that function still works, too).

I do notice another change, but I suspect it’s the result of creeping age (I’m 73 now); my flow has slowed up considerably again.

I will never forget the joy of taking a slash once the op wounds healed and marvelling at the flow of an 18-year-old that cascaded into the bowl.

I was so excited at the time (2010) I shot a short video (no appendage in view) and posted it on this blog. Weirdly, some sicko complained to WordPress after a few months and they took it down. Give me strength.

Anyway, all is well. Look out for yourselves during Covid.

FOOTNOTE: Just cracked a bottle of fine bubbles with Lin, not just to celebrate the clear decade, but we just finished our latest book (my 21st).

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My newspaper column this week (Taranaki Daily News, Saturday March 18, 2017) urges men recently diagnosed with prostate cancer to make more use of support groups.

In New Zealand, most provinces have them. They’re run in conjunction with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ, the NZ Cancer Society and local area health boards.

I went to the New Plymouth one in Taranaki province recently for the first time and was surprised at the low attendance.

I also got a shock to hear one guy talk about discovering he’d had recurrence after 12 years. Twelve years!

I’d always hung on to advice that once you passed a decade of no further signs of cancer you were in the clear. Cured, in effect – although that’s not a word the medical profession ever uses.

I’m into my ninth year of showing no signs of anything untoward, so I thought I was getting close to the magic decade. Not so, it seems.

Anyway, the main message is make use of the support groups, or the dear old government might stop supporting them.

The contact for the New Plymouth one is: Peter Hickey (021-162-1334); newplymouth@prostate.org.nz. Or go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation website to find out how to reach the group in your region: https://prostate.org.nz/support-groups/

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An unwelcome milestone

imageWe buried the cat this week.

It was an unwelcome reminder of mortality and all that, especially since there was a time back in 2009 as I faced surgery to combat prostate cancer when it seemed he might outlast me.

Macavity’s kidneys let him down in the end and he went off to the big vet-aided sleep aged 16. I don’t feel bad about outliving him, of course, but I’ll miss the little bugger.

For some reason I re-read My Cancer Story on this blog last night, and there he was in a photo, tucked under my chin while I snoozed after one of my first days back at work following the operation (as the photo above shows, he also liked to sleep on Lin’s shoulder).

Digging a hole in the garden for him and planting a commemorative rhododendron – the kind of sentimental stuff us humans do when we lose a beloved pet – set me thinking again about how lucky I am to be alive.

I haven’t done that for a long time, as the memory of my brush with prostate cancer faded and I gradually resumed “life as usual”.

I even missed my annual PSA test recently. The doc forgot to add it to the usual cholesterol and god-knows-what-else indicators he orders for my yearly trip to the lab.

But, oh well, next year will do. It’s been seven years and so far nothing shows. I know, I know…this ignores all the frantic advice I was wont to give in the earlier days of the blog. It taks a decade to be clear, and all that.

Why am I being so blase? I don’t know. Maybe it’s simply a matter of moving on. I turned 69 last week, so perhaps there is some unacknowledged instinct that says I’m on the final run, so why worry? 


Reading the blog again after several years of putting it aside was a revelation in some ways. Talk about intense. Did I really mean to reveal so much private stuff? It seemed to go down pretty well with you all, if the comments are any guide, but I wonder now.

All that introspection in the later chapters about hitting the road like a gypsy and living a stress-free life seems misplaced. Especially now that Lin and I have abandoned caravan dwelling and are putting ourselves through the immense stress of buying and renovating a house in our old hometown, New Plymouth.

I’m supposed to be retired. I quit the job in Wellington running the journalism school in 2013. But life is busier than ever – writing books and articles, and getting into a fascinating project to produce a phone app for people wanting to visit the battle sites of the 19th century land wars that began here in Taranaki.

As for my health, it’s never been better. The joints and the back act up after a day on my knees laying paving stones, but no more than you’d expect in your 70th year. The blood pressure pills have been halved and the cholesterol seems to be staying down (when I stay off the pies – all that physical labour makes for an enormous appetite).

The 18-year-old pee stream (was that some kind of obsession or what) has diminished, but it’s still a good flow. Orgasms have never been so intense (those nerves really did get joined up again).

So that’s about it. I’m good, thanks. Best of luck to those of you still on the journey.



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PROSTABLOG NZ: Exact meaning of the word “encourage” will be pivotal  in the continuing New Zealand saga on how best to prevent prostate cancer.

“We will be encouraging men to go to their GPs to discuss optionsincluding whether or not they should have a PSA test,” says the chairman of Parliament’s inquiry into prostate cancer, Paul Hutchison, in today’s Dominion Post newspaper (see below).

In the same story, his statement is welcomed by Prostate Cancer Foundation of NZ president Mark von Dadelszen: “…we would certainly applaud that move.”

What they both mean by the term “encourage” is about to become the focus of a debate that has churned around in global prostate cancer politics since PSA testing became commonly available in the early 1990s.

First question: how does “encouraging” men to be tested differ from a national screening programme (which Hutchison signals will be rejected in the inquiry report due in a matter of weeks)?

A national screening programme presumably involves the Ministry of Health spending millions promoting tests to the general populace, as it does with breast and cervical cancers.

Such programmes “encourage” people to get along to their doctor and have the tests.

How will men be encouraged? Not with a lot of advertising, it seems.

So how, exactly?

By training barbers to spread the word to their clients, as has been tried in the US?

By sending doctors into communities to talk about risks and options, as the Foundation did last year when it flew a team to the Chathams?

By leaving it to the Foundation to publicise the disease and urge men to act, as happens now?

Whatever approach the Health Select Committee is about to recommend, it needs to deal with a mammoth in the waiting rooms – the Ministry of Health instruction to GPs that they must not raise the topic of PSA and rectal examination until the patient does or unless they spot symptoms obviously related to what is often a symptomless disease.

This is the real crux of the dilemma the Select Committee has presumably been wrangling with since its first public hearings in September, 2009.

What instruction will it recommend the Government give to the Ministry, whose staff and advisers  adamantly oppose any widening of the availability of PSA testing?

Up to now, men have been the subject of a mild but just as deadly form of Russian roulette when it comes to being diagnosed.

Take my own case.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been under the care of four GPs. The first never mentioned prostate cancer (to be fair, I was under 50); the second (mid 1990s) refused to consider PSA tests because to him they were unproven; the third insisted on it without my bidding; and my current one responded readily to my request for tests (saying Ministry instructions forbade him raising the matter unless I spoke up first!).

Anecdotal evidence suggests the Ministry’s obfuscation is becoming increasingly irrelevant – for some people, anyway.

The Foundation’s awareness campaigns have been effective, if I judge by the number of male acquaintances now being diagnosed early and successfully treated.

However, I suspect there are dangerous class factors at play here.

Me and my mates are okay because we have been blessed by education, higher socio-economic status, media awareness and access to health provision.

I fear for those who don’t. The Ministry’s stubbornness condemns them to an uncertain fate.

National prostate screening rejected

Dominion Post April 2, 2011

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry into prostate cancer screening will not be recommending a national screening programme despite pressure from cancer survivors to do so.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation has backed the committee’s approach, but a former patient says the decision is disappointing.

Health select committee chairman Paul Hutchison said the inquiry, which has been running since May 2009, was not due to report back for another few weeks, but when it did, it would not advocate screening.

There was still controversy over whether blood tests for prostate-specific antigens led to fewer prostate cancer deaths, he said.

Heightened levels of prostate specific antigen – PSA – can indicate the presence of prostate cancer. However, early detection can result in aggressive and unpleasant treatment of tumours that would never have grown or created ill-health.

The inquiry has heard from a huge number of prostate cancer survivors, many of whom asked for a screening programme for all men aged 50 and older.

Dr Hutchison could not go into detail about the committee’s findings but said there were two main conclusions.

‘‘We will not be recommending a PSA screening programme. However, we will be encouraging men to go to their GPs to discuss options … including whether or not they should have a PSA test.

‘‘Those are the two points that are loud and clear.’’

Prostate Cancer Foundation president Mark von Dadelszen said the organisation did not support a national screening programme because of ‘‘issues’’ with the PSA test.

‘What it does advocate is that men should be encouraged to have screening tests . . . we would certainly applaud that move.’’

Napier farmer Duncan McLean, who has just got the all-clear five years after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, said encouragement was good but the committee should recommend a full screening programme.

Mr McLean, 57, had his prostate gland removed in 2006 after several years of increasingly high PSA readings, followed by a biopsy that confirmed the cancer.

‘‘PSA testing is essential. I’m alive today because of it. It’s really disappointing they’re not [recommending screening].’’

Fears about over-treatment were ‘‘bollocks’’, he said. ‘‘You don’t leap in and go under the surgeon’s knife – I was monitored for three years before I had surgery.’’

International research on the matter is split, with several largescale studies under way.

The results of a 20-year Swedish study, published yesterday in the British Medical Journal, found screening did not significantly reduce prostate cancer deaths but the risk of overdetection and unnecessary treatment was considerable.

However, another Swedish study found death from prostate cancer more than halved among men who were screened.

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NURSE.COM: The motto, “Use it or lose it,” is spot on for prostate cancer patients recovering from surgery. READ MORE>

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URO TODAY: The surge in adoption of robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy – across the United States in particular – has put “open” surgeons on the defensive. READ MORE>

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICINE: To reduce morbidity and mortality from prostate cancer and breast cancer, new approaches for screening, early detection, and prevention for both diseases should be considered. READ MORE> (but you need to pay $US30 to get access to the full text).

URO TODAY: The need for this aprioristic rethinking is manifest, very eminently, in the fresh recommendations about screening for breast cancer, issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force, and in the public uproar provoked by these. READ MORE>

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BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: A wave of new immunotherapy drugs may help turn some lethal cancers into manageable chronic diseases. READ MORE>

Beginning on June 4, at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference, the world’s biggest gathering of cancer doctors and drug and biotech companies will show how medicines now being developed will provoke the immune system to kill cancer cells.

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