Living in hope of new drugs

Serious, life threatening and life ending illnesses have always been a problem, sometimes at epidemic and even pandemic proportions.

Tuberculosis has been around since at least neolithic times. The Great White Plague epidemic started in the 17th century and lasted about 200 years. The industrial revolution enabled it.  Both my grandfather’s brothers died of TB aged 19.

The 1918 flu pandemic infected about half a billion people around the world and killed 50-100 million, 3-5% of the world population. This followed the massive loss of life during World War 1 – many men who survived the horrors of the trenches died of the flu, or spread it around the world as they returned to their home countries.

TB and the flu haven’t gone away completely but are currently less deadly in developed countries like New Zealand.

Now our biggest killers are heart disease and the various types of cancer that have now been identified.

Modern medicine has made avoidance and survival much more achievable (but something gets us all in the end).

One significant change is hope – hope that medical advances will prevent or cure diseases.

This must be an difficult for those who are suffering, especially those who know there are new drugs available elsewhere but are unavailable or unaffordable.

Others are helped by currently available life extending drugs, but live in hope of something better becoming available.

I can barely imagine what it must be like living in this situation, but that’s the situation  Dunedin’s deputy mayor is currently in.

ODT: Staynes making the most of remission

Dunedin’s deputy mayor is readying himself for one last term on the council, after treatment halted the spread of his prostate cancer.

While Cr Chris Staynes’ cancer has not gone away, he said yesterday it was in “a controlled state” that meant he was ready to continue in his role for another three years, if the vote went his way in October.

In April last year Cr Staynes (65) was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer.

Tests later confirmed the cancer had spread to his bones at multiple sites, meaning his long-term prognosis appeared bleak.

But yesterday he said after chemotherapy that was “not so good”, and medication, his health was “at the moment good”.

His specialist had told him yesterday his prostate-specific antigen result, which tested for an enzyme in the blood produced exclusively by prostate cells, was zero.

That meant the cancer was neither spreading or growing.

The medication he was taking to get that result, however, would “work for a while; at some point, it will cease working”.

Once that happened, there was another drug that would hold the cancer, but for a shorter time, and another, more recently funded, that “could buy you a bit more time, but shorter again”.

“What you hope is they last as long as they possibly can.”If he got five years from the drug he was on, “that’s a great outcome”, he said.

The longer he lived, the longer he was likely to live because of the research that was going on.

Sooner or later, new drugs would come on the market.

I really feel for him and others in similar situations (as much as is possible without facing it myself), living in hope of life saving or better life extending drugs or treatments.

I must admit that when one gets on a bit, and one notices more people of a similar age falling victim to disease and death, one tends to ponder things like this a lot more.

One thing it reminds me to do is be very thankful I can still enjoy life and good health. Neither of my grandfathers lived as long as I have survived, but I live in much better times as far as medicines and wares are concerned.

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19 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  3rd June 2016

    The large number of flu victims circa 1918 may have been victims of Aspirin. My problem with modern medicine is we don’t investigate old and alternative medicine for its full medical potential. What I see today are people living longer ( 70 is the new 60 ) but they don’t seem to have a quality of life. They shuffle, have dull eyes, and as one old person said to me;” when I go to a friends funeral I wish it was me in that box.”

    Reply
    • That’s sad. I’m a long way from that, yet.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  3rd June 2016

        We are lucky, Pete. The person I quoted died recently. So he suffers no more. Funny thing, being a fitness nut I like to look back at the lives of fitness gurus. Most seem to live long lives but cancer features prominently in their deaths. So obviously diet and living conditions still must play a roll.

        Reply
    • Blazer

       /  3rd June 2016

      And I was talking to a Doctor last week who swears aspirin is the wonder drug,that thins blood and prevents platelet build up.Recommended to be taken every day!

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  3rd June 2016

        It’s ridiculous to write off everyone of a certain age as having no quality of life and shuffling around with dull eyes.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  3rd June 2016

          If the person really wanted to be dead, they could top themselves-they can’t want to be in that box as badly as all that or they’d be in it. .

          I know a woman who’s heading towards her 100th birthday-she’s well on in the 90s-and walks like someone many years younger. She drives a fairly new car and enjoys life greatly. There are many such. Then there are the dreary ones who are old when they’re middle-aged. People don’t suddenly begin shuffling and losing all their quality of life as a matter of course when they reach a certain age.

          Reply
        • Corky

           /  3rd June 2016

          I presumed most would know my description would not apply to everyone.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  3rd June 2016

            That wasn’t clear at all-you said that you saw people living longer today, but they shuffle and have no quality of life. There was no mention of it not applying to everyone.

            Yes, Gezza, M_____ is single and happy to be. I couldn’t believe how old she is, she doesn’t look it at all. Not that she’s one of these who dress like teenagers and think that they look like them. She looks like someone of about 70.

            There was a woman of 100+ in Hamilton who was in an old people’s home. Her son, who was 80 or so, moved into a retirement village.When he mentioned to one of the staff that he was going to visit his mother that afternoon, they thought that the poor man was going senile.

            Reply
  2. Corky

     /  3rd June 2016

    Until your stomach lining wears away or your kidneys pack up. Aspirins efficacy is not in question- it works very well. its just they minimise reporting the side effects.

    The alternative that is just as effective and has additional health benefits is Aged Garlic( Kyolic)

    I’m not trying to persuade you to change, Blazer. Each to their own. Who knows, you could take one cap of garlic and drop dead.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd June 2016

      That would depend upon the amount taken.Heart aspirins are a very low dosage. If someone stuffed down half a packet of Aspro every day, they’d be asking for trouble. No doctor would suggest that someone take a dangerous amount.

      I can’t believe that the flu victims all died of aspirin-we don’t know how many took it. One would have to take a massive amount of it for it to kill one. People die of flu now.

      One thing that I hadn’t thought of but should have is that the flu was spread in NZ (and probably in other countries) by people going to the celebrations for the end of the war, even though they were feeling ill, thus giving it to all around them.

      Reply
  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  3rd June 2016

    What happened to the TB vaccinations ? We all had these at school, but I believe that they are not done now.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd June 2016

      BCG vaccinations. They’re still done but not for all kids. Just kids at risk.
      https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/bcg-vaccine-information-parents-%E2%80%93-english-version

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  3rd June 2016

        I’d forgotten that they were called that. We all had to line up for them at intermediate school. The scars were permanent, I think, but better a small scar than TB.

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  3rd June 2016

        Yes I remember getting mine and still have the scar. And I used to sometimes have to drive to some of the primary schools dropping off the vaccines for the Public Health Nurses when I worked for the Health Department in my first job.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  4th June 2016

          Do you remember the school Murder House ? Someone coming back and saying who the next victim was-that was the only good part, when one was the person bringing the good news that X was to go next. I wonder how many people were put off dentists for life by the Murder House.

          It was a horrible surprise to go to an emergency dentist in the late 80s and see that he had (no ! no !) a foot-powered drill. We didn’t even have those in the Murder House, as far as I can remember. This looked like a museum piece and the thought that it was going to be used on me was (faints)

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  4th June 2016

            Yeah I remember. (Shudders) The school dental nurses used to lean right over you but it still didn’t help.

            Reply
          • I remember the Murder House well, and the dread when someone arrived in class with the next appointment in case it was for you.

            The worst visit was during a storm and a power cut, the dental nurse rolled out the old treadle drill which was worse than the electric drill.

            Reply
  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  3rd June 2016

    When my mother was a young mother, one of the other young mothers whom she knew had cancer;it proved to be incurable. She was sent home because nothing more could be done, then went into spontaneous remission and was still alive decades later-she was quite old when I last heard of her. How I wish that whatever causes this amazing good luck could be discovered and recreated (for want of a better word) Cancer stole my husband and left me a still-young widow(well, too young to be a widow) It’s a cruel disease.

    Reply

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