Glossary and links

Regular readers will have noticed that I am expanding my vocabulary, so I thought that I should keep a record of these new terms that I can show off with (or should I say with which I can show off?). I also thought it might be sensible to start a list of the websites that I have found helpful.


Antigen – a harmful substance that causes the immune system to produce antibodies to fight against it.

‘Bryson issue’ – my name for the problem that took me the doctors and onto the journey that I am now writing about. All because of the title of his latest book (The Road to Little Dribbling).

Cannula – a very small, flexible tube which is placed into one of your veins, usually in the back of your hand or in your arm. At the other end is a small valve that is connected via a plastic tube to a bag of chemotherapy drug (or saline solution) via an infusion pump. When the cannula is inserted it has a needle inside it which is withdrawn once it is safely in the vein. The cannula is then taped in place as shown below.


CCHU – Cancer Care and Haematology Unit at SMH (Stoke Mandeville Hospital)

Docetaxel –  a man-made drug that was first made from yew tree needles (which are highly toxic). And I thought that yew were just grown in churchyards to ensure we had a plentiful supply of longbows. One of a whole range of chemotherapy drugs and the one that I am on. It is light sensitive (so has to be covered) and has a short shelf life (a few days).

Erythrocyte – A cell that contains haemoglobin and can carry oxygen to the body. Also called a red blood cell (RBC). The reddish colour is due to the haemoglobin. Low erythrocyte levels will make you feel tired.

HbA1c – HbA1c refers to glycated haemoglobin (A1c), which identifies average plasma (or blood) glucose concentration. (See Getting blood out of a stone?).Or as I explained it in My three-legged stool 18 months on HbA1c refers to glycated haemoglobin. OK so those are a couple of long words so lets take them one at a time. Haemoglobin is the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues. Glycated is when glucose or sugar is attached. So glycated haemoglobin is a way of  identifying average  blood glucose concentration over the life of the blood cell (they don’t live for ever you know) which makes it a key measure for diabetes control. Now that may not be the way an expert would explain it but hopefully you get enough of an idea.

Hormone therapy – this works by stopping the hormone testosterone from reaching prostate cancer cells which it otherwise feeds. It usually shrinks the cancer, which may just be in the prostate or may have spread to elsewhere in the body.

Idiopathic (as in ITP when used for Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) – a spontaneous disease or one with an unknown origin. A useful get out (but honest).

Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) a rare autoimmune disorder causing a shortage of platelets (thrombocytopenia)

Immunity nadir – when the white blood cells are at their lowest following chemotherapy and hence when most vulnerable to infection. Also known as the immunosuppressed period.

Leucocytes – a colourless cell which circulates in the blood and body fluids and is involved in counteracting foreign substances and disease; also called a white blood cell. Low leucocyte levels will make you vulnerable to infection.

Neutropenia –  abnormally low level of white blood cells.

Neutrophil – mature white blood cells.

Obs – short for observations e.g. of  vital signs – pulse, blood pressure etc..

PSA – Prostate Specific Antigen which is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. A raised PSA is an indicator of a potential problem. See link below. Once the problem has been identified changes in PSA are a good indicator of its progression.

STAMPEDE Trial – A trial looking at hormone therapy with other treatments for prostate cancer. (Systemic Therapy in Advancing or Metastatic Prostate cancer). See link below.

Steroid Face – The Nurse said “Have you taken your steroids”, looked at my face and said, “I can see that you have”. It was the healthy slightly ruddy complexion that gave me away.

Thrombocytes – more commonly known as platelets, thrombocytes are the third component of blood (after leucocytes and erythrocytes).  Their function is to stop bleeding by clumping and clotting blood vessel injuries.  Low platelet levels can result in bleeding, including nosebleeds, or bruising more easily.

Thrombocytopenia – low platelet count. A normal platelet count ranges from 150 to 450 platelets per nanolitre of blood.

Triptorelin – a hormone injection which reduces testosterone which the cancer feeds on. Other name Decapeptyl.

TURP transurethral resection of the prostate – a surgical procedure that involves cutting or shaving away a section of the prostate. A bit like removing the core of an apple.

TWOC – trial without catheter which involves removing a catheter from your bladder to see if you can pass urine without it. Fluid intake and output will be regularly measured.

Useful websites (Prostate Cancer and Chemotherapy)

CCHU fundraising and about the unit (known as the Wooden Spoon)


Prostate Cancer UK

Cancer Research UK


The National Federation of Prostate Cancer Support Groups

NHS Choices – Prostate Cancer

PSA Test

ITP (Immune Thrombocytopenia)

ITP Support Association

Platelet Disorder Support Association (USA)

Unrelated websites (Life in General)

My ‘secret’ website – travel tales (I have written quite a bit about my travels for myself and as the basis for talks so I have used some of those writings for this site.)

Land’s End to John O’Groats fundraising ride (Some friends raising money for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People July 2016)