Posts Tagged ‘Health’

Out of it

This afternoon I ventured on the air for the first time in several weeks. Indeed it  is the first time I’ve felt like switching on the radio since my brain tumour removal operation. It was not entirely a good experience.

I thought I’d try digimodes since I would only need to click a few buttons to complete a QSO. But I found the whole experience a bit bewildering. I made two contacts on 20m thinking I was on 10m! And a couple of times I left the other guy waiting for me to send something.

About the only way I can describe how I felt is “out of it” – the phrase sometimes used to describe a person who is so drunk that they don’t know what they are doing. Only unfortunately in this case the demon drink was not to blame.

Somehow I think it is going to take some time for things to get back to normal.

Life without Chrome

I’ve not been doing much radio the last couple of weeks. I haven’t been able to raise much enthusiasm. No doubt for those of you with jobs, being able to play radio all day would be a blissful situation. But it’s not much fun being in this small, sweaty shack in this hot, sunny weather. I’d really like to be able to get out and about in the beautiful Lakeland countryside, further than I can reach on my own two feet. And my hopes of doing that took a bit of a blow yesterday.

I did continue trying to get Google Chrome to run on my shack computer. For a short time I thought I had succeeded. I spotted that Microsoft .Net 3.5 was installed twice. I uninstalled both copies and Chrome appeared to be stable after that. Then I spotted Windows Update installing Net 3.5 again, and before I could stop it Chrome immediately crashed. I tried removing Net 3.5 again after disabling automatic updates, but this time it didn’t help. I could crash Chrome every single time I opened this post from PD0AC’s blog. Usually Chrome would just vanish from the screen, but other times I got blue-screen or black-screen error messages and once Windows XP spontaneously rebooted. So I have given up.

Happy birthday to me

Today is my 59th birthday. I opened my inbox to find several greetings messages from various websites and forums. Ah, you’re never without a friend in cyberspace!

Olga and I are not planning any special celebration today, though Olga is such a great cook that I prefer eating in anyway. I’m still off wine, despite still having a cupboard full of the stuff from when I was a member of a mail order wine club. At the moment I have enough trouble staying upright when sober. Surprisingly, I really don’t miss it (wine, I mean, not staying upright.)

But today deserves celebration as the birthday doctors told me I’d have a slim chance of seeing. Pah! Doctors! What do they know anyway?

There’s no reason why you, my loyal readers, can’t have a drink on my behalf, though. So here’s hoping I’ll still be hamming, blogging and beating the bugger in 365 days time, and many more days after that.

Thanks for all your support, and for reading my blog.

Link between radio use and brain tumours?

A news item in the December 2011 CQ magazine caught my attention yesterday. It reported that a Danish study of more than 350,000 people found no evidence of a link between cellphone use and cancer. Cancer rates have not increased during the time that cellphone use has become widespread. “That’s good news” I thought.

However, some websites that reported the story carried the additional information that the Danish researchers found a hint of a link between heavy phone use and the rare but usually fatal glioma brain tumours – exactly the bugger I have. Not such good news after all, then.

Another study by Swedish researchers found an increase in cancer in areas of the brain exposed to microwave energy during a mobile phone call. Most of this data was from users of older analogue phones which run higher power and cause three times the exposure of newer digital systems. However that would still apply to use of VHF and UHF FM hand-helds which are typically operated at a power of 5 watts.

I think you would have to be an extremely active ham radio operator to expose yourself to as much RF as a heavy mobile phone user. But most hams are using much lower frequencies – though potentially higher power levels. Are the frequencies commonly used by hams more or less likely to cause cancer? I don’t think anyone definitively knows the answer to that.

But it is certainly food for thought. I’d be more inclined now to use my HTs on low power or with a speaker mic so as to get the antenna further from the head. And if you must use indoor or stealth antennas that can only be sited a few feet from the operating position, life’s too short for QRO!

Still alive and kicking (just!)

It has been a while since my last posting to this blog, which has caused a couple of readers to express concern about my current state of health. I’m glad to say that reports of my demise are exaggerated, but less happy that the intensive chemotherapy regime has left me feeling pretty lousy and afflicted with a severe lethargy that nothing less than the arrival of Santa Claus bearing a shiny new Elecraft KX3 could kick me out of. Even reports that 10 metres is wide open have not given me the energy to haul my ass into the shack and see for myself. Hence the lack of posts.

I don’t see things getting much better for the next 4 months when the chemotherapy will be over as although I do detect an improvement in how I feel as I get towards the end of a cycle I am quickly back to square one after starting the next one. There is not enough change in how I feel from day to day to warrant more frequent postings to One Foot in the Grave. My days seem to merge together so that most of the time I couldn’t even tell you what day of the week it is!

Despite what I have just written I will not actually be one of the people feverishly refreshing the Elecraft order page in order to secure a place near the top of the list for KX3 orders. Though I don’t doubt that the KX3 is a seriously cool piece of radio equipment that will be a big success for Elecraft, I have come to the decision that my FT-817ND meets all my current needs of a portable ham radio. I also can still remember my frustration at the length of time I had to wait to receive my K3 (and the even longer wait until the firmware actually worked and it all performed as expected.) I don’t wish to cause myself the stress of wondering whether I will live long enough to receive my KX3!

That’s not to say I don’t see an Elecraft KX3 in my life (and my shack) at any point. I can envisage a situation where a new toy to play with could make life seem a lot more cheerful. One day it will be possible to order a KX3 and get instant gratification. But until then I’ll content myself with reading the experiences of the early adopters and watching their YouTube videos.

Back to QRP

In a comment to one of my posts on my other blog, Roger G3XBM wondered whether exposure to materials used in electronic construction such as PVC, lead solder, flux etc. might have contributed to my having a malignant brain tumour. I have never worked in the electronics industry and it was mainly during my teens and in the last few years that I have melted solder to any great extent. I suspect my exposure has been quite a lot less than that of professional engineers and many other hams, so personally I doubt this is the cause, though I guess it could be one of those things like smoking and lung cancer where if you’ve done it at all you increase the risk.

The other thing Roger mentioned was exposure to RF. This was something I kept on thinking about during the days I was in the hospital bed staring at the ceiling. Could using antennas in the attic a few feet from my head have caused the tumour to develop? Or perhaps it was using hand-held VHF radios?

With the logic of the ignorant I was inclined to dismiss the fears. I have never been a particularly prolific operator and only in the last couple of years have I run more than 10 watts to my attic antennas. I suppose my liking for digital modes may have increased the strength of the RF fields I was subjected to. 40W of PSK31 is probably a more intense exposure than 100W PEP of SSB.

As a right-handed person my HTs are usually held on the right hand side of my face – the side the tumour was. Coincidence or not? On the other hand, most people on the planet use mobile phones far more than I do and they aren’t all dying of brain tumours. Would doctors use radio waves to kill cancerous tumours if exposure to RF caused them? I don’t know.

Mike G4GOC found an extract of an article “Increased mortality in amateur radio operators due to lymphatic and hematopoietic malignancies” which appears to suggest a link between RF exposure and myeloid leukemia. So I guess getting as much distance between yourself and a transmitting antenna is always going to be a good idea, hard though that is to achieve for people living on postage stamp sized plots like so many of us on this small island.

There may be no proof that anything I did in pursuit of my hobby contributed to this brain tumour, but ever since returning home and getting some of my interest in ham radio back again I have felt uneasy about being close to an RF field. Yesterday I took the K3/100 and the Kenwood 50W 2m rig off the shack desk and put them away. Perhaps I’ll have a change of heart but it’s going to be QRP for me right now. If I could go back in my life and do anything different that would have avoided getting this brain tumour I would do so. I just don’t know for sure that carrying on as I did before won’t harm my chances of beating the bugger or at least keeping it at bay for a while longer.


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