I’d been to see my GP at what is now Royal Primary Care in Chesterfield for a relatively common men’s problem, I was having to make frequent trips, day and night, to the bathroom for a pee. After an examination and tests my GP had referred me to Chesterfield Royal Hospital’s Urology Department. He said that although my PSA test (prostate-specific antigen) was high for a man of my age, it was ‘borderline’ however he preferred to err on the safe side. I’m so pleased that he did.
Further PSA checks and several DREs (Digital Rectal Exams) later a biopsy was recommended and samples taken for analysis. Ten slightly anxious days passed before Gael and I returned for the result:
have prostate cancer. It’s very early, doesn’t need immediate treatment and is
likely to be life changing, not life threatening. “
I was stunned, we both were. The news hit us hard as I’d convinced myself that whatever was wrong, it was minor. Now, it seemed, it wasn’t.
“Believe me, there are men I’ll be seeing today who would give the earth to hear what I’ve just told you but for them the outlook is much more bleak.”
That may have been true but right then, right there, it wasn’t much comfort to either of us. Cancer, to my mind, happened to other people, not to me. In 63 years I’d never been seriously ill, never broken a bone, never been in a hospital as a patient. I’d had friends who’d had cancer, some of whom had not survived but none of them had spoken about it – cancer, its symptoms, its treatments, their side effects and its impact were completely new to me and all were very alarming.
I began a period of active
surveillance during which further tests and examinations took place. After a
second biopsy I received the news that my cancer had become more aggressive,
it’s Gleason Score had increased, and treatment was now required.
I considered the options: surgery or radiotherapy and decided on surgery; a radical prostatectomy – removal of the whole prostate. However, during a pre-operative assessment it was discovered I had a heart problem of sufficient severity to rule out surgery as too much of a risk. I now had no choice, it had to be radiotherapy.
I didn’t know anyone who’d had it before and was quite concerned but I need not have worried. Once I had visited Weston Park Hospital, met the oncology and radiography teams and had it all explained I felt much more at ease and aware of what to expect and how it might affect me.
I was determined to remain positive throughout the weeks of treatment; my cancer was, as far as I was concerned, an illness that needed to be treated and once that had been done I was going to be fine again. It was a temporary setback that once dealt with could be filed as ‘completed’ and I could continue with life.
I’d been able to arrange my treatments for early in the morning so I’d have the rest of the day free. I stop-started my way through Sheffield’s morning rush hour every week day for week after week, calling in at a convenient supermarket to drink the obligatory amount of water beforehand until the very last session when a traffic holdup made me late, it was my 65th birthday too!
The radiotherapy itself wasn’t arduous in any way apart perhaps from the pre-treatment preparation which entailed the use of suppositories but that soon became just a daily ritual. Visiting Weston Park didn’t phase me at all, I was in, changed into a gown, ‘zapped’ and on my way home inside half and hour. The thing that did upset me however was seeing children going in for treatment.
At the end of my treatment I ‘signed out’, said my goodbyes and life more or less returned to normal. Side effects of the radiotherapy have been few and not too difficult to cope with and it’s entirely due to the professional skill, friendly faces and reassuring manner of Weston Park staff that five years later I feel 100% OK; I do not think I could have been in better hands.
I now have annual blood tests to monitor my PSA and am able to report that it is almost zero, an excellent outcome. I have so much to be grateful for.
Saying ‘thank you’ isn’t enough though. This is a more tangible way to show my gratitude, by increasing awareness about prostate cancer and raising money for Weston Park Cancer Charity. Please read about the hospital and the incredible work it does in the fields of cancer treatment and research; it is a truly amazing place that will put all donations to very good use.
I mentioned a heart problem, didn’t I? It’s really a whole different story but briefly, I had a coronary angioplasty to insert three stents to open my arteries. I’m pleased to report they’re working very well.
P.S. – gentlemen, if you have waterworks problems, however slight, don’t delay, make an appointment to see your GP. You know it makes sense.