In the weeks running up to the surgery, I wished I had been more open and honest from the beginning.
It was very wet with high, strong winds in the Lake District in late October 2015. I had finished a day’s walking up in the Langdale Pikes, a favourite area of mine. I go most years for a week to be by myself, my wee tent, my retreat, talking, walking and arguing with myself. I’m always in the right, funnily enough.
With the day done, I went back to the tent, cooked up, ate up, washed up and got ready to settle down, snuggle in and journal and read after a nice hot shower.
Then to my horror as I went for a pee, I passed blood. I was shocked. This had never happened before. Then I had a feeling of shame, no idea why. That’s disgusting, I thought. I felt dirty and unnatural. It did wreck the thought of a peaceful and contemplative evening as I lay listening to the storm battering and lashing the tent. I slept well enough. When I urinated in the morning, no blood, excellent! I’m cured. Not worth a mention then, best kept to myself. The incident never happened again.
It was some time in late December/early January 2016 in conversation with my wife that I mentioned I had passed blood. As a practicing nursing sister, she was angry and utterly bemused as to why I hadn’t talked about this immediately after it happened. After a visit to the GP and a series of tests and visits to the hospital I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Over those visits I was given so much literature I think I could have started a mobile library. To be honest, I didn’t really read or study what I was given. I googled something once for a couple of minutes, but other than that I didn’t want to know. I’m still probably the most ignorant person when it comes to cancer and I don’t really know the medical terms. I guess we all have different ways of dealing with things, ways to help reduce the anxiety and stress so we can get on and live a bit.
The staff at the hospital were amazingly sensitive and supportive throughout the whole experience. I was also given options as to what treatments were available.
I chose watchful waiting. That is, to continue the blood tests and see if the cancer stayed as it was or began to spread.
In September 2016 the PSA count rose and this meant that more radical action had to be taken. That December, I went in for surgery to have the prostate removed.I was anxious, and in the weeks running up to the surgery wished I had been more open and honest from the beginning, rather than keeping silent.
The surgery went well, and I remember giving the surgeon who did the operation a high five when he explained that the operation was successful in that it was very likely the cancer was contained within the prostate. A few weeks after the operation I bought a new mountain bike. This really helped my motivation to regain my fitness and skills.
The tests throughout most of the year looked good with no sign of any PSA. That was until late December 2017. I had a call from the oncology nurse who began the conversation with “As you know your results aren’t good, not what we had expected…” What had happened was that my results were going to the GP surgery, and as the PSA was low, the assumption was that it was within good parameters. Actually, as I no longer had a prostate, it should have been a very low reading, if any.
It was highly likely that rogue cancer cells had escaped from the prostate. This may have happened because I delayed attending my GP after I urinated blood and delayed surgery once I was diagnosed with cancer.
I was a bit emotional when I went home and told my wife the update. I continued to work, mountain bike, hike and just generally do life. This news was not going to be anything other than an inconvenience.
I began radiotherapy treatment in February 2018, seven and a half weeks of daily treatment. As I waited for my treatment, I’d see many of the same faces. I now know I got off very lightly compared with others. I haven’t faced the difficulties, trauma and loss that they and their loved ones have faced. These incredibly brave men and women, some much younger than me, some older, some had faced things that I will never have to face. Some laughed and chatted as they waited. A few were silent. I had a deep compassion for them. I doubt if I will ever meet them again or remember their names, but for nearly two months it was incredible to have so many laughs and support from ‘strangers’.
I have learned to enjoy the things I get to do. I get to pay bills, I get to get cut up in traffic, I get to cry and I get to laugh, I get to do this wonderful gift of life.
If I were to give advice, it would be this: if you pass blood, go to the GP immediately. If you’re offered surgery or ‘watchful waiting’, opt for surgery. I’ve had three tests since the radiotherapy sessions and there has been no indication of PSA. Result.