Prostate Cancer

I am not sure what a blog is but I am guessing it is a bit like a dit in the Royal Navy. So I will start this dit with a bit of history about me for those that do not know me.

I am now 64 and retired from the RN nearly 10 years ago as the reigning champion pole vaulter. I still vault as well as other events and keep active as a volunteer ranger of the South Downs National Park when I am not looking after grandchildren. I also spend some time looking for geocaches up trees just for fun. Whilst rangering one day a colleague told us of his experience of having had prostate cancer. We all listened to this ex RAF pilot as he explained how he had a test whilst serving in the USA on a swap draft and were amazed to hear that he had been told he had the dreaded cancer. They regularly test for this out there from about 50. He finished his dit with by making us all promise to go and get tested as soon as we could, most of us being retired already and over 50.

I was of the opinion that it would not be a problem but went to the doctor confident that I did not have cancer with a big smile on my face. The doctor was surprised that I was even asking for a test and told me I was too young to think about it but also gave me some leaflets about prostate cancer and explained to me that the test that you do often gives false negatives and also false positives so was not the most reliable test in the world. He was concerned that it would make me anxious if I got a false positive so advised me to go away and read about this and come back if I really wanted the test. Still happy that I was fit as a fiddle and had none of the symptoms – I wanted to have the test because I really knew it would be all clear.

A week later I went back and had some blood taken and sent off for a PSA test and waited for a call to get the result. I was surprised to get told that it was positive but I knew about false positives so just shrugged it off straight away. The doctor did give me another test whilst there in that he put his gloves on whilst I dropped my trousers and lay on the couch with my knees up to my chest. Not a really nice experience but he was still of the opinion it was a false reading even after the inspection, I was only 58 and had no symptoms. He sent me away for a month saying to come back and have another test and we would go from there. I had no problem with that but thought that the test was a waste of time as it bore out his idea of false negatives so was not worried at all.

I went back and had the second test and it was a bit higher than the first so my doctor arranged for a hospital visit after again probing to check my prostate from the rear. It took just a couple of weeks to get into see the specialist and I had to answer lots of questions before he too had a probe around and then made me an appointment to come back and get another test where they insert a camera and take a few samples from the prostate to send off for tests just to make sure. I felt that this would prove that I had no problems so a week later I was back again and had this procedure.

The results came out after a week or so and this is when I should have been accompanied as it hit very hard and after the first time of being told I had cancer I did not really hear another thing he said! It was all about me making the decision of what treatment I wanted. I could leave it and it might not be a problem ever, or I could have radioactive balls injected into the area or have it removed altogether. I came home and prayed it would all go away but it was now real. I told my RAF buddy and we went to his house for a very frank discussion of how it went for him with all the possible side effects that he had and others that could happen before I went back to the specialist with my decision to have it all removed. It would only play on my mind if I left it to grow and if the radioactive balls failed then you could not go for removal afterwards.

Decision made and we agreed a date of the start of the school holidays so that my wife could look after me when I came out of hospital. I went in and had the op but did have a bit of a rough time as I lost a lot of blood with all the delicate surgery and the surgeon trying to make sure that I did not end up having to have a bag permanently. A lot of prayers going in to the operating room as I was very nervous. A few days later and on the day the 2012 Olympic games started and I was out of the hospital with a bag attached for my urine output which stayed on for two weeks. I hated that almost as much as the injections into my stomach daily, that I had to carry out.

It was with great relief that I went back to the hospital after two weeks and had the bag and tube removed only to be replaced by pads as I had yet to get control of my bladder. It was like my legs were a pump when out walking and I regularly had to stop and change pads but that lasted about 4 months and I was fully in control again. With a visit to the specialist at Christmas he was surprised I had got there so quickly. I went to see a specialist about erectile dysfunction where I was issued with a tool and also given some pills to try out. I did not get on well with the pills but the tool worked well and now I can dispense with that thanks to a great surgeon. I have had tests every year since and been given the all clear. Not a nice experience but so glad we caught it early and I insisted on the test.

In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives (Prostate UK). My advice to you today is go and get tested!

Image Credit: Prostate Cancer UK