ME AND MY SHADOW
I was in my early 50’s when on a routine visit to my GP I raised the question of checks for prostate cancer which had been mentioned in the media quite a bit at that time. My GP, being a bit of a wag to say the least, said that he had examined many men of my age and hadn’t found any evidence of the disease, but on the other hand he had examined men younger than me and unfortunately they weren’t with us any longer. The examination was done swiftly in pretty quick time and he arranged for me to have a PSA blood test soon after. The PSA blood test (Prostate Specific Antigen) can give an indication of abnormalities and when accompanied with the physical examination it can give a pretty accurate indication if a cancer is present or developing. My results came back as normal and I continued with the checks every 12 months until 18 months ago when my GP had noticed that my PSA readings were beginning to rise. When the reading passed the threshold limit he referred me to the local hospital for further tests and soon after prostate cancer was diagnosed in January 2019.
When breaking the news to me, the specialist said that the cancer was in its early stages and was self-contained in the prostate gland and that it hadn’t spread to the surrounding area. She informed me that I had a range of treatments available to me which included radiotherapy and hormone treatment but she also added that as I was one of the “lucky” 10% whose cancer had been found in the early stages and that I was physically able to have surgery, I was eligible for a radical prostatectomy. In layman’s terms this meant that I could have the prostate gland and the cancer removed by this procedure. After some deliberation with the medical staff and the family, I decide to go for what I called the “one stop shop”, undergo surgery and have it all taken away at the same time.
I was then transferred to the renown Urology Department at the Broad Green hospital in Liverpool, which is a centre of excellence for this type of procedure which was described as a “robotical prostatectomy” The hospital hold regular presentations for those eligible for this type of surgery and I duly attended one prior to the operation with other males in my condition and we were given factual advice about the pros and cons of the treatment and we were shown images of the actual robot that would perform the surgery, all under the watchful eye and control of the surgeon Mr Weston might I add.
Also present that day was a former patient of the hospital who had under-gone the same procedure a year previous and he confirmed what the medical staff had previously told us that we would be admitted early in the morning on day one, have the operation and that if no complications arose, we would walk out late in the afternoon on day two so as to complete our recovery at home.
I was admitted to the hospital in early March and after the necessary preparations and I was wheeled down to the theatre at lunchtime and was back on the ward by late afternoon in search of the well-deserved bowl of soup and sandwiches that I had previously been promised. After a good night’s sleep I was up and about the next morning, and as previously advised, I was discharged around tea-time that afternoon. The only physical evidence that I had from the surgery was six small cuts where the robotic arms had performed the key-hole surgery.
My recovery continued at home, thanks to the meticulous pre prepared medical package, information and advice put together by the nursing staff, who I now consider to be not only angels, but angels with the most loving, caring, realistic and humorous (where else but in Liverpool) approach that anyone could wish for. I was given an appointment for eight weeks from the date of the surgery to go back to the hospital to see the surgeon and get the results.
The big day came and I was told by the specialist Mr Weston that my PSA reading was now barely detectable as it had now dropped to 0.01 from the 6.1 reading prior to my operation and that was the indication that the surgery had been a success and that no further treatment would be required at that time. From now on my PSA levels would be monitored by having blood tests every 6 months for the foreseeable future.
Looking back I have so much to thank the much maligned NHS for with regard to my treatment and experience, I can only describe it as world class. So please take note you politicians and political parties out there. Stop selling off this wonderful institution by stealth and provide it with the necessary funding it needs and give the people of this country a health service it deserves. Last but not least, if you are a male and are over 50 or approaching 50, go and see your GP, ask them about the disease, tell them if you have any of the tell- tale symptoms (it’s all on the internet) and it is very important that you don’t get fobbed off by them saying things like “You’re not old enough” or “You have no symptoms” as there is a cost element that comes into it. Insist on a PSA blood test, ask for an examination. As we all know, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer is crucial, it took 15 years of watchful waiting for me, but it paid off in the end.
Thanks John for sharing your story. So, a message for all us gents to be watchful!