I haven’t ever posted on a personal topic on any of my blogs before, but this is somewhat different, and something I want to just get out into the open. Plus I want to get down in writing everything that I would say to everyone who I would like to tell in person, but simply don’t have the time or mental energy (and you’ll have to forgive me for that).
Last Thursday I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, at the grand old age of 43.
Yes, it was quite a shock, and it’s been a bit of a tumultuous few days absorbing the news, finding out more about what it means, and letting close family and friends know.
But I am now resolved to just being completely open about it, not least because it’s no big deal! OK, that may be a bit of an over simplification, but the bottom line is that as these things go it’s not too serious and the prognosis is good:
- prostate cancer is the most common but most treatable cancer in men
- as a headline figure, 80% of people are completely cured
- my tumour has been spotted early, is non-invasive, and non-aggressive. In fact I have a suspicion I’ve had it for years, and to this day I’ve never had any significant symptoms from it*
- I’m young, and fit (probably the fittest I’ve been in 20 years!). In fact I’m so young (his words, not mine!) the consultant had initially dismissed the possibility that I even had it.
*the amazing thing is that all this was spotted almost by accident – a simple urine test five years ago identified traces of blood in my urine, whereupon I saw urologists who found nothing, then nephrologists who thought I had a minor kidney ailment and eventually discharged me. But as they did, about three months ago, they spotted one abnormal blood test, an elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen). A further test showed it had gone up even more, and the rest is pretty much history (MRI scan, CT scan, Endoscopy, and then the final proof via a biopsy).
The dreaded ‘C’-word
Telling people has been hard, but that has been made all the harder by the stigma attached to the word cancer. If I said I had an infection people would probably think a course of antibiotics and I’d be right as rain and not even dream that it could be something as serious as meningitis (although they’d probably also not assume that it was just athletes foot!). Yet telling people you have cancer puts the fear of God into everyone. I can understand this, but it absolutely shouldn’t!
So what’s going to happen?
Essentially I just need to be rid of it. There are two ways to do this, surgery or radiotherapy. Each has its pros and cons, neither is especially pleasant, but once over and recovery is complete life will return to normal. The initial treatment could well be over and done with by Christmas.
What can you do?
My instinct here is to say ‘do absolutely nothing’. Seriously. I’m not ill now, and don’t intend on being ill once this is all sorted (and the odds are stacked in my favour). The only thing in between is to have either the operation or radiotherapy. Not trivial, but something I just have to accept. We have a great network of friends and family, and we know you are there, which means a lot. But if you have any questions then just ask me – believe me I now know more than I could ever put in one blog post. Don’t be shy!
On a lighter note, jokes are good! You are allowed to (and someone already has) tell me to keep my pecker up. You are also most definitely allowed to tell me I look like I’ve lost weight, even though the scales tell me otherwise. In fact I have set it as my mission to compile some of the best (and worst) prostate related jokes. (By the way, prostrate cancer is what you get from lying in bed for too long – amazing the difference an extra ‘r’ can make!)
No, not to me (though bottles of wine and bars of chocolate are, and always have been, very welcome).
Next week I am doing the Palace to Palace charity bike ride, something that was arranged months before any of this. I had been lazy and not arranged any sponsorship, but it’s my mission to raise £250 for MacMillan Cancer Support in the next week. It was a MacMillan nurse who took me into a room after my diagnosis and in a wonderfully matter of fact way simply explained everything, dispelled all the myths, and answered all my understandable (and silly) questions. In short he set me straight and moved me from “oh, shit” to “oh, OK”.
So if you do anything, donate some money, however little, to this very worthy cause.