The Final Countdown
It’s close on three years since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and in a month my treatment for the ejection of my unwelcome guest should come to a close. What then?
The early days of my prostate cancer
It was in November 2017 when I got the unwelcome news. I’d had blood in my urine, a rectal exam discovered a distended prostate and then came a biopsy telling me there were lots of little unwelcome guests all over my prostate with a particularly ugly slug measuring 10mm. Dr. Gleeson had me at 4+3=7 and my PSA stood at 5.03, but my feeling scared and sorry for myself meter had the needle jammed way over into the red zone.
Sometimes I get nostalgic and miss the old days, but there are some old days I’d rather delete entirely from the memory bank. As most people reading this will know, those early weeks after diagnosis are frankly terrifying, whatever the doctors are telling you, you are telling yourself something infinitely worse.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
I was offered the choice of prostate removal, I’d say prostatectomy, but I have no idea how to pronounce it, or hormone therapy and radiation. My wife and I decided on the former as getting the cancer out of my body at the earliest opportunity seemed like the sensible course. It was not to be.
A young and rather dashing surgeon said as much as he’d like to get his scalpel into my innards the unwelcome guest was pretty close to my anus and a misstep on his part might have meant colostomy bags for me. And let’s face it a c-bag is never a good look in any circumstance.
The first hormone therapy injection
It all kicked off as it must have done for many of you with that medieval instrument of torture, the spring-loaded needle that jabs the hormone therapy juice into your abdomen. If done right it's only mildly painful. If done wrong, it can produce a yelp of pain.
My top tip: Always get the nurse to do it. Doctors rarely seem to give injections while it’s the stock in trade of the nursing fraternity. One of the doctors who I nicknamed the South Lambeth Road Slasher was particularly inept barely seeming to know one end of the needle from the other. Angela is now my go-to nurse but even she got it wrong last time and I found blood dripping on to my shirt. Well, the good news is there's only one of these shots left.
More than side effect worries...
Ten months after the first injection I had the first of my 39 fractions of radiotherapy, which aside from the resultant devastating need to pee at any moment day or night was tolerable. And while I know many find both radiotherapy and hormone therapy a struggle, I found both treatments bearable. Side effects? Yes for sure but I’ve been able to continue working pretty much throughout and have had some fun along the way.
I sure won’t miss those hot flashes, particularly when I’m at work talking to colleagues, giving a speech or trying to impress customers. As my face suddenly becomes bathed in sweat, I’ve had some pretty funny looks. ‘Is this guy having a heart attack?’ Will I still feel the need to eat constantly? Will my libido return and if yes can it happen quite quickly? But of course, the big question that supersedes all others is: will my cancer return?
What now, as my treatment comes to an end?
As keen-eyed readers of my last couple of articles will know, for the last six months my PSA stat has been 0.03, meaning my cancer is virtually undetectable.
But what now, as my treatment concludes? Will the unwelcome guest request a late check-out or more likely will he be keen to check back in once more?
Looking ahead without fear
I was going to say that being diagnosed with cancer is like having the sword of Damocles constantly hanging over your head, never knowing when it might drop, but I generally prefer a pop-culture reference.
By December of this year, I’m hoping to look at my cancer in the rear-view mirror. And as that great philosopher Meatloaf once said: ‘Objects in the rear-view mirror, may appear closer than they are.’ Let’s hope the big man got that one right.
How much do you worry about prostate cancer coming back after treatment?