two feet on a scale. A tiny man struggles to pull the needle down to a lower weight

The Unwelcome Guest: Unexpected Side Effect

For the absence of doubt, the Unwelcome Guest is my prostate cancer; the kind of guest who leaves cigarette burns in the carpet and the shower running, which brings the ceiling down on the apartment below. We’ve all had guests like that, but mine lives in my prostate. He’s a disrupter.

How do my side effects measure up?

If you look at ProstateCancer.net’s survey: Prostate Cancer in America 2018 you’ll find a chart setting out the symptoms and side effects of prostate cancer treatment that affect daily life. How do I measure up?

  • Erectile dysfunction? Yup afraid so.
  • Fatigue? Managed to dodge that bullet.
  • Frequent urination and sudden urge to urinate? Frequent flyer status on that one.
  • Back and hip pain? I got a pass on that one too.

Deciding on hormone and radiation therapy

When I was first diagnosed my wife and I discussed the two available treatment options: Radical prostatectomy or hormone and radiation therapy. I opted for the surgeon’s knife, but it didn’t work out that way. The surgeon took one look at my scans, said the cancer was very close to my bowel and mentioned the possibility of colostomy bags. That didn’t sound too enticing, so Mrs. Preen and I had further discussions and went with the second item on the PC menu: hormone and radiation therapy.

One of the major side effects of hormone therapy, not on the chart, are hot flashes. I guess I get around six or seven a day and sometimes at night which generally wakes me up, but that’s OK as I’m bound to need to pee anyway. I know some people find these flushes really debilitating, but I can live with it. I take it as a reminder that my treatment’s working. The only time I hate breaking into a sweat is at work when I’m presenting to a room full of people. I can see people thinking, is he having a heart attack? as beads of sweat drip from my eyebrows. It’s not a great look.

Weight gain

But nowhere on the list is there mention of a most unlikely side effect: Weight gain. Cancer is effectively a wasting disease and then there’s chemotherapy which makes food taste so vile, the patient stops eating. But of course, unless the cancer has spread, chemo is rarely used to treat prostate cancer.

Throughout my whole life I’ve never had a problem with my weight, staying slim has been easy. Even as I got older and my metabolism slowed I was able to stay trim. If you’re finding this very irritating here’s something to make you feel better; all my hair fell out at 28 and I now wear hearing aids. Aging, it’ll get you one way or another.

Now, thanks to the Zoladex hormones that are jabbed into my abdomen by a spring-loaded instrument of torture every three months, I can’t stop eating. Some switch has been tripped in my brain, I’m now like a sheep, I graze constantly. My weight which has always stood at around 80Kg (176 pounds), started to edge close to 90kg (198 pounds). Something had to be done and I’m now on the 5:2 diet. On Monday and Wednesday, I eat what seems like three sticks of celery and on the other days I eat normally, or these days slightly abnormally. I’m hopeless at counting calories and restricting what I eat, so going cold turkey works for me. I’m now down to 84kg.

Settling into my new routine

When I first learned I had prostate cancer, a doctor friend said whatever you do, stay healthy. Keeping my weight down and going to the gym are my ways of encouraging the Unwelcome Guest to check out as soon as he likes. And let me tell you this, breakfast sure tastes good on the day after the diet.

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