I have Prostate Cancer and you have no idea how lucky I feel!
What! Do I hear you say. Let me explain. Just over four years ago my wife, Diana a.k.a She Who Must Be Obeyed, and I decided to buy a holiday home. The final decision was between southern Spain and south-west Florida in the USA. We elected for Lakewood Ranch a small town which may become a city just outside Sarasota on the Gulf of Mexico. Having moved in we were able to create a network of friends very easily for the following reasons:
- “She Who Must Be Obeyed” is a very chatty individual.
- I, am windswept & interesting.
- Most Americans speak a type of English which is relatively easy to understand.
The important thing is this as our friendships grew and after dinner conversations became more than just superficial we became aware that many of our American friends took health screening very seriously indeed. Therefore, for the last three years both She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have elected to be screened privately. I have to say that in my case the word elected would have to be considered advisedly as any suggestion made by She Who Must Be Obeyed would be ignored at one’s peril.
Now please don’t start sending sympathy messages to me about my condition. Please read this blog as I hope that it may just help someone if I share my ongoing experiences as I travel this road and on the way, I hope to make people aware that this disease is treatable. Right at the outset I need to make it clear that I have no medical qualifications of any description. The only connection I have with this disease is that I currently have a cancer residing in the left hand side of my prostate. So how did I find out?
A few short weeks ago we sadly lost a dear colleague who passed on at age 53. This came as a shock and Diana reminded me that I had not had a PSA test for just over 12 months. I had recently read in The Daily Telegraph that PSA tests were now available to those over sixty years of age free on The National Health Service and as I qualify (I’m sixty four on my next birthday), hard to believe I know, I decided to visit my local GP (for the benefit of my American readers, Primary Care Physician). Having presented myself and announced my request, my doctor started to explain that the PSA test is somewhat controversial. I’m afraid I had to interrupt him and remind him that I had already had two previous tests and he then relaxed down and I duly had my blood test. Let’s not misunderstand my doctor. Here in England the PSA test is deemed controversial as it can bring forward false positives (indicating you may have cancer) and lead to unnecessary further investigation. However, as far as I’m aware it’s the only blood test that will give an indication if something is going on. Needless to say when my results came back my numbers were higher than the previous year (2.3 increased to 5.6) and although still considered low because of the large increase within a relatively short period my GP referred me to Mr. Vijay Ramani who is a consultant specializing in this area and related matters.
A couple of days later Mr. Ramani gave me a physical examination at The Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle, Cheshire including the dreaded rectal examination. This is not the most pleasant experience that I have ever encountered but it’s very rapid lasting about fifteen seconds. From this examination Mr. Ramani was able to determine that my prostate was quite hard on one side and therefore I was booked in for a biopsy which took place at The Christie Clinic in Manchester on July 24.
My biopsy was my first experience of the Christie Clinic which is a private hospital attached to the NHS hospital. My arrival time was at 7am and having duly parked my car in the private patients area and walking through the main hospital I arrived at the Christie clinic. My appointment time was before the official opening hours so to get into the ward was a little more complex than I had envisaged but I eventually arrived at the ward and was greeted by the very pleasant and friendly staff and shown to my room. I’ve stayed in worse hotel rooms (see posts about my Vegas trip elsewhere on this blog). My room was spacious with a hardwood floor, cream colored walls and had the most complicated newfangled entertainment system I’ve ever seen! The ensuite bathroom was big enough for communal bathing and everywhere was absolutely spotless. Shortly a nurse appeared and having gone through the usual admission paperwork I was asked to disrobe and put on a “Theatre Gown”. Whenever I have had to wear one of these not so chic items of apparel I’m always reminded of that magnificent film “As Good As it Gets” starring Jack Nicholson and the scene where he’s walking down the hospital corridor and the rear of the gown is open to sufficiently expose his butt. Not long after this ritual dressing ceremony my consultant Mr. Ramani came to my room and escorted me a short way along the corridor to the theatre room where my biopsy was due to be carried out and was introduced to two very jolly nurses. This procedure was carried out under local anesthetic so I was completely aware of what was going on and able to chat with the two jolly nurses while the procedure was carried out. In layman’s terms a probe is inserted up your bum that has a camera and a hook. Every now and then I felt the hook scratch my prostate when it took a sample. Although I was aware of the sensation it was painless. After the sample was taken there was an immediate loud “crack” which was reminiscent of a child’s cap gun going off. The sort of gun I used to have when I used to pretend to be Marshall Matt Dillon while I made my hapless friend play the part of Chester who had to have an authentic limp. If you’re to young to remember “Gunsmoke” on black and white TV you may have no idea what I’m writing about! The noise was made by the machine as it pulled the sample that was taken through the tube and was duly labelled and packaged by one of the jolly nurses. For more information of this test have a look at http://www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk/cancer-information/types/prostate-cancer/pages/diagnosis.aspx The procedure didn’t take very long and I was returned to my room. After an hour had passed and I had been fed and watered, been to the bathroom I was discharged and I returned home.
I then had a couple of weeks to wait for the results so Diana and I journeyed to our vacation home in Lakewood Ranch to relax and wait. The waiting, up to now, has been the hardest thing that I’ve had to do. There was one day when I felt so low that I have to admit I had a bit of a cry but my good lady pulled me round and we got on with the day.
When Mr. Ramani telephoned me to say that the biopsy showed that I had prostate cancer and that it was “eminently treatable and curable” I felt releived as the wait was over and now we could get on and make a plan. Flights were re-booked and we returned to the UK and sat down with Mr. Ramani on August 20 to decide upon a course of treatment. While waiting for our flights I was able to speak with Patricia and Jonathan who are a couple that we know in Sarasota. Jonathan is in recovery from Prostate cancer and I’m indebted to him for sharing his experience and to his wife for lending me a marvelous book “Prostate Cancer for Dummies” (authored by Paul H Lange, MD. ISBN 978-0-7645-1974-1). The conversation that I had with Jonathan, coupled with my reading and our consultation with Mr. Ramani led Diana and I to decide upon a Radical Robotic Prostatectomy. Have a look at http://www.christie.nhs.uk/the-foundation-trust/treatments-and-clinical-services/clinical-services/surgery/robotic-radical-prostatectomy.aspx which gives a very good overview.
The wheels were now set in motion with a date fixed for the operation for next Tuesday August 28. Yesterday August 23 I had to attend the Christie Clinic for a pre-operative assessment.
On arrival at the Christie their car park is being rebuilt and the code number that I had been given to access the private patients car park was incorrect. However, by the time I had actually found the reception area of the Christie Clinic not to be confused, as I did, with the main hospital reception I was duly greeted by the receptionist, Wanda (pronounced Vanda in a strong Germanic accent) in a very pleasant waiting area. Very modern, light wood floors, leather chairs, cream walls which generated a pleasant airy feeling. Paperwork being duly completed and after a very short wait I was duly welcomed by Nurse Jed who radiated good humour and took me down the corridor to an examination room for the beginning of the pre-op assessment where I was asked questions about my diet and general well being. During the questioning Nurse Jed asked me if I had any hearing problems. I, of course, responded with “Pardon” and then Jed repeated his question at a higher volume. He then realized that he had fallen for the oldest gag in the book which I think he enjoyed as much as I did. While Jed was going through the questionnaire his colleague, nurse Patricia, took some blood (painless) and swabs from my nose and throat. I was then asked if I needed to go to the bathroom to self swab my groin or should they just draw the curtain. This seemed a bit silly to me so we went for the curtain option which then jammed in the track and duly tore. Hilarious! A discusssion then ensued as to where a support strut should be installed to allow the curtain to glide freely. My next task was to give a urine sample which is always something I find difficult to do at the drop of a hat, so to speak. While waiting I then had an ECG and afterwards nurse Patricia removed the pads from my slightly hairy chest that suggested to me that Nurse Patricia had been reading “50 Shades of Grey” which she denied vigorously but I’m not so sure. We went on to discuss the admissions procedure for next Tuesday (suggested arrival time of 7:15) and I will have the op on that day and may be discharged on Thursday but more than likely Friday and if not then it would be on Sunday. After a cup of tea and a biscuit and several glasses of water I produced the required specimen. I then had a conversation with the duty doctor who introduced himself as Iqbal and we went through my medical history and he answered a number of questions that I had, such as what happens with my current medications etc. It was during this conversation that I learnt that this clinic performs about 5 robotic radical prostatectomies a week!
This morning, August 24 I attended the Nuclear Medicine Department at The Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle, Cheshire for a bone scan. At 9 am I was injected with a radioactive marker and then told to go away and come back three hours later when my photographs would be done. Having left the Alexandra Hospital after a hearty breakfast in their canteen I took my newly radioactive body for a walk down the high street. I had this vision that as I walked past shops and offices, lights would flicker and clocks would stutter in the fashion of that fantastic magician Dynamo. Of course, what actually happened was nothing. So, at 12 noon I returned my radio active body to the Nuclear Medicine Department for my photo shoot which took sometime. I’m pleased to say that nothing untoward was discovered in this process and my body will lose it’s radioactive powers by tomorrow morning!
This weekend, provided the weather is clement, I intend to visit the Cheshire Show. So, if you see a slightly glowing body it might just be me!
If you feel this blog is appropiate please circulate it to all the men that you know and all the ladies that you know,
who know men!
Until my next post. Toodleloo!