Prostate cancer is one of the most common and fortunately the most curable tumor of men. Early diagnosis of the cancer is the key player in the effectiveness of the cure affecting the quality of life, longevity following the treatment, and the ultimate verdict: hopeful or hopeless. This is a message from Keith Rickman, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year ago and passed the treatment from the very beginning to the end. The message is to those men who are potentially at risk, to their wives, partners, sisters, daughters, to everyone who loves them. Do not let the fear of cancer diagnosis, daily hassle, and false hope to take away your loved ones.
The message consists of three parts, connected with each other naturally and guiding you through all the channels of prostate cancer diagnosis and its treatment.
Please, share this message; it will save someone’s life.
Where did this journey start?
I suppose really you could trace the start of my prostate cancer journey back to when I worked for a very large global organization called American Express. It is not to blame them in any way for what’s happened but to perhaps illustrate what happens when you retire or you change companies from one which pays for all of your medical requirements to one which doesn’t. I did 19 years with American Express who joined me into BUPA, and we had regular checkups every two years to find out if there was anything wrong with us. This was, of course, known as the MOT and you would take possibly a half day or a day off to go to the BUPA offices and get a full checkup. The report would come along a couple of weeks later if you were lucky and HR would then meet with you to make sure that everything was okay for you to continue. I did this for many years and then came the day when I left American Express and joined another company who did the same, and after two years there I retired and went to Australia. Medical costs there were very high, but we muddled along. I had a hernia in Australia and partly paid for the hospitalization.
Then came two years in Oman where the company paid for most of my medical.
So you can see the trend can’t you, someone else is paying, so you get check-ups.
Then came the day when I really retired, and we moved to Cyprus. Here medical insurance is not possible so we pay for it out of our pocket – which I must stress is our choice.
Cost of medical here is extremely reasonable when compared to going private in the UK. So this was a very inexpensive way forward. I had another hernia, and then I had face cancer and getting these dealt with was not a problem in terms of the cost and the Hospital treatment was outstanding, in a very modern (just opened) Hospital with all the latest equipment.
I had some check-ups with our local Doctor (great guy) when we originally came to Cyprus, and as a result, was walking a lot more (at least 10,000 steps per day) and controlling my weight.
Problem with going for a full checkup?
Fast forward to 2018 which is about eight years since I had a full checkup.
So you say, what was the problem with getting a full MOT. That’s an interesting question because my wife had mentioned this on many occasions, and she had Breast cancer from which she has recovered, and we are forever grateful.
So again what was stopping me getting a full MOT?
Was it the cost – no because medical facilities here as we have said already are very reasonable.
Was it the fear of the hospital, which we knew well because I had been there for my hernia and also for my face cancer. No, absolutely not.
Was it the fear of going through some treatment – no because I had done this twice already right?
So what then – well it is difficult to pin it down.
One thing that didn’t help was the fact that my half brother had died from prostate cancer earlier – a couple of years before my trip to the hospital.
Until he had that I did not pay any attention to Prostate Cancer, never entered my head – simple really. Then you realize it is closer to home than you think. This also hit my wife; there is a twice increase in the possibility of getting it if a sibling has it – so yes this is a factor.
I did hear that some men are afraid of the treatment you get. Read on to parts 2 and 3 of my story to settle that one!.
So there was some fear of what they might find, and as time went on this did get worse – what if there is something, okay let’s not go then.
And then comes the crunch!
So we head down the year of 2018 and my lovely wife of 53 years sees an advert that the Hospital has a deal for a full MOT. Now I had seen these before and managed to skirt around them as they are for a limited time and then the full cost kicks in.
This time Sheila said GO, okay!
Now I love my wife dearly and not surprisingly I know when enough is enough- so I went and booked a full MOT. Didn’t have to wait more then two days, in fact, they would have done it there and then if I hadn’t had anything else on.
How did I feel about this – you know, your going and it’s booked?
Strange to say of course it was not a problem anymore because it was done. I think the problem otherwise is that you never get round to doing it for ages as you can find all types of excuses you can as I have shown it is easy to do over the years and I managed to get out of it.
This strategy is actually silly, to say the least because if you catch prostate cancer early and it hasn’t left your prostate to go anywhere else, you have a perfect chance of a full recovery or at least management of it for the rest of your life. So it is stupid to leave it because there is a possibility ( not a certainty) if you do have prostate cancer that it might have progressed elsewhere as was the case with my half brother.
The other thing is that there are no symptoms really. I used to think that it was only there if you couldn’t pee when you went to the toilet, and I clung to this for years. Silly me you say!
There are no apparent links to any preventable factors – which means that you cannot definitively say if you have this or that you might get Prostate Cancer – nope doesn’t work that way.
Despite colossal research there is no real evidence of the risk factors for Prostate Cancer – this means that you can’t say if I don’t eat Cornish pasties I won’t get Prostate Cancer – sorry Cornish pastie makers, I love them and you all!.
My son who is a Professor Of Orthopaedics told us a long time ago that most men may have prostate cancer but it is the slowest growing cancer and you will more than likely die of something else before the Prostate cancer gets you.
So at this stage, I cannot see why anyone would not want to go and get tested for it – except that I know at least one person who didn’t and was diagnosed with it (me) – ouch!
Once you are diagnosed with it you tend to look at all the information going, and one of these is of course statistics – we are trying to justify our reluctance aren’t we?
Statistics vary by country oddly enough or not so as the UK ones can be used in anything I write as long as I attribute them then I will use these – they are 2015/2016 but tell the story ok.
I am not going to give you a lot of stats as it may not interest you much.
These few lines say it all for me.
A survey of 1,900 men found:
- 92% were clueless about the prostate gland’s role.
- 54% did not know where it was.
- 17% did not know they had a prostate.
Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Angela Culhane told the BBC News website: “Men are very ignorant about prostate cancer and it’s dangerous because it is the most common cancer in men.
“The things it does affect – ejaculation and sexual function, urine flow, and incontinence – are not regularly talked about over the dinner table or in the pub.” BBC News UK
There is your problem – talking about it – we men don’t.
And the other stats are:
Prostate cancer deaths overtake those from breast cancer – 2/2018. Having been closely involved with my wife’s breast cancer, this is a staggering statistic. Never mind the arguments over better funding for breast cancer etc., this is a staggering fact. Bowel and lung cancers are the only ones more prevalent – can you imagine this?
So we don’t talk about it because it is not a mans talk thing, we often don’t know anything about it, so we ignore it – DUH!
So how to raise awareness?
Right – If you are a man reading this, I now ask you to pass it to your loved one, partner, wife, sister – you know the feminine ones you hang out with.
So, Ladies, I am asking you to get the message across to your man, like my wife did, please.
Try the direct approach – you know – it would be good for you to go darling – and expect the same result my wife got.
Stage 2 choose any one of these!
- Nag him.
- Shout at him.
- Cajole him.
- His favorite food is off the menu at home.
- Do your own washing from now on (maybe he does anyway).
- Tell him no more sex till he goes to be tested.
- No more trips to the pub either.
Do anything else you need to do BUT get him to go, please!!!
Then you can tell him what a lovely puppy he is for going after the fact, make a fuss of him.
Then you can brag in the supermarket that your man has gone and been tested – has your Mildred?
Then you won’t have to worry about whether he has it or not will you-you will know for sure as mine did.
So back to the men thing then. (If he is still there will you please hand it back to him, thanks).
What happens at the MOT?
Let’s skip all the other bits like a chest x-ray, heart monitoring, diet, BMI, weight, height, and all these good things, and just remember that at the start you gave a sample of blood okay.
So I went through all the above and at the end of the day went to see the Chief Doctor at the hospital for THE RESULTS!!! Da da da da…..(drum roll)
Sat there like a little school kid. The Doctor was fantastic. Went through all the results and discussed my activity daily (you know when the dogs take me for walkies) and he said Mr. Rickman you are in good shape. Two things happened as he said this. Firstly the sub-millisecond brain response – YES!!!, then the next brain sub-millisecond response as he told BUT and flicked through the report until he came to a certain page. He then continued – the only thing is that your PSA score is quite high. My reaction was – what does that mean, and he explained that it was 9.5 instead of 4.0 or below and this could mean many things. So, of course, I asked the stupid question – does that mean it is cancer then, stupid because he could not possibly tell at this stage.
So next step – treat it as a possible infection of the prostate and see what happens.
Also, an internal inspection. WHAT !!!
Testing for an enlarged prostate.
Okay now here is the first thing that men don’t like to think of – an internal inspection, of the rectum (bum channel in case you don’t recognize rectum). Our wives and partners (female) go through this many times in their lives with inspections re children etc. Why do we men make such a big fuss over it? Thirty seconds it takes between dropping your pants (make sure they are clean by the way) and pulling them up again. Is it uncomfortable – not at all.
The result is instantaneous – in my case – your prostate is not enlarged.
Exclude a prostate infection.
So to rule out an infection, we go to antibiotics for two weeks and then another PSA test.
This was whilst we were going to be away in the UK for a wedding which merely meant making sure to take the tablets and not too much alcohol. Didn’t tell many people we were doing this as it still could be nothing.
Back home we go for another PSA test, and this time it is slightly higher, so it wasn’t just an infection then. Still not worried at this stage because I was gaining confidence in the Doctors who were explaining everything to me, just as hopefully I am to you the reader. The majority of elevated PSA tests are not Cancer.
Now we get to the next stage which is a biopsy to see what state my prostate is in.
Okay, how is this done? Well, what they do is to use a gun to fire into the prostate small sample collectors for want of a better word. Twelve samples will be required. Will it hurt (my pain threshold is low – to confirm-ask my wife), and the answer is no.
Okay – booked in for the biopsy after about a week, so not a lot of time to think about it.
Then comes the day – clean pair of pants again chaps!
I was a little apprehensive – not about any results because by this time what will be will be right? I was more anxious about any pain!
So into this room with Doctors and Nurses (yes female nurses guys, ok). I stripped down to only a gown. Lay on the bed with my face to the wall away from the Doctors and Nurses.
Then the gown is raised up to reveal my beautiful bum! At this stage, no thoughts about any of that, just will it hurt? Then the Doctor talks me through the first sample collection. Didn’t feel a thing at all (no anesthetic by the way) and then I heard a click. I (stupid me) thought this was getting ready to fire the gun. No, it was the gun firing and the sample collected. That’s number 1 Mr. Rickman just 11 to go. Boy am I elated at that – NO pain. Go for it lets count the sample clicks!
Okay enough of the melodramatics – the point is here that there is no pain and no embarrassment- I was looking at the wall remember?
Okay so we got that over, and now there is a two weeks wait for the results.
In Part 2 I will go through these and the steps from there on – see you then!