About 18 months ago my brother found he had raised PSA levels, and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His radiotherapy treatment was successful and finished in January 2017. He kept telling me to get a PSA test too, just to be safe.
When my results came back very high, with a reading of 45*, I was sent for an MRI Scan and bone scan. My Gleason readings were also very high at that time. It was my first real contact with the team at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. All through the following months I was impressed at how well I was cared for. I was given the diagnosis by Sister Julia Cheetham who does her job so well -Sr Julia “shoots it from the hip” but does it with real compassion and that’s really impressive; certainly the best way for me.
We had planned a holiday in the West Indies in November, to meet my daughter who lives in Vancouver. We had to postpone that, but my daughter Claire came over here for two weeks instead, and she and my wife Elsa came along with me every day for treatment.
When you’re going through this, your family, and particularly your partner, really worry. I was fortunate in that I had a good briefing from my brother about what I would go through, as he had been down the road 9 months ahead of me.
All through treatment, I stayed active. I cycle a lot, and even took part a 75-mile sportive during my treatment. I was worried about riding a road bike with a hard saddle in case it aggravated the prostate, but I asked Sister Julia and she assured me this would not be a problem. She encouraged me to keep as active as possible and I think that was the best advice I had through the whole process.
The combination of radiotherapy, Casodex and Zoladex made me feel tired and sometimes depressed, but this improved once the radiotherapy was over. I’d spoken to Sister Lisa who reassured me, saying “at least you know this is just the effect of the drugs- just let it go and it will stop once you are off the drugs.”
I’ve also signed up for the Stampede Trial and a trial into the BRCA gene with Birmingham Women’s Hospital. I’ve just signed up for a third one with University College London. So, I’m bearing my soul to a lot of people!
There’s a long history of breast and prostate cancer in our family but cancer was always talked about in hushed tones. I have recently tried to find out more about previous generations but it’s difficult- you have to be gently persistent. Once you get older aunts and uncles talking, it is fascinating what comes out. Family history and gene patterns can be really important in understanding some types of cancers.
*Normal PSA levels vary, but For men in their 50s, a PSA level of up to 3 nanograms per millilitre of blood (3ng/ml) is generally considered normal. For men in their 60s, a PSA level of up to 4ng/ml. For men in their 70s, a PSA level of up to 5ng/ml. There are no PSA level limits for men aged 80 and over.
The Gleason Score is a measure of how aggressive someone’s prostate cancer is, i.e. how likely it is to spread outside of the prostate gland.
Casodex is the brand name for Bicalutamide; a type of hormone drug called an anti androgen. It stops testosterone from reaching the cancer cells, which can slow the growth of a cancer and may shrink it.
Zoladex is the brand name for Goserelin; a type of hormone therapy called a luteinising hormone (LH) blocker. It stops the release of luteinising hormone from the pituitary gland. In women, this stops the ovaries from producing oestrogen. In men, it stops the testicles producing testosterone.