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Really it goes back to 2010, when I first had some water works problems. I went to the doctor who immediately decided to do a PSA test which came back as raised levels, so I was sent for a biopsy, within a matters of weeks. This didn’t show anything…much to my relief…but they did say that the prostate was enlarged, so they were going to keep a check on that, and I was put on medication at that stage to reduce it and to assist with the water works. I had a PSA test every six months, right through to 2017, when the PSA levels started to rise again.
I had another biopsy at that time, and an MRI scan; the MRI showed something suspicious, but the biopsy was clear, so again I was relieved. The urologists were not sufficiently happy with that though and referred me to Walsall for a more detailed biopsy under general anaesthetic. I had that at the beginning of 2018 which did show, at that stage, that there was cancer in the prostate, and a high Gleason score of 5 and 4 (Typical Gleason Scores range from 6-10. The higher the Gleason Score, the more likely that the cancer will grow and spread quickly. Scores of 6 or less describe cancer cells that look similar to normal cells and suggest that the cancer is likely to grow slowly). I was told that the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre were getting a ‘Guided Prostate Biopsy Machine’ (funded by Lingen Davies Cancer Fund) later in 2018 but that it would have taken them several months to get up to speed with equipment. If I’d had that equipment available to me 12 months earlier, it might have caught the cancer earlier. This obviously would have been a benefit to me, but the fact we now have it in Shropshire, I’m sure is a benefit to many other people.
I was then advised to have radiotherapy, and 3 years of hormone therapy. I had 4 weeks of radiotherapy, delivered daily, which was quite an experience in itself. I met the same people quite often and we had a chat and a laugh. I live in Shrewsbury, so it was handy not having to travel far for my treatment.
It takes about 2 hours to go through all the preliminary work…the actual treatment is a matter of minutes, but the preparation takes longer. I was then also prescribed hormone therapy, over a three year period, which is due to finish in January 2021. I have those every 3 months. The PSA has remained undetectable since I had radiotherapy for which I’m relieved. Hopefully it will stay low, otherwise we take it 6 months at a time, between the PSA tests.
I’ve coped with the radiotherapy very well. I didn’t have any side effects immediately, certainly not during or after my treatment. Everyone at the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre were very helpful. The care they took over measuring for the radiotherapy, was also extremely good, and gave me confidence they were targeting the right area. There’s been a few niggles since then, such as skin irritation, but I’ve been able to cope with that. The hormone therapy has given me a few hot flushes too.
During that time, I’ve remained fairly active…I was working full-time until 2017, when I was diagnosed, at which stage I had my own business. I closed my business and merged with a larger firm, and began working 3 days a week, which was my intention, having got to 70…to slow down and enjoy my free time. That suited me fine. I worked for 2 years doing this, apart from the break when I had radiotherapy, when I managed to fit in a couple of days, while I was having the treatment. Last year, I decided that I was getting more and more tired, probably from the hormone therapy and I was finding 3 days a week working, rather too much. So I did formally retire last August, at the age of 73. I was hoping to have more free time over the past 12 months, but that hasn’t happened due to lockdown.
Just before lockdown, I’d started doing an iCan course at Shrewsbury Football Club, run by the ‘Get Active Feel Good’ staff (both programmes are funded by Lingen Davies Cancer Fund). I did meet Kate Lindley (Kick Cancer course leader) on one of those days. When they closed the iCan course, Kim contacted me and asked if I’d like to be put forward for Kick Cancer and I said yes without hesitation. All services have been a great support, especially over the past 5 months. Kick Cancer adapted their programme to be online, so we could all join in, while in lockdown at home.
I was provided with a bag of weights and bands to do the exercises. Kate has also posted videos online of what she does, so I’ve been able to continue doing exercises on a regular basis.
I knew the charity [Lingen Davies Cancer Fund] existed, and I knew over the years it has raised money for the centre, but I didn’t know any more detail and I hadn’t had any personal experience of the services that had been supported and financed by Lingen Davies Cancer Fund. Certainly since my experience, and the treatment I had, I have felt very keen to support the charity.
Mary sat down with us to tell us about how she discovered a lump in her breast, at the age of 27, and during COVID-19.
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