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After reading Leyton Smith's account on his prostate cancer operation in the Dec 2002 Woman's Day, I felt the urge to write my story and hope that more men will get off the grass and do something positive to help themselves. I fully support the question at the foot of Haley McLarin's report, ‘Do you think there should be a national screening programme for prostate cancer?’
Yes I do. At the time of writing this I was 55 (now 67) and becoming very aware of friends who were discovering they had prostate cancer. This is apparently one of the biggest killers in males over 50 and is on equal footing with breast cancer I have been told, however it is foolishly being played down, at the cost of 1000's of Kiwi men's lives each year.
At a visit to my GP in October 2000, I discussed the prostate cancer test with him, though I had no apprehension as I had none of the symptoms that men with prostate problems experience. i.e. difficulty in urinating, feeble flow, incontinence, discomfort.
I was given a couple of simple tests, one being a finger where you wouldn't really want a finger, oooer! Then a blood test for a thing called PSA (prostate specific antigen), this detects the presence and level of any cancer in the prostate, my reading came back as 4.7, not so flash for a 'youngie' like me.
"We need to do further tests, it doesn't look good," said Dr Bones, "a biopsy's next."
If this happens to you, don't panic, but do leave your dignity at home after this and get used to the old 'finger up the bum' trick.
Off I went to the specialist for a biopsy, he had a finger up too! Hmmm I'm getting suspicious about these blokes!
The biopsy plan of attack was this, they insert a small device up the back passage, I was starting to get a bit paranoid about my butt by now! Then they fire a grabber which goes through the wall of the bowel, snatches a tiny sample of prostate and back out again. The device stays in while three samples from each side are taken.
It doesn't really hurt but I'd much rather be doing something else! (Yeh, like having a baby).
The results were sent to the laboratory and found to be cancerous.
Back to the specialist for discussion and options. I was told I was very lucky as the cancer was in its earliest stages. I was referred to the specialist in Tauranga who has an impeccable reputation.
He was a nice man, spoke to me in lingo I could understand and told me of several alternative treatments, though he believed the best option was something relatively new then called Brachytherapy.
I opted for this, as other alternatives such as surgery and/or removal of the prostate would leave me incontinent and impotent! What? Pass!
The first part of the treatment entailed general anaesthetic, they put an ultra scan camera up the back passage and take a series of pictures of the prostate, this forms a grid pattern which is then sent to the Hamilton Lab where a grid placement template is made for my urologist to use as his guide.
In December 2000 I went back to the private hospital and the specialist inserted 70-80 radio-active titanium seeds at predetermined spots in the prostate. These spots are specified by the Hamilton boffins using the scan results. The seeds contain various amounts of radio-activity, some stronger, some less, depending on where the cancer is, so the seeds will do their damage and burn the deadly 'Big C' out of my pristine, manly, blokie body.
The seeds are in strings on a needle and inserted in the meaty bit between the anus and scrotum and straight up, makes yer eyes water thinking about it, eh, thank goodness I had a general.
The specialist assured me it wouldn't be too bad, and some guys go back to work within 24 hours. The after effects kicked in within a week or so, burning sensation when peeing, a bit of blood in the urine.
I couldn't nurse any babies on my knee for six months because of the radio-activity, and had to keep away from pregnant women.
I wasn't a walking time bomb for people to avoid, there was no harm in close contact from anyone apart from babies and expectant mothers.
The want and perhaps difficulty to pee, prevailed for several months, but isn't it better than being in line at the crematorium and I'm the star!6.11.00 Round one. Scanning the prostate for the placement grid, piece of cake, no after effects, no pain or discomfort, job took 30 minutes under general anaesthetic.16.12.00. Round two. Main job
It was a breeze. I had to take an oral enema the day before, that leaves you squeaky clean and never to trust a fart again!
A few pre-op tablets 30 minutes prior to the job being done, general anaesthetic and an hour later it's all over.
Very little discomfort, certainly nothing I would describe as pain. I had a good sleep Saturday night and awoke at 5.30am (hey, I'm still alive) by the nurse with some pills and a cuppa. Breakfast fronted at 8am and I was showered and was headed for home by 11am.
I had a course of anti-biotics and medication to take, some went for 4 months. Probably the best of it is a box of stuff like Enos, called Citravescent, it can be purchased without a prescription and is a urinary alkaliser which neutralises the acid in the urine. If you don't take it……….. it's about on par with peeing barbed wire!
Two days after the operation I felt absolutely great, a little discomfort when I sat down, but not worth a mention. Urinating was a little slow, but it happened and there was no problem.
There were five of us done on Saturday, all came through with flying colours.
11th January 2001 Five weeks after the op, my Christmas break was relaxed but I found the radiation from the seeds was giving a slightly uncomfortable burning of my rectum. Bowel motions and regularity change, I went 3-4 times a day, were as it was normally once and again I say, never trust a fart!
I had difficulty getting the urine flow to get going and found I had to pee about ten times a day. (Nothing to do with all the beer I drank! Ahh har)
I was so tired during the day that I had a few hours sleep, I'd never done that before in my life.
I felt great, everything was normal apart from the restricted urine flow but that was not a problem, I was told about this, it may continue for months before getting back to normal. March 2001. My specialist in Rotorua gave me a blood test to see how the PSA was, his report to me said, "You will be pleased to know that the PSA has dropped from 4.7 to 1.3 which is now well within the normal range……..this indicates and excellent response to the Brachytherapy treatment"
That sounded real good to me. July 2001. Second PSA test result = 0.8 Awesome.July 2002. PSA test 1.4. Specialist very pleased. (Me too mate!)June 2003. PSA 0.7 Still perfect at 2012, 0.1, testing still done once a year.It's in your court guys, go get the test done, the sooner the better for your own peace of mind, or live on a box of dynamite and worry for a few years, by then it may be too late.
Ladies, get on your man’s case.Strangely from day one and right through the treatment I had no anxiety or feeling of doom, I think because of the positiveness and assurance of the professionals who looked after me.
My biggest comfort was the love and wonderful support given to me by my family.