Diagnosis and the winding road to treatment

You’ll find my story in date order from prostate cancer diagnosis in November 2019 to robotic assisted radical prostatectomy (RARP/RALP) treatment in February 2020.

Equally important: guest posts sharing other men’s stories, and my wife’s commentary.

How I found out I had prostate cancer

3 December 2019: The first signs of prostate cancer were not at all obvious. I am so lucky the problem was picked up in time. When I went to see a GP in mid-November 2019 my issue was apparently unrelated to my prostate. I was 61 and I felt as fit and healthy as I had ever been.

Today, as I prepare for an MRI scan of my prostate, I look back on the apparently random first steps towards my cancer diagnosis.

Doctor’s hunch, without any cancer symptoms

Back in November, somehow, on a hunch, my doctor started asking me about my prostate. […]

Daytime gratitude, night time despair

4 Dec 2019 I got the results of my MRI scan today – PIRADS level 4. Google says it means 80% likely it’s prostate cancer. Pretty upsetting. I am very hopeful about catching it soon. They say no signs of spreading beyond the prostate.

The worst is, my friend who got it ten years ago says “they will definitely start with hormone therapy and that will be the end of your sex life.” Yikes!

Daytime: Gratitude

On waking, my thoughts are about gratitude for

  • Loving family
  • Emotional and spiritual resources
  • Practical resources

Night-time: Futility

What goes on in my head in the middle of the […]

Sexuality | libido | identity

6 December 2019 Now I know I most likely have prostate cancer, and that my preferred treatment is radical prostatectomy surgery. I am reaching out to close friends and family for support. What looms large is that the treatment is likely to create (at least temporary) urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Preparing to meeting a group of my oldest friends tonight, I ask myself

What do I want to hold onto as I accept and adapt and improvise with my body, my sexuality and my identity?

What comes to me is this:

  • My sexuality is not limited to my erections
  • My libido […]

Partner story 1: From diagnosis to surgery

A cancer diagnosis affects the partner and the marriage about as much as the patient. Big thanks to my wife Colleen for sharing her side of the story. Here is Part One:

This journey started for me with Mish complaining of his penis not feeling quite right. Perhaps it was thrush which we’d both had previously, passing it back and forth before getting rid of it. But this time I had no corresponding itch. As he has described, he went to a GP who felt something not right in his prostate and sent him to a urologist.

Being […]

Research part 1: Learning from gay men

15 January 2020:  I want to know what it will really be like if I have my prostate removed. The technical stuff is not enough. What will it feel like? The most comprehensive answers so far have come from studies within the gay community.

I want to know how I might be affected sexually by this illness and treatment. It must be possible cope with any outcome. But it seems everybody is beating about the bush: will I be able to have sex and will it still feel good? There are so many euphemisms as I begin Googling and asking […]

Making space and making my decision about prostate cancer treatment

24 January 2020: Today I made my decision about prostate cancer treatment. But first I needed some space.

Making space for good decisions

My December 2019 MRI scan was pretty certain: clinically significant cancer likely in the left peripheral zone of my prostate. Even after I sat with the urologist reviewing the results, I was sure that I would end up being the lucky one. His tone was reassuring. He told me to go on holiday and come back for the biopsy in January. He said in cases like this, sometimes the best option is “watch and wait” but we need […]

Guest post: Prostate cancer treatment affected by prior cancer and COVID

By Pramod Daya, Founder and CEO, Mindspring Computing

Here’s the story of how my prostate cancer treatment options were affected by prior cancer experience. I’m a business leader and founder of Mindspring Computing. My prostate cancer story started as a sidenote in my life.

When I visited my excellent GP, Dr Anna Frost, in February of 2020, she mentioned that we had not done a PSA test for a while. Good idea, I thought. I did not know too much about it, nor was I overly concerned.

PSA test and digital examination

The test came back with a level of 4.15 […]

Disclosing my cancer diagnosis at work

13 February 2020: Do I disclose my cancer diagnosis at work? My first instinct was to be completely open and tell everybody and anybody who’s interested. After all, cancer affects lots of people and it’s good to show and share vulnerability, right?

Over the last few weeks, doubts have crept in. What if my clients feel they can’t rely on my services and start looking for alternative service providers? If they are planning a new project, they would actually be wise to do that. After all nobody, including me, knows how much I am going to be […]

Prostate cancer screening saved my life

5 March 2020: I have learned a lot about prostate cancer screening tests. I was lucky enough to be diagnosed in time, before it had spread.

Which is why I found myself knocking on Dr Lorraine Becker‘s door with a big Thank You, a week after my radical prostatectomy surgery. She’s the GP (with a specialisation in sexual medicine) who somehow insisted on checking my prostate when I went to her for an apparently unrelated issue in November 2019. If it wasn’t for her hunch and prompt follow-through, I might be blissfully unaware till today. By which time […]

Guest diary: On being diagnosed with prostate cancer

By Andre Sobolewski

3 June 2021: I’ve just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I feel myself being transformed these past days. It’s hard to feel an inner illness when I feel perfectly healthy: I can only understand it intellectually:

Adenocarcinomas are cancers found in mucosas of glandular tissues: prostate, breast, lungs, pancreas primarily. At my age, it’s from the prostate. They grow rapidly and have a propensity to migrate to other tissues, like liver or spleen or bone marrow, where they would be transformed and spread. If that happens, I’m toast.

So that’s my mental picture of this illness.

Catching the cancer before […]

Guest post: I just wanted the cancer out!

By Paddy O’Brien

Whatever my Gleason Score was, I forget. It is written down somewhere. When urologist Dr Moolman told me (in May 2017) that 75% of the needle biopsy samples from my prostate were cancerous, after a TURP op, I just wanted my prostate OUT and ASAP.

(TURP=Transurethral resection of the prostate, an operation commonly performed to help men pee more freely)

To me, then and there, secondary considerations like urinary continence and erectile dysfunctionality could be dealt with later. I just wanted the cancer to be completely removed, and quickly. [Editor’s note: for a contrast, see Gavin’s […]

Guest story: From trans-Africa travels to treatment shopping to peace

There are many options on being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and definitely one size doesn’t fit all.

Gavin Hartford was diagnosed with prostate cancer around the same time as me in 2019. Within days, he and his wife took off on an amazing 27,000 kilometre road trip across West Africa. They simply left all thought of treatment behind in Johannesburg. Contrast this story with Paddy’s desire to just get the cancer out as quickly as possible, and my two week pre-treatment holiday on the Great Wall of China.

Here’s an opportunity to read a longer and more holistic account of […]

Guest post: Getting my biopsy result – Gleason 8

Getting my biopsy results proving I had quite an aggressive form of prostate cancer.

By Michael B Morris

There are always heart-stopping moments. It’s one of the nuances one doesn’t think about until cancer arrives. There will be tests and more tests, and tests for the rest of your life. Each one has the potential to change the trajectory of your life, usually in the form of a tidal wave of revelation.

Biopsy results, naturally, is the big Kahuna. The doctor warned me pathology took a long time, and I wouldn’t receive results for 7 to 10 days. I set my watch and […]

Doctors not communicating prostate cancer treatment side effects

The debilitating side effects of prostate cancer treatment must be one of the world’s worst kept secrets. But physicians still struggle to communicate this clearly to their patients when they are making treatment decisions. This is according to a journal article published last week in the Journal of Prostatic Cancer and Prostatic Diseases looking at initial prostate cancer treatment consultations.

More than half of the physicians at a top US hospital either didn’t mention risks of erectile dysfunction and/or urinary issues, mentioned them in name only or in broad generalisations, whether they were describing surgical or radiation treatment.

Doctors not talking […]

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