‘You have cancer!’ These are not the words anyone wants to hear, but they are heard day in and day out throughout our capital region.
Last year, my wife and I heard those words as I was diagnosed as having prostate cancer. In some respects, those words were horrible and yet a relief. I say relief because I had had three biopsies before this cancer was found. I knew something was wrong. My PSA was rising, but no one could tell me what was wrong.
So now I know, but we’re not out of the woods yet. I says “we” because no on travels this road alone. Friends, family, co-workers, whomever you share your facts and fear with travel with you. It hasn’t changed just my life, it’s changed my wife’s and our family’s as well.
I was operated on, on January 15, and the radical prostatectomy in which they removed my prostate and surrounding lymph nodes was a success. Unfortunately, when they subsequently did a biopsy on my prostate and lymph nodes they found that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes.
This brings us to the present. I am about to begin radiation and hormone therapy. A lot has happened in the five months since I heard those three words ‘you have cancer’. I don’t know yet what the rest of my story holds, but since I’ve been diagnosed, many men have told me their stories. They are all different, but they have been encouraging. It’s good to know others have walked this road and lived to talk about it; and talking about it is important because awareness is important.
From my experience here are some of the things men, and the men and women who love them should be aware of.
Firstly, you have to look after yourself. There is no automated alarm system built into our bodies that warns us we have prostate cancer. If you sense something is wrong, tell your doctor and have your PSA checked. At least you’ll have a baseline.
Secondly, while we have many skilled doctors in our region capable of helping us, they have many other patients and it is up to us to be advocates of our own health. Follow up on your test results and ask for a specialist or a second opinion if you still have concerns.
Thirdly, we need more resources here on the island to address, diagnose, and treat prostate cancer. At the present time, I would compare biopsies with the game of blind man’s bluff. It’s better than doing nothing, but it’s not effective as it could be. The good news is there are improvements being made all the time. Just recently, here on the Island, we have had access to biopsies conducted with the help of ultrasound. It was this technique that found my cancer. However, there is an even more effective technique available using an MRI and a biopsy. It’s available in Vancouver but we need to push to have it here as well.
Early diagnosis can change outcomes. It can save lives. Research into new technologies and understanding of prostate cancer can do the same. There was a time when prostate cancer was a death sentence. Thanks to research and early detection, for many men, this is not the case. But the first step is yours. If you are over 50, ask your doctor for a PSA test. If you have some spare change, invest it in supporting Island Prostate Centre. Believe me, we all benefit from the work they are doing to support men who have this disease and ensure we have the best diagnosis and treatment options right here on Vancouver Island.
Check out Ken’s story, thanks to SHAW, in his own words,