A Prostate Diary – Chapter 1.

Mike was informed that he had Prostate Cancer late last year. This is his diary in his own words that will over the next few months form a very personal diary documenting his Prostate journey.

Mike says, please, if you are likely to be offended by physical descriptions or possibly politically incorrect personal thoughts, don’t read any further. This blog is my own description of the process and thoughts which have resulted from being diagnosed with the male scourge of prostate cancer but I want people, especially men, to think about their health in a sensible and constructive manner.

We really need to face up to the problems of male reticence about the problem. As my doctor said, ‘Women have breasts and men have prostates”. We all know about the need for women to feel for lumps and have cervical smear tests: it is every bit as essential for men to monitor their own condition

After all, Cancer Research UK suggest that here in the UK about 15% of White males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer whilst over 24% of Black males will contract the disease. This does not mean to say that these percentages die but it is indicative of the need for men over the age of 50 to be conscious of the risks and act accordingly.

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November 2021.
It all started with one of those annoying, ‘Identification Withheld’ phone calls when the only reason for answering is to waste their time and money so I adopt an appropriately acid toned response until the voice at the other end explains they are calling from my local health center.

‘Would I please hold the line for the doctor?’ Pause and doctor is on the line with result of recent routine blood test and – ‘…your PSA level is a little elevated and I would like you to come in for another test, just to check it before we think about anything more’.

And that is why I found myself lying on my side on a table with a young doctor, who I had never met before, with his finger up my arse. Now I may have been to a public school but I have never experienced this before and it does not really rate as one of the great sensations of my life. Think of it, it is quite a weird way to meet another human being but he does not seem too bothered so I decide to put aside my middle class, elderly mores and let him rummage around.

The snap of a rubber glove being peeled off and it is all over. I wonder what got stuck to his glove whilst I hear him tell me that my prostate is enlarged and the lump feels rough so he is sending me for an MRI scan.

It is Friday 3rd December 2021 and something is beginning to happen which I don’t like.

Let me explain. I am white, male and 75 years old and pretty fit. True, I had double bypass surgery back in 1999 and an industrial accident years ago led to my right ankle being fused two years ago, but hell, I can walk seven miles at a time and most days do at least four miles with my lovely greyhound. I played cricket into my 60’s and worked as a photojournalist in locations around the world until six years ago so how did this happen?

Well blame my Father. A stoical WWII veteran who never really hurried anywhere, he didn’t really hurry to the doctor when he found himself pointing Percy at the porcelain several times a night. And then it was too late with the cancer having metastasized into his spine and so he died two days after his 80th birthday in the fantastic Sobell House Hospice in Oxford.

Apparently prostate cancer is familial, so ‘Thanks Dad!’ But then the old boy did give me life and as they say ‘life is a sexually transmitted, terminal disease’ so one way or another my days are surely numbered.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

December 8 2021.
Today’s experience of the NHS left me feeling that anyone facing serious illness should read ‘The Citadel’ by A J Cronin. Indeed, it a book which anyone who has anything to do with the NHS – and that really means all of us – should read. It is a story about a young and idealistic doctor who starts his medical career amidst the hardship and poverty of the Welsh coal-mining communities in the 1930’s. One of its admirers was a local Labour MP who went on to create the NHS, so inspired was he by the book and its revelations of the problems of social medicine.

And today, thanks to Aneurin Bevan MP, I found myself inside a million-pound piece of kit, having an MRI scan which would have cost me several hundred pounds had I been a private patient (sorry we are now called ‘clients’ and I’ll no doubt rant about this later).

Hang on – isn’t it just five days since that bum-numbing experience with a young doctor? Incredibly, within five days of a suggested diagnosis, the much lambasted NHS has shoved me into the coffin like scanner. And it gets even more amazing as two days later I receive the news that the scan shows signs of cancer and now I will be required to undergo a biopsy early in the New Year.

The apologies are profuse that it cannot be sooner but there is a Covid spike and with Christmas fast approaching they are short of staff. I am sent a consent form which asks if I would also be willing to be part of a clinical trial. Why not? All progress comes from trial and error so I might as well be part of a trial to see if I can help reduce the errors.

Diary Chapter 2 Coming Soon!