Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
Fight for treatment. Fight for life.
With waiting lists for NHS treatment currently at a record breaking high 6,000,000+ and counting, waiting for treatment. To receive a Cancer Diagnosis is even more alarming in those conditions. I have spoke of this in previous posts, the terror of finding out followed by the turmoil of waiting and the fear of making wrong choices.
I have just read an article by prostate cancer UK, a short case study of a Grandfather, Father and son ‘Exploring the progress and potential in prostate cancer care through a grandfather, father and son’. The article highlights how prostate cancer is treated now compared to say, 20 years ago.
The article focuses on a patient ‘Steve’ who’s father was also diagnosed with prostate cancer 20 years ago. Being younger, Steve wasn’t that aware of it then and his father didn’t speak about it at all; treatments were limited and support barely existed. Thankfully, this picture has changed massively since, but has it changed enough?
Steve hopes his son won’t have to worry about prostate cancer at all. Feelings I too resonate strongly with. I recently paid for a (private) Geno mapping with the aim of identifying potential risks for my son and also my new grandson(s).
Like myself, Steve was diagnosed during the Christmas period. Heightened emotions. Like many men of a certain age, he noticed he was going to the toilet a lot. A PSA test, followed by a call from the doctor telling him to come into the surgery. With both his father and grandfather having had the disease, Steve felt like he already knew it was prostate cancer – However, he still broke down in tears when they told him. Something about those words, ‘You have cancer’,…..
Luckily, his cancer was caught just before it had spread outside the prostate (advanced), so it was, still, possible to cure. He was offered everal front-line treatments and opted for radiotherapy. For him it felt like a better option than surgery as he had ‘heard’ that side effects of radiotherapy were less severe than surgery.
I chose surgery, with surgery you get two bites at the same problem? Post surgery, radiotherapy, is still an (additional) option. After radiation therapy surgery is no longer an option.
Steve had 37 doses of radiation therapy in total. Seven weeks of traveling every single day from Essex to London. The treatment severely weakened his bladder, and towards the end he had to go to the toilet every hour or so, even throughout the night. He describes it as the worst time of his life.
Steve, met others in the hospital who were only having 15 or 20 radiotherapy doses, and their side effects weren’t nearly as bad. So it was hard for him to understand why his experience was so severe? Even now, his bladder isn’t back to normal and he struggles with erectile dysfunction.
Post surgery, my recovery was relatively side effects free, apart from my cock which has become fully redundant. Post biopsy revealed metastasis, my cancer has spread, advanced to other areas. Further, palliative treatment would be required.
Sometimes Steve wonders whether he should have had his prostate removed. As do I, think about whether I made the right choice with radiation therapy? The reality is that neither treatment is perfect, they all cause some level of side effects and within that every patient is different. Recent advancements, the formulation of a reliable risk, probability calculator and a treatment plan (probability) calculator. https://prostatecanceruk.org/risk-checker.html A reliable data set that measure the success of different prostate cancer treatment options against factors such as age, stage (Gleason), mitigating factors (underlaying health conditions) and other factors.
Two years on, and (so far) Steve’s been given the all clear. This makes him realise how far treatment has come – his father had radiation therapy too, but it wasn’t able to cure him. His disease returned a few years later, and this time there weren’t any treatment options left for him.
By the time I and Steve were treated technology had massively improved. 20 years ago, they wouldn’t have even known how aggressive his cancer was and how much radiation therapy was needed to kill it. But now they can tailor treatment and deliver the correct dose that would be needed.
Post surgery, periferal biopsy proved my cancer had spread but was not detectable via standard CT/MRI scanning. More sensitive PSME PET scanning was required which I was initially denied and had to fight for. Eventually, I paid for PSMA-PET scanning Australia (PET scanning in Australia is a fraction of the cost and more widely available than in the UK (see my previous posts). The ultra sensitive Australian PSMA-PET scans revealed cancer spread to a localised (pelvic bed) lymph node (5mm tumour).
The second fight
Rather than (systemic) ‘whole pelvic bed’ radiation therapy. I pushed for Proton Beam (SABR) focused radiation therapy. Proton Beam radiation therapy is still rare within (NHS) prostate cancer treatment. In the NHS it is usually reserved for intricate brain cancer treatment. Being focused Proton Beam is far less intrusive, far less invasive, as in less collateral damage to local organs, with only three proton radiation therapy sessions required compared with 37 standard, systemic radiation therapy treatments!
Too early to tell but I am still here (2 and a bit years on). One positive is that my PSA profile has reduced since proton beam therapy. My standard 6-monthly increase was 30-33%. It is now as low as 7%, latest (Feb 22) at 13%. Coincidence?
One thing for sure is that it is definitely worth fighting for anything and everything you can get (or can’t get?). I have detailed many options and comparisons for treatments in previous posts.
The latest research I have discovered sounds exciting – Dr Jonathan Coulter aims to harness the power of gold, yes, GOLD, to cure more men with aggressive prostate cancer. His work focuses on minuscule particles of gold, called nanoparticles, and their effect on radiation therapy.
Inserting the gold nanoparticles into prostate cancer cells amplifies the effect of radiotherapy treatment, making sure the cancer cells die. This makes radiation therapy a more accurate treatment than ever before, even when lower doses are used.
Thanks for Reading