IN THE NICK OF TIME
Mike shares his experience of prostate cancer
My name is Mike, and I'm 69. I always start my story by saying my age – it's a miracle that I'm still here.
I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer on my 65th birthday, and it was just by the luck of chance that it was discovered. I had no symptoms that would have indicated problems with my prostate. I had consulted my GP for a '65 year milestone' check-up for no other reason than to confirm that I was in good health, fit and active, and looking forward to an active semi-retirement. He suggested that, amongst others, I should have a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test. When the results came back, all was okay but for the PSA level. At my age, they look for PSA levels of between 2 and 4 ug/l. Mine was 39!
Thus started a month of tests, scans, a biopsy, more scans and diagnostics at my local hospital's oncology department. My GP was keen to get things moving, and so I was on the conveyor belt of a very efficient cancer treatment department. My next bit of luck was that my cancer was 'localised' and treatable/curable. This means that it was still contained in the prostate and hadn't spread within my body. The Oncologist said that the cancer was aggressive (they have a measure called a 'Gleason Score'). Mine was nine, and it only goes to 10. “Why do things in halves, Michael?” – I said to myself. Anyway, I had been given a four-week time limit for making up my mind as to which treatment to go for, in my case, Radiotherapy with Hormone treatment or a Prostatectomy, which means surgical removal.
By this stage, my brain was totally fogged with too much information, my rucksack full of too much literature, and I was swimming in a sea of total indecision. I was a functioning zombie! My GP recommended that I visit Maggie's West London Cancer Support Centre, and that was my lifesaver – my third and most important piece of luck.
My state of mind at that time was not to go forward with any treatment out of fear and ignorance. Yes – I was going to sell up and seek adventure in South America – and leave my cancer in the departure lounge. That's where my mind was. That's what a diagnosis of cancer can do to the senses. Meeting and talking to Maggie's cancer specialists, the cancer patients that visit this incredible support centre, and participating in prostate support group meetings, I was able to commence my treatment with a clear mind. It was like discovering a garden of tranquillity.
So here I am – four years down the line. The Radiotherapy and Hormone Treatment completed and successful. Cancer has been eradicated, and I'm in fine fettle. Not retired – oh no. I am building another business. You see, I had nothing to worry about… Ah, the wonder of hindsight!
The moral of my story is this, gentlemen: call time on any indecision or fear that you may have about seeking a PSA test. I had never heard of it when I was in my 50's, but now it's common knowledge. There is currently no national screening programme, but that doesn't stop you from having a chat with your GP. One in eight men will have prostate cancer in their lifetime.
Don't leave it to chance. I dodged a bullet, but that was just in the nick of time. Please do get tested.
Hundreds of men like Mike, diagnosed with prostate cancer, will be given practical and emotional help and support thanks to a grant of £51,000 from the MCF / London Freemasons to Maggie's charity. PSA tests are often proposed at Freemasons’ Hall, keep an eye out for those.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 46 October 2021 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 46.