I was having a chat with our Chairman Paul, and he mentioned that he ought to share his personal journey of his cancer with us and asked me what he should do. I suggested we have a meet up to have a chat about it. In another life way back, I was a journalist and spent a lot of time travelling all over the UK interviewing people about their lives and their cars. No cars this time but we decided to give it a go. We met at his home in Sittingbourne where he lives with his wife Val, and they have 2 daughters.
CT So Paul let us talk about your journey on your cancer pathway then.
2013 -2014, Charlie, I had a bad chest infection and a collapsed lung, it was bloody awful. I got over it and I was feeling, OK but in 2015 the medic where I worked at Knauff said I didn’t look too well and at the time I was peeing for England. Every few minutes I had to go and pee. I went to my doctor, and he examined me, and I asked for a PSA test. (The PSA test is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer. But it’s not perfect and will not find all prostate cancers. The test, which can be done at a GP surgery, measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein made only by the prostate gland.) He said he didn’t want to do it as it was not necessary, but I insisted. So, he did it and I could see by his demeaner that he was shocked at the result. It meant nothing to me back then, but my PSA was 12.
CT. I have actually heard this a lot from friends about doctors refusing this simple test after I have badgered them into getting tested, and one mate of mine actually reported his doctor for refusing to do the PSA test for him which was later proved to be positive. So, what happened next?
I was referred to the Urology Department at Medway Maritime and at this time I started to do research on prostate cancer. I felt that the wait to see someone at Medway was taking too long. So, I contacted Professor Sherriff’s secretary and asked for a private appointment with him. Then the actual NHS appointment came through, so I was transferred back to the clinic where I had a biopsy and a CT scan. The results showed a raised PSA of between 12 to 14 and the CT scan confirmed that there were abnormalities on the right-hand side. Each test at this time really was giving me no good news,
Before any plan of action could be put in place, I had to have a bone scan, and the next day with a work colleague we had to fly to Russia for a meeting. Going through passport control all the alarms were set off as we passed along, so we were both taken into an office for a meeting. We managed to explain that I was not well and that the day before I had a CT bone scan and that some of the radiation could have been present within me. We had our meeting, stayed 1 night, and went back to the airport for the same thing to happen at passport control again.
CT they must have thought you was 008. A lucky escape could have ended up in one of them there Gulags.
By now I had a lot of information that I had got myself from my own research, and all the tests at Medway Maritime had been done. I did so much research because I wanted to be able to help the people helping me to give them the best chance to do so, and I felt that I was making marginal gains all along the way. I got fit exercising, lost some weight, and attended our local urology support group, I did get a lot of support from work as well. It was always difficult for me the day before any tests or appointments. When I was in the wating room at an appointment, I would sometimes call Cancer UK and tell them that I was about to have this meeting, and I used to ask them what questions I should be asking.
The Professor then gave his prognosis which was a radical prostatectomy. Because of my age and my health, I then had to go to see Dr Taylor at the Maidstone Hospital and he agreed with the professor’s diagnosis, so it was all systems go to have the surgery. At this time, I had found out about the Davinci Robotic Surgery system so I asked the Professor if my operation could be done this way. (No hands inside you less chance of infection quicker recovery) He told me that at that time Medway Maritime didn’t have one, so in September 2015 I was transferred to a Mr Challacombe and his team at Guys & St Thomas Hospital in London where they had the Davinci Suite. Because of government targets he told me the operation would have to be done within 30 days which suited me fine.
CT That all happened really fast. What was it like at Guys, Paul?
Excellent treatment and care Charlie, same as in Medway. The local support group there were in attendance, and at Guys it was all positive all the way Charlie, they made me feel like, don’t worry Paul this is curable, and we are going to do it old son leave it with us.
My company provided me with a chauffeur driven limousine to take me to Guys which was nice. The big day arrived at last you could say with a bang, as on 5th November firework night, at last the operation was done. I stayed in 2 nights and my daughter brought me home.
CT what was it like when you were back at home then?
I felt pretty good really. It was a little uncomfortable dealing with a catheter, but it was removed just a few weeks later at end of December, and I was back to work at the end of January 2016. I had PSA tests every 3 months, then every 6 months, after 2 years. I have just had my 5-year anniversary and it’s now annually.
I was able to retire in 2018. Having had the cancer and all the trauma that goes along with it, not only for myself, but for my wife Val and my girls as well as colleagues and close friends, it brought home to me just what’s important in life.
CT do you exercise now Paul, how about coming for a long ride with me on your bike?
No, I don’t ride a bike Charlie, but I lead walks and I play golf. I am Secretary of my Bowls club and in 2018 I took over the Chairman’s position at our Urology Support Group West Kent. During the lockdown I have been talking a lot to other support groups, also to Macmillan and Cancer UK, and on 31st September we will be holding our AGM at Gillingham Golf Club, so I have plenty to do.
CT Lastly what was the question you were asked mostly about your journey with cancer? The question I was asked mostly over and over again Charlie was “how did you know you had cancer.”
CT. best of luck answering that mate.