Shortly after the results of my delightful transrectal prostate biopsy confirmed that I was, in fact, developing a case of prostate cancer and having leapt at the radical prostatectomy solution [Ed: just can’t resist getting on the solution bandwagon, eh?], it made sense to begin telling friends and family so they knew what to expect of me in the coming few months.
The biggest surprise in the feedback to my announcement was just how many people know others who have been through the same mill. Our neighbours know someone in Spain who’s had a prostatectomy; good American friends know a couple of guys who’ve had theirs out; Carol even volunteers alongside a chap who surrendered his to a scalpel-wielding surgeon about 8 years ago. This is not an uncommon condition. Men are queuing up to have their prostates removed – only one each, of course. 😆
Even before I had my biopsy, whilst camping in France this year we re-established contact with another couple similarly hooked on our favourite campsite It transpired that this gentleman was receiving hormone treatment for prostate cancer. Though his case had been too advanced for surgery, it seems he’d been being treated with hormone injections for almost 10 years and declared the treatment to be very effective.
Though the numbers affected by prostate cancer might be less than wonderful, I was heartened by the amount of folks I suddenly heard of coping well in the shadow of it. The slightly odd thing, I thought, was that I’d got to know of these brothers-in-arms generally only after mentioning it myself. Clearly I wouldn’t normally be aware of anyone’s plight in a foreign country, someone with whom I wasn’t directly acquainted, but I hadn’t previously been aware of anyone suffering from the same problems.
Given the very high profile nature of the breast cancer awareness campaign and its ubiquitous pink ribbon, compared to what I perceive as a relatively low profile prostate cancer awareness campaign together with its hardly-known-at-all “real man” symbol, I can’t help wondering if a good deal of the difference is down to restricted male openness compared to female openness. Guys may not be as good at talking about these things as are gals.
Clearly, I’m something of an exception. I imagine I must be reasonably open in order to bare my soul with the sort of intimate details revealed in these blog ramblings. Many would say that in order to write any blog one has to be pretty open and unabashed. IT’s understandable that some might well find talk of restricted urine flow, erectile dysfunction, digital rectal exams (gloved finger up the backside) and transrectal biopsies embarrassing. Mustn’t talk about anything that might call one’s manhood into question, eh?
And therein lies a problem. It has been made pretty clear to me that the archetypal symptoms are much better indicators that all is not as it should be than is the PSA test. The first step to getting fixed before things have progressed too far is opening up and initiating investigations. There is nothing un-macho about prostate problems. I remember my consultant, in response to an earlier question of mine, saying:
You’re a man, you have a prostate, they cause problems.
Be aware of it and be open about it.