By Debbie Kerr
Some facts about prostate cancer
The prostate is a gland that is part of the male reproductive system. A normal prostate is the shape and size of a walnut and is below the bladder. The gland surrounds the tube that carries urine (pee) from the bladder and helps to produce the fluid that carries semen from a man’s testicles.
The following are some statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society’s website:
Based on these facts, it may seem reasonable that some people refer to prostate cancer as the good cancer; however, there really isn’t a good cancer and not everyone survives it.
While women are told to know their breasts so they recognize any abnormalities. With prostate cancer, knowing your regular urination (pee) pattern is beneficial. The following are some symptoms that could indicate prostate cancer:
Other symptoms include the following:
Unfortunately, there may not be any symptoms for early prostate cancer. It may not be until the cancer is more advanced that the above symptoms become apparent. This emphasizes the importance of having regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) bloodwork and a Digital Rectal Examinations (DRE).
Roy knows that he doesn’t have the good cancer; in fact, he knows at this point that he won’t survive it. His goal is to be one of the 41% of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer and make it to the 5-year survival mark. He's so close.
Ongoing health issues
Even before his cancer diagnosis, Roy had health issues throughout his life. He was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was seven and has been dealing with oral and injectable insulin since then. In his 30s, because of his insulin dependency, he developed high blood pressure and neuropathy (nerve damage). In his late 40s, Roy’s father died at the age of 72 of Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a blood cancer. Shortly after that, Roy was diagnosed with celiac disease when he had a lot of abdominal pain. Ironically, once his celiac was under control, the pain went away, only have it return when he was 53 and he went to emergency. It was here that Roy discovered that he had an 11 cm tumour (the size of a baseball) on his prostate gland and pressing on his bladder. His cancer had already metastasized (spread to other parts of his body).
Prior to this pain, the only symptoms he had of prostate cancer were frequent urination and a feeling like his bladder was never completely emptied. These symptoms alone never made him think he had cancer.
The term “options” implies that Roy had treatments that could cure him. This was not the case. Surgery was not an option because the tumour was too large, and the cancer had spread to other parts of his body. The only option he had was to receive treatments that would prolong his life.
Because of his diabetes, adjustments are constantly being made to his medications to keep his blood sugar levels under control. At this point, the goal is to keep his blood-sugar levels under 20.
When Roy was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he didn’t use the words, “Why me?” Instead, he told himself that it wasn’t the end of the world yet.
He did, however, feel alone. Living in small province like Nova Scotia (compared to larger and more heavily populated provinces like Ontario and British Columbia), there were fewer people who could understand what he was going through, especially when he was nearly 20 years younger than most people diagnosed with prostate cancer. In addition, most other men with prostate cancer had their cancer diagnosed early, received treatments, and were just being monitored for potential recurrence.
It wasn’t until he found cancerconnection.ca, a forum associated with the Canadian Cancer Society, that he felt he had people he could talk to and ask questions. He also found a prostate cancer support group in British Columbia. He had found at least virtual support.
Love of his life
Roy also found the love of his life after his diagnosis. His granddaughter, Althea was born and will be celebrating her second birthday in December. Roy’s face lights up when he is anywhere near her. He wants to continue to build memories with her. He wants to be there for her birthday. A last Christmas with his family would be a bonus.
His final wishes
While we may feel sorry for Roy, it’s not what he wants. He’s pragmatic and has a great sense of humour. In fact, he told me he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes put in an empty Jack Daniel’s bottle. He wants a barbeque held in his honour and the price of admission will be an agreement to tell a story about him. He wants his family to learn more about him through the stories told.
He knows he is dying, and he accepts it. While friends and family grieve, they know his wishes and have accepted what is coming. This acceptance has helped Roy to have a feeling of peace. He doesn’t want the turmoil of people telling him he should keep fighting and try other treatment options.
Roy does what he can to enjoy life. As I interviewed him, we laughed. He talked about how much he appreciated the support he has received from both family and friends, and the wonderful people at the cancer centre. The practical side of Roy doesn’t see the point in being bitter and having people tell tall tales about all the great things he has done. He would rather remain humble and enjoy the little things.
The following are some resources for additional information:
Other posts in the "So much to learn series"
Educate to Advocate. Advocate to Educate.
Over 30-years of writing experience, over 10 years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.
Sign up for notifications of new posts.