Andy's story

In his own words, Andy shares his experience of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. Andy was diagnosed with prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. at the age of 63. He lives and received his treatment in Rotterdam.

At the age of 63, I found myself living and working in Rotterdam. I had initially come on a short contract but decided to stay a little while. I felt pretty good. I had regular exercise, a good diet, an occasional drink, smoked 15 a day and was a little overweight.

Finally peeing during the day was a problem. Only dribbles and it was becoming almost a full-time activity

However, for some time had been sitting down on the loo to pee. It seemed always to take a long time, aim not good, flow intermittent, never really emptying my bladderThe organ that stores urine. and leaving drips on the floor. The night-time visits to the loo were also increasing but never really feeling empty and blaming it all on getting older. I had no real awareness of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., only that older men may experience problems with peeing as the years go by. Symptoms and signs

The backache that came on overnight was also a problem ensuring that my days started early at around 5.30 when the pain became unbearable but eased and finally disappeared during the day. I had been told that I would sometimes experience back pain overnight as result of a back injury incurred in my late twenties. This back pain was different to what I had been used to, there is what I can best describe as a fiery intensity to it.

Finally peeing during the day was a problem. Only dribbles and it was becoming almost a full-time activity. I had my first visit to the local family doctor here in Rotterdam, a lady doctor who after listening to my story said she would do a digital rectal examination (DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage.). Into the back room, onto the table, trousers and pants down, she with a suitable rubber gloved hand, stuck her lubricated finger into the appropriate place. Tests and diagnosis

The doctor explored for a while then said to clean and dress and return to the consulting room. Yes, she explained that the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. was swollen but felt smooth, a good sign and that I would need a bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test to measure my PSA. I had a bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test the same day at the local bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. clinic followed by a phone call from the doctor a few days later when the doctor asked me to call in at the surgery.

My PSA was high, 16, and she would like to arrange for me to go and see the urologist at the local hospital. The doctor's receptionist made the appointment by phone and fax for me to attend in a few days time.

I was still having a problem peeing, a little bit of internet research on prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. problems gave a little concern but otherwise OK.

The prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. was swollen but felt smooth, a good sign and that I would need a bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test to measure my PSA

Diagnosis

After a walk of a few hundred metres to the hospital I found the urology department and took my place in the waiting area.

I told my story to the urologist and this was followed by a vertical DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage. this time, a bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test to measure my PSA, prescription for pills to try to ease the peeing problem and an appointment to return in a week's time for the results.

The nurse showed me the samples taken and they resembled long white worms held in a fluid and each is in its own container

At the second visit the urologist informed me that the DREDigital rectal examination, physical examination that involves inserting a finger into the patient’s rectum, their back passage. and PSA results indicated that he needed to do a biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. of the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids.. I was given an appointment for the biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. and a new prescription for the peeing problem as there had been no relief from the original pills.

The third visit to the urology department was biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. day. I had taken the two powerful antibioticsMedication to treat infections caused by microbes (organisms that can't be seen with the naked eye), such as bacteria., stripped in the changing room to T-shirt, and awaited the nurse to collect me and get me settled on the table.

There was no anaestheticA medication that reduces sensation. but there was a camera coupled to a device that would shoot the long sampling needles through the wall of my rectum into the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids.. The device was inserted eight times and it was targeted and fired to provide the eight samples from different areas of the prostate. It takes about half an hour and is quite painful. The nurse showed me the samples taken and they resembled long white worms held in a fluid and each is in its own container.

The urologist departed and the nurse helped to get me off the table, clean up the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid., dress and then made the appointment in two weeks for the results. I made my way home, bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. leaking from penis and anusThe external opening of the back passage, the rectum. with soreness deep within my lower abdomenThe part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and other organs.. Fortunately my daughter was there to help me home, this was not going to be the last time that my family were going to be there to help and pick up the pieces.

I returned to the hospital with my wife for the results of the biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself..

I was told it is cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body., it is very aggressive, all eight cores taken, positive. The GleasonA system used to assess the extent of abnormality of prostate cancer cells. score was 5+3. Our world is starting to fall apart and my life now seems to be almost over. I begin to wonder, how does prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. kill you? I think I know now, it spreads from the prostate and damages or obstructs other vital organs that are required to maintain life.

The urologist explained that there are two further tests he must organise, a full skeletal scan and an MRIAn abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. scan of all soft tissue to determine the spread of the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. The skeletal scan was scheduled for Monday morning at another hospital in Rotterdam and the MRIAn abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. some days later at this hospital once the radioactive isotope from the skeletal scan had passed through my system. The urologist said it was time for us now to go home and weep and then return to discuss the situation and the new test results.

A little battle won against the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. I could now pee when I needed to, using my own supply of catheters

I now had time to plan and address some of the issues that needed attention. Firstly, withdraw from the house purchase in France, talk to my employer and inform my two sons and daughter of the diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have. and try and find out a little more about prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

I met my wife when she was 16 and we have been married for over 40 years. We were devastated, I knew she would be financially OK, that helped, but sad times were looming for all the family and I still couldn't pee properly.

I read on the web that men who are having problems peeing with or without the backache indicates that the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has spread from the prostate into the skeleton and or soft tissue with no chance of a cure. These were dark days waiting for the next visit to the hospital to hear the full extent of the bad news. Still I couldn't pee properly.

We went to the hospital to be told the results of the two tests. The urologist informed us that the tests indicated that the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. had not spread beyond the prostate and that there was a chance of a cure. I was T2c, both lobes of the prostate diseased but the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. was contained within the glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids.. My wife kissed him. We now had a choice to make between surgery and radiotherapy, we had a few days to think about it and make a decision. He gave us the name of the radiologist at a hospital in Rotterdam and suggested we ring and make an appointment to go and see him. We talked to the family doctor, consulted the web and saw the radiologist, and decided on radiotherapy treatment. Choosing treatments

I informed the urologist and radiologist of our decision and they then conferred and decided I needed a sub-pubic catheterA tube used either to drain fluid from the body or to introduce fluid into the body. to relieve the peeing problem before radiotherapy started.

I was again lying on the same table that I encountered during the biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself.; the nurse had inserted a catheterA tube used either to drain fluid from the body or to introduce fluid into the body. and filled my bladderThe organ that stores urine. with fluid before the urologist inserted the sub-pubic catheterA tube used either to drain fluid from the body or to introduce fluid into the body. directly through the skin into the bladderThe organ that stores urine.. Just before he started he asked, 'Why am I doing this? Do you think you could self-catheterise?'

I replied, 'I think I could.'

'Get dressed and go and go see a nurse at this other department on another floor for instruction on how to do it.'

Before he left he gave me a prescription for hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. therapy implants to help reduce the size of the tumour and lessen its stranglehold on my urethra. He left me with the words, 'These pills will castrate you.' I do not think I cared at that moment. I had an overfull bladderThe organ that stores urine. with no way of emptying it and set off to look for the nurse to help.

I found the nurse and explained my problem and asked if it would be possible to combine the theory and practical as soon as possible. We did, wonderful, what relief. I left with ten catheters to use when required and a delivery organised by the nurse for a large number of catheters from the supplier the following day.

A little battle won against the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. I could now pee when I needed to, using my own supply of catheters.

Treatment

My family doctor inserted the hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. implant just under the skin of my abdomenThe part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and other organs. and I had to return in three months for the second.

I then attended a radiotherapy set-up session where I had an MRIAn abbreviation for magnetic resonance imaging, a technique for imaging the body that uses electromagnetic waves and a strong magnetic field. scan to plot the exact 3D image of the prostate glandAn organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. and tumour. Three tattoos were drawn, one on each hip and one just above the pubic bone, to ensure the correct placement of my body when underneath the radiotherapy machine.

It took about a week for the senior radiologist and his team to plot the results and determine the targeting plan for the 36 sessions of two guy units of radiation for each session. The first treatment was preceded by a briefing session, where I was informed of the aim of the radiotherapy and technical details of how it would be done. I had already drunk my half litre of water that I had been asked to take about one hour before treatment. This goes into the bladderThe organ that stores urine. and acts as a screen for the bladderThe organ that stores urine. and organs blanketed by the enlarged bladderThe organ that stores urine. and should minimise damage to healthy tissue.

At the first radiotherapy session, I was down to T-shirt and pants in the underground labyrinth of radiotherapy systems at the hospital. Onto the table, positioned, I then received a blast on my right hip, then the centre, and finally the left hip - all over in about ten minutes.

Thirty-six times I go through this procedure. I have a number of consultations with the radiologist during this time to discuss any problems, the progress and ask questions.

The radiotherapy was painless but I had aches in the lower abdomenThe part of the body that contains the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder and other organs., and over the three months I did get very tired. After less than a month into the treatment I found that I no longer needed to self-catheterise. Another success - can we start to hope that I will survive this illness?

I do not like the implants, my doctor explained that I would feel 20 years older almost overnight. I did, joint aches, absolute exhaustion, muscleTissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. wasting, hot flashes, weight gain and difficulty controlling the emotion of overwhelming sadness and failure.

Christmas 2006 saw the end of the daily visits to the hospital and a trip to the UK for the Christmas festivities. I was very tired and fragile but it was good to get away. In January I had an infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. in my bladderThe organ that stores urine. and I felt very ill. I clearly remembered going to bed on two nights not really caring if I woke in the morning and maybe hoping that I did not. Antibiotics soon kicked in and so my health started to improve and I could continue trying to fight the cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. I think my morale was at its lowest point during this period.

Another success - can we start to hope that I will survive this illness?

The first post-radiotherapy bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test showed a decline in the PSA to 0.7. A good start followed by 0.8 three months later. The doctors were pleased with the results and talking about a cure. I still felt very ill due to the hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. therapy but checking on the internet found that my symptoms were very common and that I am by no means unique. The PCA website helped a great deal.

After a PSA test result of 0.5, the doctors were saying I was in full remission. I could now stop the hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. treatment after four implants; this was good news. The PSA was now measured every three months, alternating between the urologist and the radiologist at the different hospitals, and it continued to fall to 0.2.

Full remission means there is no measurable indication that the prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is still in my body. The PSA testing will now continue every six months alternating between the two hospitals. I think the full remission does indicate that I am cured. Will the prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. return? I do not know, it is possible that is why the PSA testing will continue. Outlook

Side effects

I have no significant problems with any of the normal bodily functions but the hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. treatment has taken away my libidoSexual drive. by inhibiting the production of testosterone, which seems to be the main food source of prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. It can take up to two years for the side effects of the hormoneA substance produced by a gland in one part of the body and carried by the blood to the organs or tissues where it has an effect. treatment to finally disappear and I still have painful joints in my legs, but my stamina has already started to improve. Living with prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body..

I have joined a fitness centre to swim and do exercises to try and strengthen my legs with aim of improving my overall fitness and helping me get rid of the weight that I have gained over the last two years.

As time goes by prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. has become less of an everyday issue and a less of a topic for conversation but what will not disappear is the anxiety that is felt at the time of the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. test and visit to one of the consultants for the PSA results.

The family

My wife is my best friend, dogged researcher, a rock, a nurse, a comforter and my lover. My daughter was always there when needed, and my wife's rock and comforter. My sons were always there if needed. Seeing them and the saying goodbye was not easy. Their strongman dad was now a physical and emotional weakling.

Some men will have to go through this treatment alone with no family there to support them - I do not know if I could have. Some men will discover that their prostate cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. is more advanced than mine with no chance of a cure, and they have to continue to fight everyday to survive.