Well, so much for prostate cancer being an old man's disease.
Being diagnosed at the age of 47 sucks. It's even less fun when you are on your own after a marital separation, and in the early stages of a new relationship. Still trying to put your life back together and then the mother of all curve balls! I'm not too sure on the swearing policy of this site, but if the four letter word describing this turn of events exists, you can bet that I've used it!
My new girlfriend went with me to the specialist when I got the news. Her reaction to the news was first to cry, then to hug me, and then to very forcefully tell me that I was not going to put off moving in with her, and to get off my arse and make it happen. So I did, and I am very happy to report that this wonderful woman is now my wife, so, yeah, that happened!
A quick CT scan and bone scan blessedly indicated that although the tumour may have extended beyond the boundaries of the prostate, my bones were clear, and although one lymph node was slightly swollen, it was still in the 'normal' range, and unless indications occurred to the contrary, the cancer had not reached my lymph system. My mother had died from metastisised breast cancer, and it was not an easy death, so it was heart in the mouth stuff for a few weeks!
The specialist decided on a two pronged attack, starting with ADT, a 3 monthly injection of Zoladex, followed by radiation therapy to mop up anything that might be left behind. He then advised me of a list of side effects that I might expect as a result of the ADT, and in the great game of Zoladex Bingo, I am happy to report that I've had pretty much every single one of them, from hot flashes, depression, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, loss of body hair, weight gain, loss of muscle mass, joint pain, mood swings, loss of libido... what a life!
Happy to report though that sense of humour remains intact, my bald spot on my head had filled in nicely, and it looks like we may have kicked the cancer to touch, with my PSA down to 0.05, or undetectable!
Still got another year of ADT to go to bring the odds of full remission from the current 70% to better than 90%, and as I am still on the right side of 50 until September, I'm in this for the long game!
The depression is tough to deal with though, they keep trying to put me on drugs, I keep telling them it was drugs that got me here in the first place. Currently self medicating with exercise, which my psychologist seems to think is a pretty good option. It also helps with the weight gain and the loss of muscle mass.
One of the more positive things I have done is to share my story, encouraging other men to get checked out. The first person I called was my twin brother, and told him to get thee to a physician, forsooth, to have his jacksie probed forthwith. He took my advice, and discovered that he was in the very early stages of cancer. He took the surgical option, and it was very successful. End result, he's cured! Side effects minimal, all he has to deal with is survivors guilt, the lucky bastard!
Three months after starting on Zoladex, my PSA dropped from 68 to 0.5. When I told my brother, his response was "No trip to Disneyland for you then!" However, I got the last laugh, when I was selected for the New Zealand Invictus Games (Prince Harry's games) team for wounded, injured and ill Servicemen and Women, and I competed at the games in Orlando, Florida, hosted at the ESPN Wide World of Sport Pavilion in Walt Disney World! And yes, I did hit the theme parks!
Life's all about living, innit! Helps to stay positive!
I know it's probably a little soon for an update, but there have been developments.
I am currently under the care of a psychiatrist, as I've had a bit of a breakdown. I have been diagnosed with depression. My GP initially suggested drug therapy, which I am VERY reluctant to do, as it was drugs that got me here in the first place. So it's Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and exercise, which can only be good for me!
Best thing that I have done is acknowledge I have a problem, and get help. There are a few issues around my employment that I need to have addressed, but I am working on that! Having those hanging over my head are not really helping my mental health!
I made a huge mistake in not acknowledging my need to slow down and take a break. I tried to push through, thinking that I could just work harder and that would make it better. I just had the wonderful fortune to have a chat with a wonderful nurse, who basically told me point blank that I had to stop!
One thing I like though is that I have been told that one of the best things I can do is exercise, and I am really starting to love it!
Just another hurdle. We really need to be aware of our mental health around times like these.
Tomorrow, I am off to see the oncologist for my review 6 weeks after having my last of 12 Zoladex injections.
My side effects have been a big steaming pile of crap! In the great game of Zolodex side effect bingo I have had every single side effect in the list except for heart damage! Hot flashes, headaches, constipation, diarhea....darreha....diareha....THE SHITS, fatigue, headaches, back pain, impotence, loss of libido, weight gain, clinical depression.....
Three years of that sort of carry on would be enough to drive even the strongest of us to the wall from time to time, but I am nearly through to the other side, and a look at the latest PSA numbers confirm that it was worth it! Life is pretty good for me at the moment, and is definitely worth fighting for. It's been a fight and half too, but it's made me much stronger as a result.
AT home, my garage has turned in to a very comprehensive gym/fitness centre. Not only am I training hard, I'm also now helping two of my stepdaughters get fit as well. I've really started to love the benefits of getting a good work out done and dusted, and I recommend it to all of us cancer survivors. It really clears the head, and is such a positive step in doing something for your own health.
Once again, I am not going to be defined by what life throws at me, I will be defined by what I throw back!
I'll let you know what the oncologist says tomorrow, but getting the PSA down to 0.05 from 68, that's a damn good start!
Just an update. Had an appointment with my oncologist a couple of days ago, and my PSA is now 'undetectable'. After three yeats of ADT, I am now officially 'in remission'.
Celebrated with a cognac last night. Happy, happy days! In that moment, when the Doctor said "You are in remission!", three years of ADT was actually worth it!
Now, back to the gym. Got me some living to do!!
Bart's e-mail address is: bartcouprie1967 AT gmail.com (replace "AT" with "@")