"You have an advanced, aggressive cancer and I am sorry to say it is inoperable".
This was the news given to me by my Urologist on 4 August 1997 in what at the time seemed to be a flat, emotionless voice. The message was devastating and I felt the most awful chill run through my body. Death loomed!
Fortunately, I had my wife sitting alongside me, holding my hand and sharing the bleak news.
Cancer! Inoperable? Aggressive! Advanced!
How do I cope with this? Am I dreaming ? Yesterday it was just a urinary problem that I had coped with for some months previously with the aid of medication my family doctor had prescribed to help you wee a bit better.
But on this now unforgettable day, I am trying to cope with and understand these strange new words which are frightening the life out of me:-
PSA blood tests. Digital Rectal Examination. Urine Flow. Prostatectomy. Orchidectomy. Bone Scan. MRI Scan. CAT Scan.
What do they all mean? Am I still dreaming? Where do I turn to? Whom do I turn to?
My wonderful wife tries to comfort me as I try to concentrate on what my urologist is telling me but my mind is in a whirl. My life is fast disappearing before my eyes.
Later, I recalled he gave some options.
He suggested we go away and have some lunch and to think things over! We walked to the nearest coffee shop in an absolute daze and ordered coffee.
Should we get a second opinion? Should we go back to our family doctor for advice? Should we just run away and pretend it is not happening?
Hey! Come on now! We are adults! We are grandparents! We can deal with this! But could we?
We drank our coffee, exchanging tearful looks between gulps. Without a great deal of discussion, we went back to our urologist and said "Explain the orchidectomy and all that goes with it". This request brought into consideration a host of preliminary procedures. We had explained to us the details of the necessary Bone Scan; the MRI and the CAT scan. Plus another new word-Biopsy! Thank goodness my urologist did not describe the biopsy procedure in detail at this point because I would have refused it, knowing now how traumatic it is having a needle fired into ones prostate eight times in order to extract samples! But this was to come later and for the moment we concentrated as well as we could on more immediate matters.
Appointments were made for the Bone Scan, MRI and CAT scan procedures and thankfully, because we had kept on with our medical insurance ( I had "semi-retired" some nine months previously at age 63) we did not have to go on to the public hospital waiting list but were able to go straight to a private hospital in the nearest large city, Wellington.
The tests were done; the biopsy completed and the cancer was confirmed within a fortnight. Now for the orchidectomy! This operation would involve the removal of my testicles so that the production of testosterone could be halted. It was explained to us that the prostate cancer feeds on the testosterone and the orchidectomy was the sure way to arrest the cancer growth, but it would not erase it, just give me some more time.
We looked at each other, then said " Lets do it!" So it was done on 10 September 1997, at the same time repairing a triple hernia that was discovered during initial examination.
I am now on a lifelong regime of hormone therapy to combat any possible rogue testosterone production. It seems the adrenal gland starts producing the stuff once the testicles are removed. Isnt nature wonderful?
As soon as I was diagnosed I began researching the local library and the Internet for information on prostate cancer. This proved to be a steep learning curve for me.
In fact I became so knowledgeable on the subject that my family doctor tells me I now know more than he does about this insidious male disease which affects more than one thousand men in New Zealand each year and from which over five hundred die annually.
So, in March 1998, some six months after my surgery, I decided to form a Prostate Support Group in order to educate, support and advocate for men in my area, since I had all this new found knowledge at my fingertips. My urologist agreed to address my first meeting and we filled the local church hall with men and their partners who were anxious to learn about this male gland that few talk about.
The result is a keen group of men and their partners who are more aware and who attend our regular monthly meetings with little prompting.
We have learned a lot; we have much more to learn and the mutual support we provide each other is priceless. I am looking forward to many more years of good quality life and my PSA level is now zero, thanks to the surgery and the hormone treatment,
Being diagnosed with inoperable, aggressive cancer did not mean the end of the world for me even though at the time of being told I could swear I felt Deaths cold clasp around my neck.
Praying a lot, being positive and having a good supportive partner has enriched my life rather than diminished it. I am now more sharply focused and helping other men and their partners cope with prostate cancer has given me a new purpose in my life.
Thank you for visiting our Web site, I welcome any suggestions for improvements, and am happy to correspond with anyone that has prostate cancer or their immediate family members. Messages may be sent to my email address.
Or you may like to contact Ted Bagot directly to discuss his experiences.
Have a happy day,