How prostate cancer screening saved my life
As a fit and healthy 61 year old man, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November, 2019. At the time I had absolutely NO symptoms at all. Yet when I had my prostate surgically removed in February 2020, the cancer was just beginning to emerge beyond the prostate itself. This means it was about to spread into the rest of my body. So it is thanks to prostate cancer screening and early treatment that I am still alive today. I am so grateful for this! I am still getting tested every 3 months to guard against the return of the cancer.
Building a recovery and rehab programme
After surgery, I was upset by the serious side effects (incontinence and erectile dysfunction) yet I was given minimal information and recovery options. Compared to other operations there was no clear roadmap, and very little guidance other than “use it or lose it.” A lot of us men feel ashamed and find it hard to talk about intimate matters like erectile dysfunction and urine control. And there are no in-person support groups under lockdown. I complained a lot about these problems, then got going on Google and Zoom.
I learned a lot and spent time building my health and fitness. My doctors remarked how much my general fitness and healthy diet helped. There has also been a powerful spiritual and emotional journey for me to accept things I wished were not this way. And then adapt to the new normal. I am convinced that my love of life and my manhood are much bigger than the parts of me that are broken. I think my business background as an entrepreneur also helped me be open to change.
Online, I also met fellow prostate cancer survivors and wonderful professionals worldwide who helped me learn the simple, practical steps needed for rehabilitation of urine control and erectile function after surgery. Now I also know there are excellent specialist physiotherapists, GPs and others in South Africa who are ready to help us. The rehab programme I have learned has been a great success although it takes patience, dedication and some good luck.
Opening up to my wife
Prostate cancer is often called the “couple’s disease” for good reason. It is very difficult for men and their partners to navigate a new life without that tiny organ deep in our groins that actually has more impact on our urine control and our sex lives than most of us ever realised.
My wife has shared all the doctor’s visits with me, talked openly about what is going on, and her support has helped a lot. I was rather surprised to learn that she was much more open to change, and accepting of my limpness between the legs, than I was. We learned a lot about adapting our lives including our sexual relationship. The outcomes made it much better while I had full-on erectile dysfunction after the operation.
She is also supporting my recovery which is looking on track for 100% as I write this 16 months after my operation.
Sharing stories, building roadmaps: an invitation
Men need to talk. And all those affected by prostate cancer need a roadmap. The Prostate Cancer Foundation is helping. My story is just my story and I’m sharing it at:
Step by step, in open and intimate detail. To bring in more stories, experiences and perspective, my wife and other prostate cancer survivors have also written candid guest posts and there are more to follow. You are welcome to visit – and subscribe to the blog if you want to get the remaining episodes in my story and others.
By Mish Middelmann