Rock legend Kenney Jones drummed his way through the ’60s,’70s and ’80s in iconic bands, The Small Faces, The Faces and The Who. Now in his 60s, Kenney has been living with prostate cancer since 2013. We talked to him about his experience.
Having had a thyroid tumour, Kenney wasn't new to being told he had cancer
“I have always had regular prostate check ups with my doctor, finger up the bum, whatever you call it, and I was always okay, or at least thought I was. But looking back I kind of reckon I knew I had it. So when I got the diagnosis, it was much easier for me to handle. I’d already had a thyroid tumour back in 1984, so I went through all that cancer shock earlier. And I think a part of me felt I was living on borrowed time.
“In fact my biggest worry was about if the cancer had spread. I remember having the MRI scan and thinking ‘what else will they find?’ So it was a huge relief when they didn’t find anything.
“Because my cancer was contained in my prostate I decided to have brachytherapy. The team at the Royal Surrey Hospital were amazing. I had all my treatment on the NHS and that was the best thing that happened to me. I can’t fault it in any way, from start to finish. I know I was lucky in having a really good hospital experience. And the nurses – they were absolutely brilliant.”
And he found getting as much information as possible really helped
“I can’t stress how important it is to know what’s happening. I’d say read up, and re-read. I wanted to know everything – all the options, how the treatment worked, the possible side effects. At hospital I was given an information pack so when I got home, if there was something I wanted to check, I just looked it up.
“I nearly drove the family mad! I kept reading bits out to them all the time. I watched the information DVDs with my family – my wife Jayne and my children – it meant that everything was out in the open and we could all discuss the options. I think they saw I was dealing with it okay so that put their minds at rest. They were worried, of course, but we could talk everything through, which helped me a great deal.”
Choosing brachytherapy, a type of radiotherapy to the prostate, meant Kenney had to deal with some not so nice side effects
“The worst side effect of treatment was not sleeping because I just couldn’t pee. I would go to bed and just lie there. It was a constant feeling of wanting to wee and nothing happening. I can’t describe it. It felt like it was never getting better. I ended up sleeping in another room where I could watch the TV – anything to try to take my mind off it.
“A few weeks after my op I started getting out and about but wherever I drove I would work out where the service stations were, in case I needed to stop. I even bought this special wee container, like a bottle, that you can use if you get caught out. I never needed it but knowing it was there helped me. I wanted to be prepared for the worst.
“Now, around four months down the line and I’m starting to see a difference. It’s gradual – but I always knew it would take a while to recover. I just can’t wait for the side effects to wear off. But I’d say – it’s nothing you can’t deal with.”
Getting people to talk about the disease is something he is passionate about
“Most men are like me and will live in denial. There were probably 15 years when I had all the symptoms (of a prostate problem), weak flow, getting up to go in the night, but I just put it all to one side, like lots of men do.
"The best thing I ever did was talking it all through with my family, being completely honest about it, with them and everyone else. I think all men need to talk about this. It’s going to affect a lot of them and we need to get rid of the taboos. I talked to everybody, but I did notice that other people find it hard to talk
about. When I first got my diagnosis and was out and about, I’d say I had prostate cancer and people would sometimes try to change the subject.
“Men of my age still remember horror stories around prostate cancer from years ago – how the treatment leaves you impotent. But men need to know things have changed a lot. Yes, some people do have problems, but there’s a lot that can be done to help that now. For me everything works, if you want to put it like that. I think men need to be less inhibited about this – talk about their worries. There is so much help now.
“And younger men need to be aware, too. They need to know what the risks are. I have four sons and it’s important that they understand they have an extra risk now that their dad has prostate cancer.”
Having prostate cancer hasn’t slowed Kenney down. When we met him he was busy organising a fundraising event – a mix of polo, classic cars and rock, ‘Rock n Horsepower’.
“I don’t want people thinking I’m putting on a fundraiser just because I’ve got prostate cancer. It’s been planned for two years – long before I was diagnosed. A friend of mine suggested it because he knew someone with prostate cancer. Now it seems odd that, as I sat there all that time ago,talking about this event, I had prostate cancer inside me, I just didn’t know. And it’s not just fundraising, it’s a chance for me to raise awareness and get people talking about it.
“I’ve had terrific support from friends in the music industry, everyone’s rallied round. That’s been great. I think you do have to be positive with any cancer. I believe in a ‘heal thyself’ attitude. I talked to my body and I said to the cancer, ‘I don’t want you here – get out’."
Find out more about living with prostate cancer.
Photo by Stephen Daniels /DANPICS