Will Trubridge recently completed our landmark survey, 'Life after prostate cancer diagnosis'. But we still need more of you to complete and return them so we can make sure all men with the disease get well treated and supported, wherever they live. This is Will's story and why he thinks it's important as many men as possible share their experiences, too.

31 Mar 2016

I think it’s fair to say that I am the man I am today as a direct result of my prostate cancer diagnosis. I’m in a good place now, although that hasn’t always been the case.

I find talking about my experience helps me to stay positive, and for me, the 'Life after prostate cancer diagnosis' survey was just another way to share my story. I hope that it will make a difference.

An 'accidental' diagnosis and depression

I didn’t know much about prostate cancer before I was diagnosed, and I didn’t have any symptoms. I was diagnosed almost by accident after a vertigo attack at work. I went to the doctor and had my cholesterol checked – it was really high. It needed to come down and the doctor told me that I could do it either by taking tablets or doing more exercise.

I picked exercise and went at it hammer and tongs! So when I started getting a pain in my lower abdomen, I thought I’d just been overdoing it. I went to the GP again, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. A month later, the GP did a whole panel of blood tests to try to work out what the problem was. One of those was a PSA test.

I was officially diagnosed with prostate cancer around Christmas 2013. Things really spiraled from there. I was given hormone therapy and started to feel very tired. My job was quite physical and I just couldn’t do as much as I was used to. People at work kept offering to help me lifting stuff or doing things for me, and I found myself shouting at them to leave me alone and let me do it myself. I just wanted to be normal. Things came to a head when I had a meeting with my Director and I just started crying.

I had a therapist, who helped me open up about what I was going through

I was subsequently diagnosed with depression. I tried to keep working for as long as possible, reducing my hours, but eventually I had to stop. I took early retirement on medical grounds back in July. People at work were really supportive. I also had a therapist, who helped me open up about what I was going through.

She also really helped me – and my wife - work through the changes to the intimate side of our relationship that my treatment had brought about. Thanks to the hormone injections, I had no libido to speak of and really struggled to get an erection. Together, my wife and I have gradually come to terms with this and found a new type of intimacy in our relationship.

This isn’t just my story: it’s very much my wife’s story, too. She’s had to cope with changes to my mood, my lifestyle and to our relationship, none of which has been easy. That’s why we ticked the box on the survey to volunteer for the focus groups with family members, so she might get a chance to talk about her experience as well.

Family adjustments and acceptance

I’m still being treated for depression, but I want to try to come off the medication soon. I feel like I’m living in a ‘happy bubble’ at the moment, but I don’t know if it’s going to last. I still feel like it could burst at any time.

I had 38 radiotherapy sessions for my prostate cancer, which was a very aggressive form. I’ve been told that there’s quite a high chance that it will come back. Also, because of the high dose of radiotherapy I had, I know I’m at risk of getting bowel cancer in a few years. I just have to accept that.

It’s difficult for my family, too. They don’t really understand it. I’m still dealing with the fatigue, for example. I’ve got better at managing it but it’s still hard for my daughters to realise that I can’t do everything I used to. And it’s hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I can’t romp around on the floor and play with my grandsons as much now either.

Overall, I’ve come from a very low place to somewhere far more positive

But overall, I’ve come from a very low place to somewhere far more positive. I’ve been lucky with the support I’ve had from my work and family. I also had access to really great radiology and oncology departments, as well as Lucy, my survivorship navigator, who’s been just brilliant. She’s been there any time I needed someone to speak to.

I’ve also been to the wellbeing events run by Prostate Cancer UK and Macmillan at the YMCA. My hospital gives all cancer patients and their families access to complementary therapies, so my wife and I have both had several courses of reflexology. It won’t do anything for my cancer, but it certainly helps with relaxation and emotional wellbeing. And when you’re emotionally strong, it’s easier to cope with hardships, isn’t it?   

Sharing experience, challenging inequalities

I’ve spoken to a lot of other people with cancer now and a lot of them just don’t want to talk about it. But for me, part of learning to be positive means being prepared to talk about what I’m going through and learn from my experience.

I think men need to be better at going to the doctor and not afraid. All my doctors are female and it can be a bit embarrassing sometimes to talk about your private parts. But I’ve found that it helps to just be as frank and matter of fact as possible.

For me, the 'Life after prostate cancer diagnosis' survey was another way of talking about what I’d been through. It’s important for those of us who’ve been through it to share our experience. Unless we fill in the survey, you guys at Prostate Cancer UK won’t get the information you need to argue our case, will you? It matters. There will be differences around the country, and it’s important to know about where things are particularly good or bad so that the playing field can be leveled.

If you got a 'Life after prostate cancer diagnosis' survey, I’d urge you to fill it out. Apart from anything else, sharing your experience can help bring some relief from your worries.

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