"I don’t want anyone else to go through what I've gone through if I can help it"
The array of treatment options often felt bewildering to Courtenay King after he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now he hopes that by participating in the 'Life after prostate cancer diagnosis' study, he can help improve others' experience of dealing with the disease.
I don’t want anyone else to go through what I've gone through if I can help it. If there’s anything I can do to help get as much information out there as possible so men go to the doctor earlier – that’s what inspired me to fill in the survey.
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. I was only 45. This isn’t an old man’s disease – that’s one of the points I wanted to make in this survey.
It started with a lump on my scrotum. The doctor couldn’t feel anything, but he asked me about peeing and I told him that I had found myself peeing more at night. So he ran a panel of blood tests, including PSA.
A week later, he asked me to come back and said that the results showed that there was an issue with my prostate. I never expected cancer. I had a DRE and everything seemed normal. The doctor said that we could just monitor how things were going, or he could refer me to the hospital. I went for the referral, had another DRE and PSA test. Again, my DRE was normal and my PSA level still low, but they biopsied me anyway because it was higher than expected for my age.
It was a big tumour. My world fell apart. My wife and I only met five years ago
The urologist sat me down and told me they were looking for cancer. A week later I was back, and diagnosed with a Gleason 3+4 prostate cancer. They said it wasn’t aggressive, but it was a big tumour. My world fell apart. My wife and I only met five years ago, and got married in 2012. She’d already lost her father to another type of cancer, and we just assumed the worst. It’s hard to think positively when you’ve been told you’ve got cancer.
The biopsy caused some bleeding in my prostate, which meant the MRI scan wasn’t clear. I think the hospital are now looking at doing the scan before the biopsy, so this doesn’t happen anymore. Things actually got a bit worse after the MRI scan. The robotic surgery option was out – I could only have a radical prostatectomy – and the cancer was touching the edges of the prostate, so they wanted to take the lymph nodes out too.
I was initially seen at a hospital in Salisbury but was going to Southampton for the operation. The Southampton team thought it was more extreme than the Salisbury team had said. My operation changed fifteen minutes before I was due in theatre. The Salisbury surgeon said that he didn’t think I needed as extreme a surgery as I’d consented to. He said he could do it if I wanted, but it would be harder for me. He only gave me five minutes to decide.
If I hadn’t done anything, I may only have been looking at living another seven years
I didn’t know what to do, so I asked one of the more junior doctors who looked about my age. He said he’d go with the surgeon’s recommendation. So I had the lesser operation.
After the operation, the results showed that the cancer was more aggressive than they’d thought from the biopsy. But they still gave a negative margin – the surgeon was confident he got it all out. When I went back for my follow-up appointment though, he said that if I hadn’t done anything, I may only have been looking at living another seven years.
I have had side effects, but rather that than dead. I can’t get an erection anymore and I won’t be able to have kids. My best option for now is caveject, or maybe an implant down the road. It was hard for my wife and I to come to terms with, but we’ve talked about, and shared, everything together. Our love is strong – we’ll get through it. In fact, I think we’re stronger now than before.
I do struggle with incontinence a bit. It’s under control but at my age it’s difficult to come to terms with. But overall, I’d say that the side effects are a small price to pay.
Now I just want to make as many people aware of this disease as possible. I wear my Men United badge all the time and I put literature around my workplace, too.
Overall, I’d say that my story is one of hope. Go to the doctors early – as soon as you think something might be wrong – and you can deal with the problem and get back to living a normal life, like I have. My side effects are pretty much under control now, and I’m back at work full-time. I’m even doing a 50k charity walk across the South Downs for Prostate Cancer UK this summer. I’m not saying it isn’t scary – it is. But the Prostate Cancer UK nurses are there to give you advice, help and support any time you need it, and you can beat it.