Philip Rambow – lead singer of the legendary 70s pub rock group, The Winkies – has reformed his hit band, The Tex Pistols, to raise money for us, having undergone treatment for prostate cancer in 2010. He describes the depression he experienced after his diagnosis at 55 and how his wife and music helped to lift him out of it.
In 2005, I had a reoccurrence of urinary problems I had ten years previously. My wife, Jann, suggested that I go to our NHS doctor and I dutifully complied. The doctor gave me a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a hospital slip for a PSA blood test, telling me he didn’t think there was much to worry about.
So having got that far, I did what a lot of men commonly do: nothing. The blood test form sat on our hall table for over a year. Jann would prompt me every few months and, as the symptoms were sporadic, I managed to put it off. I’ve always been a healthy guy. I may have a constricted and slowly enlarging prostate gland, but cancer? Not me!
At Jann’s insistence, I finally went and had the PSA. My first score was 2.8. Nothing to worry about but let’s keep an eye on it. Come back in a month. Next score: 4.2. Oops, that’s a bit quick. Let’s have a biopsy.
After the procedure, I had to lie down in the back of the car. I stayed in bed for the rest of the day
I was so unconcerned that I told Jann not to bother driving me; I might take my motorcycle to avoid traffic. She insisted and I demurred. Thank heavens for that. After the procedure, while going home, I had to lie down in the back of the car. I stayed in bed for the rest of the day.
When I told my friends what was going on, they said pretty much the same thing: “You’ll be fine. Look at you. You don’t smoke, don’t drink too much. You’re young looking, not too overweight, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
When I went to my consultant for my results, he did not look like a happy man. He said that I had tested positive, with a small amount of slow-growing cancer. A pussycat, not a tiger. I had a low Gleason score of 2 + 1, and a low PSA of 4.8. It was low, but it was cancer.
The consultant said that if I was presenting with that at age seventy-something, he’d recommend no treatment. But I was 55 and would have to do something eventually. He advised me to start reading on the internet to learn as much as possible so I could make an informed decision when I needed to.
One morning, I literally couldn’t lift the duvet off me to get out of bed. It was like it had become a steel blanket
I started active surveillance and quickly became depressed. I thought it was a mental problem that could be treated with large doses of healthy food, exercise and loads of positive thinking. Then one morning, I literally could not lift the duvet off me to get out of bed. It was like it had become a steel blanket. My wife was completely accepting and positive and said: “Stay in bed and take the day off. Be nice to yourself.”
That constant support, acceptance, and positivity eventually worked. And over a long period of about six months, a lot of my symptoms of depression – such as memory loss, evaporation of typing skills, lack of energy, and back problems – dissipated without the need for medication.
It was a life-changing time for me – and the change was in a bad direction. But one thing I was adamant about: I was going to continue to make music, as I had done since first moving to London in 1973 and forming my first band, The Winkies.
The doctor said if you had delayed this surgery by a few weeks or months, I would be telling you how many months you have to live
The musical activities may have been great for my head, but inside my body, that pussycat had turned into a tiger. My active surveillance was not carried out to the letter of the law. I couldn't stand the idea of yearly biopsies, and my consultant agreed that a DRE and a PSA every sixth months would be fine. Then in 2010, I had a prostatectomy using the gold-standard da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery.
The physical pain was nothing compared to what happened when I got my test results a few days later. The surgeon sat me down and said: “Happily, the surgery was a complete success. There’s no cancer in any surrounding areas and no obvious nerve damage. But if you had delayed this surgery by a few weeks or months, instead of giving you the green light, I would instead be telling you how many months you have to live.”
Since my successful outcome, I’ve done everything I can to raise money and awareness. Prostate cancer is one of those things where it’s important people get tested, an early diagnosis, and resolution. Not everyone has a guardian angel wife to remind them to get early detection and possibly save their life!
To raise awareness, I decided to reunite my band, the Tex Pistols [pictured above], which was one of the hottest bands in London in the early Eighties. We recently played four shows and in addition to distributing prostate cancer literature at the gigs, we sold our new EP, with all proceeds going to support Prostate Cancer UK.
If we visit your town, come out and help us rock ‘n’ roll for an important cause.
Buy the Tex Pistol's new EP on CD or digital download and look out for their future gigs at a venue near you.