Going through treatment for prostate cancer can be a challenging time. And the end of treatment can bring with it a new set of trials, emotions, and even a whole new outlook on life.
Every man’s experience of cancer is different, and so is dealing with what happens next.
We asked two men, Mike and Martin, to tell us how they approached life after treatment.
I remember my doctor saying “There’s a good chance you’ll be cured, but we don’t know for sure. Hopefully you’ll die of something else,” which I thought was quite funny!
When I was diagnosed four years ago, they made sure there was a nurse there – I think they thought I was going to throw a wobbly! I was a little taken aback, but I was relieved they’d found the reason for my trouble peeing.
I had radiotherapy and three years of hormone therapy, which finished a year ago, and now I have PSA tests twice a year.
With the radiotherapy, I found I got very tired and was struggling to do things normally. And I think my loss of muscle strength is because of the hormone therapy. But my treatment was very efficient and the side effects have more or less passed now.
I remember my doctor saying “There’s a good chance you’ll be cured, but we don’t know for sure. Hopefully you’ll die of something else,” which I thought was quite funny! I prefer to think the glass is half full.
I suppose I had hopes my treatment would cure me, and I would be perfectly okay afterwards - the same as I was before, which wasn’t really realistic. I haven’t got the energy that I used to, and I was hoping I would have recovered my strength by now. I’ve noticed some sexual things have changed too.
I’ve gone through it all feeling whatever will be, will be and I’m very lucky – as far as it goes, things are pretty good. I’m still alive, and I’ve learned to live with my side effects, and now and I’m fortunate enough to feel I can put the whole experience behind me.
I’m 80, but I still do a lot – bee-keeping, gardening, flying model aircraft – I have trouble fitting it all in!
To anyone facing prostate cancer I’d say try not to worry, but take things as they come. Things can go well.
My attitude has been - I’m not putting up with this.
About a year after my treatment finished, I saw a consultant after a routine PSA test and he said “We’ll sign you off real soon now Martin.”
I got in my car and I burst into tears. I felt abandoned. I thought I’d be overjoyed, but I felt awful. It was like “Okay you can go now, you’re on your own again.”
I thought, “Right, my cancer might be sorted – whatever that means – but what about the sexual side effects and the psychological stuff? Who’s going to help me cope with all those things?” And that’s what was the most upsetting; nobody had said to me, “How do you feel about that Martin?”
I was diagnosed six years ago and I’ve had surgery, five weeks of radiotherapy and two and a half years of hormone therapy. And it was the hormone therapy that had a major effect on me.
People would say, “Are you in remission? You must be pleased.” And it was like they were actually telling me how I should feel. I’d say, “Would you like the one minute answer or the 10 minute answer?” and they’d say, “the 10 minute answer” but I could tell really they wanted the one minute answer, so I’d tell them I’m fine.
But I’d tell the people who really knew me the 10 minute answer. And I’d feel better because I’d told them the truth.
My attitude has been, “I’m not putting up with this.” I chair a support group, and I’ve put myself in personal growth workshops. We all share what’s going on for us – not only health professionals, but other guys with prostate cancer and their partners who are supporting them.
Having prostate cancer – it’s meant going on a journey of self-discovery and I’ve realised my loss of libido has allowed me to be a much better person in some ways. It’s allowed me to be more in touch with my sensuality not just my sexuality. It’s allowed me to get in touch with a part of me which I never even knew existed.
I’ve had to go through a real good, traumatic, energising, positive, scary and joyful journey.
To anyone facing prostate cancer I would say – get to understand who you are as a human being and as a man and start exploring things you’ve never explored and cancer gives you an opportunity. Be prepared to go to places you don’t want to go or have never been to before.
If you’ve finished treatment and are wondering what’s next or where you can get support, read our new booklet, Follow up after prostate cancer treatment: What's next? or call our Specialist Nurses.