Being diagnosed with cancer was the start of a rollercoaster for Mike. But having support from Penny Brohn UK, right from the start, was helpful when everything else was unknown.
"Penny Brohn UK has changed mine and Lorraine’s life and I encourage anyone going through cancer to get in touch with them."
Last September I went to my GP because I was concerned about erectile dysfunction. I'd had it for about 18 to 24 months but didn’t have any other prostate symptoms so just put it down to age, drinking and weight. My GP sent me for blood tests as she wanted to check my PSA levels. Less than a week later I received a call saying the GP needed to see me urgently. The GP said my PSA level was 58 but it was just a number and she needed to do an internal examination. During and after the examination my GP went quiet and I needed to prompt her to say what was happening. She was clearly upset and explained that she wasn’t happy with what she had felt and that she wanted me to see a specialist within two weeks.
I have private medical insurance so three days later I saw a consultant at The Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor. That was the start of the rollercoaster! The consultant examined me and explained that it was probably just an enlarged prostate and was 75% likely to be normal. He suggested that I have an MRI scan. Less than three weeks after I first went to the GP I received the results from the consultant who said it was actually 75% likely to be cancer and he arranged for me to have a biopsy and a bone scan as a spot had showed up on the MRI.
The consultant referred me to an oncologist who requested a PET scan as they wanted to eliminate cancer elsewhere. Soon after, the results showed that I had advanced cancer that had spread from my prostate to my bones – I had cancer on my pelvis, three of my ribs, shoulder and the back of my skull. I was told that the cancer could not be cured and the best option would be to manage it.
At that point I felt like I was just being given numbers and statistics. It all felt pointless and just made me worry. But the numbers were based on research from 10 to 15 years ago and the consultant told me that there were lots of factors that affect the statistics and everyone is an individual, with some people tolerating chemotherapy better than others.
I started my treatment at GenesisCare in Windsor. As soon as I walked into the centre I felt like I was somewhere that could make a difference to me. Treatment was tough, by the fourth round of chemotherapy I was feeling extremely tired from the treatment and steroids and was really low and struggled to walk to the end of my road. Worst for me was the loss of taste buds and experiencing ‘metal mouth’.
I had never considered supporting my health with reflexology, mindfulness, relaxation, acupuncture and exercise. But it was all on offer at GenesisCare through Penny Brohn UK; and my wife, Lorraine, said give it a go and anything that helps is a good thing. We met Terri at GenesisCare who gave us counselling, relaxation and meditation. We both loved it! It was really helpful to be shown different ways to relax and shut off our worries and concerns. It helped us reach a level of wellbeing that we didn’t realise we could get to. Terri was always there for us to talk to if we had any concerns and helped alleviate our worries and signposted us to other professionals who could help.
I also had reflexology which was amazing; I couldn’t believe what a difference it made! I went before each chemotherapy appointment and it helped me relax and made it feel like less of a chore.
I wanted to try acupuncture and really benefitted from having such a compassionate practitioner who listened to me and helped me gain insight into the decisions I wanted to make about my life. I looked forward to the chats we had during the sessions; the practitioner helped clear my mind and helped me break down my thoughts into different options. One of the decisions I wanted to make was about whether to retire. I decided that I liked my job and the connection I had with my colleagues was important to me; so I decided the best option was to reduce my hours rather than retire.
Lorraine and I decided to visit Penny Brohn UK’s National Centre and attended the Living Well course. We found it so helpful to understand more about what cancer is and how it manifests. There were 10 people on our course including three partners. Lorraine found it really helpful to talk to the other partners as it was the first time she could talk openly about the big impact cancer has had on our lives, with other people going through a similar experience. Before starting my radiotherapy we went back to the National Centre and attended The Approach.
I have found the nutritional information at Penny Brohn UK really helpful. I’m still on a journey to discover healthy food that I enjoy eating but Lorraine has learnt how to create food that I like that has nutritional value.
At Penny Brohn UK there is no pressure to say anything and it’s nice to sit in the gardens and get a bit of head space. It stops me thinking ahead and gives me time to clear my head and not think of anything. When I was diagnosed with cancer all my plans were thrown up and all I had was questions. Having the support from Penny Brohn UK and GenesisCare right from the start, holding my hand, was so helpful when everything else was unknown. As a man with prostate cancer I know how devastating the impact on body image and physical relationship is. I’ve found it harder to deal with than the side effects from chemotherapy and the statistics I was first given about life span. But I want other men to know that there is support available. Penny Brohn UK has changed mine and Lorraine’s life and I encourage anyone going through cancer to get in touch with them.