“Before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I didn’t even have a GP. It was only thanks to my wife nagging me to get checked out that I was diagnosed and treated. So I would encourage everyone to be aware of signs and make sure to have regular check-ups because the earlier something is picked up on, the better.”
Married with three grown-up children, Donie (60), who works as an electrician went for a routine check-up in 2020 and, following tests, was shocked to discover that he had prostate cancer.
“After being hounded by my wife, I started going for annual blood tests to get my PSA levels checked. It was just a quick visit to the nurse who also checked my liver, kidneys, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. She would usually ring afterwards to say everything was fine but in 2019, she sounded different on the phone, and I knew something was wrong when she started going through the list of results.
I got such a fright when she told me that my PSA levels were slightly elevated – apparently, they should be under 5 and mine was at a 6. She told me I had to go to the doctor for a digital examination, which although it cost me a bit of slagging from my mates, was all completely fine, and I was told to come back a year later. Of course, being a bloke, I left it as long as possible, and it was about 16 months before I went back for the next blood test.
“Again the PSA level was at 6, so I had to have another digital exam and this time I was referred on to a urologist.”
The Dublin man was then sent for some scans and as the Covid-19 lockdowns continued, his follow-up appointments were virtual, until December 1st, 2020, when he was called back to see his consultant and given the shocking news that he had cancer.
“I was sure that there was nothing wrong so I couldn’t believe it when I was told that I had cancer and would have to go through a series of tests to ensure it hadn’t spread. After I got the news, I went out to my van, and I remember thinking to myself that I could either start bawling crying or I could just deal with it, so I decided to try my best to get on with things. I’m not trying to be macho as I did feel like crying but I had so much work to get done before Christmas and really didn’t have time to fall apart.
“I told my wife, who was devastated, but we didn’t tell the kids initially because I didn’t know at the time whether or not the cancer had spread. That Christmas was a horrible time, but we got through it somehow and in January, I found out that thankfully the cancer was contained in the one area so I would have a prostatectomy at the end of the month. The surgeon decided against robotic surgery and instead opened me up so he could have a proper look at everything and confirm everything else was ok, before removing the prostate which was 30% cancerous.”
After his operation, Donie spent a week in hospital before going home with a catheter and learning to deal with all its added complications while recovering from surgery.
“Even with the stitches in my stomach, they had me out of the bed not long after the operation to try and get me mobile again. I had been doing yoga prior to this and I think it really helped with side effects like incontinence, but I still had to buy the pads and know all about the importance of a good pelvic floor. I thought I would nail it and be better very quickly, but two days after getting the catheter out, I picked up a terrible infection and was back in hospital for over a fortnight. Then I went home and when I went back for a check-up 10 days later, the infection had apparently worsened, so I was readmitted for another 3 ½ weeks.
But thankfully I didn’t need chemotherapy as the cancer was all gone and the oncologist told me that my prognosis was really good. Also, when I had a follow-up PSA test, the levels were practically at zero, so that was great news.”
Thankfully Donie is doing very well today and would advise others to seek medical advice if any concerns whatsoever.
“I stayed out of work until September 2021 and hadn’t been able to do much walking or cycling until June, but I bought myself a rowing machine and that really helped. I still have a bit of trouble with my foot after the infection, but I am 95% better and I don’t have cancer any more which is fantastic.
I would really encourage other men to get checked for prostate cancer – one of my brothers also has it and is now undergoing radium and hormone treatment and lots of my mates have been through it as well. Having the test, even the digital one, is not a big deal and there is no reason to be embarrassed, doctors do this sort of stuff every day. I know of some people who have had prostate cancer and haven’t told anyone outside close family, apart from me as I’ve been through it, because they don’t want people to know about the side effects, which can include issues of a sexual nature, but these problems are a small price to pay for your life.
“On the other side of the coin, I know of guys whose PSA was up and it wasn’t cancer – so it could be something else entirely. But the most important thing is to just get it tested.”
To learn more about prostate cancer and why PSA testing is so important, click here.
To read more stories like Donie’s, take a look at our most recent prostate cancer awareness campaign, Stand Up For Your Prostate here.