At 52, John Wall has overcome many challenges to get to a point in life where he can now say he’s successfully living with a Stage 4 Prostate Cancer diagnosis.
When John heard about the Marie Keating Foundation’s “Stand Up For Your Prostate” campaign and learned about how the campaign was encouraging the men of Ireland to be more open about their health and take the stigma out of prostate cancer, John wanted to share his story.
For 46 years of my life, I never thought that my health would ever be an issue. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t exactly the fittest person in the world but had given up drinking and smoking many years ago. I also had an annual medical at work so thought I was invincible. That was me living blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.
I noticed during the early months of 2017 that I was having to pay frequent visits to the loo, especially at night. I never paid much attention to it. As awkward as it became I thought it was just middle age. I did go to my GP twice but because of my age. Nothing was considered other than an infection so off I trotted with some antibiotics.
I did have my PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) checked as part of a blood test and the results were off the charts but I was not a candidate for Prostate Cancer as I didn’t fit the age profile. I was too young. Oh, the benefit of hindsight!
In July 2017 I began to experience slight pains in my right leg. Initially didn’t think much of it but it got to the point where even whilst sitting, I had difficulty lifting my leg.
I was never one to head straight to my GP on a whim, but my instinct told me this time was an exception. That evening, I was referred for a scan that would change my life more than I could ever have imagined. A few hours after talking with my GP, my urologist was asking me the dreaded question, “Do you have anyone else with you?”
My scan showed an enlarged prostate along with a significant enlargement of my lymph nodes. Trouble with a capital “T” lay ahead. After several days of poking, prodding and discussions using words that I couldn’t even spell, my worst fears were confirmed.
The diagnosis was Stage 4 Prostate Cancer with advanced secondaries in my lymph nodes. There was a lot of gasps from my primary care team. I was only 46 years old.
What next? I wanted more opinions so travelled to Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. All agreed that chemotherapy was the first line of defence but only one agreed on what should happen next. My urologist advised that I would have no option but to travel abroad for radical surgery which would be dependent on the success of the chemotherapy. All other advice basically centred around prolonging my life so that I could get my affairs in order. Needless to say I chose the former!
Fortunately, after several rounds of Chemotherapy, arrangements were made to travel to University Hospital Leuven, a European Centre of Urological Excellence to meet my surgeon Dr Steven Joniau. That was in February 2018. After a thorough consultation, I was to return the following month for surgery. On March 15th I had a radical open prostatectomy where along with my beloved prostate, 61 of my lymph nodes were also removed. It was major surgery that undoubtedly saved my life. After 2 weeks I travelled back and since that trip have never looked back.
In September 2018 I had 39 cycles of ARC Radiation in The Galway Clinic. It must be said that the advice elsewhere was not to proceed with this as it would involve radiating a very large area but upon the advice of my surgeon we proceeded. Sure, what could go wrong? Well, let me tell you, absolutely nothing. I feel better today than I’ve ever felt in my life.
I remained on ADT (Androgen Deprivation Therapy) until Nov 2021. This was perhaps the most difficult part of my treatment to date. ADT is a hormone suppressant which induces the Andropause (male menopause). Nothing could have prepared me for the subsequent side effects but given the alternative I had no choice. I’m slowly getting back to a point which I call normal, but acutely aware that at some point in time may have to restart ADT treatment. I’ll cross that bridge if & when it needs crossing.
When I was diagnosed the harsh reality was that I wasn’t aware of any men with whom I could reach out to & seek advice on successfully living with Prostate Cancer. Instead I had to rely on internet research & anecdotal stories. Fortunately that is not now the case as more & more of us open up about our illness, our bodies & in so doing assist those who find themselves in similar circumstances. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of not only talking, but having someone to talk to…
This episode of my life has taught me the real meaning of life & the importance of not taking it for granted. It has changed for sure, but am all the better for it & now cherish occasions & milestones that were once taken for granted.
By telling this story my wish is that not only will vital awareness be created, but also that hope will be offered to those who find it difficult to find. I was once told that there was little or no chance of me beating this, but thankfully am now proving that there’s life beyond a diagnosis & most importantly a healthy & happy one also.
Live your best life & don’t sweat the small stuff!
Carpe Diem ❤️
John is an ambassador for our 2023 Stand Up for your prostate campaign
Click HERE for more information and support on Prostate Cancer
To show your support, and follow in John’s footsteps, get one of our Stand Up For Your Prostate pins here.