Peter is 75 years old; he retired ten years ago from a long career in surveying. After fifty years of living and working in Far North Queensland, Peter and his wife Ivy made the move from Townsville to Geelong in 2012. Coming to Geelong ‘provided us an opportunity to be closer to some members of the family who were already living here, and to get away from cyclones, heat and humidity,’ explains Peter.
Having lived in Queensland for so long, Peter had acquired sun cancers and melanomas. These were being attended to by his new local GP. In March 2016 Peter spoke with his doctor about issues he was having with passing urine. He was unaware that his doctor had included PSA checks in regular blood- testing, and after examining past PSA results the doctor advised Peter that he should see a urologist at the Geelong Hospital. An appointment was made, and the urologist undertook a DRE; this indicated prostate enlargement but Peter was told that the only way to determine whether he had cancer was to have a biopsy. Having mentioned that he had backache, Peter was also required to have an MRI. Six weeks later he was called in to the hospital for the biopsy.
Peter returned to the urologist for the test results. The MRI showed no indication that the cancer had spread to the bones. But, says Peter “The biopsy results were catastrophic – of the ten samples, every one of them was positive.” With a Gleason score of 8, the urologist told Peter, “You’ve got a pretty bad case of prostate cancer.”
Peter was informed of the options available to him. He was provided with reading materials to assist in decision-making, and an appointment made for a month later. During that time Peter also met with the two Geelong prostate nurses, and they provided him with supportive advice. He ultimately chose to proceed with a radical prostatectomy; that was in early October 2016.
Peter was booked in for his surgery, but that had to be cancelled due to a bladder infection and time required for antibiotics to run their course. The surgery eventually occurred in mid November. Two nights were spent in hospital before being discharged and returning home with catheter in place. At home Peter was visited and monitored by a District Nurse, who also removed the staples.
About five days post-op, Peter began to feel very constipated. On the morning of the post-op visit to the hospital to see the urologist, Peter was feeling so faint that his wife Ivy had to support him. He was driven to the hospital for that appointment, and while Ivy was inside obtaining a wheelchair Peter fainted and collapsed in the forecourt of the hospital. The urologist came down to see Peter in Emergency and directed staff to find him a bed in a ward. During the two days spent in hospital appropriate anti-constipation drugs were administered, the catheter was removed and Peter shown correct use of pads. ‘Two days later we were back home, and Ivy went shopping. I reckon she must have bought the shop out of pads!”
In mid-December Peter visited the incontinence unit at the Mackellar Centre. Peter saw a nurse and was taught about pelvic floor exercises, and told about ways of dealing with incontinence – in particular the condom drainage system. There were further visits to the Mackellar Centre, and time spent with a physiotherapist who was very thorough in taking him through all the exercises. Despite following the exercise program, there was no improvement in the first few months, and in that time Peter reports that he lost 8 – 10 kilos due to worry and stress. He notes that “You do get a bit depressed at times, and at that stage I hadn’t been to a Support Group meeting or had the benefit of talking to and hearing from other guys in a similar situation.”
Over time there has been improvement, and Peter feels much more confident and comfortable with the condom drainage system. “If anyone needs any instructions, I am certainly the expert,” quips Peter. He has spent time with one of the local physiotherapists who specialize in continence management, “She has provided some great and intensive exercises for me; she’s made such a difference.”
Peter had his first PSA blood test since the operation in early January this year, 2017. The PSA score was 0.57. A test in February recorded 0.66. Peter’s urologist felt that the cancer had advanced, perhaps into his liver. He advised Peter to go to Ballarat to have a PSMA PET-Scan. This scan costing $600 would provide more precise information about where the cancer might have advanced. The scan was done in March and Peter’s urologist said that “the results were pretty good, except for some cancer still in the lymph nodes.” Peter was provided with literature to prepare him for the possibility of HDT (Hormone Deprivation Therapy). He was told to come back in three months. By July this year Peter’s PSA had risen to 1.21 He was advised by his urologist who said that while the PSA had doubled in the 3 months since the February result, it was still a relatively low score, and that there was no urgency to commence HDT. In the mean-time Peter had a call from one of the Geelong Prostate nurses. She suggested that it might be a good idea to make an appointment with an oncology specialist in August. Peter met with that specialist who also agreed with the previous advice about not yet commencing HDT, but continuing to monitor his PSA.
Peter first heard of the Geelong Prostate Support Group through one of the Prostate Nurses who told him that it might be a good idea to attend a meeting. He attends most meetings, and Ivy says ”Peter, you come home ever so much more positive from these meetings, …. this is the best thing you’ve done.” He very much appreciates Ivy’s support. She comes to all his appointments; “I’m very lucky to have Ivy.”
Peter appreciates the importance of good health. He attends the gym, and he also joins several other members of our Group twice a week at the Full Circle Health and Exercise Group. Peter is a keen gardener, and he and Ivy enjoy international travel. Spare time can also be taken up minding grandchildren, and doing the school run.