Keeping up to par

by Alex Mackay, 59 years old

golf

I am an avid golfer; I love the game for the many challenges it brings. Anybody playing this sport will agree that the feeling of executing a good shot, breaking the 100's, the 90's and the 80's or beating one's own best score is very gratifying. On the other hand, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was far from being ready to face the many challenges implicated by this disease.

Let me go back a decade, when, at the age of 59, at my annual check-up, I was found to have a PSA reading of 59. I was then referred to a urologist who sent me for a trans-rectal ultrasound and prostate biopsies. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and a Gleason score 10/10.

The moment I heard the word CANCER, my heart skipped a few beats. I don't even remember anything else that was said during that medical visit; I was in a state of shock. It could not be, not me. But yes, it was me, my prostate, my cancer, and the start of my battle against cancer.

In order to choose the best treatment option to allow me the best survival rate without jeopardizing too much of my quality of life, my urologist suggested surgery. The goal was to determine whether or not my cancer had escaped outside my prostate gland, that is to find out if my lymph nodes were cancerous. Unfortunately, the nodes already had cancer in them. Automatically, that eliminated surgery or radiation therapy as treatment options for me.

I then started hormonal therapy, consisting of an injection every three months and daily pills. Well, guess what? My breasts got slightly swollen, I gained a few pounds, I did not have to shave as often, and my sexual desire decreased somewhat, though it was still present. Oh! I forgot, those hot flashes; I guess this is what women feel like at menopause!

Overall the treatment has been well tolerated. For the last ten years, I have been able to carry on my activities of daily living including my passion for golf.

When I was first diagnosed, I needed to share my emotions with my family and friends but some didn't know what to say or how to act. When people occasionally inquired about how it was going, I would reply "fine" and the conversation would shift. There was a loud silence surrounding the real impact of this experience. As soon as they realized that I was doing well with my treatments, their behaviour changed.

Surprisingly enough, though probably not the case at the initial time of diagnosis, the fact that I could talk about it helped my family members and friends to open up and share their own feelings. This somehow made it easier for them to accept the situation. The acceptance, though, did not come as easily for all my three children and friends. Some took quite a bit longer and at the beginning there was a lot of anger and tears.

When I first started hormonal therapy, I was introduced to the various health care professionals treating prostate cancer, including the nurse. She was a life-saver, filling the gap between the medical team and myself. She was giving me my injections, answering my questions, and getting information from the urologist for me if needed. She was comforting me in difficult moments, because, let's face it, I can put up a big front but, deep down I have had and still have my scares. During those hard times she talked to me; she let me verbalize my fears and anxieties. At times, she just listened, not knowing or not finding the right words to comfort me; that was fine, I knew she was there. I realized that the most important thing was knowing that people were there for me and still are when I need them. This is even true when they do not respond the way I expect them to, everyone has their own way of coping with stressful situations.

Somehow when I look back, there have been lots of ups and downs but I never gave up. On the contrary, I have learned from this that we cannot take things for granted, that we must take advantage of every moment we are given. Yesterday is gone and will never come back.

For the past year, my PSA readings have been constantly slowly increasing. I am about to start chemotherapy in the next few weeks but, in the meantime, I try to keep up to par the best I can and enjoy life!

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