I was diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine check up in September 2009 and had surgery (radical prostatectomy) eight weeks later. I'm battling on and will soon again start radiation therapy.
"My name is Mick and sadly this is my story.
I say sadly because these are not memories I counted on in defining my life – I wanted stories of my daughter's first laugh, my son's first words – the very first time I said 'I love you" to someone and really meant it. Instead I am sharing with you a day that forever changed my life.
It's as clear today as it ever was - the doctor talking: his lips were moving so I knew that for sure – but my ears were filled with a roar so loud it drowned out all else except for three words pulsating through my brain like a drumbeat.
Thud, thud: you've got cancer; thud, thud – cancer: there it went again. I shook my head thinking it might clear my ears – this can't be happening to me – maybe he's saying something else, I should be listening.
I had heard about prostate cancer in the media so I asked my doctor to include a PSA – prostate cancer blood test in with some others. He told me it wasn't necessary – I insisted – that insistence saved my life.
That insistence brought with it paralysing fear, the nausea of radiation treatment and a series of operations that would save my life. That insistence took me to rock bottom, to consuming depression and fears I had never before faced. No one was concerned when my PSA level was high – the stats were on my side - only 1 in 1000 men in my age group (40-50) get prostate cancer.
No history in my family, check; not high risk, check. But statistics are funny things and I couldn't remember a single one that day the doctor gave me the news. All I could think about was the kids, the impact on them – living, dying, the holidays I never took and then I cried – I just cried.
You see this is NOT an old man's disease. If you have turned 40, you should start this as a routine test annually. If your wife or girlfriend can have a pap smear, the very least you can do is a blood test.
And eat tomatoes – that's a joke from my son. We laugh a lot now but it was pretty tough for a while there. Nick and I share a special bond – he lived through the surgeries, the highs and lows as I came to accept incontinence and impotence – my body so ravaged by the drugs, surgeries and the cancer that just wouldn't release its grasp.
He was only 14, making my lunch and his before heading off to school, knowing I was too weak to even get out of bed. He has grown up too quickly and understands his risk of cancer. I'm worried for him so I remind him to eat tomatoes – they contain lycopene – said to protect against prostate cancer.
There has been a major breakthrough in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer in Australian men.
The Cell Search machine, the first of its kind in Australasia and the Fluorescence Microscope came about with the assistance of the PA Research Foundation and they are now in use - saving lives.
This was a major leap forward in our fight. The machines are being used by the multidisciplinary team clinic at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, the first of its kind in Australia, where specialists from several disciplines work together on a patient's needs.
Men don't want to talk about prostate cancer – so those of us who do and who can, have to speak louder than ever before."
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