It's never a good thing when your doctor says "but"


It all started in 2003, when I went to see a doctor for a regular check-up. And because of a history of cholesterol in the family he decided to give me a blood test. Like those “but wait, there’s more” style late-night TV ads, he threw in a Prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) as well for free. Not exactly a set of steak knives, but I thought, “what the hell, why not.”

When the results came back, my doc called me in and sat me down.

“Good news! Your cholesterol is fine,” he said and I was awash with relief. “but..” But? What do you mean but?

“But,” he continued. “Unfortunately the results were extremely high for PSA.”

After the initial “oh shit!” moment, he explained the results were a bit like a multiple choice question. It could mean one of three things. Either I had:

  1. An infection in the urinary tract - which meant a course of antibiotics would set me right.
  2. An enlarged prostate - in overnight for a bore job and some bad hospital food.
  3. Prostate cancer – which had various potential approaches, each a little daunting, doing nothing would be a lot worse.

I went through all the follow up tests and they found nothing, so I thought “great, I dodged the bullet.”

However, being a bit cautious by nature, I agreed to undergo annual testing by the doctor. To be honest, I had become a bit blasé until Easter 2009 when the multiple choice question returned. This time the correct answer was C. Another “oh shit!” moment.

I remember it was the day of my work’s Christmas party in 2009, after a round of biopsies and scans to check whether the little blighters had got into my bones, that I got the news:

  • Bad – I had prostate cancer
  • Fair – It was a mid-range variety on a scale of 5 out of 10
  • Good – It was contained in the prostate.

It was mid 2012 when I last visited my oncologist, almost two and a half years after I had my prostate removed and I will never forget what he said to me. He checked me over, and with a half-smile on his face said, “Oh, you will still die, but it won’t be from prostate cancer.” In a funny sort of way that was great news. 

February 2015 will make another milestone in my journey since that fateful day back in 2010. It will be five years since the operation and I will be stricken off the Red Cross banned list and will be able give blood again. I’ll never be happier to have my name stricken off a record then that day.

So what is Movember for me? It’s is about demystifying the experience, putting out the word about being proactive not reactive. But most importantly, it’s being able to support the continued research so if someone else ‘wins’ the prostate lottery, the solution is less intrusive and more effective than was experienced by those that have undergone it before.

- Ewen