Les Cameron shares the story of his brave battle with prostate cancer and treatment.
The following is just another (one in five) bloke’s prostate journey and, like any trip in life, it starts at the beginning.
In late 2016 I was attending my local GP at Wyndham Health Care in Wyndhamvale, Victoria, and my doctor showed concern. I was 61 years of age and it was time to get a thorough check on everything. One of those checks found that my prostate was a little enlarged. Subsequent tests found that PSA numbers were on the rise. The next step was to undergo a biopsy to determine the actual status of my prostate.
Sure enough, cancer was found with an intermediate grade Gleason score. This required action. A series of discussions followed, with a range of medical professionals at Werribee Mercy and Prostate Cancer Centre, friends, family and a range of men who I never knew had the condition. Others put me in touch with contacts who have travelled this path. One of many surprises to come my way was to find out just how many survivors are out there. It was at this point that I knew I had to raise awareness of prostate cancer – but more about that later.
After weighing up the pros and cons of the treatment options as given by the medical professionals, as a family we decided that I’d have surgery to remove the prostate. In early May 2017, I was in the hands of (The Manual’s own) Homi Zargar and his surgery team at Royal Melbourne Hospital to have a robot assisted radical prostatectomy and lymph node dissection.
I am now recovering from my condition and am so fortunate to have observed nothing but the best in everyone, from the many administrative staff involved, to Prostate Cancer Centre, Royal Melbourne Hospital, nursing, medical, surgery and assorted support staff who will always remain nameless. I can only say thank you.
There was still some erectile dysfunction even when the catheter was in place, but this function sits low among my care factors. Pain management created some issues as I had negative reactions to the stronger products, so I settled for Panadol. The urine leakage between the catheter and urethra was a problem for me, but I overcame that issue by using gaffer tape wrapped around a male incontinence pad placed around my penis. Yes, it was a tradesman-like fix, but perhaps the people at Tena may find a solution to that issue. (And, yes, I did find a more suitable and aesthetic tape to use.)
After two weeks, the catheter was removed. About 15 minutes later I experienced extreme pain – I now know what level 10 is in my pain experience. After about 10 minutes or so, it went away and was chalked up to muscular spasm.
The hardest part of my recovery (at the time of writing this article) has been bladder control. I stuck with the well-documented exercises and information around bladder training but, at this point in time, it is still a serious concern that has not allowed me to return to work. Another issue – created by myself – is that during my self-driven need to be fit again I sustained a hernia for which I am awaiting a surgery date. I have faith in the medical professionals who I know will also have this issue resolved.
With a lot of help from Katie at the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and the Western Region Motocross Committee, I organised a prostate awareness day at a race event at Colac Motocross Track, which was, possibly, the first time an event like this has been held.
It turned out to be a great event. Prostate cancer (and cancer in general) was discussed during riders’ briefings, including a minute of silence held in respect for those who have lost the battle. The medical crew even placed special signage on the emergency response vehicle.
Further awareness programs will be organised with my employer and others over time as my health improves.
Part of my recovery program involved walking through the ‘Black Swamp’, a recognised Aboriginal site we have lived next to for approximately 30 years.
As symbolised by the scar tree, the area has changed over the years from Aboriginal inhabitation to early European settlement, farming and housing. Just like me, it will never be the same. But, also just like me, the Black Swamp is still here.
To my wife, Sandra, for whom I have no words good enough to describe, to the loves of my life, my kids and grandkids, to my sister, workmates, employer and all of those who have supported me on this journey: thank you.