At age 49, happily married and the father of two girls, prostate cancer was the last thing on my mind. My work as a realtor kept me on the go day and night, and I stayed fit playing hockey and golf and running. But some things seem to catch up to you no matter your age or lifestyle. The new doctor in my life, Dr. Andrew Humphrey, noticed that I hadn’t had the dreaded annual rectal exam in a few years. This test saved my life, I believe, but also changed it forever. Dr. Humphrey was quick to refer me to a urologist, Dr. Greg Bailly, who sent me for a biopsy.
All this occurred early in December 2005. But with Christmas approaching, the results would have to wait until January 2006. This holiday was one to remember, with thoughts of what the future might bring always on my mind.
The day I received the call from Dr. Bailly telling me that I had prostate cancer, my wife was away on business and I was at home with our one-year-old. Thoughts spun around in my head: Wasn’t this something that older men got? How fast can we get this thing out?
Unfortunately, we couldn’t schedule surgery until March 2006 due to a shortage of hospital facilities. The delay gave me time to think. I wondered what I’d done wrong to get cancer, if the surgeon was good at his job and how this would all end. My wife and I met with the surgeon (he turned out to be fabulous), who explained what the operation involved, including the risk factors and side effects. All of these concerns seemed minor compared to the prospect of being able to spend many more enjoyable years with my family. I also soon realized that there are many people who were going through the same thing as me or who’d been there before, and that I could draw strength from their help. I believe this support may be as vital to a successful outcome as the actual surgery.
I counted the days until March 3. Afterwards, I was told that the surgery went well (I slept through the entire operation). That night, a good friend who’d had the same procedure the day before visited me in my room — I was surprised at how fast he was up and mobile. He said this was what I would look like in the morning. Since he’s a little older than me, I was concerned he meant I was going to age overnight! A sense of humour helps at times like these.
Up and walking early the next day, I had much less pain than I’d expected, but I discovered you have to know how far you can go with a catheter. I couldn’t wait to get home the next morning. The next few weeks were interesting to say the least. An experienced friend suggested sleeping in a recliner, which turned out to be good advice. The feeling of freedom when the staples and catheter were removed was amazing, although dancing was definitely still out for a while. I felt that the worst was over and now all I needed was time to recover, until my doctors recommended I have a “bit” of radiation to make sure all the cancer cells were gone. I was thrust back into the world of the unknown. Sitting in the radiation clinic reminded me once again of how serious this disease is.
By July 2006 I finally felt I had beaten the illness, but it would take time to move on, both physically and mentally. This experience helps you put your life in perspective. You learn to value the important things and not place as much stock in other less significant matters. Going through prostate cancer treatment helped me realize that life is a precious goal to preserve and protect. I’ve also become an advocate for earlier detection — many of my friends still consider themselves too young to worry about this problem. Life for us is back to normal (or as normal as life gets). Thanks to the Atlantic Assisted Reproductive Therapies Clinic in Halifax and a little preplanning, we’re expecting another child in August. When family and work allow for time out, I’m back to my favourite leisure activity… sports.
Dan Hennessey is a passionate speaker, Prostate cancer early detection advocate and author of “With The Snap of a Glove” .