My husband, Graham, was diagnosed with prostate Cancer in March 2007 aged 55yrs. We were both totally shocked and told the doctors to `take it away and do it yesterday`. The treatment was a radical prostatectomy which removed the prostate and the tumours but which was a huge operation. Graham still has some physical problems such as slight incontinence to this day.
When he got the `all clear` and was told that he would be monitored annually, we thought that we had come through the other side of the tunnel and that we had done our share of `Cancer`. We went on holiday and tried to live our lives.
Imagine the shock when in April 2010 Graham was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
It was like a thunderbolt. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that this could happen to my husband after all that he had been through.
The consultant told us that the only option was to have a colostomy operation and that because his tumour was so low in the rectum that this would be irreversible. However it would remove the cancer and he would be `cured`.
Graham’s immediate reaction was “I’m not having it done!” I supported him.
Many people said to me that I should persuade him to have the operation / didn’t I want to see him cured? (Stupid question!) / surely it was his only hope etc. We even heard a rumour that a `friend` had told people that he had refused the colostomy operation and was going to die!
However one of the biggest things that I’ve learned through all of this is that we all react differently to diagnosis. It was a very hard lesson for me to learn. I had to come to terms with the fact that Graham was dealing with Cancer in an entirely different way to the way I was. During his first illness he didn’t want to tell anybody. I wanted to tell everybody because I felt we needed the support of family and friends. He didn’t want the `C` word mentioned or to tell people the details of his operation because it was `private`. As a woman I think we talk about these things more openly and found it extremely hard to go along with him.
I would be lying if I said that it was easier second time around but I knew that Graham had enough on his plate without me not supporting him in his decision. He didn’t want to have another huge operation, which was going to result in even more physical problems and a totally reduced quality of life.
Graham asked the consultant for other options and quite honestly the consultant was really very abrupt and couldn’t understand why he was refusing standard treatment, which would `cure` him. We left the hospital in a daze feeling as if we had been told off in school and not sure which way to turn.
Thank God for Dr Sun Myint!!!
Because Graham had refused standard treatment, it left the door open for Dr Sun Myint to ring and offer him a consultation and, having examined him, Papillon treatment.
We had booked to go on holiday and Graham was determined not to start any treatment until we came back but Dr Sun Myint explained that he would`t have any adverse effects from the treatment. He had two treatments before we went. The day after we came home Graham started 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This was the bit I had been dreading. I had no idea what to expect or how to support him. I wanted him to take it easy and stay at home as he had 1hrs journey to the hospital from our home and the same back again. NO chance!!
Graham has a heavy manual job but insisted on going to work every day at 7am then driving over to the hospital to have his treatment, returning home around 7.30pm. I was distraught! I thought it was far too much for him both physically and emotionally but Graham wanted to be normal and carry on as normal. (Men!)
Events were taken out of his hands as after 5 days of chemotherapy he was blue-lighted to hospital with a heart attack! Yes I know it sounds like a Carry on film but it is a totally true story.
I am a very emotional person and if anybody had told me what I had to face I would have told them that I couldn’t do it. I wouldn`t have the strength to get through it all. It is amazing what you can do. Adrenaline seems to get you through the toughest times.
4 weeks after his heart attack Graham TOLD (not asked) Dr Sun Myint and myself that he was going back to work and continuing his radiotherapy as before i.e. after a day at work.
This is when I hit my brick wall. I cried for 48hrs. I felt that he wasn’t taking enough care of himself. When the crying didn’t work I tried shouting and emotional blackmail all to no avail.
I felt that I didn’t have anyone to turn to or discuss this with. Family are often too close and are emotionally involved themselves.
This is why I think that this website and support group is SO important for newly diagnosed patients and their carers and loved ones.
We all need something or someone to grab at for a lifeline when we think we are sinking. I wish the Buddy system had been around for us during Graham`s diagnosis and treatment!
We got through it all and are still continuing on the journey. Graham is fine and is being monitored by Dr Sun Myint on a regular basis. I continue to try and support him as best I can and for the most part we are living our life as normal.