You never know what is around the next corner…….
After a 48 year working life Both Mrs Grimy Miner and myself had decided to retire and enjoy the fruits of our work for so many years.
For a while life was good, we toured the West coast of Scotland in our sports car, did the same regarding North Wales and Snowdonia.
We did NT properties, Harrogate garden and flower shows. We went to the Midlands Model Engineering show where I bought some tools and machinery that I had wanted for a long time.
On Friday 18thSeptember 2015 I went to bed as usual. I had been suffering from what I thought were kidney stones; indeed, I had had one of those unusual events, a home visit from my GP, who seemed to agree that it was, indeed, kidney stones.
When I woke on the Saturday morning I felt really strange. I felt as if I was floating in my bed. When I went to get out of bed I discovered that I couldn’t feel anything below the waist. I couldn’t feel my feet, my legs, my backside. I felt down between my legs (as you do) and could feel, between my fingers, little Willie, but I couldn’t actually feel my fingers ON little Willie!!
As you can understand, I was a bit alarmed (understatement).
I called Mrs Grimy from the bathroom and said “Please bring me my mobile, I have a problem”.
She asked me what was wrong and I said “I think I am paralysed from the waist down”.
She asked me if I had been lying in bed funny but I said “No funnier than I normally lie”.
I called 111 – the NHS Emergency and urgent care hotline, and after the usual round the houses question and answer session it was decided to send an ambulance to collect me.
To give the ambulance guys full credit they arrived pretty rapidly, assesed the situation, had me strapped into a folding chair and physically manhandled me downstairs and into the ambulance.
Once in the ambulance they connected me to various machines, mainly to ensure that I didn’t croak on my 5 mile trip to hospital.
When you first arrive in A&E they put you through triage, to make sure that you are not a Friday night casualty. Once they realise that you are, indeed, ill things tend to move rather fast.
I was slid into a CAT scan machine and after a short wait I was told that I was to be transferred to Sunderland Royal Hospital, to the Urology department, for further examinations and tests.
By this time I was feeling a bit worried, everyone was pussy-footing around what they thought was wrong with me. My imagination was running wild.
The next morning, bright and early (7:00am) I was inside an MRI machine, listening to all the clanks and bangs that those macines make, even though they had given me headphones.
After about an hour of that they dragged me out onto the trolley and one of the operators said to me “Did you enjoy the music”?
Music?” I said, “what music? All I heard was hammering and banging, unless it was Schoenberg?”
Oh”, they other operator said, “I forgot to turn on the music!”
Later, just after 9am the consultant was telling me that I had prostate cancer, that my PSA count was one of the highest he had seen, at 842. For comparison, the average PSA for a man in his 60’s should be under 6!!
PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) is a marker in the blood which is released by the prostate and by monitoring this they can tell the health, or otherwise, of the prostate.
They also told me that the reason I was paralysed was that the cancer had metastasized to my spinal cord, wrapping itself around the bundle of nerves emerging around T6 and cutting off the stimuli to and from the brain.
The treatment decided on was radiotherapy, to be given at The Freeman Hospital, Newcastle.
So, Grimy was flung into yet another ambulance and transferred that very same day to Newcastle. After settling in in a 6 bed ward of cancer patients, some of whom were in a very serious condition, I was visited by another consultant and was told the procedure (injection with a marker fluid, another CT scan, another MRI scan and then targeted with radiation to kill the cancer on the spinal cord)
The scans were to indicate to the radiologist where to tattoo me with marks so that the radiation could be aimed without affecting other organs which may be in the way.
So, the next morning I was under yet more machinery having intense bursts of high energy X-Rays squirted into me in a machine like this:- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/radiotherapy/
My treatment was conducted on the Sir Bobby Robson wing of the Freeman, a unit which is wholly supported by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation http://sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.org.uk/
After treatment I was transferred back to Sunderland for observation, thence to a rehabilitation home closer to my home where I could receive intense physiotherapy to help me walk again. I was, of course, still paralysed at this time, unable to move or feel anything below the waist.
I started a course of injections, once a month, of Degarelix, which is a testosterone supressant, testosterone being the fuel for the prostate cancer.
Degarelix is, as some might know, chemical castration. It removes the urge and the ability to have sex but it IS a lifesaver. My PSA count started to fall immediately, and is currently below the laboratory’s ability to measure – below 0.1.
After about a month I started to get some feeling back in the soles of my feet, pins and needles mostly, and gradually feeling returned to my legs.
I started to walk with a Zimmer frame, then crutches and eventually a walking stick. I am now walking unaided for short distances but I get tired very easily.
This is NOT a horror story, it proves that even serious prostate cancer is beatable. Men need to learn to recognise the symptoms, get a test if they suspect there is anything amiss in the urinary department and above all
© Grimy Miner 2017