On April 12th 2016, I was diagnosed with Cancer – Prostate Cancer – this was devastating to myself and my family as my symptoms were not consistent with Cancer. Here is my story.
My urine flow had slowed a bit and I had begun to do the regular 1am trek to the bathroom, something I had put down to ‘getting old’. My doctor did a blood test and my PSA result had risen to 2.5 for someone aged 50. A PSA below 4.0 doesn’t usually ring alarm bells, however due to my Father having been diagnosed at 65, my doctor suggested further tests. An enlarged prostate was detected and a further biopsy test indicated medium level Cancer.
Our life went into meltdown, and I vividly recall constantly crying with my wife, Kym, for a couple of weeks thereafter. Telling my children, Jack (18), Max (15), and Chloe (13) was traumatic to say the least. Just the word ‘Cancer’ raised concerns with all of us, and there’s no text book that advises how best to break the news to your children. More crying ensued. Being so passionate about the insurance industry, I made sure I was more than adequately covered in the event something like this were to occur…this was a life changer.
I was referred to Dr John Yaxley, a urologist at Wesley Medical Centre. He outlined my options for myself and Kym, and as the MRI showed a dark shadow close to the margin (the edge of the prostate), he recommended the nerve sparing procedure ‘radical prostatectomy’. A prostatectomy is major surgery; highly invasive and taking 4 hours to perform, with the most profound and immediate side effects – incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
A prostatectomy can be performed in two ways; robotically or with traditionally open surgery, with both options requiring similar long-term recovery. Short term, robotic surgery is preferable despite being significantly more expensive. Amazingly, the surgeon sits at a computer with controllers that resemble an Xbox.
My full trauma benefits were paid within two weeks of lodging my Trauma Insurance claim form, and having these funds available removed a great deal of financial stress from the equation – for myself and Kym. I was able to take Dr Yaxley’s recommendation and receive the best possible robotic surgery and taken seven weeks off of work to fully recover. I had choices, my family had choices.
My surgery was scheduled for 30th May and took the full four hours. I was wheeled to the ward, where Kym and my daughter Chloe were waiting; despite losing 22 kilos since February, my face and body appeared so bloated it would seem to strangers I’d piled all the weight back on, and then some.
I woke up after the surgery with a catheter, and despite being released from hospital just two days later, the catheter remained with me for another week. Sleeping was impossible – I could only lie on my back – and socialising was non-existent, I wasn’t going to leave the house with a urine bag strapped to my leg inside my trousers. Impossible. Once the catheter was removed I imagined life would instantly get better, but I was mistaken. A darker time lurked around the corner. For the next couple of weeks, my pelvic floor muscles were unable to function as well as I’d anticipated – I was unable to control my bladder and the frustration and exhaustion had me spiralling. I went through boxes of men’s pads over the following weeks and released that if this was to be my life moving forward, it was going to be far from pleasant. Fortunately, it was only two weeks before my pelvic muscles vastly improved, but I whole heartedly understand why 70% of Australian men say their lifestyle deteriorates following a Prostate Cancer diagnosis.
The other source of angst for me (and I’m sure I speak for many others), was the worry of whether or not I could still ‘function’ as a man. I was referred to Dr Michael Gillman, a men’s health doctor specialising in male sexual and reproductive health. He was excellent – both calming and a great source of information, and supplied me with my first ‘port of call’ test to determine my performance.
I’m proud and happy to say I reached a milestone on July 20th 2016 – a blood test showed my PSA result had dropped to 0.009, and Dr Yaxley confirmed this signified that all of the cancer was fully contained in the removed prostate, and I would not be required to undergo further chemotherapy. Fantastic news!
For the next year, I’ll be undergoing blood tests every four months to monitor my PSA results – always looking over my shoulder in anticipation of the results coming back clear. The trauma insurance payout not only changed my life, but that of my family – with all the test and procedures, it cost me close to $65,000.
Medicare and the best in private health cover only rebated half of the costs, and there was significant outstanding costs to ensure I received the best possible level of treatment. It also meant I could continue paying our mortgage whilst ensuring we had some funds left over – if it ever comes back, I’d want to be sure my family are looked after.
Do the right thing. Contact Avoca Consultants today.