After having the dreaded digital rectal exam, I was told that my prostate was slightly enlarged but with no apparent abnormality- so I wasn't particularly concerned at the time. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test showed that mine was slightly raised, so a biopsy was recommended, but because the risk of infection at that time was higher than my risk of prostate cancer, I chose not to have the biopsy.
It was not until July of this year – 5 years after that initial examination and with the encouragement of my partner, I requested the GP do a PSA test. 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime; we are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men, we are more likely to get it at a younger age, and also if we are aged 45 or over, and if our father or brother has had it. I was definitely at risk!
This time, the experience of the investigation was significantly different and more reassuring but lo and behold my PSA results were high and what followed was a series of follow up tests under the specialist Prostate Cancer team at Guys and St Thomas' Hospitals. The result was that my prostate was benign - meaning it was enlarged but localised and that turned out to be the reason why I was always needing to pee.
What followed was an MRI scan and a biopsy by Nurse Jonah Rusere - a delightful, knowledgeable reassuring black man who actually trains not only Prostate Cancer nurses but also Consultants across the country. I was told that he is the best in the UK.
I got given lots of information, attended zoom meetings with consultants, and other prostate cancer patients, and my partner and I then decided that my best option was having the prostatectomy. The time lapse between having the PSA test and having the surgery was just over 2 months and even though I felt reassured there is no denying that on the day of the surgery I felt anxious. I had one question and one request for the surgeon - Did he have a good night's sleep/rest? – I didn't want an exhausted surgeon operating on me, and can he spare 75% nerves - It's normal to have 50% spared. He assured me that he was well rested and would try to save as many nerves as possible.
After the 3 ½ hour operation, I was still a bit whoozy from the anaesthesia but surprising not in pain even though I had 5 small cuts in my lower abdomen and 1 above my navel. I have to be honest and say that getting used to the catheter inserted into my penis was definitely an uncomfortable experience. But best of all was when the Consultant said that 75% of nerves were saved, I couldn’t thank him enough. After 12 days – yes, I was counting down - the catheter was removed and my recovery is continuing to go well.
I'm still on this journey, and want to use this opportunity during the International Men’s Day to raise awareness of prostate cancer and the increased risk it poses to black men. If you haven’t already done so, please get tested. You can check your risk in 30seconds by clicking on this link.