Icon Springfield patients bond through shared cancer experience

Icon Writer / 17 Sep, 2023

Retired mechanic, Paul has always had a knack for fixing things.

“I don’t have a stop button. I like to be on the go, keeping myself busy,” the 70-year-old admits.

But when Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he was forced to stop and take stock of his physical health and wellbeing.

A small rise in Paul’s Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) was first detected in 2008. After four years of active monitoring, Paul’s PSA levels went up rapidly in 2012 and a series of tests led to a prostate cancer diagnosis. Paul had prostate surgery that year.

Paul continued to be monitored for the next nine years and when his PSA levels were again rising in 2021, he was referred to a urologist. Paul was placed on hormone treatment and when cancer was detected in the lymph nodes around his groin, he was advised to have radiation therapy.

“The hormone treatment is like being run over by a bus and bulldozer at the same time. Each time you have an injection it gets worse. I had hot flushes and fatigue. The fatigue really knocked me around. It was devastating,” says Paul.

Under the care of radiation oncologist, Dr Angela Allen, Paul underwent 37 sessions of radiation therapy at Icon Cancer Centre Springfield. Having completed his hormone and radiation therapy, Paul now undergoes three-monthly check-ups to ensure he remains cancer free.

A father of three adult sons, Paul wants to share his experience to help other men. He says the cancer took more than just a physical toll on him.

“It’s a rough journey. There’s the lack of testosterone. Because I had the (prostate removal in 2012) surgery, my sexual function changed. It’s a big part of life and it’s not available anymore. In 2015 I had a knee replacement and in 2019 that had to be redone. I was just getting over the knee operation when I was hit with the cancer again in 2021. It was like being hit by a bus. I had a lot of chronic fatigue from the treatments. I was in a hole,” says Paul.

“Throughout my radiation therapy treatment, I had time to think about things more. The problem with going through fatigue and over-thinking is that it snowballs and you have trouble sleeping. You have to be aware of the impact cancer has on your mental health and you need to swallow your pride and talk to someone. It took a bit for me to tell someone I was struggling.”

Paul says the support of his wife, Anne helped him through the challenging times. He also credits the support of a small group of men he met in the Icon Springfield waiting room. The men have formed a cancer support network and continue to meet regularly to talk about navigating life post-treatment.

“We always said “g’day” to each other in the waiting room. On one occasion the machine had broken down, so we went down the street and had a coffee while we waited and we realised we should carry that on. It’s a likeminded group of men who have been through a similar experience. We realised we shouldn’t be embarrassed about opening up and talking about things that are worrying us because we’re all going through it. I class them as good mates,” says Paul.

For someone recently diagnosed or going through cancer treatment, Paul offers some sound advice.

“You need to forget the word ‘should’ and replace it with ‘might.’ You need to look after yourself, physically and mentally. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about what you’re going through. It helps.”

Paul recommends the following podcast from the Cancer Survivor Guide as a good starting point to help understand and manage fatigue during treatment – Podcasts — Cancer Survivor Guide

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