Trevor Laffan: I have faced prostate cancer, and regular checks are vital

September is Prostate Awareness Month. Trevor Laffan who was diagnosed with the cancer in 2018 talks about the importance of early diagnosis.
Trevor Laffan: I have faced prostate cancer, and regular checks are vital

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: A poster for The Marie Keating Foundation’s second annual Stand Up For Your Prostate campaign.

UP to a few years ago, I didn’t have much of an idea about prostate cancer. My father had it and I think my grandfather may have had it too, but as far as I was concerned back then, it was something that old men got.

Even though I knew some of them died, I still wasn’t too concerned because it was a long way off becoming a problem for me.

That all changed in 2018 when I received that diagnosis myself. It didn’t make sense to me because I had just turned 60 and I didn’t think I was elderly. I Googled the symptoms and that only added to my confusion because I didn’t have any of them.

The symptoms include having to rush to the toilet to pass urine, or passing urine more often than usual, especially at night. Having difficulty passing urine, including straining to pass it, or stopping and starting and not being able to empty the bladder completely.

I didn’t have any of those symptoms, so I reckoned it was a false alarm and another test would explain it all away. It didn’t work out that way though and before I knew it, I was on my way to an MRI and a biopsy and then surgery in September, 2018.

That was two years ago. I’ve just had my latest check up with the consultant and I’m happy to report that so far, it’s all good. I feel great, I’ve lost just over a stone in weight, I walk four miles a day, and I recently started playing tennis again. It’s good news but it could all have been very different.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and the message is simple. This type of cancer is very treatable if caught in time so early diagnosis is critical. For that to happen, we need to be aware of what’s going on in our bodies. We should be talking to our GPs and having regular check-ups, but that’s not something many men are good at.

I’ve written about my own experience previously and as a result of those articles, quite a few men have contacted me. Some were worried about facing into surgery while others were post- op and worried about the future. I’m no expert so all I could do was tell them about my experience as someone who has been through it.

I’m happy to do that any time because it’s really important to get the message out there that prostate cancer is not an old man’s disease. John Wall can tell you all about that.

At 48, John Wall is a father and husband living life with an advanced prostate cancer diagnosis. When he heard about the Marie Keating Foundation’s ‘Stand Up For Your Prostate’ campaign and learned about how it was encouraging the men of Ireland to be more open about their health and take the stigma out of prostate cancer, John wanted to share his story...

“For 46 years of my life, I never thought that my health would ever be an issue. I was happily married with a loving family, a good job and a great future to look forward to.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t exactly the fittest person in the world, but I had given up drinking and smoking many years ago and also had an annual medical at work each year, so I thought I was fine. That was me, living blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.

I noticed during the early months of 2017 that I was having to pay frequent visits to the loo, especially at night. I never paid much attention to it. As awkward as it became, I thought it was just part of my middle-aged status.

I did go to my GP twice but because of my age, nothing was considered other than an infection, so off I trotted with some antibiotics.

I did have my PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) checked as part of a blood test and the results were off the charts but I was not a candidate for Prostate Cancer. I didn’t fit the age profile. I was too young.

In July, 2017, I began to experience slight pains in my right leg. Initially I didn’t think much of it, but it got to the point where even whilst sitting, I had difficulty lifting the leg. I was never one to head straight to my GP on a whim, but my instinct told me this time was an exception.

That evening, I was referred for a scan that would change our lives more than we could ever have imagined.

My scan showed an enlarged prostate, along with a significant enlargement of my lymph nodes. After several days of poking, prodding and discussions using words that we couldn’t even spell, our worst fears were confirmed. The diagnosis was Stage 4 Prostate Cancer with advanced secondaries in my lymph nodes. I was only 46.

I’ve reached out to other men on Twitter to offer advice based on my experiences. We need to talk, talk to each other, support each other because we have no idea what the future holds.”

John is right about the uncertainty of the future, that’s why we must do what we can to increase the odds in our favour. The best way to achieve that is to catch the disease early. A simple, regular blood test is a good place to start and don’t be afraid to talk to your GP.

I contacted John to make sure it was OK to use his story and I’ll leave the last word to him;

“Why wait for something to go wrong before we visit our GP? I mean, we service our cars whether they need it or not. It’s time we started to service ourselves!”

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