Mac the Hack

Today here in very hot Spain I ride a Vespa scooter and knock about with others of a similar affliction (we’re called Costa Blanca Scooterists, you may have read about us in this excellent publication).

We often attend Spanish scooter rallies, and back in the summer of 2015 we were advised of a forthcoming activity called ‘Mouvember’. The idea was that the more hirsute, manly members of our number should grow a moustache for the month of November (ladies excused).

This was intended to spread the word for a world wide ‘Prostate Awareness’ promotion and rallies were planned all around the globe to pass the word. The obvious intention was to raise the profile of this previously largely hidden disease that has killed many men way before their intended time on this planet.

On a designated day in that eleventh month with said ‘taches where appropriate we were all encouraged to wear jackets, collar and ties, like gentlemen for the two-wheeled Rideout that was held in and around Murcia. To my amazement my old dinner jacket and dress shirt still fitted, and I found my bow tie at the back of the socks draw.

I tried to look like James Bond for the day, which was a fantastic turn out. At CBS we all enjoyed the ride with many different codes of motorbikes and scooters attending the rally.

At that stage of my life, aged sixty-six I was vaguely aware of the dangers of Prostate Cancer, and a few years before I had the fickle finger of fate check, and about then a couple of similar mild warnings from doctors that I had an enlarged prostate. But hey – didn’t have many men of a similar age have this problem?

Funny though, about that time at my local surgery my doctor had actually been monitoring my ‘PSA’ level (Prostate Specific Antigen to you) by the time ‘Mouvember ‘ came around. The safe level is 4, and mine went from 3.9 in the autumn at the time of the Murcia rally to 4.8 in December, and onto 6 by January.

So the duty doc duly sent me to the Urology department of Torrevieja Hospital to examine ‘matters’ further. Hmm… yet another physical examination from a young lady doctor confirmed my prostate was large and a biopsy was needed.

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT: if you are one of the zillions of men and women alike who don’t know what the prostate is and does, this is a public service announcement. The prostate is a small gland, normally about the size of a walnut. It is situated just outside the bladder, wrapped around the neck of the attached uretha which carries urine and semen to the penis.

A major function of the prostate is to help produce sperm from the testicles. The problem is that later in men’s lives, usually from their fifties onwards the prostate enlarges and begins to choke the essential urine flow from the bladder – hence weeing problems that start slowly to occur. BUT… all that does NOT mean you have Prostate Cancer: it just means it should be checked out.

There are various treatments available – so no panicking, eh lads, just get checked – today a simple blood test will reveal all.

Back at the hospital we had entered the New Year with matters ‘mouving’ (sorry) along briskly. In February a  biopsy was done, which takes a number of tissues from the prostate to examine them. Not the most pleasant of procedures, done anally – sorry lads but nothing like our ladies have to put up with. In the same week I turned 67 in March my wife and I went back for the results – only to be told I had Prostate Cancer.

For a lusty, healthy, dashing ‘young’ man (well, I was once) who had never even been in hospital this news came as quite a shock. But the young Spanish doctor said surgery was advised in my case – I could have radiotherapy, he said, but in my case surgery was recommended to completely remove the prostate and then it couldn’t come back. My lovely, supportive wife Anne and I stumbled out of the hospital, tried to put ourselves back together and look forward.

A further scan soon revealed the cancer hadn’t spread, and it seemed they had mercifully caught it early (bless them). A few pre-operation hurdles were put in place – ECG, blood tests, x rays, anaesthetist to name a few – before the big day which soon came: May 4th 2016.

Operation done, four days in hospital, then back out into the real world with a catheter in to help weeing, and some clips holding the four little cuts that enabled keyhole surgery to take out my prostate effectively. It all went well in retrospect. Two weeks later back at our local clinic I had the clips and catheter removed and – to my great surprise and delight I was virtually ‘dry’ from then on, weeing faster and more directly than for years.

When I went for the final check at Torry hospital it seemed as though I’d made a complete recovery. No-one can ever tell me anything bad about the Spanish Health System – putting it mildly they saved my life – a very sincere thank you to everyone concerned.

So that day in Mouvember 2015 when I proudly rode all around Murcia with all the other two-wheeled nuts, complete with DJ and moustache, little did I think that shortly I would be actually be having my own prostate out in such a direct and positive manner. Viva Espana!

I was so sad to read recently that the great Terry Wogan died of Prostate Cancer six years ago. This was a man who made such a difference to many peoples’ lives  – ordinary folks like me, listening in to his early morning radio show as I sped up and down the UK motorways.

It is said he didn’t know he had it, complaining of a bad back when missing Children In Need , and died within three weeks of diagnosis. That is the nature of this very serious disease.

PS  There have been a lot more ‘developments’ in my case since the above and I intend to slowly bring you up to date in future despatches – but not for now. In the meantime you men PLEASE get checked out – and ladies – PLEASE get your man to the docs before it becomes too late. Thanks for listening.