A BANBRIDGE man who recently skydived for Action Cancer, has shared his experience of living with Prostate Cancer in a bid to encourage other men to keep an eye on their health.
James Taylor (67) decided decided to tell his story just as it is revealed that on average 93 men in Banbridge are diagnosed with cancer annually, and 43 men die from the disease each year.
The father-of-two first discovered something was wrong in 2006, and while he wasn’t overly worried about the symptoms he had, made an appointment to see his GP anyway.
“It was close to Christmas 2006 when I first noticed little blood spots when urinating. At the time I passed it off as no big deal but I made an appointment to see my GP who suggested I see a Urologist. An appointment was then made for me.
“There I had some blood tests done and during a general discussion about my health, the doctor asked if I had I ever had a PSA test. Not only had I not had one but I didn’t know what it was.”
Following the tests James, General Manager of Finlay Foods, felt relieved when he was told he could be treated with a course of antibiotics for an infection of the bladder - but then came a devastating blow.
“I was told that the cause of the blood specks was an infection in the bladder which would disappear with a course of antibiotics. ‘See,’ I told myself, ‘No worries, no big deal’.
“Just as I was standing up to leave he informed me of the results of the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test. He told me straight, ‘You have cancer.’ For me it felt like a Jeremy Beadle moment; I was waiting for him to tell me it was all a big joke. But he was serious.
“All I remember from the rest of that conversation was the different ways you could be treated: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, brachytherapy - more therapies than I care to remember. He then told me to go home and think about it, that’d we arrange for another appointment after Christmas to talk through the options.”
James said his hourney home was surreal. “As I drove up the A1 home I was in a state of shock,” he said. “My PSA was 5.4 and it should be below 4. I didn’t think that was too bad. I went straight home and told my wife who said we would have to tell our sons.
“We had a three-month-old granddaughter, would I see her go to school? Would I see her married? All these negative thoughts kept running through my head.”
James said he was fortunate to have private health insurance and was able to be scanned quickly and find out his cancer has not spread.
“Fortunately we have BUPA so I decided to see a cancer specialist at the Ulster Independent Clinic with my wife. It was agreed that I should have a biopsy to confirm it was cancer, a full body scan to see if it had spread, and a CT scan all on the same day at Craigavon Hospital.
They confirmed it was cancer and that fortunately it hadn’t spread.”
The grandfather then said he wanted honest advice from his doctor, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
“I then asked the specialist what would he advise me to do if I was his dad. After disputing that it was an unfair question he said that I may die with it rather than because of it, so that we should monitor it closely and that if my PSA doubles within a year, then we will take action. Luckily for me, my prognosis recommended no surgery or further treatment.”
James now keeps a close eye on his health and said his worries have subsided - to the extent that he was able to skydive recently, raising thousands of pounds for charity.
“I now see the specialist every six months and send blood tests every three months. Five years on my PSA has averaged 6.1. For me, monitoring it was the right decision. I never worry about it now.
“Given my PSA level, I was advised to get on with my life and forget about it. If I hadn’t had that initial PSA test I wouldn’t know now to keep an eye on it. I felt like the lucky one, so to give something back last year I did a sky dive for Action Cancer and raised £4,250.
“Did going to my GP about my initial symptoms change my life? You bet it has. I now try to enjoy it more!”
For more information on the work of Action Cancer visit www.actioncancer.org or call 028 9080 3344.