‘I WOULD RATHER I HAD A LIFE SEN­TENCE’

AT 52, STEPHEN Alling­ham is not think­ing about the fu­ture. Cer­tainly not about plan­ning a 60th birth­day. In Jan­uary the Mathoura grand­fa­ther got a di­ag­no­sis of ad­vanced metastatic prostate can­cer. If it sounds bad, the prog­no­sis is worse. This is a death

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

It’s all un­known at the mo­ment ... for how long that will be is un­known. I may get five to seven years or five to seven weeks. I’m hop­ing for the best and go­ing for 60. It didn’t oc­cur to me to get checked

AT 52, STEPHEN Alling­ham isn’t plan­ning his 60th birth­day. He’s just de­ter­mined to get through the next year, not think­ing about the next eight. Do­ing all he can to en­joy ev­ery day. In Jan­uary the Mathoura grand­fa­ther found out he had prostate can­cer. But the di­ag­no­sis was more grim than he ex­pected — ad­vanced metastatic prostate can­cer. Ba­si­cally a death sen­tence. ‘‘It was a huge shock. I still have days that I don’t be­lieve it’s hap­pen­ing,’’ he said. But it is; and since then his re­al­ity has been turned up­side down. ‘‘It’s been hard to deal with. I was told to get my af­fairs in or­der. You can just be float­ing along and ev­ery­thing can change overnight.’’ At the start of the year, Stephen was tak­ing his wife to doc­tor’s ap­point­ments in Echuca when he started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some pain in his side. ‘‘I thought I’d pulled a mus­cle so I asked the doc­tor about it and he did a blood test,’’ he said. ‘‘A cou­ple of days later, he called back and told me to come in straight away. He said to me ‘I’m pretty cer­tain you have prostate can­cer’. ‘‘It was a shock, but I thought you can deal with that these days. It’s not a death sen­tence any more.’’ Un­for­tu­nately a full body scan re­vealed the can­cer had spread to his bones, spine and pelvis. ‘‘The doc­tor said with­out treat­ment, I wouldn’t have too long,’’ he said. Stephen was re­ferred to a urol­o­gist, who told him he could live an­other five to seven years with treat­ment. ‘‘I ac­tu­ally came out smil­ing when I heard that be­cause I thought I might make it to 60,’’ he said. Soon af­ter, Stephen started on six­monthly hor­mone in­jec­tions to stop the can­cer from spread­ing. Known as an­dro­gen sup­pres­sion ther­apy, it aims to re­duce lev­els of male hor­mones to stop them from af­fect­ing prostate can­cer cells. He had his sec­ond in­jec­tion in July. And last month, Stephen fin­ished his sixth and fi­nal round of six-weekly chemo­ther­apy cy­cles. ‘‘Do­ing chemo at this stage may ex­tend my life ex­pectancy for an­other six to 12 months,’’ he said. Apart from that, there is not much else doc­tors can do. ‘‘I had a scan to­day to see where it’s at,’’ Stephen said on Thurs­day. ‘‘It’s all un­known at the mo­ment. The can­cer’s been put to sleep but for how long that will be is un­known. ‘‘I may get five to seven years or five to seven weeks. ‘‘I’m hop­ing for the best and go­ing for 60.’’ Al­though the cou­ple re­mains hope­ful about the fu­ture, Stephen’s di­ag­no­sis has been chal­leng­ing — fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally. ‘‘To get our af­fairs in or­der — house and car pay­ments and su­per — was tough as we thought we still had 20 to 30 years up our sleeve,’’ Veron­ica said. ‘‘Telling our two sons and daugh­ter was also hard,’’ Stephen said. ‘‘There are times it gets me down but I’m try­ing to stay pos­i­tive.’’ In the mean­time, he plans to en­joy life for as long as he has it. ‘‘I am get­ting out and liv­ing ev­ery day and spend­ing time with our two grand­chil­dren,’’ he said. And while he still feels well, the Mur­ray River Coun­cil em­ployee will con­tinue to work. How­ever, Stephen and Veron­ica are or­gan­is­ing a fam­ily hol­i­day and plan to re­new their mar­riage vows in March. ‘‘I’m try­ing to en­joy ev­ery day and stay pos­i­tive,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m go­ing to be the one to out­last five to seven years.’’ As part of Prostate Can­cer Aware­ness Month, Stephen is hop­ing his story will have an im­pact on other men and mo­ti­vate them to get tested as soon as pos­si­ble. ‘‘Don’t be like me and think it won’t hap­pen to you,’’ he said. ‘‘It didn’t oc­cur to me to get checked.’’

PHOTO: Luke He­mer

Photo: LUKE HE­MER

PRE­CIOUS TIMES: Stephen Alling­ham and his wife Veron­ica are still com­ing to terms with his prostate can­cer prog­no­sis and what it means to their fu­ture.

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