‘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
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
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.