Prostate can­cer not the end

Kapiti News - - Front Page - David Hax­ton

Di­ag­no­sis of prostate can­cer hap­pened by chance for Tom McGrath, over a decade ago, when he went to a doc­tor about a boil that needed treat­ing.

The doc­tor pre­scribed treat­ment for the boil but be­cause Tom was a new pa­tient de­cided some other blood tests would a good idea to check his health.

“I agreed and was sure they wouldn’t show up any­thing to worry about be­cause I felt phys­i­cally fit.”

But a prostate-spe­cific anti­gen (PSA) test came back with a higher than nor­mal read­ing so the doc­tor in­sisted he see a urol­o­gist which led to a prostate biopsy and di­ag­no­sis of prostate can­cer.

While it was a scary time he felt a bit bet­ter when told the can­cer could be con­trolled or cured with var­i­ous treat­ments such as prosta­te­c­tomy, ra­dio­ther­apy and brachyther­apy.

“The com­bi­na­tion of bad and good news took time to process.”

Tom, 65, said can­cer was a bit like gorse.

“It grows of its own ac­cord, and as gorse spreads and stran­gles other plants, so will

It grows of its own ac­cord, and as gorse spreads and stran­gles other plants, so will can­cer if un­treated. Tom McGrath

can­cer if un­treated.

“Like gorse, can­cer can be treated by slash­ing, burn­ing or poi­son­ing.”

Af­ter var­i­ous ap­point­ments with spe­cial­ists, which were “worth ev­ery sin­gle dol­lar in terms of time-sav­ing ad­vice, par­tic­u­larly com­par­ing the side ef­fects of each pro­ce­dure” Tom choose brachyther­apy.

The treat­ment in­volved putting ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial into his prostate to con­trol or kill the can­cer — in low dose rate and high dose rate.

“The low dose rate, which I had, in­volved putting ra­dioac­tive metal­lic seeds, the size of rice grains or less, through veins placed into the per­ineum and into the prostate.”

In a pri­vate hos­pi­tal, a team of spe­cial­ists per­formed the op­er­a­tion quickly, and the next day he was home do­ing some gar­den­ing and a week later back at work.

While the brachyther­apy had its chal­lenges be­fore and af­ter­wards, in­clud­ing an ur­gency to uri­nate, af­ter a year he was able to stop tak­ing pills that con­trolled the side af­fects, and then he was told he was cured within all prob­a­bil­ity.

In Tom’s case, brachyther­apy proved “fast, con­ve­nient and ef­fec­tive” but he noted ev­ery­one was dif­fer­ent.

“Any de­ci­sion to se­lect it must only be made af­ter prior con­sul­ta­tion and ad­vice from a doc­tor, a urol­o­gist and an on­col­o­gist — it will not suit ev­ery can­cer case.”

Tom, who has writ­ten about his can­cer ex­pe­ri­ence in Blasted by Seeds, said get­ting PSA test re­sults was still daunt­ing but nec­es­sary.

“It’s a bit more se­ri­ous than your power bill or your credit card bill but thank­fully it’s only once a year for me.”

He hoped his story showed peo­ple that good news sto­ries are pos­si­ble in cases of prostate can­cer di­ag­no­sis.

“When I think about what hap­pened to me over 10 years ago and what has hap­pened since — the scari­est thing is still how close I came to not know­ing I had de­vel­oped a dan­ger­ous dis­ease in time to treat it ef­fec­tively.

“I’m not the only one who has ex­pe­ri­enced this.”

Tom was a guest speaker at Waikanae’s Par-Tee Cafe on Thurs­day, which was a fundraiser for the Prostate Can­cer Foun­da­tion New Zealand.


Prostate can­cer sur­vivor Tom McGrath with his book Blasted by Seeds.

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