Derren Martin's story
Last December, completely out of the blue I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I wanted to share my story, to raise awareness & encourage men to get checked. 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime – if you catch it early, you can remove it or treat it & survive it.
For me, the story started in August, 2019. I was lying by the pool on holiday & realised I had some annoying pains in my feet.
I did nothing for a month, then decided I’d go to the doctors, something I hadn’t done for years.
The doctor suggested a blood test for gout. I asked for my PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) level to be tested too & the doctor asked why – did I have any urinary symptoms? I explained I’d had symptoms in the past, where I need to go to the loo more frequently, actually since my mid-30s when I went on a particularly heavy stag do! But I’d been checked out & was fine. Other reasons for getting the test were my father died of cancer at 70, but we never found out what the primary cancer was, plus there had been lots of recent PR around getting checked – Soccer Saturday presenters wearing the “man of men” pin badges, for example.
The doctor tried to talk me out of getting the test saying I was too young & it can be inconclusive but if I really wanted to, I suppose I could. Having a high PSA level can be inconclusive but it is the first stage of finding out if anything is wrong.
I had a PSA test a week later & received a phone call literally the following morning. My PSA level was high, & I was referred to outpatients urology department within 2-weeks.
Ironically, at this point the pain in my feet had gone away – I never knew what it was. I’d call that pain “fate”.
Over the next few weeks I had an examination & an MRI scan. Initially the specialist said he thought everything was ok. Following the full MRI results, however, I was referred for a biopsy. Really scary time but deep down I still thought I was ok. That changed while I waited for the results though.
Following my biopsy, before I got the results one of the times that sticks in my mind was a 2-hour drive to Bristol – 2-hours of thinking time, planning my funeral & writing letters to my kids in my head. It sounds dramatic, but at the time I had an idea what was wrong but no clue what that meant. You think cancer & you think the worst.
My follow-up appointment was arranged for Tuesday 3rd December – a couple of weeks after the biopsy & a date that will always be in my head. I was on a train to Leeds the Thursday before that, when I got a call cancelling that appointment & rearranging it as a meeting with a specialist nurse, followed by a specialist urologist appointment a couple of hours after. At this point, I knew it was bad news. Why would I need to see a specialist nurse otherwise?
The day before my appointments, I got a letter confirmation with name of specialist doc I was due to see. I googled him – he’s a prostate cancer specialist & surgeon. That night was one of the worst nights of my wife & ours life.
We went to my appointment, sat in the Waiting Room for an hour. When I got called the Macmillan nurse asked “Do you know why you are here?”, I replied “Yes, because I may have cancer”, she said “Well you do have cancer but we are going to remove it & you are going to be fine. Here’s what we are going to do…..” It was actually a huge relief after all the uncertainty.
On January 20th I went into hospital & had my prostate completely removed via robotic surgery through my stomach. I was allowed out the next day & told that the operation had been a complete success as far, as they could tell. Cancer completely removed, negative margins, so all nerves saved which means I can lead a normal life going forward.
I had 6-weeks off work – feeling very delicate for the first few then a gradual recovery. Severe tiredness, lots of bladder issues to contend with. During this time it was great to be well looked after & fantastic to have good friends keeping in touch, seeing how I was.
2-months after the operation, it was like a switch was flicked. I felt so much better, just in time to tackle the COVID-19 lockdown crisis! On April 21st following a further PSA test, I got the all clear – a very emotional moment!
After 3-months I was almost back to normal in all departments, leading a normal life. After 6-month I’m now cycling every day & completely back to normal.
Others are not so lucky – if this hadn’t been caught when it was I think I’d have had a 10-yr lifespan & lots of treatment during that time. The surgeon said the cancer had been growing for around 18-months to 2-years, but thankfully it is a slow growing cancer.
Awareness & of prostate cancer are so important. If I hadn’t followed my gut feeling at the initial GP appointment, my story would be very different.
o Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men.
o One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. This raises to one in four for black men.
o One man dies from prostate cancer every 45 minutes.
o Most men in the early stages of prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, that’s why it’s important to know your risk.
o Urinary problems can be a sign of a prostate problem, but not usually prostate cancer.
o Other countries (Germany for example) have nationwide screening. This is what we need to fight for.
o If you’re a man over 50, you have a right to a PSA test. If you’re black or you have a family history of prostate cancer, you’re at higher risk and may want to ask for a test from the age of 45.
o It is treatable if caught early!