My courageous, yet futile, battle against prostate cancer

A big bwave boy

It is traditional, for writers of blogs which have lain dormant for a while and who have decided to start posting again, to apologise for their slackness when they finally get around to putting something up. I need make no such apology. I have not been slack. I have been courageously battling cancer.

Well, not so much battling, as trying to do what the wonderful nurses at Presteigne Health Centre and the MacMillan Renton Unit at Hereford County tell me to do. They are the battlers. I am merely the battlefield. If I’m frank, courage doesn’t really come into it, either. Resignation is more like it.

In November 02019, I faced up the fact that I was finding it increasingly hard to piss. I went to the doctors, and they took blood, and forced their gloved fingers into my anus. They didn’t like what they felt, and I didn’t like them feeling it. The bloods came back, and my PSA was off the scale. So they sent me to the urology dept in Hereford, in January 02020. Here, a consultant repeated the fingers up your arse thing. Fancy getting all those A levels and spending years at medical school, and at the end of all that, you spend your day feeling about in old geezers arses.

‘Goodness,’ he said, aloud, not meaning to.

As he pulled off his glove, and was washing his hands, he said,

‘I’ve felt a lot of diseased prostates, Mr Marchant, and I can tell you that you’ve got cancer. We need to do scans to see if it’s become involved with your bones.’

Reader, it has. I had a biopsy on my prostate, (which is much worse than it sounds), and a variety of scans (CT, MRI, the weird bone one). Then, in late January, I had an appointment with the Macmillan nurse, who told me the news. She gave me a booklet, called something along the lines of ‘So You’ve Got Prostate Cancer’. She had dog-eared the last chapter, Chapter Five, called, if memory serves, ‘Basically, You’re Fucked, Mate’, so that I didn’t have to bother myself with reading the earlier, less Gothic chapters.

The treatment began at once. The nurse said, ‘It’s incurable – but it’s manageable.’ She gave me a pill to take – a testosterone blocker. Chapter Five assured me that this was as effective as a castration, and so it has proved. (see below)

Then, three months of chemo and steroids etc in the autumn, and, in the winter, another three months of blood thinning injections to get rid of the pulmonary embolism caused by chemo etc etc. Then a short course of radio-therapy, etc etc etc. I’m off to the podiatrist next week, because my toenails have died and are dropping off. I can’t recommend any of it.

It hurt to think. Brain fog and fatigue took me down from October till March. My fingers didn’t work. I couldn’t grip, certainly couldn’t type. I am naturally unfit, and none of this has helped. I have lost muscle mass due to the testosterone blocker, and put on lots of weight due to the steroids. I am a really weedy skinny guy trapped inside a fat suit whose zip has become stuck. Resignation, not courage, is what gets you through. Cancer is the case, but life goes on.

But, blow me, here I am, coming out of the fog, back in the chair, new book growing by the day. I’m resigned, but smiling. My PSA is low. My cancer is stable. I’m writing a rather wonderful book, and my mojo is working.

And, the silly thing is, there’s been stuff to post. I’m a contributor to the Diary column in the Church Times, and I’ve kept writing throughout. Have I shared them? No. I uploaded the Mood Index album ‘Lino Women and Song’ to YouTube. Did I share it here? No ma’am, I did not. I found a DVD of the TV series I presented, called ‘Fun For Some.’ And yet, visitors to my website find it not. Why haven’t I been posting this content? Why?

The only explanation is that I’ve been slack, and for that, I’d like to apologise.

I better start posting then, starting with this…

16 Responses

  1. david bardsley says:

    Just listened to open country on Radio 4 and assumed as it wasn’t a repeat that you were out and about again .

  2. Caroline Colson says:

    Love both ‘Parallel Lines’ and ‘Longest Crawl’ and will now read your CT columns too. So sorry to hear you’ve been ill. Please keep us updated. Very best wishes to you and yours.

  3. Bob Phelps says:

    Thank you Ian for sharing your terrible tale and so glad you are making progress and God bless you will see this through. So much looking forward to your book. I must reiterate what Chris Leah said. Chaps get It checked! If you are over 45 in the UK your GP is obliged to give you a PSA test without any rectal examination beforehand. Back in 2009 I had no symptoms. But after talking to a work colleague who had a “well man” test where they found prostate cancer I thought it would be a good idea to have the test. (My dad died with PC although not of it). Test came back with a slightly high score of 6.2 (it can be 100s). Best to have a rectal examination to be on the safe side. Done by a rugby playing doctor with bratwurst sized fingers, result “Mr Phelps, that prostate feels entirely normal to me, but to be on the safe side, bearing in mind that your dad had PC, I will refer you to the Royal Gwent Hospital for a biopsy”. Yes, unpleasant experience, uncomfortable but not painful (I guess my local anaesthetic worked OK) and truly excellent NHS nursing helped an awful lot. Consultation one week later. Entered the room bright eyed and bushy tailed (I had no symptoms and it all felt normal) to be told it was cancerous. a tad seriously so but not too far gone to be cured by surgery. Very soon afterwards had an op at Addenbrookes, Cambridge and so far so good 12 years later. Post op they dissected the gland and the nasties were within an nth of breaking out. The point of all this is to reiterate, chaps get the PSA test, symptoms or no symptoms. Again God bless you Ian, rooting for you as are all your SDUC and many other chums.

  4. Emma Wallace says:

    Ian, to have endured all that and to resume writing again is wonderful.

  5. steeve (a poet) says:

    best wishes
    you are a genius
    looking forward to the new book

  6. John Milsom says:

    Not futile, Ian.

    You are still with us.

  7. Julian O'Halloran says:

    Hey Ian, I am glad to hear that the cancer is now stable and being managed! Whatever you have been going through, and some of it sounds a bit grim, you have been cheerful in public, and always positive! I hope the care and treatment continues well! And good luck with the book! J

  8. Ian Quance says:

    Fate seems to throw us together at strange times Ian. Lampeter in 76 and now this. I too must blog; I seem to put myself under the pressure of imagining that this period of my life enables me to write prophetic and profound pieces. It doesn’t. Looking forward to the book.
    xx

  9. Carol Havsrd says:

    Cancer. Its a mount to climb. Reading the article it reminds me of the dedicated NHS staff who made my chemo and radio therapy possible and my family and friends who accepted the new bald me with humour. Life is life and every valuable second, minute, day, week, month, year, decade are a priviludge. Keep writing and slringvwill support your mijo. Xx

  10. Julian de la Motte Harrison says:

    Thank you for this, Ian, a harrowing tale superbly expressed! Take care of yourself… Julian

  11. Martin says:

    Hi Ian
    Thanks for sharing what must have been harrowing. I’m glad you are making strides to feeling better. As a male I worry about this cancer and have had similar test which thankfully have proved negative at this stage. Keep up the fight and look forward to reading more, o and keep up the writing.

  12. Truly remarkable account; have endured much of this. My answer has been to thrash 35 lengths of an indoor pool every morning, diet, limit drink, no sex (for reasons stated in the article) and to convince myself I’m very, very lucky to have reached 79, my father died at 56.
    Good wishes to all fellow “sufferers”.

  13. Chris Leah says:

    I share a lot of this experience except that I’ve been lucky enough to catch it before it spread, so I haven’t had to have chemo. The biopsy certainly is worse than it sounds, ranking amongst the most unpleasant experiences of my life. I don’t think the local anaesthetic was working very well! It’s well worth getting checked chaps. Once you start to plan your day around places to pee then you potentially have a problem.

  14. Dave says:

    I await the next one ian most interesting … being similar age and not in super health myself

  15. Paul says:

    Three cheers for the mojo, Mr M x

  16. Noel says:

    That sounds like an Imperial fucktonne of No Fun! I want to write a Black Flag-esque scream and dirgefest to express my feelings on the matter. Instead I will commit to watching watching remaining episodes of Fun For Some, and to visit again soon xx

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