John Wallace ~ Prostate Cancer update

John Wallace ~ Prostate Cancer update

Originally published in Issue 1 2005 icon

John Wallace


I Do Look Around And Count My Blessings


John Wallace, retired bank manager, featured as ICON’s Living Proof in February 2003. He was then 64, and two and a half years into his recovery from prostate cancer. 12 years previously an annual BUPA check had uncovered a slightly raised PSA level. But John was then living in the Midlands, where the consultant he saw sent him away unconcerned. John and his wife Sue then moved north, to a village near York, where an on-the-ball doctor decided to track John’s PSA level and referred him to an urologist when the level rose to eight. Lucky in his geographical and GP relocation, John was also lucky in his son-in-law - a consultant paediatric oncologist whose contacts led John swiftly to a specialist prostate surgery unit in Sheffield, headed by Mr Anderson. Biopsy revealed a small, slow-growing, low grade tumour and John was given a choice between conventional surgery to remove it, or newer treatment with brachytherapy, implanting radioactive "seeds" into the prostate under anesthetic.


Concerned about the worst-case scenario of incontinence and impotence following treatment, John was impressed by the reality-check implicit in his Mr Anderson’s observation "Believe me, there is no sex in the graveyard". Trusting this surgeon who made no miracle promises, but guaranteed to do his best, John opted for surgery just before Christmas 2000. Sue recalls John being braver than he usually is about a cut finger, during the long surgery, a 14 pint blood transfusion (unusually he bled heavily) and a nasty infection six weeks later. Looking back, John, however, felt he had recovered extremely well and been "accidentally fortunate" throughout this cancer episode: had he remained in the Midlands, his problem might have been discovered too late. John reported that he is not impotent and that "sex was certainly a lot better than he had thought it was going to be". Having moved north following early retirement, he had taken up archery and trained to join a leg of the Tour de France. "Life overall" he concluded "is pretty wonderful."

"Nearly two years on, I feel just the same about life. My health has been very good indeed. I continue to have checks with Mr Anderson every six months (which is my choice, as annual reviews are more usual) and my PSA reading is down from .26 when ICON interviewed me, to a miniscule .01. I don’t worry about these checks - the only problem is the motorway traffic! I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but I do look around and count my blessings: several men in our village have died from prostate cancer and if not for this particular GP I too would have gone on ignoring the warning signs.

Open quotesSeveral men in our village have died from prostate cancerClose quotes


"I still make a modest contribution to the Prostate Cancer Charity, so through them I keep informed of what’s going on in research and treatment. I think Mr Anderson must be highly delighted with the way things are going for me, because on a couple of occasions he has asked me to speak to patients he was booking in for surgery. I give them the lowdown and tell them that apart from the concern of ’What the hell’s going on with me?’ I really didn’t feel any discomfort at all and I have had neither discomfort nor inconvenience since. I will feel particularly good at the end of 2005 when I reach the five year mark. But meanwhile, whilst you don’t forget, I have been led to feel that the chances of recurrence are now remote.


"I think it must help to hear my health success story. One of the new patients I spoke to has rung me twice to say how he’s getting on, though his experience wasn’t, in some respects, as straightforward as mine. He asked if I had come to see him, because he couldn’t remember - he had been totally ’out of it’ for two days after the operation. I personally felt totally alert, as if nothing had happened. I had no pain and no nausea. I think it must be psychologically harder for the younger man I spoke to, who is still only in his early fifties. But I like the old saying that you should change those worrying things that you CAN change, but ignore the rest. You can’t alter these events in life. If cancer is there, it’s there.

Open quotesI like the old saying that you should change those worrying things that you CAN change, but ignore the restClose quotes


"My philosophy is, that’s the luck of the draw, now get on and do it. I once heard a tv interviewer tell actor Paul Eddington (who had skin cancer) how cheerful and brave he was. ’What’s the bloody alternative?’ said Paul, which sums it up for me. Ok it’s tough, but it’s certainly made me appreciate things more.


"Sue and I have now moved to Easingwold - which soon afterwards was rated the second most attractive market town in England!

"We now have proper central heating and we don’t have to drive six or seven miles to shop for food. We have a very good farmer’s market, which is important to us as we’ve become far more concerned about what we eat. Looking round the supermarket when we were giving a small party I was horrified to see chicken party pieces made from reconstituted chicken. They went straight back on the shelf. We don’t really need the supermarket at all any more - we buy free range, mostly organic chickens and we order bacon, meat and sausages from an organic rare breeds firm in Cumbria. We eat very little red meat and Sue always bakes her own bread.

"I’m still active - cycling, walking the dog and enjoying my archery.

"Sue and I celebrated our 40th anniversary last April. My younger daughter had a little boy, Joseph, nine months ago, so now we are grandparents twice over. Retirement - if that’s the right word is a pleasure!"

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