For Dad, the hardest part was telling the family. A sensitive soul at the best of times, I didn’t take the news well. I burst into tears, setting my mum off and starting my dad thinking about things in a less positive light.
The West family at a Rotary Club function
We were already too familiar with this devastating disease, which had robbed me of my granddad and also afflicted his son, my uncle. The news of my dad’s diagnosis came as an additional shock to the whole family.
But my father was told that there was no urgency in treating his cancer as it was so ‘slow-growing;’ more people die ’with’ prostate cancer than ’of it.’ He was therefore put on ‘watchful waiting’ and we weren’t overly concerned.
Purely by chance, my mum spotted an ad in the local paper asking for volunteers with
prostate cancer to apply for a place on a special research clinic at the nearby Royal Marsden. Although my dad didn’t initially fulfill the parameters, following interviews with senior consultants, he was fortuitously accepted.
A reassessment of the original biopsy found a higher Gleason score of 4+3 which indicated extensive involvement in 5 of the 6 cores (samples). He was given the earth-shattering news that he had originally been misinformed and that the cancer was, in fact, advanced and aggressive. Although still contained within the prostate itself, it could soon burst out and spread. Treatment was required without delay but surgery was out of the question.
‘We’d hung onto the fact that I was “low-risk,”’ Dad says. ‘I’d been informed there was “no immediate problem.” Now we were told that I needed instant attention. We were unprepared for that. But you put your faith in the doctors and I felt comforted and reassured that I was under the care of one of the major cancer hospitals in the country.’