Patients' stories

Bill's story

I am a 70 year old farmer living in the central west of NSW. I had been having my PSA levels tested each year for the last few years. In 2006 my level was considerably higher at close to 10.

I was referred to a Urologist for an opinion and he felt that a biopsy should be performed. This revealed prostate cancer. I was given information to read and had to make a decision about what action I would take. Even though I was 70 the Dr said because I was fit with no other medical conditions that surgery would be the best option. I was fortunate to know two other fellows that I could talk to about their experience with prostate cancer. Both had had radical prostatectomy surgery.

I decided to come to St Vincent's for another opinion and elected to have surgery via the robotic approach. My surgery took 4 hours and my recovery was amazingly good. Following my surgery I was eating dinner that evening and the next day I was up and about and showering. I left hospital on day 4 and had the catheter removed on day 7.

My recovery has been excellent. I probably still get a little more tired than previously however I am back doing all my usual farming activities and it has only been 3 months since the surgery. I would certainly recommend robotic surgery and would be willing to speak to other men about it.

Chai's story

I am recovery much better than I ever expected following my surgery. I feel that I made the right decision to have robotic prostatectomy surgery.

I have been having PSA tests for the last few years. It had gone from 2.6 to a level of 5.8. Even though the levels were not that high, it was the big jump in the level in less than 2 years that was of a concern. I had a biopsy which confirmed prostate cancer. I looked on the web about prostate cancer and the various treatments and saw three urologists about my condition.

I elected to be treated at St Vincent's under A/Prof Stricker. My surgery took place on December 1st 2006 and I was discharged on the December 2nd. I had 6 small 1-2mm incisions in my abdomen and I had the catheter in for 1 week.

On the day that the catheter was removed I was back driving, shopping and doing light duties - virtually back to normal activities. At the time of writing my story I am three months since the surgery and feel great. I still have slight urinary incontinence and have not had a proper erection yet but I know it is still early days.

If anyone would like to know more about my experience please .

Doug's story

When I was told by my GP that I needed to see a Urologist after a routine health check last October, it was initially a bit of a shock, especially as my blood test of 13.1 raised the possibility of cancer in the prostate gland. I had always been fortunate to have excellent health throughout my 67 years.

At the Urologist I was told that a biopsy was needed. This confirmed the presence of the suspected cancer. After further tests the Urologist indicated it was treatable and advised a radical prostatectomy as the most suitable option. It was at this time that I began to look for more information on prostate cancer. In browsing the internet I found the website prostate.com.au, and in perusing the text became especially interested in the robotic radical prostatectomy approach, the 'most advanced surgical option for qualified patients'.

I decided to seek a second opinion and saw A/Prof. Stricker to discuss the option of the robotic approach. At my appointment with him he was enlightening and reassuring, and considered the robotic method ideal for me - I smile when I recall him describing me as a 'fit whippet'. At all times leading up to the operation I felt confident about the outcome. I knew I was in the best hands possible and that the robotic approach was less invasive with the fastest recovery compared to open surgery.

A few weeks later I had the operation which went very well; the predicted potential benefits of the robotic method had been realised. I was relieved to hear that the pathology report confirmed that the cancer was found to be contained within the prostatic capsule, especially given the somewhat high PSA of 13.1 and Gleason score of 7.

Three days after surgery I left St Vincent's Private Hospital where I had wonderful care. I returned to the Clinic a week after the operation to have the catheter removed and have had no leakage problems.

It is hard to believe that I have had a serious illness, the first in my life. The outcome has been very good although I know I will require ongoing monitoring. I am looking forward positively to resuming a full and active life over many years. I cannot thank enough the wonderful love and support from my partner Elaine, our families and friends over what has been a difficult time. The valuable professional and informative support from A/Prof. Stricker and Jayne Matthews has been constantly reassuring. Thank you both.

Steve's story

( 'Congratulation's Steve' appeared in Lifebuoy issue 1, 2007 )

We all remember the day we and our families found out that we had been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer.

I called my doctor's office to be told my biopsy results were back, the doctor would like to see me and had put aside a reasonable amount of time.

The process had started innocently enough with my regular executive health check at St.Vincent's hospital in Sydney. With no sign of any prostate symptoms and with a still reasonably low PSA of 3.8, I was referred to Dr Gordon O'Neil, for a small and harmless urological problem, that would be easily fixed.

It shows the importance of having an aware doctor such to Gordon to see the 3.8 PSA and that it was a year ago, so he suggested another precautionary PSA. This time it was 6.1. So now a biopsy was the required next step. This of course led to the 'doctor has put some time aside to talk to you'.

A second opinion, with Dr Philip Stricker also at St.Vincent's resulted in my Prostatectomy in December 2004, at the age of 54.

I had been very 'lucky' to be diagnosed so early, given that I had no symptoms.

Six weeks later, after Christmas, I was back at work, in the surf and on the golf course.

I feel very fortunate to have been cared for by the world class medical and nursing staff at St.Vincent's.

Apart from the great medical treatment there were two other features of my diagnosis and treatment that left an impression on me.

The first, was meeting Jayne Matthews, who is the Co-ordinator of the St.Vincent's Prostate Cancer Centre. Her education of patients about the process of the operation and recovery was fantastic and took the mystique out of what is a daunting prospect, particularly when you are coming to grips with the recent diagnosis.

The second was being able to speak to a friend, of a friend, of mine who had been through the same process and operation some seven years earlier.

To be able to discuss my feelings, medical aspects and the effects on my family and lifestyle was invaluable in giving me confidence in the outcome and a calm about the treatment.

As a result of my early detection and being able to communicate with a fellow Prostate Cancer patient, I committed myself to reciprocate to others in the future.

By now I had become an advocate for early detection for all.

This needed awareness, advocacy and support at all levels of the community.

Men, their families, the medical profession, researchers and governments need to be made aware and act to ensure that wherever possible men are diagnosed in enough time to allow early detection solutions to be implemented.

With the PSA marker available, there exists a very easy way of allowing men to know their probable condition and take any steps that they and their doctor

feel appropriate. Knowing your situation puts the power in your hands to direct future steps. Rather than being diagnosed much later in the cancer and lose the ability to choose treatments from all available alternatives.

St Vincent's Support Group

As a first step I volunteered to do anything with the St. Vincent's Hospital Prostate Cancer Support group.

The group had recently lost its initiating driving force with the untimely death of the renowned Max Gardiner. Here I was back being involved again with Philip Striker, Jayne Matthews and now Louise Hart-Brown, this time on a more wider scale project.

During 2005/6 the St. Vincent's Support group grew again to hold it's quarterly meetings with attendances of 50-60 persons each time. With Jayne and particularly Gundo Frenda, we were able to attract recognised speakers, expert in their fields to attend each session for the benefit of the members.

In addition taking calls from newly diagnosed patients and providing the same feedback and support I had once been given is a most important part of any support group.

NSW Support and Advocacy

Things then began to snowball. The saying goes 'if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it'. Well boy 2006 became busy.

As the convenor of the St.Vincent's group, I was part of the NSW SAC Committee, of 33 groups around NSW.

This lead to me becoming the Chairman of this committee in late 2006.

Board Appointment

Also at the end of 2006 I was very please to be made the Chairman of the NSW Board of the PCFA, which also means that from 2007 I am a member of the National Board.

The lesson learnt of early detection, seeking medical assessment and treatment, coupled with a network of support is essential to the men and their families in our community. The importance of being aware that a PSA test exists and that all men over 50 should have it annually cannot be overstressed.

It is this awareness and support that I have been lucky enough to have received and through all levels from Support Groups to the National Board I hope to give back to those currently suffering Prostate Cancer and the wider community yet to be informed of Prostate Cancer and what to do after turning 50.

Background

Steve Callister is Managing Director of a leading importer and wholesaler of Fashion Accessories.

Steve holds a Bachelors Degree in Business from the University of Technology Sydney and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Macquarie University.

He has travelled and worked extensively in many countries of the world, particularly the USA, UK, China and India.

He is married with three children and lives in Sydney.

Steve can be contacted by