WINCHESTER – While modern medicine has changed the game for the detection and treatment of so many diseases, one major factor continues to work against males and their state of health – our inability to have open and honest conversations.
In an effort to engage men in a topic of utmost importance, four members of the Black Walnuts, a local group of prostate cancer survivors, have agreed to share their personal journey with the Winchester Press in conjunction with the Dare to Flash a ’Stache campaign.
It is their perspective, reality and experiences that offer honest, straight-forward insight to what is like from diagnosis to life after the operation.
Paul Mayotte was much like most men his age, healthy, happy and ready to embrace retirement.
He began the yearly check-ups with his doctor when he turned 50 and also began the PSA test (Prostate-Specific Antigen) to establish a baseline for potential prostate problems.
When Mayotte turned 60 things began to change with his PSA levels and he was referred to a urologist. After a series of biopsies and more blood tests, he met with oncologist Dr. Morash.
Mayotte insists that while the fear in those early days is real, there is often time to do research.
“You’re worried about this thing growing inside you and spreading, but in fact, prostate cancer is the slowest moving of all our cancers. So, there is time to make informed decisions,” he said. “You’re in a panic. You’re worried about it. But then Dec. 6, 2012 that’s when I had my prostate removed. So everything up to that was pretty scary because you don’t know. But after the operation everything started going smoothly.”
After the removal of his prostate, the focus became recovery, making friends and getting involved.
Mayotte has simple advice for those wanting to tackle their diagnosis head-on and take control of their lives again.
“Information. The more informed you are about your cancer and about your journey, the better you feel,” he said.
Like most males diagnosed with prostate cancer, there were no symptoms for Mayotte. Because of that, men often take the stance that if they feel fine everything must be okay on the inside. That denial can be short sighted and deadly. Considering that if it is detected early, the five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is 95 per cent.
After Mayotte had his prostate removed via the Da Vinci system, certain elements of his life changed including his relationship with his girlfriend of 26 years. Incontinence and erectile dysfunction are common side effects with any prostate operation and it is the elephant in the room for most males.
“They have to cut nerves and you could end up with incontinence or erectile dysfunction. Incontinence you work your way through it and you get better at it. Erectile dysfunction, you have it and that’s it. I have it and that’s it. I will be 69 in July and I’ve got other things to do than worry about that,” said Mayotte.
While intimacy and bathroom issues are insurmountable obstacles for many men, Mayotte doesn’t see it as a big deal.
“Golf is a six-hour game and sex is overrated. That’s my tagline. I just live my life. People don’t like to talk about it, but hey, I’ve got places to go and people to see. Just get on with life and have a good time because we all have a due date on our life and that is a fact,” he said.
One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. It is also the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men with 21 per cent of all new male cases.
There’s no need to wonder in silence. Have that conversation.
For more information about prostate cancer, visit www.daretoflashastache.ca.