104. More fear For Your Plate Sir?


Earlier in the month I had my latest appointment where I would get the latest PSA test. This was the first after my 0.17 reading had enabled me to dodge the radiotherapy bullet. I had been hard at work, eating like a monk and hitting the gym three times a week. That was until I got an injury. I injured my shoulder and got into a conversation with a trainer friend. She suggested that I needed to go and see an Osteopath, it could be serious. I thought it was trivial and only massage worthy. She gave me the details of one that she has either used or knows well.

“Oh and he is doing a discount at the moment as well.” She is thinking a course of treatments and I am thinking I just need to rest it. She is thinking I should get to the cause of the injury and I just want this inconvenience to go away. I enquire about the cost with this discount, where is it and then try calculating how and when can I take time off work to do this. All in all, I was never going to do anything – it was just too much bother for something I regarded as trivial. Anyway, I gave the shoulder some rest and then went back to make up on lost time. I then very shortly get another injury in my bicep. Again, the solution is to just rest it. That’s exactly what I did and a few weeks later I was back in the gym. Unless it was impeding me on a daily basis or I was in constant pain, I was not going anywhere.

The day of the telephone appointment I had decided to go into work, and I promptly forgot that I was getting a call. I missed the first call while I was trying to turn off my wireless headphones and the second call while I was in a meeting. I was livid with myself as I knew I would have to wait until the next appointment to get the result. Then I remembered I could call my GP for it. A few days later I did just that and the result of the latest PSA test. Drum roll.

0.17. It was the same as before.

I was peeved but knew with my injuries I had not been able to train properly. Eventually I was grateful that it had not gone up – that was the main thing.

A few days later I attended a large breakfast event. Once a year, usually sometime in February, my church has a volunteers’ breakfast. It is the churches way of saying thank you. The last one was just before Covid, so it’s been a while and it was great to see and catch up with so many people. I was sitting down at my table just minding my own business when a guy that I know came over and sat next to me.

We exchanged small talk and then he asked me about my health. I told him it was OK and of my current challenges with my PSA and how I have been fighting radiotherapy. I asked him if he had been tested and he laughed and said he hadn’t, and it was something he had been meaning to do.

Eventually he revealed that his father has prostate cancer and then almost instantly added that his older brother has been diagnosed as well.

It gets better.

He laughed nervously.

He said that his brother could not even walk for a long time and had back pain. He then said something about they widened something, and he was finally able to pee. I sat trying to compute what he was telling me. I don’t know anything about the prostate being holed out around the urethra to enable a man to pee so I could only tackle the other part. I told him that I was worried that it was much more than just a case of normal prostate cancer. I told him about Esther’s story and that I prayed that I was wrong, but it sounds like the cancer has spread. He didn’t know much more than that as his brother has not spoken about it. He filled the spaces with nervous laughter. He even mentioned that his mum has some cancer in her neck but couldn’t remember exactly was it was called.

I threw in a couple of other stories.

Nervous laughter.

I told him that one in three black men will get it. He was shocked.

I told him that it is the third biggest killer of men worldwide. He was even more shocked.

Nervous laughter.

I said to him that just having his father with prostate cancer made him 2.5 times more likely on top of being a black man and I couldn’t even compute what his odds were as his brother has it as well. I told him that the PSA test is just a blood test. He seemed surprised. I asked if he wanted me to go with him, he said no he will do it when he goes to see the doctor about his back. I asked him why not do it on Monday.

“I’m working on Monday, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday” and then he tailed off.

Are you actually going to do it?” I asked.

“I will, I will”

Nervous laughter.

His wife was sitting at a table about 20 feet away. Off the cuff, half-jokingly I said “I should just tell your wife”.

For the first time today, I got a decent response from him.

“No, No don’t do that” he said, with the smile wiped off his face. He was actually fearful, almost panicking.

I left it there as exhausted as I was concerned.

Is this what fear looks like or is it stupidity? The thin line between the two is only knowledge.

The next day I saw his wife at another church function, and it all came back to me. I walked past her a couple of times, but I still didn’t say anything. We were going to be here for a few hours and I was beginning to feel guilty. I even gave a good friend a quick synopsis of the conversation that I had the day before to gauge if I was overreacting. He told me without hesitation that I should tell her. Now I am not a rabbi, I am not a priest at confession, I am not a lawyer or a psychiatrist. I am not a professional bound by any laws and I wasn’t sworn to secrecy. But I felt really bad about what I was going to do.

What I felt I had to do.

She was talking to someone else so I hung around like a bad smell so she could see that I wanted to talk to her. After a few minutes I got my chance. I pulled her aside for privacy and I told her everything of my conversation with her husband the day before. I sung like Whitney the prison snitch on her last day inside, but it was from somewhere with love. She didn’t say a word for about 15 seconds, which is an eternity when you don’t know how someone is going to react to something.

She looked me dead in the eye, “I know”. I watched the guilt climb off my shoulders and wish me a good evening as it walked out of the door.

“Me and his mum have been trying to get him to go for ages. He just won’t listen. And he is so stubborn when he sets his mind to something.”

“I told him about his risk, with his brother and father having it. But he just had no interest.” I quietly replied.

“I told him I need him, I told him his daughter needs him and how much he means to us.” That sentence just stood there hanging in the air.

I could tell that this was something that she had been fighting with for quite some time. I could tell, no I could feel the pain in her voice as she spoke.

“He is going to see the doctor about his back, I will go with him and see if I can convince him” she said.

”I did offer to go with him but he turned me down”

“That’s real brotherly love, thank you.” She replied and thanked me again. I told her I would follow up with him and keep in touch. She asked if it was alright if she shared our conversation with him. I said to myself I probably have enough friends anyway and it was OK. Once he knows I snitched on him, I’m not sure what our next conversation will be like – if at all. I realise though that the only thing I am sorry about is that I cannot forget her pain.

It would only be a few days later that I would have a little more added to my plate. It’s one of those big American plates unfortunately.

I did a talk late last year and after the talk I gave out my blog card as I always do. I tell guys that I am there if they want to talk to me – just email via the website. A guy that was there gave me a call out of the blue. He asked me if I remembered him, and I told him that I didn’t. It wouldn’t be until later that it would click that I had given him my number so we must have had more than just a brief conversation.


He reminded me of the event with Errol McKenna and a panel of medical experts and other survivors. Slowly I begun to remember him. He had said that he had received very little support before and since he had had the radical operation. He said, and I can acknowledge, that a number of the panel experts had said that they would contact him personally to discuss his treatment and subsequent concerns. Unfortunately, they didn’t. They were just like the rest.

He had the radical operation just over a year ago and he was apologetic at first but came to the point. He was lost. He didn’t know when this was all going to end – the side effects. He said he had dealt with the incontinence, and he was just suffering from a little stress incontinence when he sat down. I stopped him there and I asked him how much pelvic floor exercising was he doing. He said once a day but was a bit vague on how long he was doing it for. I told him he would need to up it to at least twice or three times a day and that there is a great phone app that I could recommend. It sounded like there was still more to do with that as he should not be experiencing stress incontinence sitting down.

That was the easy part.

What he really wanted to know about was the sex. He was reminiscing just how ‘potent’ he used to be. He didn’t elaborate too much – I was able to fill in the blanks for him. I asked him first, what was the story about his nerves. He said that the doctors and consultants spoke a lot about the nerves in the pre surgery classes, but he didn’t know about his own fate. He said that there was a number of deaths in his family at the time and that he had also split from his long-term girlfriend. She sounded like a complete ‘looney tunes’ handful and he wasn’t sad to see the back of her. I know after the operation he probably had a lot on his mind, but you wouldn’t really forget a key piece of information like whether they were able to save the nerves. That is if they told him in the first place. He wasn’t due to see the doctor anytime soon, but I told him he could ring his GP and they could read through his notes as opposed to waiting for another hospital appointment.

I reiterated the purpose of the nerves and most importantly I said that I needed to manage his expectations. I told him straight that he could be hoping for a change that may never come. It sounds more brutal than I said it. When you see it in print, but I was giving him the straight talk he had been asking for. I asked him if his girlfriend had left because of the diagnosis. He said that she hadn’t. Things had been rocky for a while and that it was one less headache for him to deal with. A massive chunk of this recovery you have to do on your own. You can have a cheerleader, no you need a cheerleader, but if you don’t have one you have to do it on your own. Friends can help, and they did without a doubt, but they are not there during the darkest, ugliest parts. It does not get much darker or desperate when the only positive you have is saying that you are here for another day.

I spent the next thirty minutes taking him through my milestones and when and how they occurred. I also told him that even if the king didn’t fully recover I had absolutely no problem going down the  bionic route if that was the only option left. Of course, everybody’s recovery is different, but I hoped that I gave him two things that he needed, and that he had seriously lacked up to now:

Honesty and hope.

Then something happened. He kind of admitted how hard this all was and that he just didn’t want to do this on his own. It all magnified his loneliness. I asked him if his ex was someone who would be receptive to him telling her that he really needed her. He said he didn’t know. I said if there is the potential that that’s what she needs to hear then he should reach out.

I finally told him that he has my number and should use it whenever he wants and that I will be keeping in touch with him.

I decided that I would send a message to the table guy, regardless of how he felt. I asked him how he was and if he had managed to get a test. He sent an unexpected reply,

‘Good afternoon Peter I pray all is well with you and family. What can I say, been thinking about what you said to me every day since we last spoke, will phone them some time this week. Thanks for checking up on me, God bless’

Then it occurred to me, am I actually any better than the guy on the table with my refusal to see an Osteopath? OK, one is a muscle injury (twice) and the other a debilitating and deadly condition, but do they share the same foundation?

Unfortunately, I don’t actually have the answer.

2 thoughts on “104. More fear For Your Plate Sir?

  1. A really interesting read. You do a great job of getting people to open up to you, hopefully they’ll listen to your advice.
    Hope the injuries heal soon and best of luck for your next test, hopefully that 0.17 will drop next time.


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