My own personal health journey

A personal health journey.

I have spent the last few years writing my book, A Life Less Stressed – the 5 pillars to health and wellness. I’ve enjoyed the process. I describe it as an ‘exploration’, which it is. It’s an exploration of all of things I am interested in health, personally and professionally. As you will see if you even just look at the synopsis let alone the book, it covers a wide range of topics.

While writing the book I also celebrated my 60th birthday. I always celebrate each year. Like many others I have known friends and family that would have been happy to get to 60, and as far as I know getting older is still the best alternative.

Anyway at the same time I also got a diagnosis of prostate cancer. As you will read in my book, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will contract cancer by 60 years old. So in a sense I’ve taken one for the team. It didn’t come as a great surprise for several reasons, but it has given me a new-found respect for family history.

My older brother had it at 60, my uncle had it at 60, and we think my father did also. So it didn’t come as a huge surprise. According to the Cancer Council of Australia:

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia1 and the third most common cause of cancer death. One in 5 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85. It is more common in older men, with 63% of cases diagnosed in men over 65 years of age. In 2013, 19,233 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in Australia. The five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is 95%. Nearly all patients who present with localised disease will live beyond five years. In 2014, there were 3102 deaths caused by prostate cancer, accounting for 13% of all cancer deaths in Australian men.”

A diagnosis

Interesting my PSA was within the reference range and the digital rectal exam (ouch!) was normal, this was from both my GP and the specialist urologist. Given my family history I really wanted to know so I had an MRI. That came back showing there were several areas and some close to the capsule of the prostate. It there had only been one or two isolated areas I wouldn’t have gone further. I was aware that over diagnosis or rather over treatment was potentially a problem.

But I decided to have a biopsy, which I was also aware was an invasive and potentially traumatic procedure. A prostate biopsy is categorised by a Gleason rating, indicating the virulence. Mine indicated it was the more (but not most) virulent type, but MRI showed it hadn’t reached the capsule. Thankfully bone scans confirmed it hadn’t spread. I felt disappointed on the one hand with a diagnosis, but relived on the other that it most certainly could have been worse. It wasn’t the most virulent and it hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes or bone.

The book gets personal

I was fairly healthy and fit prior to the surgery and in the months leading up to it I tried to be even healthier, avoiding alcohol, and focusing on my 5 pillars….the book had become very personal. Had the surgery, which went well. I took three months off work. Dentistry is pretty intense at the best of times and sitting on my saddle chair, intensely focusing for hours was not going to be easy and so I felt best avoided. I actually spent 5 days a week for those 3 months writing the book. Intense and stimulating at the same time. The book would have taken me 5 years to write if I didn’t have those three months, and I was apparently free of cancer and making a good recovery, so hey, many positives to contemplate.

After the surgery

There are two issues post-surgical. Urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. I do most of the cooking at home but I couldn’t even lift my cast iron cooking pots. Physiotherapy, pelvic floor exercises and a focus on my pillars, resolved the first issue after a couple of months. The second issue revolves around the amount of nerves that are damaged in the surgical procedure. I was fortunate that the cancer had not extended to the capsule and obviously the skill of my surgeon resulted in what he described as 90% nerve sparing. This is a process and I would say I have made a reasonable recovery in this area.

Both urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction are challenging problems for obvious reasons. I’ll be exploring these issues which don’t get a lot of air time in a series of upcoming podcasts.

There have been quite a few other issues around my own health journey (MTHFR, vitamin D deficiency, food sensitivities, family history of heart problems) which I will share in future posts……it’s a very cathartic and humbling experience to share. Professional and personal observations, particularly when I will have the opportunity to interview experts and learn more as I always try to do.  I’d be interested to hear from you about any suggestions for other issues you’d like me to cover in the Unstress podcast series.  

You can order your copy of A Life Less Stressed here