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I got to the point in two minutes and it saved my life

Guest blog by Geoffrey Roche, prostate cancer survivor

I can’t get over how many guys wimp out on getting a simple pin prick to check their PSA. Why? Why don’t they have the same courage women do? Why do so many men not even know what a PSA level is? (It stands for Prostate Specific Antigen). You’re meant to start testing for prostate cancer at 50 (or at 45 if you are at higher risk) and a PSA test is one of the first and easiest tests ever! It’s a blood test and like all blood tests it doesn’t hurt. Whereas the cancer tests women have to put up with are not pretty nor without major discomfort. And yet men run away, or procrastinate, from having this done on a regular basis. Crazy.
Ten years a years ago my doctor starting checking my PSA. Nothing to show from the tests until December 2018 – my PSA jumped a bit. My GP sent me for more tests. I was positive everything was okay. Mr. Glass Half Full, that’s me.
The dreaded finger poke came next. Again, guys worry about this. Make jokes. Put it off. Seriously? Again, ask a woman about the indignities they suffer and you’ll count your blessings and get it done. But the doctor still wanted more tests. So I went for an ultrasound. Again, incredibly straightforward and painless.
Next was a biopsy as they still weren’t crazy about my results. A few pokes of a needle - after freezing - between your bum and your balls. The worst was the sound of the probe taking samples. Kind of like a staple gun, only louder and more abrupt each time – but no pain. (This is a new technique worth researching if you get to this point).
Two weeks later, I went with my wife Marie-Claire for the results. Not good. I had cancer, fair amount actually.


I wasn’t prepared. I cried and cried. Couldn’t stop. Why? Perhaps the thought of leaving a bit too soon. You see, I’m a lucky man. Beautiful, intelligent, vivacious wife for more than 38 years. Four amazing kids. Love each of them in their own inimitable way. How much better is life than that? So why the tears? I guess the shock. Cancer.
Whatever the doctor explained, I don’t remember. All I remember was my wife’s shoulder and then going into a room where a woman gave me a ton of brochures and a heap of kindness. (Lots of women in the clinic, women with amazing hearts helping men in tears. What else is new?)

Geoffrey-Roche_02-(1).jpgI love drawing. Here’s one from around that time of Evelyn the bird. The day of learning my diagnosis, I was Evelyn and the women who cared for me at North York General Hospital were the ones who
picked me up. Again, amazing women.
Those first days were pretty bleak. Trying hard not to think too much about more bad news. Decisions to be made. People to tell. So much to learn.
As my dear friend Judy said: “Keep your sense of humour, take advantage of the fact you have cancer. Seriously! Get the parking spots you deserve.” She was right. I needed to keep up the jokes, the idiocy, the craziness that defines my life.


We decided on surgery and my day came a few weeks later. I brought fresh bagels from Bagel House and smoked salmon from Kristapsons for the surgical team. (Seinfeld episode goes here). I got wheeled in and that’s the last I remember. It went an hour longer than planned. Had a transfusion as my blood pressure dropped. Marie-Claire was a bit freaked out but it was all good. Couldn’t sleep that first night, I was pretty pumped up. And hooked up.
Two days after surgery, my surgeon gave me the all clear. I was free to go! Home! Had thought it would be longer but it wasn’t, thank goodness.


Some words of advice – if people tell you they have cancer, don’t reminisce about other friends, family, acquaintances that have had it. I don’t care. I have it. Not you. What you need to do is hang in and listen. Just be there. Call. Cards on paper are also things of beauty you covet.

A human voice meant the world. You can’t begin to imagine the impact. A hospital visit from my friend Philip Stern (see picture at left) was a great gift. And then this young priest named Andrew from our church came (see picture at right). There in my hospital bed he said a prayer over me. Now there’s a moment. Apparently it worked.


If you’re a man 50 or over, visit your doctor and talk about the right testing approach for you and the PSA test specifically. Prostate cancer is not great but if caught early there’s close to a 100 per cent chance of survival. Remember, this isn’t something that pops up because you don’t feel well one day. If you’re not checked, you may not find out until it’s too late.
I am fortunate that I had the love and support of family and friends that made this journey a lot easier. I am fortunate to have had the amazing care of my family physician Dr. Bruce Topp, my surgeon Dr. David Hajek and the amazing staff of the Prostate Clinic at North York General Hospital. They are heroes. I am forever thankful to them.
I’m now cancer free! I did this final drawing of our daughter while I convalesced. Hopefully it gives you some sense of my happiness today.
Posted: 2019-10-07 12:49:45 PM


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