Ian Edmundson



Radiotherapy blog

Thoughts on my cancer






































































Yes, cancer...
After a simple blood test in February 2016 and then a biopsy in March 2016, I was diagnosed as having prostate cancer.

It came as quite a shock to me and I decided not to post anything anywhere at all about it, before having the operation, because I wanted to get my head around it myself and then to get it dealt with and then let people know later on, rather than have people worried, or looking concernedly at me. You say "cancer" to people and they just don't know where to look.

I had told only my closest family and a few very close friends before the operation and I am so grateful for their support through what was a very difficult time.

My actual symptoms that led to me getting checked out?
Lynda said I went to the loo a lot.
Nothing sinister in that for me, as I tend to drink coffee professionally. But Lynda said I should go and get myself checked out and I am very grateful that she did so (several times) before I actually got on with it.

My cancer gave me no pain and no discomfort before I was diagnosed. It was hiding away, doing its work on me. I had a simple blood test to start with and when the result came back, my PSA level was 19, compared to the 4.5 the hospital would have been happy with. It could have been a lot worse. When you talk to the medical people, they talk about readings of 10,000.

it was followed by two rectal examinations by lady doctors and one by a male doctor. Then it was necessary to have a biopsy procedure, to get 12 snips taken from my prostate gland to assess the actual extent of the cancer within the gland itself. The biopsy itself gave me far more discomfort and pain than the actual operation did. It hurt like hell. I felt every single bite into my prostate gland.

As a result of the biopsy, I got sepsis (blood poisoning), which kills people if not managed properly. I was told there was a small chance of me getting it, so of course I got it. I was rushed in, feverish and vomiting, via the Accident and Emergency department and stayed in hospital for nearly a week. They pumped me full of buckets full of anti-biotics and it took almost that week for me to come back from the brink. I was really very ill and if I had been at home alone, it's quite possible I may not even have made it to the hospital, especially seeing as I was refused an ambulance.

I was discharged from the ward just in time to go back for my biopsy result.

I went to the Urology department at the Royal Bolton Hospital and a lady sympathetically handed me a few leaflets and told me the bad news. I bit my cheek hard and concentrated on what she said. This was important and I had to retain this information.

As you can probably imagine, it was quite frightening and dismaying to be told I actually had prostate cancer. That is a moment I will never forget. The cancer showed up as being 'low risk' on one side and 'medium to high risk' on the other. As I sat there numb, we went through the options in front of me (hormone treatment and radiotherapy or surgery) and it was decided pretty much on the spot to refer me to the Christie in Manchester for surgery al(though I did see radiology specialists a couple of days later). 'Get all of the information you can', I thought.

It was all that was in my head for a while. We went to see my daughter and I rang my son with the news. I was as hopeful and positive as I could be, even though I just felt sick inside.

I went to The Christie in Manchester, which is an awe-inspiring place. It is built on a T-shape of corridors and you can't see wards or departments from the corridor, unless you go through the door. I had my pre-op tests, then went for lunch. I then saw my surgeon and he gave me three days notice of admission.

On April 25th 2016, I had surgery at The Christie in Withington, Manchester, to remove my prostate gland and seminal vesicles. I got there at 7am on the day of the operation and I can now freely admit that I was utterly terrified. I sat with a pillow on my knee, wearing a hospital gown with my backside hanging out at the back, with one of the porters outside the operating theatre and joked that this was the point where maybe I should do a runner. He smiled at me warmly and I suppose he'd probably heard that a thousand times before.

I went into the operating theatre ante room and lay down. They said a few things to calm me down a bit and then said, 'right, let's get started' set the anaesthetic off and out I went.

I woke up over eight hours later with five small entry wound holes in my front (all covered up with tape) and another one to hold a drain in my side, that just came poking out of a hole in my skin. The days after the operation mainly consisted of learning how to sit up again and to walk, as I felt more like a sliding block puzzle than an actual human being. When I managed to get off my bed into my chair, it felt like something of an achievement. The operation had some minor complications, meaning I was kept in hospital for nearer to three weeks, instead of coming out after a day or two and the staff at the Christie were wonderful at all times, keeping me well informed and no question was 'too stupid' for them.

After surgery

As to how I am, some time after the surgery....
Since then it has been a slow and sometimes aggravating process, getting my life back to a new kind of normality.

Some things are just the same. Some things aren't the same at all.
I 'took the deal' when I agreed to have the operation and I have no complaints.
I'm just so glad to still be here.

My sleep cycles keep going out of whack. I'm really tired a hell of a lot of the time, sleeping during the day for the odd hour or two, a bit emotional and prone to mood swings and also a much grumpier bugger than I ever was before. I can't do as much physical work as I used to and I cut down for a while on gigging. I still go to the loo a lot and feel the need to go quite suddenly, but that is because 'the plumbing downstairs' feels a bit different than it was before.

I totally lost my previous ability to suffer fools, or put up with their utter foolishness, so I changed bands. So some good came out of all this.

When they looked at my prostate gland properly, a while after its removal, it was far worse than they imagined it would be in the areas where they had not checked it. The word that was used (I think) was 'fried'. I was later told in passing by an Oncologist that the cancer had also gone into my seminal vesicles, which had been removed, as a precautionary measure. A sobering thought.

I am currently being seen by The Christie and The Royal Bolton Hospital on a three-monthly review basis, to check my current status. My treatment is ongoing, as there was still some evidence of cancer cells via a very small PSA reading. I ended up having hormone treatment and radiotherapy in early 2018.

More information on where I'm up to is below. My daily radiotherapy blog is here.

The Christie at Salford's guide to radiotherapy is here.

I can also recommend Eric Craven's blog here. Stephen Fry gives his experience briefly here.

Tell-tale signs:
You may have any or none of these symptoms if you have prostate cancer:
Low back pain at the base of your spine.
Blood in your pee.
Peeing often.
Feeling like peeing often with little result.
Getting up in the night to pee.
Some degree of erectile dysfunction.
More here.

It only takes a few minutes to contact your doctor and ask for a blood test to check your PSA level.
I advise any male on here aged 40 or over to do it. Better safe than sorry.

If the PSA Reading comes back low, then repeat the blood test annually.
If the PSA Reading is higher than 4.5 then a biopsy of the prostate gland will be needed.
This involves a local anaesthetic and 12 snips being taken from the gland. There is a risk of sepsis.

The options (if cancer is found by the biopsy) are:


A course of hormone tablets and injections to reduce the testosterone in the prostate gland, followed by a quite intensive course of radiotherapy, which I am told is rather uncomfortable. It does not stop cancer coming back in later years - in fact the radiotherapy can cause cancer.

*** I would add that following option A makes the cancer inoperable at a later stage if it returns.


The complete removal of the prostate gland, via keyhole surgery, which is a one day robot-assisted operation with a 4-8 week recovery period. There are a number of side effects, but cancer cannot re-grow in the actual place where an organ has been removed.

Option B looks fairly daunting, but I think anyone diagnosed would want the cancer gone.

A video of a prostatectomy operation is here. Not for the squeamish.


Brachytherapy: The insertion of low dose or high dose radioactive pellets in the prostate gland, which kills off the cancer. Your PSA reading has to be low enough and your biopsy should have the correct results for this to be considered.

  Doing nothing is NOT an option.

All men of a certain age should really ring their doctor and arrange a quick PSA blood test every year or two. It took me five minutes to pop in and have it done. The much-feared finger up the rear doesn't happen, unless there is a problem. You are far better off having the blood test and finding out if there is a problem, and then getting it sorted. If you ignore it, you could have the cancer spread to a point where it can't be dealt with. It took me five minutes to pop in and have it done. It has saved my life. Really, it HAS.

General information about prostate cancer can be found here.

This is a video describing a radical prostatectomy.

REVIEWS and 'diary':

July 2016:
Following a review at the end of June, in which they told me that my prostate gland was a in a lot worse state than the biopsy had indicated, I got a letter from The Christie regarding my PSA level following the removal of my prostate gland. I was cautiously happy with what was said ('undetectable'). A couple more reviews like that and I will be able to breathe a little bit more easily. I don't like to count my chickens, etc....

October 2016:
I got another letter similar to the one above. Another 'undetectable' reading. You can't ask for better than that. I just need another nine and a half years of those. That's probably how long I am going to be monitored for. All the more reason why people should get themselves checked out.

February 2017:
Another 'undetectable' reading on my PSA level from my January review. This means the cancer has thankfully not spread to anywhere else in my body. Fortunately, the prostate cavity is a sealed unit. When the letter from the hospital arrives with my result, I still always hold my breath while opening it. I never take the result for granted.

May 2017:
I was getting quite cheerful about the 'undetectable' readings, so it stands to reason that I should get a 'detectable' reading this review - albeit a really tiny 0.08 reading. I have to go back in July to see what that next reading will be and then decide upon a course of action to deal with it as necessary. This could involve me having a course of radiotherapy, which I dread the very thought of. However, the alternative is far worse.

July 2017:
My PSA reading has crept up - slightly - to 0.10. The Consultant said that 0.20 is classed as "a recurrence", so we will see what happens at the November review. I can see radiotherapy looming on the horizon and if that's how it goes, then that's how it goes..

November 2017:
My PSA reading has now gone up to 0.25, which is at the level where I should really get something proactive done about it. I was prepared for this after the two previous readings, but hearing about the actual amount of my PSA rise came as a bit of a shock at first. I have been told that a course of radiotherapy could cure the problems and at a low dosage too, seeing as I don't have a prostate gland anymore. I have been referred for radiotherapy, so there will be another report in a while....

1st December 2017:
Today I start on tablets as part of my hormone therapy and I have the first of three injections next week. I will probably be having my radiotherapy at the Christie's Salford branch and that will be 20x 10 minute sessions, done Monday to Friday over four consecutive weeks. I am not looking forward to any of this, but it is far better than 'the alternative'.

4th January 2018:
Today, I went for the second injection in my course of hormone treatment, which is aiming to help reduce and defeat my prostate cancer problem. The needle was bloody huge and I was not too brave about it. But it is done now. Back in three months (at the end of March) for another dose of the same.... I will probably be having radiotherapy to nuke the general area at the same time. I'm not happy about the expected side effects, but it's STILL all better than 'the altenative' by a long way.

9th February 2018:
The hormone treatment seems to have properly kicked in now and I am getting hot flushes, which affect me worst at night. I have felt like passing out on stage a few times.

February 15th 2018:
I have got the dates and times for my radiotherapy treatment at the Christie in Salford, from March going into April. Not looking forward very much to the actual treatment, but I have no real choice. The hormone treatment is still playing hell with my core temperature and I haven't had a good night's sleep for a while. Still, I have it to do.

March 8th 2018:
I am writing a radiotherapy blog while I have the treatment - I started it today and it's here.

July 2018:
I got a PSA reading of less than 0.001 last week. Undetectable again.
Obviously, this is the way forward.
I am cautiously optimistic about the reading, as I have had that before.
I can't have radiotherapy again.

October 5th 2018:
My PSA reading is undetectable again at less than 0.001.

Our NHS is something we should be so very proud of and do our very best to protect. I don't have a single complaint about how I have been dealt with by a Doctor, Nurse or Surgeon from day one. Every single person who has dealt with me has been superb.

Hospital admin teams can be a bit poor at times with the paperwork, though.