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Meet...Wes

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Please take a moment to get to know one of our members, better known on our community as WesT, and learn about his love of music, motor sports, and his experience with prostate cancer.

My name is Wes and at 54 years old I find myself being a prostate cancer survivor…

I was born in Eastern Ontario along the St. Lawrence River in a small city named Brockville Ontario. I come for a deep rooted Canadian background with family living in Canada before Canada was a country and am considered a United Empire (British) Loyalist.  I lived in Brockville for the first 18 years of my life before moving to Belleville Ontario to attend Loyalist College and where I met my future wife.  We briefly moved back to Brockville before following a career to Kingston Ontario where we were married, bought our first home and lived for 10 years.

 
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A career change in the mid 90s meant another move, this time to the Toronto area.  Working in Brampton, we set up home, at the time, in Etobicoke, which of course became part of Toronto with the amalgamation in the late 90s.  I have been working for the last 25 years in Information Technology looking after computer labs, network and related equipment in an educational institution.

My hobbies have included music (playing, listening and attending live music events), motor sport (watching, attending and participating for 13 years), photography and eventually dogs (we have two).  We never did have children but our dogs fill some of that void.  While still doing motor sport activities, we traveled all over Ontario, into Quebec and even as far as Prince Edward Island and Alberta to compete at the local, provincial and national levels of the sport.  Eventually it all caught up with me and I walked away a few years ago and changed the focus to my musical instrument and attending more live music events.

 
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With retirement on the horizon and getting closer quickly we have been starting to look at what we should do when that time finally does come.  Of course, being from Eastern Ontario and living in the big city, the draw of leaving the city for a quieter and slower pace does have its appeal.

In the fall of 2017 I found myself in my family doctors office for an annual check up, you know oil change, tire rotation, tighten down all the loose screws and making sure the engine is tuned up.  One specific issue was of concern, blood in my urine.  I had had kidney stones almost two decades earlier so I was pretty sure that was what was going on once again.  This started my next adventure….

First stop was for an Ultrasound, which confirmed a large (7mm) kidney stone.  The second stop, a urologist to look into the kidney stone.  Not seeing any immediate concern with the stone or any other urinary track issues, he was concerned with PSA numbers from my blood work.  He sent me off for another PSA test which unfortunately came back even higher.  He was now very concerned and booked me for prostate biopsy at Princess Margaret Hospital.  

So I rolled in 2018 by having first a CT scan done and then a few days later they did a biopsy of my prostate.  The people at Princess Margaret were kind, gentle and understanding.  While waiting to go in for the biopsy another very nervous patient struck up a conversation  He was explaining his situation and that his doctor was extremely concerned, thus making him extremely concerned because his PSA numbers were 4.0.  He asked what my PSA numbers were….  When I told him 10.2 he was dumbfounded.  He apologized over and over.  I hadn’t been too concerned about my PSA numbers, until then.

As part of the registration process, the person registering me asked if I would like to receive the results myself when they were available.  I said sure, I had done so with the ultrasound and the blood work, why not the biopsy as well. Two days later I was looking at a pathology report that showed four cores being assigned a Gleason score of 7…..  I did a quick search online and came across four reputable sites in a row stating that if you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer there should a Gleason score assigned to each positive biopsy cores.

It was confirmed a couple of days later by the urologist at my scheduled appointment on January 19th, T2b prostate cancer, as far as he could tell and told me it appeared to be contained to the right side of my prostate. He recommended a radical prostatectomy over radiation, hormones or chemo.  He stated that at my age (54) that this was the best option and I should make a full recovery.  He took the time to answer all my questions after explaining what would happen.  He told me as I was leaving I would receive notification of a bone scan date and surgery date, both at St. Joseph’s.

Bone scans, more doctors, more appointments, lots of d*** needles, some dark moments and lots of optimism or perhaps a little denial. Fortunately I had an excellent support group around me.  A long time friend and his partner, some great people at work, family and of course my wife Sonia.  I couldn’t have managed all this without their support.

My surgery took place on March 14th at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the west end of Toronto, where my surgeon, Dr.Jain. is the head of urology.  The staff at St. Joe’s were excellent and did everything they could to make me feel comfortable and looked after, right from the Pre-Op appointment three weeks before surgery until the discharge two and a half days after the surgery as well as the Post-Op check up 12 days later for staple and catheter removal.  Excellent people who do what they can within the confines of the “system”.

My one drama at the hospital came when I was wheeled from recovery to my room.  Still groggy from surgery I was put in my semi-private room only to find out my roomie was incarcerated and had a 24 hour security detail.  That first night was terrible with only an hour sleep and after 36 hours in the same room I had to demand to be moved.  I was moved into the next room and although I managed a little more sleep, he and his security detail talked all night and kept most of the people in our wing awake.

I was discharged a day early after 54 hours in the hospital and sent home with a small array of medications and of course the dreaded catheter.  Funny the catheter was the biggest challenge of the whole ordeal.  Me being a car guy, not being able to drive for 12 days was almost unbearable, having to rely on family to  get me where I needed to go.  I did get out and walk as much as I could but with my needed but unwanted addition it was a struggle.

Six weeks off at home recuperation was refreshing.  I had not had six weeks off work since I started in the work force and thought I would be bored stiff, but the exact opposite was the case.  I caught up on listening to my music, caught up on some of my digital backlog (photo editing, cleaning up my digital mess on my computers) and enjoyed the time with our dogs, getting out with them every day for the longest walks I could manage.  I even managed to get out for a concert at Massey Hall exactly one month after my surgery.  I was uncomfortable but managed the entire two hour show without issue including the trip into downtown Toronto and back home afterward.

Back to work was a bit of a challenge.  I had done work from home while recuperating but to have to drive to work and get back into the swing of things on site took a while and while I write this I am in my last week of my back to work transition.  Being limited in my activities and not being able to do some things that I have taken for granted for so long (lifting things for example) was hard.  Fortunately my work place and co-workers were very understanding and did everything they could to accommodate me.

My follow up with my surgeon took place on May 26th.  So 10 days before the appointment I had to go for the PSA blood work to check to see if there was any significant PSA levels remaining, which would indicate the remaining presence of the cancer.  There was a little anxiety leading up to this and then receiving the result.  After nine weeks of the stress and worry of not knowing for sure that the surgery had been a success, finally relief to be told that my PSA number was <0.008, below the detection level of the testing equipment.  The surgeon also informed me that the biopsy of the removed prostate had come back and the cancer was actually a T3.  When he removed prostate he also removed the tissue immediately around the prostate stating he was confident that all had been removed and scheduled me for the next PSA test in six months (November 2018). He stated that he was confident that we could forgo the usual three month test and wait for six months.

Now that most of my challenges seem to be behind me and almost everything returning to normal I am relieved.  There are still a few challenges that I am hoping will be back to 100% in the next couple of months but I am dealing with those issues one day at a time.  The one unexpected emotional issue after receiving the all clear was a depression that set In for the better part of a week.  Survivor’s guilt perhaps, knowing  that I had managed to make it through all of this while others were not so lucky.  Reading about other people with their whole lives in front of them having to deal with this devastating disease and not to be so lucky….

Other than a few people close around me and a select few others, I didn’t tell many people, and really still haven’t, even now almost four months after surgery and six months after the diagnosis.  I talk openly about it with those directly around me and try to contribute where I can with advice based on my experience on cancerconnection.ca but have kept things pretty much to a small group.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those that have supported me through all of this and would recommend that anyone going through any type of struggle reach out to someone close and trusted to lend any support they can give.  You will be surprised at some of the people who will step up and offer support.  You may also be disappointed with some peoples reaction and withdrawal but it is those that step up that you need to lean on when you need it.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help but don’t be too disappointed if some people are reluctant or don’t know how.  Fortunately some people know just what to do, say or not say just when you need it the most.  Cherish those people and don’t forget to thank them for the support.  I cherish my group….

 
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Thank you to all who have supported me through my challenging start to 2018, the doctors, the health care providers, friends, family, work place accomplices and here’s hoping the remainder of the year will be much more pleasant with many more years in front of me!



Thank you Wes for sharing your story to help and inspire others. We appreciate you breaking out of your smaller group of trusted friends to make sure that other people going through prostate cancer feel less alone. Thank you for contributing to Cancerconnection.ca.

 




Comments

WesT‍ What a great story, especially with a happy ending. It's great that you had so much support and that you were so productive during your time off. Like you, I had lots of support, but I don't know if I was as productive. I took 6 weeks off after my mastectomy and then continued to work through the rest of your treatments. As for the depression, I discovered that it is not that uncommon. When you expect to feel like you're jumping for joy after the treatments end, it's a surprise to feel depressed. For me, it wasn't so much survival guilt but a loss of structure. While I was going through treatments I had a structure of treatments on this date, appointments on this date, and a feeling that I was doing something tangible to get rid of my cancer. When all that ended, I felt a bit at a loss. The depression only lasted a short while, but it was a surprise just the same. I'm so happy that things have turned out well for you. I will believe that everything will be okay until proven otherwise, so I believe that your test results will continue to be awesome in November.

Debbie
  • Posted Sun 16 Sep 2018 11:58 AM EDT
Thanks cancertakesflight‍, Debbie.  Much appreciated.
  • Posted Mon 17 Sep 2018 02:42 PM EDT

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