61-year-old Wildlife Photographer, Gary Davis, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, when he took a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. His fast recovery was nothing short of remarkable - and he owes his thanks to Prostate Cancer UK for making it possible. Here, Gary tells us his story.
Last September, at 61 years old, I was given the news that no man wants to hear: "You’ve got prostate cancer". To say I was devastated would be an understatement.
I only decided to have a PSA test after a random conversation I had with my friends whilst playing golf. I was going along to see my GP a few days later and requested to have the test. Shockingly, in the last 24 months, my PSA level had doubled. I have no family history of prostate cancer and have never even been aware of my risk of the disease.
My first reaction was that I felt fine! I experienced no symptoms of the disease and have always been in good health and very active. My GP wanted to run the test again as I just couldn’t believe the result.
However, the second test came back the same. I went on to see a consultant, who wanted to book an operation for me. The consultant also spoke to me about incontinence and told me, inaccurately, that my urine could be "pouring out of me" after surgery. Following that consultation, my wife and I walked into the car park and cried. At that point I thought, am I better off dying or being incontinent for the rest of my life? Being told that I could be incontinent was the most frightening thing I have ever heard. I have even been held at gunpoint in Nigeria, whilst working out there during my early career as an engineer - but the prospect of being incontinent was even more terrifying for me! Over the next two days, I completely broke down.
My GP was not happy when I told him of my experience with the consultant and he advised that I should see Professor Roger Kirby. He was very professional and reassuring, as were his team at the Prostate Centre. However, I didn’t want to keep travelling back and forth to London for appointments, so I saw Tim Briggs at the Spire Bushey Hospital, who works closer to my home. I had a good experience with Tim and was given all the correct facts. Everything was explained in simple terms with all outcomes explored.
My wife also called the specialist nurses at Prostate Cancer UK and told me to speak to them. They explained everything to me so clearly. Their help has been amazing! The specialist nurses gave a true, honest and balanced opinion and were very easy to talk to.
I underwent a Robotic Assisted Prostatectomy, which was very successful. After surgery, my wounds started to heal and I recovered remarkably quickly. The only pain killers I took after the surgery were paracetamol.
I also didn’t experience any incontinence after the operation, which was my biggest fear. I did the pelvic floor exercises religiously before the operation, as advised by my consultant and the specialist nurses at Prostate Cancer UK and continue to do them post op. I am extremely fortunate to be part of the 5% of men who haven’t experienced incontinence after their surgery and believe this is down to my pelvic floor exercises and the skill of the surgeon. My recovery has been amazing!
My wife and family have also helped me with my recovery, prompting me to get out and walk every day. A positive attitude has also really helped me through both the surgery and my recovery.
Before the operation, I did see an Oncologist who gave me the choice to have radiotherapy. I feel that my decision to have the operation was the right thing to do in my circumstances. 24 months of radiotherapy or 4.5 hours of surgery for me was not a hard decision. The surgery would get me back to normal faster, although I acknowledge that I was lucky to have the choice. After the operation, I had to have a catheter for 10 days, which I was unhappy about but understood the reason behind it. I was very relieved when it came out!
My experience of prostate cancer has confirmed what I already knew about my family. My friends have also been amazing. I honestly can’t fault anyone who has helped me along my treatment journey! I am now looking forward to the future. As a wildlife photographer, I am very lucky that I have the opportunity to go with my wife to the Antarctic next year to photograph the polar bears, something at one point I thought I might not be able to do.
More importantly, I strongly feel that if any man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, they need to deal with it sooner rather than later.
I am a great believer in giving back and will be doing all I can to help stop prostate cancer being a killer.
Prostate Cancer UK has a simple ambition – to stop men dying from prostate cancer. Through shifting the science over the next 10 years to focus on radical improvements in diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and support, they strive to stop prostate cancer being a killer.
Recognised by thousands of people as a truly invaluable cause, over a thousand men and women from all around the UK are coming together to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK and Breast Cancer Care by walking a marathon around London at night. Find out more about Walk the Night.Find out more about Walk The Night