Why I am a prostate cancer patient buddy – Robert Harris

“We are enormously grateful to our patient buddies, with their desire to help and support other men facing prostate cancer.”
Nula Allen, advanced nurse practitioner, Birmingham Prostate Clinic

Birmingham Prostate Clinic’s advanced nurse practitioner Nula Allen introduces one of our patient buddies and describes the different types of support available to our patients:

“We take a lot of pride in the support we provide to our patients and as our service has been running since 2005, patient support has grown and evolved as we respond to our patients’ needs. There is a long-running and well attended patient support group which you can attend, meeting every 4th Tuesday of each month at Parkway Hospital in Solihull. This is open to all, not only BPC patients and family members are very welcome. As an advanced nurse practitioner, I see patients regularly after surgery, supporting them with all issues, particularly the recovery of continence and erectile function. This post-operative support is something our patients really need and value, providing information, advice and reassurance during the time after surgery. We also have a buddying system, which offers a different type of support in addition to my work and the group. Below, one of our patient buddies explains what it involves and how it can help. We are enormously grateful to our patient buddies, with their desire to help and support other men facing prostate cancer.”

Robert Harris*, aged 57, describes why he became a prostate cancer patient buddy.

“I feel very fortunate and am extremely grateful for the first class treatment that I received. My experience of prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment and journey is described here.

“I had advised Nula that I would be willing to talk to other patients if that was going to be helpful and one day, I got a call asking me whether I would speak to someone. It was about six weeks after my surgery and the man whom I spoke to was a couple of weeks away from his own surgery.

“He basically wanted to chat to someone who had been through the surgery and had ‘come out the other side’, ie the patient’s perspective. Understandably, he was also looking for some reassurance about recovery from prostatectomy, particularly the incontinence and erectile function side of things. I have no medical expertise so could only describe my own experiences. We spoke for the best part of an hour on a conference call, as his wife also wanted to be involved. I did speak to him another couple of times, once immediately before his surgery and then again a few weeks later and am happy to help anyone else who wants to chat.

“Buddying provides a different type of support and interaction to the patient support group, which I did attend and found that it was very popular and well run. They have different speakers and themes, so there is a lot of information sharing. What appealed to me about buddying however is that it’s a much more personal way of reflecting on experiences of prostate cancer. It’s not necessarily going to suit everyone but it offers another way of communicating and gaining information and is designed to complement the work of the support group.

“In my experience, the successful recovery from prostate cancer is likely to involve healing across three core components of human well being – physical, mental and emotional well being and the impact across all three will of course vary enormously between individuals. It is hoped that the evolving menu of support mechanisms on offer, will provide patients with options on gaining the support they need.

“For me, being a patient buddy is rewarding as it gives me the opportunity to be able to give something back. ”

*Robert Harris is not the patient’s real name. His name has been changed because he wishes to share his experience but remain anonymous.