“Mr Doherty was prepared to give me a chance.” BPC patient Chris Smith describes extended lymph node dissection surgery for prostate cancer

Chris Smith after extended lymph node dissection treatment

“I had gone to see my GP because of severe back pain. There were several tests and one of them was a PSA (prostate specific antigen). It didn’t come back for some time and I went to New Zealand to visit my son, who lives there. When I got home, there were several messages on our answerphone, urging me to get in touch as soon as possible. My PSA reading was 23.

I was referred to a local urologist, but that took a while, and by the time I was seen, four months had passed since I first saw my GP. I had an MRI scan and an attempted biopsy, but it caused so much pain that it had to be abandoned. I had the biopsy soon after under general anaesthetic, unfortunately I developed septicaemia and was admitted to local hospital by ambulance, after collapsing. This was very unpleasant. Then, there was a further delay with prostate treatment because my medical notes were lost.

Finally, I saw the urologist who told me I had an advanced and aggressive prostate cancer that had spread outside my prostate. It was indicated that having surgery would be pointless, I left the hospital with a prescription for a hormone implant. It was very brief interview and very depressing.

I was feeling very despondent and my son, who is a GP, was concerned that everything had taken too long. He took over the process, looking for a second opinion by asking medical colleagues who they would recommend and also by looking online. That’s how I came to see Mr Doherty at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic.

When I first met Mr Doherty, I had the longest conversation with a doctor that had taken place at any stage. Mr Doherty explained I had a serious cancer which was on the cusp of being appropriate for surgery. He described a specialist procedure called extended lymph node dissection which involves taking wider margins and can be used for my type of prostate cancer. Mr Doherty said it was like trying to get the machine gun post, rather than just catching its bullets.

Mr Doherty was very clear that I should see a BPC oncologist for another opinion, so I saw Dan Ford. It was good to have a different view, but I elected to have surgery.

I had spent seven months going backwards and forwards at my local hospital, but once I came to BPC, after my first consultation, it was just three weeks until I had my operation. It took place in August 2014 at Spire Parkway Hospital, Solihull.

There is no getting away from the fact that you do feel very groggy and sore after the operation; it is a major procedure. But I felt well prepared in terms of what to expect and followed the guidance for pelvic floor exercises. A major milestone was my PSA reading at three months post-op. It was so good that Mr Doherty said no further treatment, such as radiotherapy, would be necessary. My PSA results continued to be brilliant.

Three years down the line, I am incredibly grateful and positive. Although there was a brief blip in my PSA results, they went down again and the latest is 0.05ng/ml. I continue to work full-time, running my own business training people working in the utilities industry in health and safety.

The most important thing of all is that I am still here for my family. I have four grandchildren and they all mean the world to me. When I was given my first prognosis, I wasn’t sure how many more of their birthdays I would see. This was sobering and depressing. The photo is of one of my grandsons, Joseph with me, two years after my diagnosis. Being around for my family is the best thing about getting over this cancer scare. It’s really the only thing that matters.

My only wish is that the cancer had been diagnosed sooner and if it had, I believe a good surgeon can provide an effective procedure with minimal problems. I am very conscious that I only had a PSA test because I went to see my GP about back pain. By doing so, my cancer was caught just in time and in Mr Doherty, I found a surgeon who was prepared to undertake a specialist operation in order to give me this chance.”