“We knew we were in safe hands.” Gordon and Lorraine Allbutt describe their experience of bladder cancer treatment at BPC.

“Last year was a really bad year for Gordon. It started with a nasty case of shingles, then there were generally difficulties which were difficult to pin-point: he felt unsteady on his feet, not very ‘with it’. Gordon was referred to our local hospital in Dudley for what the consultant described as a ‘full service’. The main worry was Gordon had some blood in his urine and he was referred to a urologist for further assessments.

Gordon had a cystopscopy (investigation inside the bladder) which found there were some tumours. After that, it all went a bit crazy: on that same day, Gordon was sent to a nurse for further tests and the suggestion was he was consented and booked in for surgery. It felt like we were barreled along from one room to another, with no chance to take it all in. We didn’t meet the surgeon who would be operating on Gordon.

I work for the NHS; I’m a great advocate for it and I understand why things need to be done this way. Also, working in a specialist area, I know not every surgeon is the same. I found myself thinking – who would be the best person for this operation? I started to look for information and guidance online, reading in a lot of detail, including articles by patients.

We have a very good friend from church who is a retired medical director of Birmingham Women’s Hospital. We have occasionally asked for his advice and Gordon said to me – shall I ask Joe? Joe told him: there is one urologist who I’ve worked with and I’d recommend without a shadow of doubt, having sent my own family members to see him.

Both my online research and the recommendation from Joe pointed to exactly the same person – Alan Doherty at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic. The day we met Mr Doherty was a rotten one: in the morning, Gordon was told he had skin cancer on his chest, so we were feeling pretty low and anxious. Mr Doherty said to us: ‘Has anyone explained what has been found and what it means?’ He went through all of Gordon’s results, drew some diagrams and for the first time, explained exactly what we were dealing with.

We were also worried about a lump in Gordon’s groin area. Mr Doherty examined it and explained it was a hernia. We asked – can you do this? Mr Doherty said he could, although pointed out it would be done on the NHS also. In the end, we chose for Mr Doherty to carry out the repair, together with removing the tumours and doing the first bladder chemotherapy wash-out during a single operation.

We were introduced to Mary Kirkham, who would be supporting us after the operation and who turned out to be an absolute angel, answering calls during evenings and weekends, whenever we needed support and advice. Even though we were going through something life-changing, we felt utterly confident in the whole team at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic. You feel they not only know what they are doing but they are the best at what they do. You can relax a little, having that confidence.

When the pathology results from surgery came in, Mary spent an incredible amount of time going through it all with us. The tumors had all been removed and were non-invasive; they had not moved beyond the bladder tissue. However, Gordon’s type of tumours were in the high-risk category, so since surgery, he has had a further six wash-outs of immunotherapy-based chemotherapy, designed to promote the body’s own response to resisting further disease.

During the last cystoscopy, Mr Doherty said Gordon’s bladder is looking healthy and the response has been exactly as he hoped. He will have a couple more bladder washes in the coming months to be on the safe side. Although it has been extremely stressful and challenging, when Mr Doherty walks into the room, or whenever we speak to Mary, you feel better immediately; they give you that confidence that everything will be okay. You know you are in safe hands. We can’t thank them enough or speaking highly enough of the care, competence and experience of the whole Birmingham Prostate Clinic team.”