David West and Mo Easton had only just met and started a new relationship when David developed prostate cancer.

David West Nerve Sparing Radical Prostatectomy
David West and Mo Easton in Gibraltar

The couple from Leicestershire describe how they faced cancer together.

“It was completely against the odds that we got together,” recalls Mo, a retired head teacher who is 70. “I wasn’t supposed to be out. I’d had hip revision surgery and was on crutches, but I was getting stir crazy. I went along to a sixties night and David was there on a blind date with another woman. They didn’t hit it off but we did.”

Within only a few weeks, David, age 69 had his own health concerns. He had initially visited his GP concerned about erectile dysfunction (ED), a very common problem affecting one in two men over the age of 50. Although the initial appointment was for ED, between then and the operation, the couple had no problems with their sex life. The tests David’s GP carried out included an examination of his prostate and because it felt irregular, he was referred to his local hospital for further assessments.

At first, like many in the same situation, he didn’t tell Mo about the tests because he didn’t want her to worry. But once he had a prostate biopsy and found out he had aggressive prostate cancer (Gleason 4/3), David told Mo straight away. “We had only known each other for a few months, but we naturally found our own roles in the situation,” says Mo. “David is inclined to be the worrier. I felt my job was to be the practical one, to support David and to find out as much information as possible.”

With delays in appointments at the local hospital and with the benefit of their own research, David and Mo decided to seek a second opinion and choose a consultant themselves. “I liked the fact that Mr Doherty did nerve-sparing and robotic surgery,” said David. “I liked the fact he was in the top ten of prostate cancer surgeons in a poll of consultants. From the first appointment with him, I was sure we had found the right person, he immediately inspired confidence.

“I had been married for 40 years and my wife died from leukaemia. I spent lots of time in hospital with my wife whilst she went through many rounds of chemotherapy, so it was very hard to think about going through it all again. Surgery appealed more in that it would mean having the treatment in one go, although the term ‘radical’ prostatectomy made me feel very anxious.”

Mo was with David for every hospital appointment and on the day of surgery, when his anxiety about surgery was understandably high. His operation took place in May 2014. “As I went into the operating theatre, I said to Mr Doherty – was he sure? Is a radical prostatectomy the best thing? He said it was the safest approach as the cancer I had was aggressive.”

Commonly for men who have had a radical prostatectomy, one of the main challenges after surgery is recovering continence, as the bladder becomes weaker immediately after removal of the prostate. “It wasn’t easy,” says David. “I wore pads for the first three months, then from time to time for eighteen months, but it was always an improving picture, although there are still minor dribbles a couple of times a week.”

“I love hill walking and three months after my operation, I went walking in Derbyshire and then spent a week walking in the Scottish borders. I was feeling as fit and strong as I ever did.”

Like many couples facing prostate cancer, there are changing priorities and concerns as they went through the process of recovery. David explains: “After the operation, I was more concerned with having a catheter and incontinence, than to worry about ED.

However, once the incontinence was less of a problem, it was natural for us to start resuming our sex life. Mo and I communicate openly about everything, and my ED had now become a problem. Mo reassured me that ED would diminish and worrying about it wouldn’t help. Currently I am using Caverjet injections successfully. The disadvantage being, sex now has to be planned, not spontaneous. Since the operation, I have also found my libido has diminished. Mo does not put me under any pressure, and we share our joy of life and being together.” 

Subsequent blood tests (ultrasensitive PSA) have shown the surgery was completely successful in fully clearing the cancer.

“It was a brilliant job all round,” says David. “I don’t think about prostate cancer – not at all – I feel strong and not in the slightest bit anxious about it.”

Mo adds: “It might seem challenging to face cancer at such an early stage in the relationship, but it wasn’t for us. If you love someone, you are there for them. I know I’m the luckiest woman in the world to have met David.”