John Ford was almost 80 when he had a prostatectomy for prostate cancer. His age was not a barrier to treatment and he made a quick recovery.

“I had some blood tests at my doctors’ as part of a general check-up. I hadn’t heard of PSA, didn’t know what it stood for, but the doctor must have ticked that box. I’m very glad she did – it may have saved my life. A week later, I got a call to say I needed to come in and discuss my PSA result, which was a reading of 6.3.

I have health insurance, so I went online to choose a consultant and recognised that the volume of prostatectomies Mr Doherty had carried out was very significant. I had an MRI and then a biopsy confirmed that I had prostate cancer. What I hadn’t expected was they go through your options, then leave you to decide. I had expected the doctor to tell me what would happen next.

My first thoughts were: I’m too old for a big operation. Will I survive? But my wife and daughters wanted me to consider it and we had consultations with Mr Doherty and with the oncologist Dr Dan Ford, to take radiotherapy into account as an option also. What struck me was  Mr Doherty’s words about surgery: once it’s gone, it’s gone.

I also liked the way he exuded confidence about being able to do the operation safely and effectively. I don’t have any underlying conditions, I don’t take medication and am fit and active. Mr Doherty didn’t see my age as a problem, taking into account my overall health and thought everything would go well.

He was right: I can honestly say that I sailed through it all. I remember three days after surgery, the physiotherapist asking me to try walking up one stair at a time. I thought I couldn’t do it, then found I could manage a flight of stairs straight away. I went home from hospital a day early.

John Ford celebrating his 80th birthday with his family.

A friend who had a robotic prostatectomy ten years ago told me I would need a large quantity of pads, but I found incontinence wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, I kept forgetting to do pelvic floor exercises and had to set a reminder on my phone. At three months after surgery, I was completely dry. By this stage, I was fully back to normal, able to spend the day gardening or decorating, bending and stretching without any difficulties. I saw a physiotherapist in hospital, but he said I didn’t need any physiotherapy. My PSA reading post-op was 0.02ng/ml on an ultra-sensitive reading. That’s about as low as it gets and tells you the cancer has been completely cleared.

I think having open surgery, rather than robotic surgery, was significant in making such a quick recovery. Mr Doherty had explained that with open surgery, he can “feel his way around the prostrate,” whereas robotic surgery does not have the same sensitivity as the human hand. As an engineer, I understood that. I spent a lot of my working life in the development of electronics for car antilock systems and know the technology is only as good as the information that is inputted. That is why the “human touch” was more appealing to me than the robotic route.

I am so glad that the GP ticked the box for a PSA test. I would recommend any man in his sixties or seventies has one of these tests every year. I am also very glad that I chose Mr Doherty, and his advice – once it’s gone, it’s gone. I had my operation in February (2020). If I had chosen radiotherapy, my treatment would have been postponed during lockdown. Of course, it depends on your health and fitness, but at almost 80, I didn’t find the operation and recovery difficult at all. I certainly do feel ‘it’s gone’ and I’ve put the worry of having prostate cancer firmly behind me.”