When it started November last year the symptom was initially dismissed by Jim McDonald, 73, as he felt “embarrassed” while at restaurants with friends. By December he “knew something was wrong” when he would have to get up to go to the toilet four or five times a night.
He said: “If I needed to go, I needed to go, no messing around. It was quite frequent.”
Jim’s wife suggested he visit a doctor. After scans and biopsies, and just two months since the symptoms first appeared, Jim was told he had prostate cancer.
The cancer had spread to his pelvic bone, “which is obviously not good news”.
Jim, from Chester, explained the moment he and his wife dealt with the harrowing news. He told the Liverpool Echo that as they drove home, a hearse pulled up next to them at a roundabout and they “burst out laughing”.
He said: “I said to my wife, ‘How do you feel about this then?’ and she said, ‘Well, that was sh*t news, wasn’t it? But how are we going to beat this thing?’. From then on, we’ve just laughed even more about it and I’m very, very positive about it.”
Jim added that the distraught reactions of his family and friends to the diagnosis sound like they were “going to recommend a funeral director”.
He said: “What we want is encouragement, we want to be positive. We don’t want sympathy.”
The grandad of four has even booked holidays in advance, and recently returned from a cruise around Greece and Croatia where he renewed vows with his wife after 51 years together.
Jim is sharing his story as part of Urology Awareness Month this September, which aims to raise awareness of urological conditions like prostate, bladder and kidney cancers. According to Prostate Cancer UK, roughly one in eight men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime – with 47,500 diagnosed and 11,500 dying every year.
Black men are twice as likely as men in general to have prostate cancer. It is known as a “silent killer” due to the fact it typically causes no symptoms until it’s grown enough to put pressure on the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder to the penis.
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The survival rate plummets from 100 percent if it is caught early, to 50 percent if it has spread into nearby organs, lymph nodes or other parts of the body outside the pelvis, according to Cancer Research UK. Jim says he wonders if his cancer could have been spotted sooner, had there been a screening programme for prostate cancer like there is for breast cancer.
He is urging people to look out for symptoms, which include difficulty urinating, weight loss, and back or bone pain, and to seek medical help or testing if they spot them.
He added: “I read an article about Bill Turnbull passing away with prostate cancer. He’d been preaching to men that they need to get tested, but the sad truth is, I’d never have read that article had I not been diagnosed with it, and that’s one of the problems. It’s maybe through fear or anxiety, I don’t know, but men don’t want to even read about it.”
His treatment includes an injection twice a year and “some pills every day”.
From October, he’ll start radiotherapy once a week for six weeks as part of the Atlanta NHS clinical trial, led by Dr Azman Ibrahim, a consultant oncologist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. He is also participating in a study called Ironman – the International Registry for Men with Advanced Prostate Cancer, which aims to enrol 5,000 men across 16 countries.