My thanks to Geoff Le Pard for contributing this post with its important message to Men’s Health Week. My own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 76 but died from the effects of the treatment four years later. That was 20 years ago and both the treatment options and survival rates are now improving dramatically. Provided the disease is detected early enough.
Please read Geoff’s post and if you are male and over 50 then #GETCHECKED.
Bottling it Up by Geoff Le Pard
My father died on 12th March 2005. He had prostate cancer, as well as secondaries on bones and lungs but it was the prostate that did for him. His last night, in Poole hospital, he could no longer speak. He did however manage a small wave of two fingers when I came into the room after he woke. He was heavily medicated so it could have had nothing to do with my entry, but I like to imagine it was a knowing hello and farewell. I’m romantic like that.
That is hindsight. At the time, with the doctors saying death was imminent I was a mix of naturally sad and bloody furious. With him.
He was 78. Until he was 75 we undertook a weekly walk with a friend along one of Britain’s long distance footpaths, usually 100 miles or so over the 9 days we had; but then it stopped. He seemed fit enough, he just made excuses. He was always fit and active, tramping the four corners of the New Forest where he lived, hunting his beloved bugs. He’d go for miles, lost in his entomological dream world, happily teasing apart the heather or turning over sallow leaves. But even that began to fade.
He turned 77 in November 2003. He had a long running cold and when we arrived for his birthday we joked at his new weight loss programme of sneezes. By the New Year the weight loss was no joke anymore and rapid tests had him in hospital. Just after the start of February 2004 he was told he had prostate cancer, bone cancer and an ‘odd’ tumour on his lungs. The doctors weren’t hopeful he had long but medical advances are such they reduced the lung tumour quickly and slowed the prostate. By the June he was fit enough to come with mum and my brother to Cornwall to see the Eden Project. We wheeled mum, who had recently had a hip op, and dad all over that old quarry. With his irrepressible sense of humour to the fore, he ordered us ‘to charge the heathen’ as we approached a somewhat bemused school party. ‘Faster, boy, faster.’ You knew he was his old self when he stopped using my name and reverted to his favoured appellation for me of ‘boy’.
Behind this short lived jollity I was becoming increasingly angry. I learnt early that neither mum nor dad were in a fit state of mind to absorb all the awful diagnoses imparted by the variety of oncologists they saw so I insisted on coming to every appointment. And gradually I learnt about the problems he had had: difficulty urinating, the recurrent urge to pee, especially at night; discomfort peeing. The ignored back pain and the pain in his arms (from the secondary bone cancer). Some numbness from spinal compression. The signs were there and the signs were ignored.
Later mum would say he was a private man, he was of a stoic generation. What she meant was he disliked being embarrassed and while he may have had a scatological sense of humour he couldn’t discuss his own urinary malfunctions. He couldn’t show weakness.
Of course I recognised that man. His stubbornness took him a long way in life, given several setbacks. His refusal to give into to his fears was often noble. In the world of work, during his time in the forces at the end of WW2 those traits were seen as admirable.
But they also killed him. I have no doubt whatsoever that he had the constitution, absent those controllable cancers to still be alive now. And as I approach 60 I would much rather the old bugger was there, calling me boy and gently mocking my organisational incompetence than remembering a brave stubborn little fighter who in the final analysis forgot one of the most important lessons in a fight and that is you are stronger in a team than on your own.
Get yourself checked. If you are embarrassed about the nature of a prostate examination, and frankly a latexed digit up the anus has never been in my top ten bucket list ambitions, then think, not so much about yourself but all those others who will be left bereft by your selfishness if you don’t.
I loved my father, still do. I still hear him chiding me. And of course I know it wasn’t deliberate and it is me being selfish. But still, I can’t stop thinking how much better it would be to be able to answer him back.
About Geoff Le Pard
Geoff Le Pard (not Geoffrey, except to his mother) was born in 1956 and is a lawyer who saw the light. He started writing (creatively) in 2006 following a summer school course. Being a course junkie he had spells at Birkbeck College, twice at Arvon and most recently at Sheffield Hallam where he achieved an MA in Creative Writing.
And what did he learn?
That they are great fun, you meet wonderful people but the best lessons come from the unexpected places. He has a line of books waiting to be published but it has taken until now to find the courage to go live.
He blogs at http://geofflepard.com/ on anything and everything. His aim is for each novel to be in a different style and genre. Most people have been nice about his writing (though when his brother’s dog peed on the manuscript he was editing, he did wonder) but he knows the skill is in seeking and accepting criticism. His career in the law has helped prepare him.
Books by Geoff Le Pard
Buy Geoff’s books
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Le-Pard/e/B00OSI7XA0
Connect with Geoff
Please feel free to comment and share this important message from Geoff with others. You may encourage a man who might have ignored symptoms to get checked. Thanks Sally