My name is Keith and together with my wife, Anita, I have lived in Mojacar for 5 ½ years. I had worked in Mojacar every year since 1989; I was a Car Brake Development Engineer and my job consisted of coming to Mojacar to perform final tests on prototype cars or new brake lining materials, so when I took early retirement and we decided to live here, it was like a dream come true.
However, in 2004, at the tender age of 56, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. To say I was shocked is an under-statement. I considered myself fairly healthy, play racket-ball or squash every week, and had only needed to see a Doctor about 3 times over the last 25 years and had no real symptoms to speak of, just a ‘hesitancy’ in flow when going to urinate, which most of the time I put down to a pulled muscle or something.
I suppose it was fortunate for us that because a neighbour had just been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, it meant we were made aware of the prostate itself (never really knew what it was before), and Anita insisted I see our Doctor, for a check-up, when we went back to the UK for a holiday in the July.
We arrived in the UK on Sunday July 11th, made appointment on Monday, saw Doctor on Tuesday 13th and he performed a rectal examination during which he said he could feel that the prostate was enlarged. At the same time he took a blood test (PSA test). Our Doctor was excellent, he completed a Fast-Track Consultancy Form and faxed it to the hospital, we received an appointment straight back for the Thursday 15th. The one day of waiting was very emotional, we already feared it was bad news but didn’t know the extent.
Thursday 15th arrived and off we went to see the consultant. He explained the results of the PSA blood test indicated I had Prostate Cancer. He said a normal PSA level is below 5; between 5 and 10 it can indicate either an infection or an enlarged prostate (which can be quite common in men as they get older), and anything above 10 could indicate cancer. When he told me my PSA level was 141 I was shocked and extremely frightened, I felt sick. A biopsy was needed to confirm the diagnosis, along with MRI and bone scans to check for any spread of the cancer. The biopsy confirmed the cancer was ‘just’ outside of the prostate, MRI scans indicated that the lymph nodes were possibly cancerous
Naturally I first went through all the endless questions: What caused it? Why me? How long do I have? Then I calmed down and began to research the various options available and there are many, especially ’if’ it is caught in the early stages. Unfortunately for me, because the diagnosis wasn’t made early enough, there is no apparent cure, just the option of controlling the cancer (hopefully for a good few years, until such time medical research comes up with a cure for advanced prostate cancer).
For some time after that I was travelling back to the UK every 12 weeks for treatment, but this soon became too time consuming, and expensive, so to be able to have access to the Spanish Health System I registered as Self-Employed here in Spain.
Anita contacted our GP and the hospital in UK to obtain copies of our medical records – this was simply done. You write to request the records, they send you a form to complete and inform you of the cost. In our case it was £50 for Anita’s records, £30 for my GP records and as I was a current patient at the hospital, my hospital records relating to the prostate cancer were not charged for.
Armed with my records, and an interpreter, I made an appointment to see my allocated Spanish doctor. I informed the Doctor that I had been diagnosed in UK with prostate cancer and my treatment consisted of an injection every 12 weeks, and a tablet every day, and asked if they could give me the same. There were no problems, she just wrote out the prescription and at the same time asked me to attend for blood tests. She referred me to a Urologist in Huercal-Overa and said the results of the blood tests would be forwarded to him, so when I went to see him he would have all the information he needs. I saw the urologist a few weeks later, mainly just to introduce myself and he was happy to know that all was well with me, and basically said no problems with your blood tests, just keep taking the medication.
To-date I am still on the same medication and have had no reason to revisit the consultant – this will happen only when my PSA level is not being controlled by the medication; I have a PSA test every month or so, to keep track of any rise.
I am, however, confident that when the time comes that I do start to have problems that the Spanish system will look after me as good as, if not better, than the UK would do.
The one thing we found lacking, here in Spain, is access to support systems and support groups, such as MacMillan nurses etc. in UK, so we were very happy when we heard that Elaine started MACS it was a great relief.
We are aware that as my condition deteriorates that we will need support, it will be difficult to ‘think’ who to turn to, especially if going through a traumatic time, so knowing that MACS is in place and thriving provides me with peace of mind.
To have the opportunity to meet such people as Elaine and the other patients/survivors is very good, just a shame that the big ‘C’ is what brings us all together – but hopefully we can all help each other with information, assistance, friendship, all in such abundance in MACS.
Our eternal gratitude goes to Elaine for putting MACS together at the same time as going through her own traumas – it shows the determination she has to ‘make a difference’. Thanks Elaine.