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A man battling prostate cancer says he “wouldn’t be here today” if not for a talk at work, which helped him spot a crucial symptom.
Graham Rooms, who worked as a firefighter, didn’t think the information was applicable to him.
But months later, in May 2019, despite feeling perfectly healthy, Graham noticed his urination pressure had dropped slightly.
Recalling that such a tiny change could be a symptom, he got himself checked out.
And in October 2019, tests revealed he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
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He said: “Specialists sat me down and told me I had an aggressive grade cancer.
“My wife was with me at the doctors, there were a lot of tears.
“That weekend was the darkest of my life following my diagnosis – with aggressive prostate cancer, the immediate thoughts are of death.”
Later that month Graham, now 58, had surgery to remove his prostate at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
He said: “The only suggestion for me was imminent surgery in the hope it would get the cancer out my body before it would spread.”
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But scans revealed the cancer had already spread beyond the prostate, to the seminal vesicles and bladder, so the surgery wasn’t the end of it.
He had 37 sessions of radiotherapy to target the remaining cancer cells in 2020.
Further tests and scans in 2022 showed Graham, who is now retired, had cancerous areas in the lymph nodes, pelvic wall and just outside the pelvic region.
Doctors confirmed they would no longer be aiming to cure Graham, but to control and suppress the cancer.
“That was as dark a day as the day the cancer was first detected,” he recalled.
“I knew I had it for life and I’ll die of it. I asked my doctor my prognosis, and she said hopefully I could make it to 10 years.”
Graham, who lives with wife Karen, 58, and daughter, Emma, 22, in Talaton, Devon, added: “Now, it’s just a case of making every moment count and living life to the full.
In November 2022, Graham started on a hormone treatment and a chemotherapy drug that has been able to control and suppress his cancer.
While they will never be able to cure it, it means Graham is able to live a more normal life between his monitoring sessions every two months.
But he has to manage side effects from the drugs – including fatigue, weight gain and hair loss.
He also experiences chronic lymphoedema – painful swelling of the limbs as a result of his removed lymph nodes.
Despite that, he says he has “embraced the situation” and is aiming to “live life to the full” after the experience.
Now Graham is urging others to be aware of the symptoms to look out for.
To calculate your risk of prostate cancer, use the Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker at prostatecanceruk.org/risk-checker.
Symptoms of prostate cancer often do not appear in the early stages but can include:
- Needing to urinate more frequently, often during the night
- Needing to rush to the toilet
- Difficulty in starting to urinate (hesitancy)
- Straining or taking a long time while urinating
- Weak flow
- Feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully
- Blood in urine or blood in semen
- Bone and back pain
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the testicles
- Unintentional weight loss.
If you experience symptoms, speak to your GP.
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