On the first day of National Blog Posting Month, #NaBloPoMo and #NanoPoBlano (hello, everyone!), I wasn’t expecting to be writing a post about my husband, Andrew Horsfall. But the first face I saw when I went online this morning was his smiling face on Facebook telling me he was doing Movember again this year. Before you wonder what kind of cold-hearted relationship we have, finding out about each other via Facebook posts, I should point out that Andrew’s job takes him away from home most weeks, and it makes more sense for him to live in London (he rents a room there) from Monday to Friday, rather than in the small Wiltshire town that’s been our home for the past 13 years. So although he’d told me about Movember, he wasn’t here in person to remind me that he’s growing facial hair in November to raise money for the Movember Foundation, a charity that works to fund projects to do with men’s health, specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health and suicide prevention.
Last year, when he was 45 years old, Andrew was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
I wrote this post not long after we’d first found out that Andrew had cancer. To say the diagnosis was a shock for Andrew and for all of his family and friends is a huge understatement. None of Andrew’s lifestyle choices pointed to him being at risk of developing prostate cancer. He was young, not overweight, a non-smoker, a moderate drinker, and active – a Sports Science graduate with a life-long interest in sport and a regular middle-distance runner . The only symptom Andrew had was needing to urinate more often during the night and he thought that this was probably to do with getting a little older and was something he’d just have to live with.
A male friend talked to Andrew
But something made Andrew mention to a work colleague and friend that everything wasn’t right. I never imagine men having these kinds of conversations but I’m extremely glad Andrew did. The friend, who’d had prostate issues which turned out not to be cancer, suggested Andrew go to see his GP – “just to check it out.” It’s highly unlikely to be cancer, everyone said, because you’re only 45, you’re not overweight, you lead quite a healthy life, etc. etc. – read about some of the symptoms and statistics about prostate cancer here – but Andrew went to see his GP.
“It’s highly unlikely to be cancer……” the doctor said “but let’s check you out.”
I’ve heard of some doctors not offering an examination to someone as young and fit-looking as Andrew when they present with prostate issues but I’m really glad our GP wasn’t like this. Maybe he looked at Andrew’s records and saw that he was hardly ever ill and was rarely in the surgery. Anyway, he examined Andrew, felt a small lump, and sent him off for further tests. “It’s highly unlikely………” etc.
The results came back positive.
There was a small tumour. After so many people had told us this would be highly unlikely, it took quite a while for the truth to sink in. Gradually Andrew, and the rest of us, adjusted to the news. Further tests followed to establish how slow- or fast-growing the tumour was and whether Andrew had to act quickly or had some time to decide on his next course of action. While all of this was going on, Andrew continued to work at his job as a software consultant. He works for a wonderful company, a small, family-owned British business whose owners gave Andrew time and space to live with his diagnosis.
Subsequent tests showed the tumour was growing quickly and becoming aggressive.
Initial tests showed the tumour was small and hadn’t spread beyond the prostate but subsequent tests showed the tumour was growing quickly and becoming aggressive. Andrew was advised to undergo a radical prostatectomy. And that’s what he did, earlier this year. I won’t go into the ins and outs and ups and downs of what Andrew’s been through and of what this past year has been like for him, me, our teenage children, Andrew’s mother and sister, and all of our close friends and family.
There is no fairytale ending
I could tell you that it’s been a difficult year but that everything has worked out well in the end, but cancer isn’t like that, not in my experience. A radical prostatectomy isn’t a walk in the park. Although that isn’t to say that we have so much to be grateful for – believe me, we do, and I know it. Andrew is currently clear of cancer and that is wonderful. It’s more than wonderful to confront the cold, brutal fact that someone you love might die and then be given the means, because of modern surgery, because of a National Health Service, that will ensure that person goes on living.
More than ever, I feel blessed and privileged to be with a fantastic man. Of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, marrying Andrew was the very best one, I’m happy to declare it.
Talk, talk, talk.
One thing we’ve both learned from this difficult year has been how important talking to each other is, as well as talking to your family, your work colleagues, your friends. If Andrew had kept quiet and done nothing about his early symptoms, the tumour could have grown and spread and would have then been more difficult to treat. If his work colleague hadn’t been open and talked about something which is, let’s face it, pretty embarrassing, Andrew wouldn’t have made that initial appointment with his GP.
News of Andrew’s cancer became known last year when he signed up for Movember and shared his page on social media and it was a relief to be able to talk openly about some of what he was going through. This is Andrew’s story, not mine, but we are intrinsically linked.
Andrew tells his male friends and acquaintances to get themselves checked out if they have any concerns about health issues and I support him in this. One person has been in touch with me to say that he has had a similar story to Andrew, that he found out he had early stage prostate cancer because he went for a check up after reading one of my blog posts. If that person is reading this, I’m sending you love and strength, heaps of it.
Thanks to everyone for reading this post. If you’d like to make a donation to Andrew’s Movember hairiness, his page is here.