Sixty-six-year-old Brian Holden, from Hassocks in West Sussex, has recently clocked up 10,000 km on his bike since he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer back in October 2016 after having a simple blood test to check PSA levels.
“I can honestly say I’ve cycled my way through my cancer,” he says. “I believe maintaining my fitness has played a major role in staying healthy and psychologically positive. Cycling, Nordic walking and upper body strengthening now play a key part in my life – and you cannot beat the outside ‘green gym’ to lift your spirits!“
However, Brian says he was shocked to be told he had prostate cancer after being referred by his GP to Royal Sussex County Hospital following a raised PSA test.
“I had no symptoms at all but if it wasn’t for the PSA test I think I would be sitting here now with advanced prostate cancer rather than in the healthy position I am in.”
At the time, Brian was faced with a choice of having a radical prostatectomy (partial or complete removal of the prostate) or high dose brachytherapy (internal radiotherapy using tiny rods which deliver high doses of radiation directly to the prostate) together with 15 sessions of external beam radiotherapy (EBR). He turned to his local support group, Mid Sussex Prostate Cancer Support Group, for advice.
“It was really helpful to talk to other men who had gone through a similar thing before making a decision and, with their support and the positive attitude of the people I met in the NHS, I have always felt this was treatable and beatable.”
Brian was first prescribed hormone therapy but suffered with side effects such has hot sweats which led to poor sleep and frequent waking up in the night needing to wee – sometimes hourly. Luckily, his wife Karen discovered the Horizon Centre, based at the Royal Sussex, and its range of complementary therapies.
“I was given acupuncture to help with the sweats and within days the treatment had an effect, reducing the sweats, and resulting in much better sleep. I also had a couple of massage sessions for muscular pains and strains caused by my efforts to maintain fitness, and again these were successful, and enabled me to continue with my active lifestyle.”
“The Macmillan Horizon Centre has excellent facilities and a very calm environment – it’s the perfect place for a relaxing coffee whilst browsing the huge amount of literature available on all sorts of issues affecting cancer sufferers.”
Brian’s PSA levels began to drop and he had brachytherapy and EBR in 2017.
However, over the next four months, the PSA levels started to rise again. Brian had several scans and it was discovered the cancer had spread into the pelvic lymph nodes. He was given 23 sessions of external beam radiotherapy under the care of Dr Angus Robinson clinical lead for oncology for Sussex. Since then Brian’s PSA levels have been “almost undetectable” although he is monitored regularly.
“Years ago, I didn’t even know what a prostate gland was, let alone a PSA test, but I am wise to it now,” says Brian who has spent the past five years supporting other men who have been newly diagnosed and is now the chair of Mid Sussex Prostate Cancer Support Group.
“Being diagnosed with prostate cancer can be quite frightening and lonely. Joining a support group really helps as you are talking to men who have gone through what you are about to go through. And it’s not just for men as the group supports partners and families and too.”
And Brian has nothing but praise for the NHS.
“The NHS will always make their best efforts with all available approved resources to ensure a good outcome. At all stages of investigation and treatment of the prostate cancer, the service given to me was, as always, excellent.”