With one in eight men diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes, a Burnley man has spoken of his experience with the disease in a bid to help Prostate Cancer UK raise awareness of their March for Men in June.
Martin Wells (64), a self-employed Learning Facilitator from Burnley, was diagnosed with localised prostate cancer in 2007 and underwent a radical prostatectomy, and is encouraging everyone and anyone to take part in the March for Men, with Prostate Cancer UK also installing eight, two-metre tall statues in Manchester - seven coloured blue and one black to represent the one in eight men who will get the disease - to represent their mission to education the population.
The UK’s third-biggest cancer killer, prostate cancer impacted Martin not only physically and mentally, but on a psychosocial level after his cancer spread and he had to undergo radiotherapy and hormone suppression therapy for next two and half years, with Martin discussing his experience with erectile dysfunction as a side effect of his treatment and the impact it has had on his life.
“I was aware of some of the side effects, but my main focus at that time was 'am I going to die'," Martin explained. "Once I overcame that, I realised I hadn’t got a sex life. I found it very difficult to deal with the hormone changes at first as it was something I hadn’t experienced before and I felt lost, but I got on with it.
"I was determined to get an erection and in my journey to get that I tried injections, vacuum pumps, and was also told that I could have a penile implant," Martin added. "I realised that wasn’t what was causing the problem; my libido was shot to pieces and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
"It was the psychosocial part that I struggled with and I was not offered the emotional and intellectual support I needed from the hospital," Martin said. "The truth is, no one wants to talk about erections, ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction - had to knock on doors and make every effort to get the treatment I needed. If I didn’t put the energy in, I wouldn’t get anything out.
"The NHS provided me with brilliant treatment in terms of my surgery and radiotherapy, but in terms of living with the side effects, I felt quite empty and abandoned.
"Erectile dysfunction can’t be discussed in isolation and for me, it was more like sexual dysfunction," Martin continued. "There was a service available in Lancashire on psychosexual health and there was one person to deliver that for the whole of this county. It was extremely good to actually talk to somebody who could speak to me on my terms.
"By pushing through and exploring other possibilities with my sex life, I actually discovered I could really enjoy something I hadn’t enjoyed before and that was sensuality. I learnt not just to be positive in my head, but to be positive in my heart. To be positive in the heart, that to me is key to this.
"I’d like to see the money raised from the Manchester March for Men event go towards more research and support for the psychosocial side of prostate cancer," he said. "Come along - you’ll be surprised what you’ll learn.”
One man dies every 45 minutes from prostate cancer according to Prostate Cancer UK, and the disease is a bigger killer than breast cancer, demonstrating how key funding for ground-breaking research into better diagnosis and treatments and for the charity to be able to provide dedicated support and information to men and their families.