“I’m on a crusade now”: Kurt Jewson discusses prostate cancer

February 18th 2016 ...in category Healthcare News

Overnight Kurt Jewson became a spokesperson for prostate cancer after he posted a photograph of himself in his boxer shorts, catheter, stoma bag and all. I spoke to him about what it has been like to suddenly be propelled into the national news.

Getting the message across

“It’s been a pretty full on week, the story has gone everywhere – radio, television. It’s been tiring too, I’m still on therapy. I’ve been the spokesman for prostate cancer this week, and I feel an obligation now to get the message across.

“One of the things I didn’t realise was how many messages I would get. I’ve had messages from men who’ve had symptoms saying I’m not sure whether to go or not, and are asking should I go to the doctor. That’s a pivotal moment, and of course the answer is yes, go and see your doctor!

“I’m on a crusade now. I didn’t have a clue about prostate cancer before my diagnosis. And one of the fundamental things I’m seeing is that most men don’t actually know what their prostate is, where it is, or what it does. It’s not a bit of the body we’re familiar with and I think that’s the step we’re missing. Before you talk about symptoms you need to know what it is.

“There’s one simple message I want to get over to GPs – if a man turns up to see you, already you should be worried because men are very reluctant to go to their GP in the first place. I think GP education is key - a man in his 40s or 50s can have prostate cancer.”

Dealing with diagnosis and treatment

Kurt was 44 when he first discovered blood in his urine and went to see his doctor, who reassured him it was likely to be an infection and would clear up on its own. Indeed, this symptom disappeared, but a year later Kurt went back when he noticed reduced semen volume.

“My GP invited me in to see him, and I thought my god this is serious. My blood tests showed my PSA [prostate-specific antigen] was very elevated. The GP did a rectal examination and confirmed there was a tumour.

“With PSA that elevated it normally indicates the cancer has spread. Those initial few days after the PSA test results were horrific. They had told me this doesn’t look good, it’s probably spread – they didn’t give a time frame but they were talking about quality of life. I took some long walks with my wife – we’ve got two kids who are 12 and 9 years old, and we talked about how would they do without me.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer you want treatment to happen this afternoon. Which is why I decided to go to a specialist centre in London. I had lots of tests, and miraculously it was a locally advanced tumour but it hadn’t spread. That was brilliant news, and it gave me a glimmer of hope, but the advanced stage of the tumour also meant it was harder to operate on than it would have been if it had been caught earlier.”

Kurt’s tumour was successfully removed, but unfortunately he experienced serious complications after the surgery. Kurt’s bowel had perforated and he developed septicaemia, putting him in a critical condition in hospital for five and half weeks. Scar tissue in his bowel area caused a fistula to develop, and eventually doctors had to insert a catheter and perform an ileostomy (the small intestine is diverted to an opening in the abdomen). Earlier this year Kurt had an operation to close the fistula, although he still has the stoma bag and catheter.

“I’m having the catheter out next week, and the ileostomy will be out soon. But I’m still here! I’m quite positive even though I’ve had all this stuff going on. I get tired but other than I’m fine.

“I think the two most important things have been being confident in my consultant’s ability, and having a wife I love, who is intelligent and can give me her opinion too – she’s like my PA in all of this! A competent person in both departments is a bonus. And of course all the nurses and doctors have been fantastic; we’ve had really good support from them. My subsequent GP has been very supportive and accessible too.”

Increasing GP awareness

“I’m not angry about that first GP appointment, but I am disappointed the first GP I saw didn’t take it more seriously at the time. It was a missed opportunity. In fact, my consultant was surprised that given my age and having blood in my urine that the GP didn’t order a PSA test.

“I was very concerned at the time and I think the GP should have taken that more seriously. I had no pain, no other symptoms - I was the fittest I’ve ever been, doing mountain biking, body boarding, running; I was fit as a fiddle. There was no other indication of the prostate cancer and that’s why it’s so dangerous. Maybe if I had seen a different GP on a different day they would have dug a little deeper just to make sure.

“I think maybe my younger age was the issue that stopped me getting a PSA test earlier on. It’s a much smaller percentage of younger men that get prostate cancer, but it can happen so GPs need to be aware of that.

"I’ve received messages from people saying they’ve gone back to their GP again and again and again, and eventually it has come out – they’re young and they don’t fit the statistics, but it does happen. Of course, a PSA test doesn’t necessarily tell you have cancer, it can be other things, but I’d rather get it checked out and have a week of worry but know for sure everything is okay.

Looking to the future

“You have this epiphany in your life when you think you might die, and I almost did. I’ve been off work for so long – you ask yourself where do I fit in the world now? Helping to raise awareness about prostate cancer has filled my time while I try to get my head around where I fit in the scheme of things. You think about getting back into life, but ‘normal’ isn’t normal anymore, it all becomes a bit surreal.

“For one thing I’ll be working my way through all the messages I’ve received, and I’ve been invited to a Prostate Cancer UK meeting in London which is about promoting awareness about prostate cancer and maximising early diagnosis to ensure people live long healthy lives.

“Maybe I will be the prostate pants man forever – maybe it is my destiny to be that, but let’s hope not! I think I might take another photo of myself in boxers one day when I’m fitter, and say look at me now!"

Kurt has been heavily in demand in recent days and I thank him for telling me his story, but he seems genuinely grateful that everyone is so interested. You might just save a life, he says.

To find out more about the prostate and the symptoms of prostate cancer visit the Prostate Cancer UK website

About the Author

February 18th 2016
...in category Healthcare News

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