12 November 2014

John Monaghan, a successful engineering lecturer in Trinity College Dublin, speaks about his battle with prostate cancer.

John Monaghan's Inspiring Story
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

We sat down with John Monaghan (the John on the right of the photo), who is currently undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. He spoke so openly and honestly about his disease that he's an inspiration to men all over Ireland. He gives a great account of what it's like dealing with his diagnosis and treatment. This is his inspiring, and sometimes funny, prostate cancer story:

"In 2010 when I was 66, as you do when you get a travel pass, I decided to learn how to fly an aeroplane. I was taking flying lessons and went through my flight medical, everything was fine. This was april 2010. Every November, myself and my sister go separately to get our health checked. We agreed to do that when our parents died.

In April 2011, I had to go to the Irish Aviation doctor for my yearly medical. The next day the doctor rang me up and told me to go back to my GP straight away; my PSA levels had quadrupled. After discussing It with my doctor, we decided to wait a while and see if they would go back down again. By May, they hadn’t gone back down, so I went to see consultant. I went to see Kieran O’Malley and that was towards the end of June. He did a digital rectal exam and thought that there was nothing too serious. He said that if there was anything there, it was contained within the prostate. But he said, to be sure, let’s do a biopsy.

At the end of July 2011, myself and my wife were called in and the doctor said "Yes, you do have cancer. However, I think it’s contained within the prostate so we’ll set the date for the end of August." Unfortunately, the operation took longer than anticipated because, as it turns out, the tumer was very big and by that time the cancer had spread. It was locally advanced. I had robotic surgery which was fantastic, I was out of the hospital within three days and had the catheter removed within a week. I was back driving very soon and was back teaching in Trinity within three weeks and was back flying within two months.

The only side-effect was that I was incontinent. All of the excersices weren’t improving things. They said that it’ll get better and that it would take several months but it didn’t. It became very obvious that by the middle of next year, something needed to be done. All through this time, myself and my incontinent pad were flying all over the country, training to get my pilots license. It was funny, you had to make sure that you stopped in airports that you could change. In my case at the time, happiness was a dry bum. It was decided by myself and doctors that they'd fit me with this artificial male sphincter that aids men without a prostate to be able to control their urination.

Unfortunately, when getting tests after this device was inserted, my PSA levels rose. I was told that there was a possibility that this could happen. After getting the device inserted I could then could go to the bathroom fine. But my PSA levels began to rise again and in the beginning of 2013, it was decided that I should have radiotherapy. I started radiotherapy in the beginning of May 2013, that was seven weeks, every day. My PSA levels began to drop. Everything was going fine, until the artificial sphincter stopped working. I had to get it replaced.
There were issues in replacing it and I subsequently had to go in for another operation. That was a week ago and now I’m recovering here at home. I’m under strict house arrest, presumably after my bad behaviour last time (when I was driving, flying, walking and lifting things everywhere). I’m not allowed to lift anything heavier than a kettle. I have been taking Hormone Injections every 3months to control cancer cell activity - and so far they are working and reducing my PSA to practically zero.
In terms of how I coped with it, I found help from other people very comforting. My son got involved in the Movember campaign as soon as he heard and he was raising funds and awareness amongst all of his friends. I found the information that was on the Men Against Cancer Website, and The Irish Cancer Society’s Website very useful. It was great to know about all the side-effects, the process of treatment and the symptoms.

Since being diagnosed, I’ve tried to talk to all the people who are in and about my own age and asked them to get themselves checked. Telling them that if they want information that they should go onto the Movember Website and The Irish Cancer Society’s Website. More to the point, if you want to talk to people, there are people in this group MAC, who’ve been through it, who can talk to you. It’s important to keep a positive attitude throughout your treatment and other people can help you through that. I received a candle from one of my friends at the start of my treatment that had a lovely inscription on it: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

You can help men like John with his battle here by donating to The Movember Foundation here.