Blythe House has enabled me to focus on “living the new normal” and get on with my life and appreciate more; the Living Well name is so accurate because that’s exactly what it encourages you to do. It has given me hope for the future; it encourages you to live in the immediate moment, but see beyond into the future, by carrying on living instead of constantly worrying.
Mark got in touch with Blythe House within a week of being diagnosed with advanced, aggressive prostate cancer in April 2018. Since then, the 61-year-old grandfather of 12 has accessed different care and services including counselling, complimentary therapies and the prostate cancer support group, alongside his wonderful, supportive wife, Mary.
Disley resident Mark was an ultra-fell runner and would regularly take part in 25 to 30 mile runs and 40mile races during his weekends. The Manchester City Council construction manager explained: ‘I used to be very overweight so decided enough was enough and that I needed to lose some weight. I got involved in ultra-running and so I knew very well how my body worked; when I could carry on and when a little niggle was just that, or when enough was enough. One weekend, while on a 35mile run, I got a pain in my right hip; it did not seem to be budging so I went to a drop-in clinic near my work in Manchester.
‘The nurse advised that it was perhaps just a strain I’d picked up during the race. She gave me some medication but after week, the pain was still there. I went to see my GP, who advised that hip pain is a symptom of advanced prostate cancer, and she referred me for tests at Stepping Hill Hospital. I underwent different examinations including a digital rectal examination, as well as whole body and bone scans.
‘I then went on holiday to visit my son and grandchildren in Germany, and when I got back, it was time to find out my results (on my 60th birthday!) I said to Mary, “I feel like someone has got my whole life in their hands, and they’re going to make decisions on what’s going to happen to me.” When the test results came back, I asked if could look at the scans to check that it was actually my name on them, as they may have got them mixed up with someone else. I wanted to check that it was me, who had advanced prostate cancer that had spread to my bones and lymph nodes. My life was turned upside down.
‘I started androgen deprivation hormone therapy treatment that very day; it made me realise that it must be bad, if they’re starting treatment the very same day! I also underwent chemotherapy and endured the horrendous side effects including losing my hair, eyelashes and putting on weight.
‘Mary and I were pretty desperate and needed some support. Ironically, we used to live off Long Lane in Chapel-en-le-Frith and often wondered what went on at Blythe House but we never needed to use the services. I started to come to the Living Well day-care service in January 2019 and enjoyed 12 weeks of amazing care and support. I didn’t have to put on a face when I walked in Blythe House; if people asked how you were, it’s because they genuinely wanted to know, and they listened properly to your worries and concerns. Work colleagues and family are so supportive and well meaning, but unless you’ve had cancer or you’ve got it, you just don’t know how someone going through it can be feeling.
‘My key worker, Claire [Rimmer, senior nurse] and I had a really good bond; I felt heard and understood. It was exactly what I needed. If I ever needed someone other than my family, I wouldn’t go to Stepping Hill, I’d come to Claire; whenever you speak to her, you feel like you’re the only person she’s looking after. As part of the Living Well experience, I have had acupuncture sessions, as well as reiki and HEARTS with Carol [Stainer, complimentary therapist]; I was totally open minded about the therapies, but wow, they were out of this world and made an astounding difference to my mental and physical wellbeing, it was so relaxing. I have also found counselling sessions with Jacqui [Chadwick, counsellor] incredibly beneficial to talk about the mental health aspects of my illness.
‘As well as Living Well care and services, Mary and I have had amazing support from the prostate cancer support group. There is a mutual, unspoken understanding in the group; we all have the same problem and we’re all in different places but it’s important that there’s other people in my, and Mary’s, positions, who can provide advice and friendship.
‘Blythe House has ensured that Mary and I are not isolated in our situation; we’re not the first people to encounter anything like this. There is a tendency to think that no one knows what you’ve got, but Blythe House is so specialist in what it does. Being the person that I am, I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to run more than ten miles, it used to take me around five miles just to warm up! I haven’t hung up my trainers just yet, and I’ve starting cycling on part of my commute to work which feels unbelievably good!
‘Blythe House has enabled me to focus on “living the new normal” and get on with my life and appreciate more; the Living Well name is so accurate because that’s exactly what it encourages you to do. It has given me hope for the future; it encourages you to live in the immediate moment, but see beyond into the future, by carrying on living instead of constantly worrying.’