A well-thought out battle

Peter Walsh thought through every step of his cancer journey

  • May. 4, 2016 9:00 a.m.

Peter Walsh weighted the odds

Peter Walsh is a pragmatic guy. He deals with life in a realistic, sensible way and that extended to his cancer journey. Throughout his life he’s experienced when one door closes another door opens.

An educator all his life, making decisions comes easy to Peter and when the time came to determine his course of action for his cancer, that was simple.

Peter was diligent in his PSA testing, regular as clockwork and his numbers remained steady around 2.5 – 3.

However, in the fall of 2009 they spiked to 7 (this number sets off alarm bells for most doctors, triggering further testing).

“Now what do we do,” was Peter’s first question.

Local urologist Dr. Jeff Thomas referred Peter to Prince George oncologist Dr. Hampole.

“We weighed out my options after another PSA test confirmed the number as 7,” he said.

Options included wait and see; radiation; chemotherapy; or removal.

As was Peter’s style, his immediate response was, “somethings gone wrong, get rid of it.”

Erring on the side of caution, Dr. Hampole wanted a biopsy before operating to ensure and locate any possible cancer as he reminded Peter PSA tests aren’t 100 per cent conclusive.

“Because I’d had a long history of low numbers, this high number was a dramatic change,” Peter reminded the doctor.

The biopsy was done in Quesnel and cancer was confirmed in both sides of his prostate.

“Then we got down to brass tacks regarding the options.”

Dr. Hampole discussed the side effects of removal and one was the probability of nerve damage in removing all the cancer resulting in impairing the patient’s sexual performance.

“I’d rather have no sex life than no life at all,” Peter said in his typical pragmatic way.

The decision was made, they would move forward with removing Peter’s prostate and the operation was done by Dr. Hampole in Prince George. Peter remained for a very short period of time in hospital then discharged with a catheter which remained in place for a couple of weeks.

Peter couldn’t say enough good things about his supportive wife Olive.

“She was level-headed and sensible which was such a bonus at that time.

A month later his PSA test revealed detectable remnant cancer cells and Dr. Hampole recommended radiation treatments at the nearest clinic at the time in Kelowna.

“I had daily, five days a week treatments for six weeks. I set up house in Kelowna but was able to drive home on the weekends,” he said.

Although radiation was tiring and he experienced a few other side effects, the staff were very accommodating so on one particular day they were all set scrambling when Peter became alarmed with unusual symptoms like burning.

When he reminded them it was April 1 (April Fools Day), they were not amused.

“A sense of humour is critical for times like these,” he said with a sly smile.

Since completing his radiation treatments, Peter is happy to report his PSA levels have been less than 0.01 or classed as undetectable. In 2015 he was declared cancer-free.

“I no longer have to go to Kelowna for check ups but I see Dr. Hampole annually for a check up with him.”

According to Peter it is a matter of playing the cards you’re dealt.

“You can’t change the facts, you just have to change your attitude.”

He admits he doesn’t have a bucket list, no longed-for unfulfilled dreams.

“I love my wife and she loves me and that’s enough.”

Peter has been a member of the Quesnel Canadian Cancer Society and was Santa Claus for their seasonal fundraiser. He has supported Relay for Life and this year is a member of Coralee Oakes team Coralee’s Cruisers.

Relay for Life is a celebration of people like Peter who are currently living cancer-free and a memorial for those who lost their battle with cancer.

This year, Relay is on Friday, May 27, 5 – 11 p.m. in Baker Creek. Register your team online www.relayfor life.ca/quesnel). Everyone is welcome.

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