Blasted by seeds: Tom McGrath's story
One man's story of his chance diagnosis of prostate cancer, and his road to recovery with brachytherapy
Tom McGrath was a fit and seemingly healthy 54-year old when he changed his doctor to one closer to his home in Wellington, New Zealand. His new General Practitioner ran a comprehensive health check, including the prostate-specific-antigen (PSA) test that indicates risk of prostate cancer. When the test returned an elevated result indicating cancer the news came as a shock for Tom.
"The scariest thing is if I had not changed doctor I might not even know now that I had prostate cancer," says Tom.
A biopsy confirmed that the presence of a tumour that was still confined to the prostate gland. Tom and his wife, author Julia Millen, began to assess treatment options.
Tom leads an active life with recreational interests of Latin American dancing, mountain biking and ocean swimming. He looked for a treatment with the best chance of preserving his quality of life as well as killing the cancer.
Despite LDR brachytherapy’s long history in New Zealand, Tom said he was not initially told it could be an option for him. He discovered the treatment through reading a book on prostate cancer.
“Many guys go for surgery. I was concerned about hospitalisation and the far reaching effects surgery might have.”
Julia was adamant about LDR brachytherapy.
“As soon as I read about seeds I knew this was it. I was worried Tom would get depressed with the other treatments as he is so active.”
This is a sentiment that Tom echoes. “We understood that in terms of outcomes, LDR brachytherapy was similar to other treatments including surgery and conventional radiation therapy. The big difference for us was the minimal inconvenience offered by brachytherapy. Being told you have cancer can be frightening enough without the daunting prospect of a long recovery from treatment. The ability to get straight back into those pursuits that make me happy was a big factor in our decision.”
Tom was back at work the week after his procedure and within two weeks was competing in open water swimming events. His specialists advise that he is most likely cured.
The experience has inspired Tom to put words to paper and write a book as a way to record his experience. Blasted by Seeds is currently the only book in the world about LDR brachytherapy written from a patient perspective. Tom says he hope it helps men.
“There wasn’t a lot of information offered to me about brachytherapy. We had to actively ask doctors after we read about it. I think it’s important to know as much as possible about treatment options and the journey ahead and I hope this book is of use to both men and their partners.”
“It’s an account with a few unexpected turns in it and an outcome that is quite a lot better than some – its got a fair bit of good news”.
Blasted by Seeds is available to buy online at http://www.bookpublishing.co.nz/blasted-by-seeds.php
Hear Tom's story in his own words in this video:
Video provided courtesy of The New Zealand Herald/newspix.co.nz