Life after 'couples disease': Retired Waterford teacher shares battle with cancer

Dylan White

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Dylan White

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dylan.white@iconicnews.ie

Retired Waterford teacher shares battle with cancer

Waterford's Mark Jordan overcame prostate cancer

A retired secondary school teacher living in Waterford has opened up about his battle with prostate cancer, using the experience to raise awareness and break the stigma that surrounds men’s health.

Dungarvan's Mark Jordan was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years at the age of 67. “Two of my brothers got prostate cancer when they turned 60, so I would have been getting blood tests and my PSA levels checked regularly. My PSA had gone above the level for my age, so I was sent for a digital rectal exam where the doctor got an idea of changes in the prostate. I had a nodule on my prostate and had to go for a biopsy because of my high levels of PSA,” Mark tells Waterford Live.

Mark's recovery was rapid. He was “very positive” after surgery, but feared the side-effects of the “couple’s disease”. He explains: “Prostate cancer brings a lot of difficulties into the home. I feared erectile dysfunction and incontinence. The idea of leaking and not being able to control urine is a scary thing. I was wearing pads that absorb very rapidly, but psychologically you have that fear of being out in public and that you might wet yourself and the odour that comes with that.”

Mark says getting into the routine of doing rigid exercises for the pelvic floor muscles is essential after surgery. “You can get back to a normal life. It takes six to eight weeks to go from no control at all to complete control. The problem for some men is that they give up and once that happens you are on a downward slope and may not be able to come back. Support from your partner during this time is incredibly important.”

Mark feels such is the extent of the stigma that surrounds prostate cancer that “some men would rather die than admit they have it”. He continues: “There's nothing worse than having someone who loves you and you won't talk about it with them. I have met men that won't talk about it, even with their spouses, and it's just unbelievable. Men seem to have this view that without their penis they are nothing and wearing nappies is the ultimate disgrace on top of erectile dysfunction for them.”

Mark encourages men to record their PSA levels every time they get them checked and question any rise in levels, even if it is still within a normal range for the given age category. He also advises men with prostate cancer to speak to their doctor about the different treatment options available. 

“It will spread to your lymph system and bones, which is the killer, if you don’t catch it early. All men have to do is go to the doctor and have a PSA test done. Men should be conscious and aware of their PSA levels each time they get it done. The doctor should give you the figure, so when you go back the next time you will know if there is a difference, instead of just being told that you're fine.

“I had an MRI done and it helped them identify where the prostate cancer was, which contributed to my outcome being so good. 35% of my prostate was malignant when they removed it and it was only a matter of time before it spread, so I was very lucky,” the father-of-four adds.

Mark has set up a website to help men with prostate cancer. More information is available here