Dirk Human – Open and upfront
Once Dirk Human was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he learnt quickly how imperative it was to share what he was feeling with his family for them to better understand his experience.
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Dirk Wynand Human (51) lives in Pretoria, Gauteng with Angela-Lee, his wife, of 28 years. They have a 25-year-old daughter, Marilee.
In January 2022 Dirk consulted his GP as he had chest pains which turned out to be stress related. Due to Dirk doing a full blood test a while back, the GP suggested another full blood test and since he was 50, it included a PSA test.
“The overall blood test results were good except for a relatively high PSA blood count that was in a range that indicated that there might be cancer present. Following the results, I made an appointment with a urologist who performed a biopsy in theatre,” Dirk explains.
Hearing the diagnosis rattled him even though his father had brain cancer. “I didn’t take it well; I went through the crying and anger stages,” he says.
Choosing his preferred treatment pathway
“All the treatment options were explained to me in detail with all the benefits and side effects. Both my urologist and oncologist suggested brachytherapy (placing radioactive sources in the prostate gland) which proved to be the best option since I’m still young, and it was still at Stage 1. Added to that, I chose brachytherapy since it seems to be the most effective and less invasive than surgery with minimal side effects,” Dirk says.
In addition, Dirk’s oncologist suggested at least 25 volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) treatments, another form of radiation therapy and two androgen deprivation treatments to ensure the cancer doesn’t return.
Dirk adds, “I agreed to the additional treatment based on the reasoning to eradicate all traces of cancer and to prevent further spreading.”
Managing the side effects
Dirk says he was mostly tired during treatment. “Thankfully, I stayed at home for a month during and a month after the VMAT treatments. My employer allowed me total flexibility on my working hours during this time which really allowed me to get enough rest especially when the extreme tiredness kicked in.”
“During the VMAT sessions my wife gave me various AIM supplements twice daily to ensure optimal alkaline balance in my body; probiotics to help my digestive system; vitamins and trace minerals to strengthen my immune system and calcium to strengthen my bones. We also adjusted our diet to include lots of green vegetables and good protein, lots of water and then made rest a priority.” “For my skin I used Dove soap and Eucerin body cream for extra protection as advised by the wonderful ladies at the radiology unit. These assisted my recovery process and ensured that I had minimal side effects in comparison to the norm of VMAT.”
“However, the entire experience did take a toll on me in coming to terms with the reality of the situation. The cancer, treatment and side effects make me feel depressed. It took a part of my humanity with it because I feel that I’ll never be the same again.
I struggle to be one of those happy cancer survivors and maybe one day I will, but for now I still need to understand why it happened.”
Open and honest with family
When asked if he speaks openly about having prostate cancer, Dirk responds, “No, I don’t tell everybody I meet that I had it. I do talk about it if it’s questioned but generally not.
I have, however, learnt that it’s vital to share what I was feeling with my loved ones to enable a better understanding of what I was experiencing and how it was affecting my mental health.”
Message to other men
“After going through this whole process, my message to other men is: get the PSA test done annually and don’t just go to the first urologist you find or suggested by your GP. Ask around and if you’re not comfortable with or don’t get a good feeling about the urologist, then find an alternative one. My first encounter was with a horrible urologist who was so impersonal and rude.”
“Luckily, I had a good mind to walk out of his office. When I do talk about my experience, I recommend my current doctors, who were excellent in their manner and of course their medical treatment really saved my life.”
This article is sponsored by Astellas Oncology in the interest of education, awareness and support. The content and opinions expressed are entirely the patient’s own work and not influenced by Astellas in any way.