Sputnik Ratau – Sharing our experiences is important
Sputnik Ratau explains why he is open to share his experience of prostate cancer in hopes of other men learning what to look out for.
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Sputnik Ratau (65) lives in Johannesburg, Gauteng. He is a widower with six children and three grandchildren.
Due to Sputnik’s older brother’s diagnosis of prostate cancer, he became aware of the signs and symptoms. “It made me think of my father, he was never diagnosed but now knowing the symptoms, it’s possible that he had it. Also, my cousin seemed to also be battling with similar symptoms, so this prompted me to know my status,” Sputnik says.
In 2019, Sputnik consulted with a doctor and was upfront about wanting to know if he had the same condition as his brother. Various tests were done and the doctor explained that there was a small problem.
“I wasn’t anxious about it, I was open-minded and prepared myself for the worst, so I could deal with anything in-between,” Sputnik says.
Sputnik was later diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer. “The doctor reassured me that the best time to diagnose prostate cancer is in its early stages.”
Sputnik first had a transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). This is a surgery to remove parts of the prostate gland through the penis and to help relieve prostate cancer symptoms like difficulty urinating.
He was then given other treatment options but due to his prostate cancer being in the early stages, brachytherapy was recommended as the most effective treatment with a good success rate and minimal side effects.
Sputnik found brachytherapy to be a seamless procedure and says he hasn’t had any side effects. After brachytherapy Sputnik went for check-ups twice a year but after his check-up this February, he now only has to go once a year.
“My children were there to support me, but it was my aunt who works in the health sector who really understood everything I was going through,” Sputnik explains.
Educating other men
The 65-year-old says even though he doesn’t know his brother’s exact treatment other than it’s still ongoing, he and his brother support each other.
“I’m open about having prostate cancer as firstly it is a matter of sharing my experience and sharing our experiences is important, but mostly to encourage other men to be aware of it and to advocate early detection saves lives,” Sputnik says.
“Men need to know that if they don’t attend to it, it can be very devastating in the later stages and it always helps to know the status of your health. So, we as men need to widen the circle of knowledge so other men know what to look out for so it doesn’t become a killer.” Sputnik has spoken to his eldest son, who is close to turning 40, about having regular PSA screenings.
Hidden issues revealed
When asked about mental health in men, Sputnik responds, “COVID was a difficult time but it had the positive spinoff where some of the hidden issues were able to come upfront. To put it bluntly, in my culture, if you had mental health issues, you were classified as mad. But, thankfully COVID brought in the other aspects of mental health, like depression and anxiety, that we wouldn’t normally attend to, and exposed the conditioning that men don’t cry, and now we see the walls breaking down around that. Now we see all people as human and we all have feelings, even men, and this will help in the long run in that we all have the right to breakdown every now and then, or express ourselves when things are not going that well.”
Sputnik retired last year November but says he hasn’t yet been able to reap the rewards of retirement, like leisurely reading, as he is still involved in some projects. Sputnik says, “It’s almost like a tailspin, from moving from one project to another but it keeps me busy.”
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.