Oncology Man

Jeff Kirby-Smith – The experience was a wake-up call

February 7, 2024 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Jeff Kirby-Smith shares how his prostate cancer diagnosis prompted four of his friends to get their PSA levels tested, and advocates the importance of the urologist and oncologist working well together.

You can listen to this article below, or by using your favourite podcast player at pod.link/oncologybuddies

Jeff Kirby-Smith (67) lives in Johannesburg, Gauteng with his wife. They have a twenty-nine-year-old daughter.

It’s thanks to regular annual medical checks-ups that Jeff’s steadily increasing prostate-specific antigen level was noticed (from 2021 to December 2022). “I have been seeing a urologist since 2020; my PSA level increased from below 1.7 in 2021 to 5.9 in December 2022. That December I was sent for an MRI which picked up a shadow and in February 2023 a biopsy confirmed prostate cancer.Throughout this time, I had no symptoms,” Jeff explains.

Jeff was presented three treatment options by his urologist: watchful waiting – do nothing but monitor the PSA level; remove the prostate via robotic surgery; or treat it with brachytherapy (radiated seed implants).

The 67-year-old chose the latter and was referred to an oncologist. “It was explained to me that brachy has similar outcomes to prostate removal surgery, but the side effects of incontinence and libido were less,” Jeff says.

Delay in treatment

But before Jeff could undergo brachytherapy, he had to have two transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) procedures to clear his urethra of obstructions (bladder flaps). Each procedure required three-month recovery periods; during the second recovery period, Jeff was prescribed a hormone blocker injection to limit any cancer growth during the recovery period.

Treatment experience

“The TURP procedures were uncomfortable but surprisingly painless; I was released from hospital after three days on both occasions. The hormone blocker injection was uncomfortable but acceptable though this injection did result in hot flushes and weight gain.

The brachy was also very painless with very little discomfort after a three-day hospital stay. Thankfully, I had no incontinence to speak of, just needed to get to the toilet quickly. Currently, I have no side effects at all with incontinence.

Due to the hormone injection I have an extremely low libido but believe this will come right over time and happy to be patient. One-month post-brachytherapy, my PSA level was below one.” 

Processing the diagnosis

Jeff admits that when he first heard his diagnosis, he initially took it very badly and thought of the worse outcome. Though with the support of his wife and daughter, who is a medical practitioner, he managed to get to a better place of accepting his diagnosis and seeing the way forward.

He adds, “The support function both in and out of hospital is essential. In addition, I have a niece who is a GP and she gave me sound advice and steered me in the right direction (the right oncologist). It’s essential to have a urologist who trusts the oncologist and vice versa. You also need to have a direct and personal link to both medical specialists. Views can differ, and one needs to take measured decisions, and this is why it’s essential for the oncologist and urologist to work well together.”

“Regarding telling my friends, men simply don’t discuss this kind of condition amongst themselves; it’s not right. To make matters worse very few of my male friends knew their PSA status. Since my experience three out of four of my friends have now measured PSAs above acceptable levels. The fourth is borderline. Two are now positive after biopsy tests.”

I owe it to myself

Jeff concludes by saying his family’s support was outstanding and he would have really struggled without them. “The experience has been a wake-up call; I’m watching my diet and committed to getting fitter. I owe it to myself to look after my health and be positive for the future.

Editor Laurelle Williams

MEET OUR EDITOR – Laurelle Williams

Laurelle is the Editor at Word for Word Media and graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She have a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Write me: [email protected]

Astellas logo

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.


Header image supplied
cover 2024 BIG C Preparing for treatment