BECOMING A GRANDFATHER GIVES HIM HOPE
Mr Tay Geok Seng, 60, has always prided himself on having an active lifestyle. He runs his own business, is a lover of sports and has always enjoyed a game of badminton, water polo or a round of golf.
It was while enjoying another physical activity – a skiing holiday in Vancouver - that Geok Seng had a fall and decided he best get a proper medical check-up on his return to Singapore.
This visit to the doctor would change his life forever. During what he thought would be a routine X-ray, his doctor discovered a lesion on his bone. Further tests confirmed it was advanced prostate cancer. At that time, he was only 58 years old. This came as a complete shock.
Prostate cancer can affect any man, regardless of their level of fitness and activity. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially once a man enters his fifties.
Until his diagnosis, Geok Seng had been perfectly healthy, displaying no signs that anything may be wrong. A lack of symptoms is common among prostate cancer patients and there can be no signs at all that cancer is present until it reaches an advanced stage.
Sadly for Geok Seng and his family, his cancer was at Stage 4 where the tumour had spread, or metastasised to other parts of his body. During the interview, Geok Seng showed us his X-ray films taken at the hospital which showed black spots indicating cancer in his shoulder, his spine and the pelvic area. Geok Seng has an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He knows there is no cure.
But as his doctors explained, there are treatment options available which will slow down the spread of the disease to help him spend as much quality time as possible with his loved ones.
Family is a source of strength for Geok Seng. He approaches each day positively, finding support and courage in the love of his wife and daughters aged 27 and 30.
Geok Seng’s wife also has health concerns of her own, suffering from Spinocellebrae ataxia type 2, a rare condition that causes her to have difficulty with movement and speech. Having both their parents unwell places a great burden on the daughters, who would do anything to keep their mum and dad happy and healthy.
In an act of devotion, one of Geok Seng’s daughters, with the support of her husband, has decided to start a family earlier so that he can enjoy the experience of being a grandfather. Given the financial and time pressures on any young couple, this decision is a most selfless act. And because the young couple has made this choice for such compassionate reasons, it may be the most wonderful start any family can give to a child.
Geok Seng smiled with pride and joy as he showed us the sonogram of his first grandchild due to arrive during Chinese New Year in 2018.
For now, he must continue the treatment which has been ongoing since he was diagnosed in March 2016. He started with hormonal injections (androgen deprivation therapy) that brought his PSA from 400 to 12. However, they stopped working after only six months. He was not in favour of chemotherapy because he believes it will have a big impact on his quality of life and bring suffering to his family.
He is currently on a novel oral hormonal medication, a prescription medicine used with prednisone for men with prostate cancer that is resistant to medical or surgical castration. This novel oral hormonal medication inhibits androgen production at three sites – the testes, the adrenal glands and the prostate tumour itself. Geok Seng told us that currently, his condition is stable with a PSA of 0.01 ng/mL during his last few medical reviews and showed us X-ray films comparing his condition before and after treatment which showed that the dark spots were much reduced.
Geok Seng has a great attitude and is making the most of his life. He has reconnected with his old classmates, with whom he doesn’t hide his condition. What does worry him is that some of his friends are showing symptoms of prostate cancer too, but they dismiss it as old age and haven’t done anything about it.
He said he felt strongly that men should talk to their doctor about prostate cancer as it can be a silent killer. By the time there are signs, the cancer may have already spread beyond the prostate.
For now, Geok Seng accepts his condition bravely and sees it as a chance to make his life right by spending quality time with his family who are there to love and support him throughout his journey.