HAPPY FAMILY: Paul and his wife Judith Spence with their great-grandson Nixon Mackie.
HAPPY FAMILY: Paul and his wife Judith Spence with their great-grandson Nixon Mackie.

'I had no symptoms': Terrifying brush with cancer

PAUL Spence didn't have a single symptom when he was diagnosed with a disease that kills 3500 men every year.

The 69-year-old is often found with mates at his local bowling club or spending time with his tight-knit family in their Sydney home, but a standard doctor's appointment put everything in his life on the line.

"Like everybody else I went to the doctor to get a repeat on a script. I wasn't going to the doctor for any reason other than that," he said.

The doctor noticed Mr Spence hadn't had a blood test in a while, or a prostate-specific antigen - a test that screens for prostate cancer. He followed the doctor's orders and the results returned soon after.

"We went and saw the urologist, he said yeah you've got bladder cancer," he said.

"I thought, I've got no symptoms. I don't have any problems."

The next steps seemed easy enough. Mr Spence went into surgery and the cancer was removed, "no follow-up treatment required" the surgeon told him.

But a pre-cautionary check of Mr Spence's prostate revealed the rollercoaster ride wasn't over yet.

"I had low grade and high-grade cancer in the prostate," he said. "(and) beside the prostate in the lymph nodes."

This isn't the first time Mr Spence has become acutely aware of the precariousness of life.

Twenty three years ago, after a workplace accident he was "virtually dead" when he sustained critical injuries to his face and underwent intensive surgery.

"I've had a 23-year bonus, so I may or may not look at life a little differently to other people," he said.

"There is no reason to get paranoid or upset about the fact that you've got a problem. You just deal with the problem and move on with your life."

After a terrifying and turbulent few months, Mr Spence underwent surgery to remove the cancer a couple of weeks ago. The test results came back, and he has thankfully been given the all clear - for now.


Paul alongside his family.
Paul alongside his family.

Mr Spence wants his mates to learn from his story and avoid being the one in seven men at risk of getting prostate cancer by the age of 85.

According to the Cancer Council prostate cancer is the third biggest cancer killer in Australia and second most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men.

"Men don't talk about their problems. I have, since I've been diagnosed, spoken to a few at my bowling club," Mr Spence said.

"The men have never had a test. They get up and go to the toilet of a night.

"I said just go to your doctor and ask for a test if it comes back negative, no problems. But if it comes back a little bit different, then you've got a chance of getting it dealt with and living longer.

"You've got symptoms and I haven't, but I still had prostate cancer. I would not have known about it if I did not have that test."

Mr Spence understood the embarrassment of undergoing the test, but ultimately it was about life or death, he said.

"It may be a tad embarrassing at the time, but it's better to be a bit embarrassed than dead," he said.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. For more visit cancer.org.au.