Keith Hubbard, 69, is a musician and family man.
But 12 years ago, he had to tone down his rock and roll lifestyle after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
After treatment life began to get back to normal. But when the cancer returned five years later he needed further treatment as part of a clinical trial. Now Keith is doing well and enjoys spending time with his grandchildren and putting on gigs to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
His is just one of the stories featured in our Annual Review, highlighting the progress we’re making and our aims for the future.
‘I felt numb when I heard it was cancer’
I’d been having urinary problems for years before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004. I went to talk to my doctor about them and he sent me to see a urologist. I was in my 50s at the time.
He thought it was inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis), so he gave me antibiotics.
The whole thing was debilitating. I was in a lot of discomfort and needed the loo a lot. I thought the antibiotics had worked when the symptoms seemed to ease off.
But then they’d come back with a vengeance.
After about two years, it still felt like nothing was getting better. I couldn’t relax and it was almost ruining my life.
The doctors decided to test my PSA level and saw that it had gone up, so my urologist sent me for a biopsy to settle my mind.
That was when they found the cancer.
‘You’re not given a definite answer because there isn’t one’
I was told the cancer wasn’t aggressive and that I’d be able to fit the radiotherapy around my work. That was great because at the time I was really busy, singing and playing guitar in a number of bands.
I didn’t know how it was going to affect my life. You ask questions but you’re not given a definite answer because there isn’t one.
The doctors told me all the treatment options available. After discussing it with them, I chose six weeks of radiotherapy and hormone injections into my stomach.
The plan was to begin treatment in July, so I’d left some time free in July and August.
But when I went in for an appointment in June to get the little tattoos they use to guide the radiotherapy, I was told the cancer had become more aggressive and I had to start radiotherapy the following week.
I was still working a lot at the time, but the first three weeks weren’t so bad. I had a few side-effects like tiredness but I more or less kept the job going. I had to, because other people were relying on me.
But towards the end of the treatment I was absolutely shattered. I had to get a singer in to cover some of my gigs, and I needed a lot of help moving equipment around.
‘It’s like a tonne weight dropped on you’
After the radiotherapy I pretty much got back to normal. I had to plan things a little differently though, because of the side-effects of the treatment. If I was making a journey I’d need to know the place had good facilities because I need the loo a lot.
For our first holiday after the radiotherapy, my wife Angela and I went to Cornwall with two friends. They call it ‘the tour of the loos of Cornwall’ because of how many loos we saw! Our friend Christine even jokes that she’s going to write a book about the loos of Cornwall!
When my treatment ended I had regular check-ups every three months and then every six months.
“I don’t let the little things get on top of me anymore” – Keith
During one of these check-ups in 2008 the doctors noticed that my PSA level was beginning to rise again.
I had a biopsy which didn’t show anything. But six months later my level was still rising so I had another biopsy.
This time it showed the cancer had come back aggressively.
I was crestfallen.
My doctor said that I couldn’t have radiotherapy again, so he put me in touch with someone doing a trial on cryosurgery. This is where the doctor freezes the prostate to kill the cancer cells.
Luckily, I was able to join the trial and had surgery in October 2009.
It took a lot out of me and I physically wasn’t able to work afterwards. I was off work for a good eight weeks. And I still live with some side-effects now.
I’ve got a bit of weakness in my bowel wall from the surgery, so I’ve got a certain amount of incontinence. It does embarrass you, that area being a sensitive one.
‘It’s nice to be able to give something back to help others’
I now go for yearly check-ups and I’m able to carry on more or less as I did before. But I can’t do some of the things I used to because everything is centred round the incontinence. I constantly need the loo and it’s always on my mind.
The whole experience and living with the side-effects has changed the way I look at things. I don’t let the little things get on top of me anymore because they don’t matter. I keep going as positively as I can and don’t let anything beat me.
‘My treatment wouldn’t have been possible without research’
I organise gigs twice a year at a club in Ormskirk, where I was brought up, to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. I’m certain my treatment wouldn’t have been possible without the charity and the research it funds.
Some friends have been diagnosed with prostate cancer in recent years and I’ve noticed how their treatment is very different from mine. The surgery and radiotherapy they had is more precise and has fewer side effects. Again, a lot of these advances are down to the work Cancer Research UK funds.
For example I heard that one of Cancer Research UK’s scientists found that there are five different types of prostate cancer – it’s a long way from a cure, but it might give men more options when they’re diagnosed.
My goal for the future is to carry on as I am, and be as healthy as I can. I can’t imagine life without music and my family – they are very important to me. I would say that having cancer has made that even more obvious to me than it was before, and I want to be around for my family for a good length of time yet.