/ Prostate Cancer

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lansa - on 09 Mar 2018

I have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which is spreading to my bones, and put on the programme of hormone injections to control its spread. Both my GP and Consultant have told me to stop climbing, whilst encouraging me to continue walking. Their reason is that one side-effect of hormone injection is brittle bones. In vain I tried to point out that I was far more likely to fall whilst walking than climbing.

At the age of 81 I restrict my climbing to single pitch low grade (M-VD) faqmiliar routes, either top-roped or self-belayed, and I don't feel ready yet to hang up my boots. Whilst I respect the professional expertise in the medical domain of my GP and Consultant, neither are climbers and lack the knowledge/awareness of the level of safety that can be achieved. I think I'm safer on the crags than crossing the road outside my house.

Has anyone relevant experience to share?

Is there any history of injury to the thighs/pelvic region from a harness holding a fall on a top-rope?

jon on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to lansa:

No, sorry no experience. But maybe your doctors think: climbing = falling off and hitting the ground?

earlsdonwhu - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to lansa:

Best of luck. Whatever, stay active!

SenzuBean - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to lansa:

For what it’s worth, I suspect you’re right that M-VD done safely is safer than walking in many cases.

Andy Nisbet - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to lansa:

It's your decision in the end. If you feel you want to climb and are willing to take the risk, whatever it is, it's your choice. But I don't have any relevant experience. My dad had prostrate cancer for many years and continued walking and playing golf. I'm sure if he'd been a climber, he would have carried on with it.

Eric9Points - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to lansa:

I've never heard of anyone being injured by their harness while top roping. I suspect the doctors may be under the impression that the shock loading from a top rope fall is a lot greater than it really is.

Best wishes and good on you for still doing it at 81!

Deadeye - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to lansa:

Hi Ian

Sorry to hear this - join the club.

Unfortunately it's a double whammy: the cancer cells substitute for healthy bone and weaken it, and the hormones also demineralise the bones and weaken them.  At end stage, we will be breaking ribs turning over in bed - the bones will become very, very fragile indeed.  Furthermore, healing is very much impared - it breaks; it stays broken.

In healthy people, operating bones under load is generally a good thing and helps keep the bones strong - for example, it's a core part of most rehab for broken legs.  So a sliding scale from where you are now.

The other issue is what bone you might break.  A wrist can be splinted, but pelvis or neck of femur would be a sentinel event.

Unfortunately prostate cancer has an exquisite affinity for bone, and the most common are pelvis and spine.  Fractures in these can be very very serious - hence your consultant's caution.

So where does that leave you?  You are 81 - and might hope to get a couple of years out of the hormone treatment, or even more, before the cancer becomes castration resistant.  After that chemo will make you sick and give a few months here and there.

You might decide that pottering gently doing something you love at that age is worth it...

I'm staying off treatment for as long as possible (even though it may shorten overall life) precisely because of these side effects.  I'm 54.

lansa - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to Deadeye:

Thanks for that very full detail of the problem. It is not what I want to hear, but what I probably do need to hear. I hear it. Perhaps one final day before the rot sets in - it will be 65 years this month since I started climbing and I can honestly say that I have never found a day on the crags to have been wasted time. Wonderful memories. Thanks.

martynlj - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to lansa:

Sorry to hear your news. May I suggest trying to find out from your doctor the extent and location of the bony spread. The decreased bone strength caused by treatment will of course occur over time. So unless there are bony metastases in critical areas (lumbar spine, "weaker" parts of pelvis) I would imagine continuing to climb as you describe would be fine. Staying fit and happy matters loads. Doctors are always going to give very conservative advice (I am one) so their advice needs to be understood with this in mind. Ultimately how you choose to live your life is your decision and your doctors will/should respect that. Best wishes.

lansa - on 10 Mar 2018
In reply to martynlj:

Thanks for that. Very positive. I'll discuss it further with my GP, who I have great respect for -I've known him for 30+ yrs and we're on first name terms.

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