Janusz Rudzinski was diagnosed with anal cancer after developing anal fistulas. Although he was mentally prepared for the news and has a no-nonsense approach to life, the side effects of the treatment took their toll.
Now he has been left with damaged nerves in his feet, which make walking long distances difficult. However, he has also learned to appreciate that, sometimes, sharing problems with healthcare professionals can help improve our daily lives.
Despite the vast majority of anal cancer cases being caused by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the possibility that his disease could be related has not been discussed with Janusz.
I am from Poland, near to the Czech border. I’m 58, and I’m gay.
I live in London. I came to visit a friend and I just fell in love with it, so I stayed. I’ve been here 27 years now. I am a little fed up with London at the moment, but you need some time off from time to time.
For quite some time, there was a problem down there. I had an operation on a fistula in my anus, which is a small channel between the end of the bowel and the skin. I had another operation on it and after the second time it was getting worse and worse and worse.
There was nasty pus coming out, so I went back to the doctor and examined what had happened. So they did blood tests and other things, and that’s how I found out.
They said right away I had anal cancer. There was something not right there, more than simply some kind of complication from the surgery, so I was mentally prepared for the news.
I am that kind of person. I take things as they come. It happened, so I had to deal with it. Of course, I had moments of depression and wondering what’s going to happen next, but you have to get on with life, really, because I’m not the only one diagnosed with something like this and having to deal with it.
They told me what to expect, but they talk in a language that I don’t really understand. I just wanted to get on with it right away and do what needed to be done. So I just went with whatever they told me.
They started with chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the same time. I was going every day to the hospital. That lasted for two or three weeks.
I had quite bad side effects. The skin in my perineum blistered and it was bleeding, and when I went to the toilet the pain was out of this world. I was on the floor, it was that bad.
But then I followed the diet they told me to eat at the time and it got better. I just knew I had get through it and see what was going to happen next.
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to feel sorry for themselves. I made sure I just had to deal with myself, that I went to the hospital on my own and I came back on my own.
It was hard but someone advised me to stock up the fridge and freezer, so I was prepared. I didn’t have to do any heavy shopping. Everything was already there and I just got small things on the way home.
I tried to make myself comfortable with life as possible, to hide aware from people, really, and get on with it.
I am still going for the check ups. It was every three months but now it’s every six months. They do biopsies and other tests.
I feel weak, really very weak at times, but I’m not giving in. I went for a walk yesterday. I’ve got this walking group once every week or so. The problem is I’ve been diagnosed with neuropathy, which is when the nerves in the hands, feet and arms are damaged, so these long walks are not good for me.
I’ve bought a good pair of shoes for that purpose but my feet are swollen after these walks and I feel really uncomfortable, but I push myself to do them. I don’t want to sit on my arse and moan, because I hate to moan. I grew up in a Communist country, and you had to be tough.
Maybe three or four years ago I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Perhaps it was related to the cancer and perhaps due to life in general, as I’ve gone through a lot of things.
When I was a kid, my dad used to beat up my mum. And then things happened because I grew up being different, being gay, and some other things happened too.
I tried to solve the problems I had before with counselling but it didn’t work for me. So I decided I wanted to confront myself and see what is wrong with me. I saw a psychiatrist and she diagnosed me with PTSD. I am on citalopram and it helps me a lot. Actually, I wish I’d done it years ago, if it had been available.
In the last two years, after I was treated for my anal cancer, I started having problems getting an erection. I had one maybe one every six months and then it went completely. It’s difficult but I didn’t think it was that important as I had generally lost interest in sex.
But then I had an assessment with my doctor and I finally talked about it. I went for blood tests so they can find out what’s wrong with me and whether they can treat with medication. Maybe it was damaged during my treatment for the anal cancer. I don’t know.
A lot of people talk about anal cancers if it’s something shameful or embarrassing to talk about. But I have never had a problem with it. I would tell someone who is diagnosed just to get on with it, be aware of it and not be scared. It’s part of being a human being. We all have diseases.
I didn’t know about HPV before. I would say that, if a vaccine is available that can stop people developing HPV-related cancer, they should take it. Maybe they wouldn’t have to go through what I have been through.