Primary care

24th January 2014 at 00:00

Throughout my primary school headship, my aims were clear. I wanted children in my tough, inner-city school to achieve high standards and experience the broadest possible curriculum. I wanted teachers to love coming to school and have the freedom to innovate. And I wanted parents to feel we were offering a personal service and as good a primary education as could be found anywhere. I believe I achieved that aim. We were continually oversubscribed, our results were high and we never struggled to find quality teachers.

When I retired at 68, I looked forward to at least 10 years of enjoying my grandchildren, indulging my passion for primary education, and pursuing the many activities I enjoyed. And then, late last year, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

It was a day I'll never forget. I'd had regular check-ups as my father had died of the disease, and although my doctor said my blood test needed further investigation he felt there was no cause for concern, especially as I'd had only minor symptoms. When I received the final diagnosis from a consultant, my legs turned to jelly and I felt as though I'd been hit in the head with a brick. I heard the consultant's words through a mental haze and I struggled to understand what he was saying. In the fortnight that followed, I lay inside various scanning machines and was injected with dye to see if the disease had crept into my bones. It was the most frightening few days of my life.

The scans revealed that although the disease had broken out of the prostate, it seemed not to have moved into the lymph nodes and fortunately hadn't reached my bones. I was told I'd need a course of tablets and injections, then eight weeks of targeted radiotherapy. In the weeks after diagnosis I would wake at night in a sweat, knowing that this vile disease was quietly mutating inside my body. Barely a moment went by during the day when the thought of it didn't creep into my mind.

Then I received a phone call from the consultant. He'd looked at the scans again and he felt that by removing the prostate and the surrounding tissue completely he could probably take the cancer out of my body. I could have the operation at Guy's Hospital in London, using cutting-edge robotic keyhole surgery. I eagerly agreed.

If I was an Ofsted inspector rating my hospital treatment, it would receive an outstanding. There was no pain, just slight discomfort for two days and a couple of nights in hospital. I won't know until February whether everything has been completely successful, but I remain optimistic that in a couple of months I will be back to good health.

Every staff member I encountered at Guy's was exceptional - sensitive, caring, helpful and positive. I once accidentally leant on my bed buzzer and a nurse arrived within seconds. Throughout this worrying time, I received the same sort of care that I'd tried to give parents, children and teachers throughout my headship.

And with luck and a fair wind, I might now get my 10 years.

Mike Kent is a retired primary school headteacher in England. Email:

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