A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Radiation

As I wrote in my last article, a switch flipped in my mind when my PSA jumped two points to an 8.3. I reached the decision that I would end active surveillance and seek further treatment, most likely radiation. Prior to a one-year follow-up biopsy, I scheduled an appointment with my urologist to discuss my decision. I had a couple of weeks to do more research on radiation options and gather information from my support group.

Planning for proton therapy

A few days before my appointment on February 28th, I had decided that I would travel to the Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California for a 3T-MRI, follow that up with an MRI guided biopsy. I was then going to take all the data I had accumulated over a year to Dr. Mark Scholz at Prostate Oncology Specialists in Marina Del Rey, CA. Dr. Scholz specializes in reviewing data and recommending the best course of treatment for prostate cancer patients.

I was also considering spending two months in either La Jolla or Loma Linda, CA, for proton radiation because proton radiation seemed to direct more energy at the cancer and minimize side effects. I shared my plan with several friends, and, of course, my wife, and everyone was pleased with the research I had done and the potential plan I was going to undertake. I wasn’t locked in, but I felt good about the direction I was taking. That was the plan I was going to share with my doctor.

“Get that cancer out of your body!”

But then, on February 24th, a funny thing happened. I was walking my dog, which I do every afternoon, and I had what is referred to by some as a “moment of clarity.” And the message was clear: go to your doctor, tell him you want the cancer out of your body, schedule surgery. I suddenly realized that, at sixty-nine, I was overly complicating a decision because of fear of the consequences of surgery: incontinence and erectile dysfunction on some level, either short or long term.

While I am not a religious person, I suddenly felt myself shifting from fear to faith: faith in my medical history; faith in my doctor, who would also be my surgeon; faith that, for a guy like me, keeping it simple has always yielded the best results. Sometimes an intuitive understanding of a situation trumps all the reading, research and conversation. By the time I walked in the front door of my house, I was ready to confidently tell my wife what I wanted to do. She agreed with me immediately, as did a good friend, a prostate cancer survivor, who kept telling me all along, “Get that cancer out of your body!”

Trusting my care team

In the past, when confronted with medical emergencies and important decisions about my health, I have found all the answers and services I needed in my local medical community in San Luis Obispo, CA: a general practitioner who was honest with me at a critical time twenty-five years ago; a urologist who guided me through a nasty bout with kidney stones; a cardiologist who saved my life; and, recently, a neurologist who performed delicate surgery on my spine to relieve debilitating pain in my neck.

Now, having had my “moment,” I am equally confident that my current urologist/surgeon will take care of me on the next steps of my journey. He has performed one thousand Da Vinci laparoscopic surgeries. He told me that my level of fitness and lean build is to my advantage, and that having my cancer confined to my prostate will make it easier for him to tease it out without damaging the sensitive nerve bundles in proximity. And he said that we will work together as a team to deal with the side effects as they present themselves.

My surgery is scheduled for April 16th. My wife and I have a consultation scheduled with the doctor on March 25th, and my pre-op appointment at the hospital is on April 9th. Let the next phase of the journey begin. By the time I write my next article, I am confident that cancer will be gone from my body.

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