Musings of a Prostate Cancer Survivor and Advocate
In business it has been said that hope is not a strategy. When diagnosed with prostate cancer, hope is at the top of the list of strategies which include understanding your diagnosis, treatment options, and outcomes, questioning the oncologist, surgeon, and urologist every step of the way, and finally, “owning” your choice of therapies.
One year after surgery
August 30th will be the first anniversary of my meeting with the da Vinci robot that extracted my cancerous prostate, culminating in many ways the detour of a lifetime. Three PSA tests later and my cancer is undetectable, with another test scheduled for September (Prostate Cancer month). Two of the three goals were met. Reduce or eliminate the cancer (check), improve the quality of my life as in no incontinence (check). The restoration of a full sexual experience, not so much as most survivors I’m wrestling with ED. I do admit to some fatigue but I attribute that to increasing my physical activity.
How has life changed...
A year ago, I wondered whether I’d see my 70th birthday and my bucket list goal of attending the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June with a close friend. We had attended the Open at Pebble Beach nine years prior at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
At the time of cancer diagnosis, I was told that I had a 95% chance of living for ten years (80) and slightly less to age 85. Of course, I’ll never be cancer-free and something else may terminate my time on this earth.
Seventy is quite a milestone! It did not sink in until the week of July 20th, a vivid reminder of the first moon landing fifty years ago.
I was 20 years old and a basic trainee at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Summer of Love was the “Summer of Wasn’t,” as I “volunteered” for a two-year Army ROTC program to evade the draft notice I had received after dropping a class in college. I figured I would play the odds of potentially being shipped off to South Vietnam. Time flies whether you are having fun or not. A number of my Pickleball peeps are in their seventies. Cody, who ran me ragged around the court, is 80. There is hope! There must be more as this ride isn’t over.
Diving into advocacy to spread awareness
I have emerged from my detour and the da Vinci surgery as a strong advocate for prostate cancer patients. Numerous people have called me about their brother who was just diagnosed or the gentleman who had stomach pains and checked into the hospital only to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Oh, he also will have his appendix removed first. He was so scared, he did not know what questions to ask or what his PSA or Gleason Score was after a biopsy.
Another sent me a note with his PSA score thanking me for writing The Prostate Chronicles - A Medical Memoir published in June (Cancer Month). This irreverent view of my life’s detour is aimed at men forty and above. My advocacy includes writing for ProstateCancer.net and moderating their forums. I wrote an article for 12,000 members of the National Association of Destroyer Veterans Quarterly Newsletter this month highlighting prostate cancer awareness at the request of their executive director. In addition, I wrote a similar article for 350 members of the Knights of Columbus Council, St. Mark Catholic Church in Denton, Texas.
What awaits on the road ahead?
What’s next? I’m getting certified as an adjunct professor teaching marketing and other courses at a local community college. Another way of giving back by sharing my life experiences.
I’m playing Pickleball, cycling to the courts, and working on my golf game (or lack thereof). My wife Karen is about 85% recovered from two surgeries for a fall shattering her elbow while I was recovering from surgery. She couldn’t make the trip in June to California to celebrate my birthday but baked the Italian Cream Cake that my mother used to bake for me every year keeping the streak alive!
We are booked to fly out to California in late September to visit old friends and enjoy fine California wines. Our first trip together in over eighteen months. Now that the detour has been successfully navigated, we are back on the express lanes of life and looking towards the future. I will be giving a talk about my detour with prostate cancer on September 25th in Fair Oaks, CA.
Finally, my September 4th High Velocity PSA test results were less than 0.02 undetectable!
How much do you worry about prostate cancer coming back after treatment?