I have written numerous articles on various topics regarding prostate cancer, many being amusing or slightly informative, but never have I touched upon the straight-forward subject matter of my treatment path. No colorful phrases or attention-grabbing side stories, just the brutal truth of my cancer journey.
What worked, what helped, what did not help, and even more important, what harmed. So here we go right along the very trek I took to where I find my health at present.
Three years and seven months ago, May 22, 2017, I found myself in an emergency room awaiting the diagnosis of what may be causing my extreme back pain.
The lone ER physician that had examined my mid-spine returned to the room with several more doctors in tow and holding a CT scan. He wasted little time in letting me know, “this scan shows us you have cancer, Mr. Estep. We feel it may have originated in your prostate and metastasized outward into your bones.”
An emotional call
Following a somewhat emotional call to my wife, I was rushed upstairs into a waiting hospital room and the poking and prodding began. It is easy to report, never had I been through so many tests in my entire adult life. Physicians came and went, as did nurses and the like. The end result of all this prying: advanced prostate cancer with extensive bone metastasis stage 4. One doctor explained: “We must begin treatment as soon as possible.”
A blood test had revealed my PSA was just above 1300, and the normal range for a healthy individual was between 0 and 4. A biopsy session was scheduled with one of the premier urological oncologists in the nation at Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center. The doctor was an all-business type professional and wasted little time in performing the biopsy.
Undergoing a biopsy
If you have never been through a biopsy procedure for prostate cancer, you haven’t really lived. Nothing could be more embarrassing, and I do mean nothing. Lying on your side with your rear end in full view to everyone in the room except you. Several physicians crowd around while the urological oncologist inserts his finger inside your rectum and begins to feel for tumors.
“Wow, there’s one! Can you feel that, Mr. Estep?” the doctor inquired. “There’s another one right there. I think I will take 12 biopsies just to be certain.”
The biopsies themselves weren’t all that painful, however I was sure happy when the process was over. As he concluded, the doctor told his assistant to go ahead and contact my insurance and get the approval for my first Lupron shot. It was his belief that we had no time to waste and no reason to hold off. That was music to my ears, a man of action.
Treatments that came next
Following the rush of those early days, here is a list of my treatments:
- Casodex first six months
- 5 days continuous radiation
- Medi-port surgically implanted
- Infusions of Taxotere
- Neulasta injections 24 hours after chemotherapy
- Lupron continued
- Morphine (no longer needed after pain pump implant)
- Gabapentin for neuropathy/migraines
- Fentanyl epidural pain patch
- Prednisone steroid and other steroids
- Vantas implant system -- replaced Lupron injections
- Pain pump surgically implanted in my lower back
- Pain management monthly visit
- Total bone scan (numerous times)
- CT scans (numerous times)
- Ultrasound (numerous times)
- CBD oils, gel capsules, gummies, full spectrum
- Oncologist visits
- Palliative care
- Cardiac exams and care
- Oral surgery (due to teeth crumbling)
- ER visits for numerous and various reasons
- Genetic testing for cancer genes
- Urological oncologist visits
- Psychiatrist visits
- Aspirin regiment
- Numerous prescription medicines including lorazepam (Ativan), Bupropion (Wellbutrin) antidepressant, escitalopram (Lexapro) for depression and anxiety, Imodium, Amitriptyline, Nitrostat, Tamsulosin – I am sure this list is well short of all the prescribed medication we have tried over the three years and 7 months.
I well understand that some or all of these treatments or medications will not be effective for everyone out there, but I wanted to share my treatment path just in the slight chance it may help someone.
Beyond the initial assessment
Finally, in closing, you may be wondering how I am doing presently and what I am taking currently during my treatment. As of this writing, I am the best I have been since my diagnosis back on May 22, 2017. Late in that same year, I was told I had only 2 1/2 to 3 years to live, however thanks to The Lord I am beyond that assessment.
I am in what I fondly call “over-time.” Currently, I take my oral chemo, Zytiga, prednisone, my CBD of course, Lisinopril, lorazepam, my antidepressant meds, aspirin, gabapentin, Vantas implant system, and fentanyl inside my pain pump.
I am feeling and behaving the best I have during the entire treatment plan, and I thank The Lord for truly blessing me.
Do you feel heard and understood by your doctor?