Facing Chemo? 

I have been battling prostate cancer since 2013. My initial run in with “Mr. Prostate” started out with a routine physical and a rising PSA. It did not take long before a biopsy was done.

Getting prostate cancer under control

The results showed a Gleason 9, and further testing showed it was confined to the prostate. My first treatment was surgery, and by all counts, I was told my margins were clear and there were no signs of spread.

Over the next few years, my PSA began a slow rise. In 2018, I reached a reading of 0.13. I then underwent androgen deprivation therapy, along with 40 radiation treatments. So far so good. The prostate cancer appears to be under control.

An unwelcome surprise

On July 15, 2020, I discovered the joys of a new type of cancer that was totally unexpected. Specifically, I was diagnosed with stage 2 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), which like early stage prostate cancer is pretty much undetectable. The good news is that this “new best friend” is treatable and has a high “cure” rate. NOTE: For all of you guys who choose to ignore the need for routine physicals, I suggest possibly taking time to reconsider.

The fear of chemotherapy

While chemotherapy is one option in treating certain conditions when it comes to prostate cancer, I suspect the word chemo strikes fear in all of us. I soon learned that the best way to treat my new disease at Stage 2 is to undergo chemotherapy. Talk about fear!

It is the reason I wanted to share some of my initial reactions along with some personal advice if you are facing the possibility of chemotherapy in your future.

Looking beyond the horror stories

Stay off the internet. When you hear the words chemotherapy, you are immediately struck by all the negatives that you probably heard over the years. What I've discovered on my journey is that chemotherapy comes in many different forms and reacts differently based on the mix of drugs.

I would say the most important thing you could do as a patient facing chemotherapy is to have your list of questions before you visit the oncologist. For God’s sake, bring someone with you to take notes. Again, while the internet is a great source of information, it remains a significant source for horror stories and misinformation.

Overcoming the initial shock

Once you overcome the initial shock of hearing the words you need chemo, you will be asked how you want to take the various infusions. I think it's good to potentially consider the use of a port for treatment.

I had no idea that a port was placed under the skin using a surgical procedure that takes about 1/2 an hour. It is not a simple in-and-out procedure as described on the internet. Expect to spend 2-3 hrs, depending on waiting and recovery.

As a chemo patient, I discovered that every doctor visit requires blood work. And I quickly realized that the constant taking of blood and pushing drugs from veins was going to be an issue. While I was told that my veins were good and that I could do the infusions that way, somewhere along the line common sense kicked in and I went for the port.

Ask the doctor questions

If you ever require chemo treatments for your cancer, take a deep breath, ask a lot of questions, and then make up your mind which type of infusion method will be best for you. I can candidly say at this point, having been through several infusions, I made the right decision for me to have the port installed.

Thanks to the advancements in chemotherapy, my side effects of treatment so far have been quite manageable – something I would never have expected. Good luck on your personal journey with prostate cancer and the many treatments that are available today.

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