Most men don’t ever expect to say ‘I have prostate cancer’ but 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. Naturally, we all think we are in that group of eight.
I’ve always been a numbers guy … even in retirement. Over the last few years, I’ve volunteered with AARP to provide tax services and financial budgeting classes to those who need assistance. When I first heard the odds of me getting prostate cancer, I assumed I would be fine. I guess you could say the odds were not in my favor.
My journey began over a decade ago when some nagging hip pain brought me to my doctor for an MRI. The MRI revealed a spot on my prostate, which prompted my appointment with a urologist, who ordered the biopsy that determined I had prostate cancer. My prostate had to go, so in December of 2008 my surgery was performed using the Da Vinci Robotic procedure.
Prostate cancer patients know that for the rest of their lives, they will have periodic PSA tests to monitor their PSA levels. My test results were fine for seven years. In 2016 my PSA started rising. My oncologist recommended I start on Lupron injections to decrease my testosterone levels. I also began taking Casodex, an oral anti-testosterone drug. My periodic PSAs fell back within normal range for the next three years.
In May of 2019, my PSA was on the rise again even with getting Lupron injections every twelve weeks and taking Casodex. Following a 7.4 result, my oncologist recommended I discontinue Casodex and start Erleada, a different anti-testosterone oral medication, which I started in September 2019.
On the move
At almost 70 years young, my wife and I decided it was time to find a home more suitable for retirement, with a little less hustle and bustle. We quickly sold our house and found the perfect home in a quiet, beautiful neighborhood in Gainesville, Texas. Our son and daughter and their families live just a few hours away. They have been a huge blessing because they are close enough to visit and be available if we need them.
My wife and I have worked diligently over the years to ensure we would be in a good situation financially after our retirements. We have truly been blessed.
2020 – what a year!
Early this year my PSA started to rise again, and upon reviewing my bone scan, my oncologist confirmed I had recurrent metastatic prostate cancer stage 4. We discussed multiple options but chose to go with IV chemotherapy every three weeks for a total of ten treatments. From this point on, my PSA would be repeatedly checked and a bone scan would be done midway through treatment. According to the results of the scan, the treatment plan could be continued as planned or changed.
Change is the operative word here. The calendar had just flipped over to March and the world started to learn more and more about something called the coronavirus. All of a sudden, there were new restrictions placed on access to the oncology clinic. Now instead of accompanying me to my treatments, my wife would be sitting alone in our car outside of the building, waiting for me to complete my 4-hour treatment. To say it was tough on both of us is an understatement.
To make things worse, I was admitted to the hospital in April due to renal insufficiency and dehydration. The COVID-19 restrictions were quite severe in the hospital. I could absolutely have no visitors and nothing from ‘outside’ would be allowed in my room, not even my clothing or books. It was quite a lonely three days in the hospital for me. I was thrilled when I made it back home and was hoping I wouldn’t have a repeat of that.
Adjustments were made to my treatment plans in May and June. Sadly, even with those changes, came additional hospital stays due to side effects of my treatment. It was time for me to have a serious discussion with my oncologist because I couldn’t continue to spend each month in the hospital during a pandemic.
Prostate cancer treatment plans are constantly re-evaluated based on the health of the patient and what is best for him at a particular moment in time. After hospitalizations three months in a row, it was agreed to pause my chemo for now. My bone scan shows no new lesions and some improvement, so we will reevaluate again in a few months. I’m feeling stronger, eating well, and getting around better than I have in months.
For the most part I’ve been able to remain positive during my cancer journey. I have wonderful support from my wife, family, and friends who I know are there for me and praying for me. Through it all, we know God is in control and our faith has helped us remain calm and not panic during the recurrent cancer and COVID-19 epidemic. It is well with our souls.
I realize it is now time for me to get more involved and help other men and their families who are fighting this disease, and that’s why I am sharing my story. I’ve even started the process of applying to be a mentor for ZERO’s MENtor program so that I can help other men.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men and can be deadly. Men need to start taking care of themselves, schedule annual exams, and get their PSAs checked. It could save their lives. I’d like to ask all men out there one final question. Do you believe the odds are in your favor?
ZERO has resources to provide you with direct support, webinars and educational resources specific to prostate cancer and COVID-19, and answers for frequently asked questions about the pandemic. We’re here to help you connect with others in the prostate cancer community during this crisis.