Is it possible to have two cancers at once? Well, apparently it is. Within a four month timeframe, Glenn Mollette was diagnosed with both thyroid and prostate cancer.
Even though it’s uncommon for someone to have multiple primary cancers, it is being frequently reported more often, possibly due to better diagnostic techniques, prolonged life spans, and the increased incidence of long-term survival of cancer patients.
In October of 2018, Glenn’s thyroid was removed with four malignant nodules. “I dreaded that surgery because I knew speech and singing complications could happen because of the proximity of the thyroid to the vocal cords,” shared Glenn. “Some people end up with paralyzed vocal cords for a lifetime. The surgeon assured me he would take his time and utilize extreme caution to protect my vocal cords.”
Fortunately, by the middle of December Glenn was feeling well, his voice was gaining strength, and he was starting to exercise a bit. His annual checkup was that month, and as part of that, had his blood work done. His doctor’s office followed up a few days later saying all looked good, except his PSA was 4.7, up from 3.7 the prior year. Since PSA numbers can sometimes fluctuate, they repeated the blood test three weeks later. Glenn was shocked when he was told his PSA was now 5.9. He called his wife immediately stating, “I’m in trouble.”
They decided to act immediately, but with it being the Christmas holiday season, had to search outside of his home state of Indiana to find a urologist that could see him. “I tried six or seven urologists in Evansville, IN and Louisville, KY,” shared Glenn. “I ended up finding Dr. David Levy of the Cleveland Clinic, who happened to have only one opening, on December 31 at 2:30 p.m. After speaking with the nurse, she explained that a prostate biopsy would probably be necessary.”
During a prostate biopsy, a doctor uses a needle to take several small samples of prostate tissue. It is the only effective way to diagnose prostate cancer. It sometimes can be painful since multiple punctures are made with thick biopsy needles to obtain adequate samples of the prostate.
Even though Glenn was fearful of the procedure, he knew he had to move forward, so on New Year’s Eve, Dr. Levy removed 18 pieces of Glenn’s prostate, one small sample at a time. Glenn shared, “almost every time he removed a piece he would ask if I felt it. I wanted to yell out, ‘Of course I did!’”
Glenn’s doctor later explained that often many urologists only take 12 samples, but they miss the cancer by taking too few. “If it’s in there we need to find it,” Dr. Levy explained.
On Jan. 4, 7:30 a.m. his cell phone rang, and Glenn knew a call that early in the morning didn’t normally bring good news. “You have two cancers out of 18 samples,” Dr. Levy reported. “One cancer is a 3+3 for a Gleason score of six which is not too bad. However, you have one that is a 3+4 for a Gleason score of 7 or stage 2 cancer, which is very concerning.” Glenn’s doctor mentioned the options of active surveillance, cryotherapy (freeze treatment), or Brachytherapy (radiation seed implant). An accurate MRI would be necessary to see if the cancer had spread or was still contained in the prostate, but that couldn’t be done for 10 weeks, since that time was need for his prostate to heal.
Those 10 weeks were agony for Glenn and his wife. They read everything they could find about cancer, treatments, supplements, procedures, side effects, and nutrition. Glenn watched his dear friend die a slow death from prostate cancer just a few years prior, so he knew prostate cancer could be deadly.
An MRI in March revealed his cancer was still contained to the prostate so Glenn elected to have the radiation seed implant, a procedure his father-in-law had years prior. He never stopped walking, working, or trying to be active even though he did have some negative side effects. Recently, his new blood work revealed a PSA of .71 — the lowest ever. Things are getting back to normal and Glenn’s even jogging a bit.
“One thing that has changed is my awareness and respect/fear of cancer, knowing it can recur,” shares Glenn. His radiation oncologist doesn’t believe he’ll have cancer in his prostate again, but there are no guarantees. Glenn shares he feels great today and that’s he’s been quite fortunate.
These bodies are not made to last forever. There is always something around the corner that will test us or will kill us. Life is short. We have to do the best we can with whatever we know to do and trust God with the results.
Glenn’s advice to all men is to be mindful to find a respectful doctor, get regular medical checkups, have blood work drawn, pay attention … and trust your gut! He shares this important message because a friend of his recently died from liver disease because her doctor kept telling her not to worry about it and that she would be okay. Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion and NEVER put off taking care of something important.
With good care and treatments, we aren’t going to live forever, but we might get to extend our lives. We all want more time to do a few more things we enjoy such as spending time with our families, taking on hobbies, living out our faith, or collecting some of our hard-earned Social Security money!