In July 2007, Charles Sweeney was a healthy 59-year-old man who had retired with his wife, Claire. At his annual physical, the doctor inquired whether his previous physician had discussed his PSA levels with him. Charles’ response? “What’s a PSA?”
His doctor revealed that Charles’ PSA had been steadily rising, and after receiving a biopsy, Charles was referred to a urologist and received news he hadn’t been expecting: he had highly aggressive prostate cancer. His urologist recommended a radical prostatectomy at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, hours away from his home.
Charles received the surgery in November 2007. In December, he was able to resume his duties as Director of Boys High School Track in Rhode Island, determined to not let cancer define his life. Charles’ battle with prostate cancer has been a series of ups and downs. His first post-surgery PSA was higher than it should have been, revealing that some cancer may have managed to escape his prostate prior to surgery.
To anyone reading this who finds himself in a similar situation, never give up. Continue to demand options. Cancer and its diagnosis are terrifying, but don’t try to do it alone, always have an advocate with you.
For the next eight years, Charles received treatments that ran the gamut from cryotherapy to hormone therapy to several clinical trials once it was revealed that his cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and ribs. In June 2014, Charles and his wife took a trip to France for his 65th birthday. Soon after, he began another clinical trial, which came with a large financial burden. This is when he found ZERO’s patient co-pay assistance program to help ease the cost of his life extending treatments.
In June 2015, Charles received news that he never thought he would hear: his cancer was in remission. In November 2015, his PSA was still at undetectable levels. Now 67, Charles is healthy and back to playing at least three rounds of golf a week. He credits these treatments with giving him the most precious gift he could ever receive: time. Time to spend with his children, grandchildren, and his wife, without whom he could not have gotten through his journey.
I’m thankful beyond words for the financial assistance from ZERO. Now I have the gift of time to spend with my three young grandchildren, whom I never believed I would see grow up.