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Beating the Alternative

Jim Obert holding a child with a pacifier in its mouth

Sitting in a sterile doctor’s office is not among my favorite places to be. We all go at some point, usually when we’re not feeling well and we hope it is merely a cold or the flu which we know will be around for a week or two and then we will go back to our normal daily activities. Some of us make a point to at least with some regularity to get the basics checked. It’s kind of like making sure the oil in your car is changed before you decide to leave on your family vacation.

I had been having my PSA checked with moderate regularity up until the great recession, all the while seeing my PSA increase a little at a time. It went from a little over 1 to 2, then to 3+. Due to being unemployed, I had delayed having my regular check-up for about an additional six months from normal, and when I finally had it, my PSA had climbed to over 6. My family doctor at the time referred me to The Urology Group in Cincinnati for further review.

After a sonogram and some additional bloodwork, my doctors suggested a biopsy of the prostate. The biopsy revealed that of 12 samples, eight were positive for cancer. The positive samples revealed Gleason scores of 6 through 9 – two of each indicating my cancer was aggressive.

In April October of 2014, my prostate and right seminal vesicle was removed due to cancer – the cancer had spread from the prostate. They recommended radiation, 33 treatments that concluded on April Fool’s Day, 2015.

While this whole experience was not fun, I feel fortunate that I did make that appointment to have my PSA checked. Had I been on my regular schedule, maybe the cancer might not have spread. Had I waited another six months, I might not be writing this now. I had to learn to adjust to the changes in my body and daily habits, but I did. And I decided that I was going to have a good attitude about it. I was going to get back to the things I enjoy including good family and friends, golf, dining and my favorite beverage, sampling craft beer.

I’m now four years cancer-free. I continuously support the research of new methodologies to educate, diagnose, and treat prostate cancer through ZERO – and I continue to have my PSA checked at least twice a year.

Attitude makes all the difference in the world. As you will see, beginning more than forty years ago, I’ve dealt with a serious of serious medical issues. My diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer was not the first instance of a difficult diagnosis or treatment pathway, but a a positive attitude allowed me to surmount life-threatening obstacles.

In 1972, when on a Boy Scout high adventure experience camping on a beautiful promontory between two Wisconsin lakes, an electrical storm came up and lightning hit a tree not 15 feet away from me – while I was grasping a steel tent pole. The charge shot through my body and I could not see anything but orange flashes for several hours, but I made up my mind that as this was the first night on the canoe trip – I was continuing on – they were not stopping me.

All was quiet for quite some time, but on May 17, 2003, while cleaning for my daughter’s high school graduation party, I got dizzy and kept yawning. After persisting for a couple of hours, I had my wife take me to the hospital. I thought I was having a reaction to a cleaner I was using. No; I was having a heart attack. After having four stents installed during two surgeries a week apart, I was back to work a week after the second surgery.

About a year later, in December of 2004, I went to bed on a Monday night feeling perfectly fine. A few hours later, at about 2:00 a.m., I awoke to a stomachache. By 3:00 a.m. I was becoming very uncomfortable and again my faithful wife transported me to the hospital. At 6:00 a.m. they did a CT scan as they suspected my appendix was inflamed. By 7:00 a.m. the technician determined the appendix had exploded, releasing poisons throughout my lower abdomen and it had to come out. Fifteen minutes later I was on my way to the operating room for an emergency appendectomy. Two weeks later, I was back to my job – but moving a little more slowly.

Move ahead a year to December 2005 and one Saturday afternoon I started having chest pains. Another heart attack and emergency surgery with two more stents added. Then it was back to my more or less normal life within two weeks.

Next comes my encounter with prostate cancer, which has now been followed by more heart blockage and open-heart surgery on Jan. 2, 2018 for a three-way bypass. Surgery on Tuesday, back to work a week later for half days, and back full time a week after that.

My message is this: despite your diagnosis, your attitude can help you to fight your affliction. Could I have given up and thrown in the towel at any point? Yes. But I have too much to live for and I’m not done living yet! My goal is to live every day vertical and ventilated!

Written by Jim Obert, a prostate cancer survivor living in Cincinati.