Treated 2005 • Posted 2006 • Updated 2009 & 2015
"In recent years I had witnessed three friends who had undergone surgical procedures, two of whom were in diapers and impotent. It occurred to me that there might be something worse than dying."
After monitoring a slowly rising PSA over the past four years, a physical exam in the Fall of 2004 revealed a spike to 5.3. A referral to a urologist and a needle biopsy revealed bilateral cancer, with a Gleason of 7 (3+4).
I thought there must be an error in the pathology, I have no history of cancer on either my mother or father's side of the family. Besides, as everyone knows, cancer is something that happens to other people. Those were my first thoughts, which I'm sure are not unique among those of us who have suffered this diagnosis. In recent years I had witnessed three friends who had undergone surgical procedures, two of whom were in diapers and impotent. It occurred to me that there might be something worse than dying.
Next came the 'consultation' with the urologist. He dutifully explained all the 'surgical' options, and was sensitive enough to explain to my wife and me how we could maintain intimacy without sex. I had never felt so patronized in my life.
The first thing you learn at Loma Linda is their belief that no one is there by accident. The first person outside my family I talked to about my diagnosis was a dear friend, with whom I prayed and supported when he had dealt with melanoma several years before. Seeing my sorry state of mind, his advice was not to worry about a thing, it was going to work out fine. Easy for him to say! He went on to explain that his father-in-law, with whom I was acquainted, was at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Southern California, being treated for prostate cancer with something called 'Conformal Proton Radiation.' He said I should call him and find out more about this alternative to surgery. What were the odds I'd know someone being treated at Loma Linda at the exact time of my own diagnosis?
The rest, as they say, is history. I telephoned Bill Wood (another BOB member in good standing), my friend's father-in-law, who was nearing completion of his 44 trips to the gantry. It was difficult keeping Bill focused on his medical, versus his recreational, experience at Loma Linda. Sounded too good to be true. Bill referred me to Bob Marckini, who became a beacon of reassurance and information. Bob, in turn, provided a list of BOB members from all over the country. All of these were quick to take my calls, and eager to provide reference and support. Finally, a call to those wonderful folks at Loma Linda University Medical Center who helped me through the process of admittance and insurance approval.
I completed treatment in May of 2005. Very minor side effects, which quickly passed, leaving everything in good working order. My four-month follow-up PSA was a 2.2. Next month I expect my second follow-up PSA to continue to drop. I feel very blessed to have found this oasis of care, in what initially appeared to be only a … desert of operating room solutions. The first thing I did to celebrate my return to a 'normal' lifestyle was to write a check to the Slater Chair. The next was to revisit my estate plan, so that I could be a benefactor to the hospital as they had been to me. The occasions of my check ups over the next four years will also serve as reminders to give something back.
I was the focus of attention last Fall at my 45th high school reunion. Unfortunately, not from the female members of our class, but from my male peers, who had heard about my cancer. I subsequently sent out nearly 100 packets of information about proton therapy to classmates who wanted to know more, 'just in case.' My doctor, the health club, and business associates, now refer interested parties who want to discuss alternatives to surgery, from someone with first hand experience. And, as a member of BOB, I'm eager to make myself available to anyone who is trying to decide the best course of treatment. In terms of giving back, I'm reminded of something I committed to memory years ago.
"Past the seeker as he prayed, came the crippled, and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the seeker fell into deep prayer and cried, 'Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing?' And out of the long silence, God said, 'I did do something, I made you.'"
Update: January 2009
Nearly four years ago, in February of 2005, I began my 'Conformal Proton Radiation' treatments at Loma Linda University Medical Center. In November of 2004, I had been diagnosed with bilateral prostate cancer with a PSA of 5.3 and a Gleason of 7 (3+4). Reassured by my urologist that this was "very treatable through surgery", he then explained the life changing side effects for which I needed to prepare myself. The prospect of incontinence and impotency did not seem at all reassuring. I was determined that there had to be a better way.
Next came the research, the fortuitous reference from a friend whose father-in-law 'just happened' to be undergoing treatment at LLUMC, and my subsequent calls to Bob Marckini. The rest, as they say, is history. Over the last four years, I have talked with dozens of men going through the stressful process of a prostate cancer diagnosis, and sent out nearly 100 packets of information.
Most recently, a friend of over 40 years, chose the University of Florida Medical Center at Jacksonville for treatment which he completed at the end of last year. In his words, a truly Happy New Year. As to my own situation, nearly four years after treatment? Absolutely no adverse lifestyle side effects. I'm a functional, healthy 67 year old male with a most recent PSA (Dec. '08) of 0.56. If you'd like to learn more, don't hesitate to contact me.
I was treated in the Spring of 2005 at LLUMC. The reaction to my initial diagnosis was the same as most. As a healthy male not yet 65, cancer was not a part of my life plan. My first thought was not of survival, but rather of the greatly diminished life style after survival. I had friends who suffered impotence and incontinence as a result of surgery, but attended support groups with the message that at least they were still alive. I was blessed with a referral from a friend who was being treated at LLUCC at the time of my diagnosis. I did my homework and the short version is that ten years later I'm cancer free with the normal functions of a man my age. My last PSA was 0.40 with no complications. Over the last ten years I've spoken to numerous men who have taken the time to research their own treatment options. Not one of these has regretted their decision to choose proton radiation therapy. I remain in touch with the very special people at Loma Linda. I'd be happy to talk with anyone about my experience.