Robert B started his journey with prostate cancer only a few short months ago, in the end of 2010. Please welcome him to the community as he looks to help others who may be suffering through a similar situation.
I conducted a short interview with Bob to help introduce him, his condition, and his incredibly positive attitude.
What condition do you suffer from?
My condition is a little bit more advanced than BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia) - it's not just an enlarged prostate. First, the doctors told me that they found cancer through a biopsy. It didn't sound good, but I was assured it was pretty easy to take care of. The doctors set me up for a bone scan and a CT scan just to play it safe, to check if the cancer had spread beyond the prostate. Prostate cancer is kind of funny - when it goes out of the prostate, it still stays prostate cancer. It has an affinity to go for the bone - and in my case, it had spread to bone.
How did you come to test for cancer? Did you suffer any symptoms?
It was very innocent, and I expected no problems at all. I got new insurance and as a part of that, the insurance company wanted to do a basic physical. This included a full blood work write-up, and everything came out perfectly fine until the last item on the page - prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, which tests the amount of protein in prostate cells, a possible indicator of prostate cancer. It was supposed to be four or lower - mine was 61 the first time around. My reaction was "What the hell does this show?!" It shows that your prostate is enlarged, and can indicate that you could have prostate cancer. My primary doctor wanted to play it safe and wanted to have a biopsy done, so he gave me a referral for a urologist. He explained the biopsy, which scared me, but I didn't have any symptoms and all my other counts were perfect, so I was confident there must be a mistake. In order to perform the biopsy, they must probe inside your rectum and take 12 samples inside the prostate. About five or six days later, the urologist called and said I was not fine. All 12 samples said I had cancer.
The doctor wanted to do more tests to make sure the cancer had not spread, and this was when the bone imaging was done. I was so positive that this couldn't be happening to me, but unfortunately it had spread to an appreciable amount of the bone. When I asked the urologist what we do next, he suggested putting me on hormone therapy. This notion scared me - I had done a bit of research on my own and was under the impression that hormone therapy was used in potentially fatal situations - and that's when where the severity hit me.
When did you go through all of this?
This was all in late November and early December 2010. It actually worked out well that this happened in 2010 because I had access to information online. I researched the biopsy - and there really wasn't much information speaking from the perspective of the patient. It's embarrassing - it was painful! But I wasn't prepared. From that point on - especially surrounding the bone scan - I had so many questions and did find information, but it was rarely from the patient standpoint. I just hope that what I went through will help other people.
Did you experience any symptoms that would have led you to believe there were problems?
They say that prostate cancer doesn't exhibit any symptoms, but I feel that I saw some a few years ago. For some time prior to learning of my condition, I did experience one notable symptom: when I ejaculated, the amount of semen steadily decreased. I brushed it off as being older and old age was nothing to worry about. I never said anything because it's embarrassing to talk to your doctor about, but this could have been an early indicator that something was wrong.
What was your attitude like through all of this?
I was sure that the urologist had made a mistake... until he said it had spread to the bone. I was convinced that I was always perfectly healthy and it was an absolute mistake. So I guess the first thought was denial.
I have a great wife who is very supportive, and I consumed everything online. Due to the nature of my job, I was already experienced with performing independent research. It was the same thing with prostate cancer. The more I looked into it, the more I thought I was going to hear horror stories, but what I found out was that there are so many people who have advanced cancer and are given six months to live, and survive. There are those who are alive and healthy 10 years later.
Now, I consider myself to be hopeful and positive.
How have you approached treatment?
On my end, I have radically changed my diet and started taking supplements to keep my immune system up and to actually fight the cancer. A boost to the immune system when you're talking about cancer doesn't seem like much, but there are supplements from Asia that have really made a difference in the way I feel. The first, actual proof that things are helping, is coming on March 10 for the next PSA test.
Will this be the first test since the initial diagnosis?
Yes - the first since hormone therapy and supplements. When they say hormone therapy - and I found this online - there are two kinds of hormone therapy. I had to go to my urologist and ask him about Combined Hormone Therapy because of the research that I had done online. He did not even suggest Combined Hormone Therapy due to concerns about side effects, but I have had almost none of them.
We won't fully know until that PSA test in March. And if I don't see great results, I won't quit, and we will take another path and try something else.
How do you want to help people with HealthCentral?
We have been taught all our lives that cancer is a death sentence, and your first reaction is that you're going to die - it's horrible for people. I want to tell people that there is hope and there are options. In my case, because of online research and studying, I was able to take control of my own ship and after suggesting a treatment option, the doctor was in agreement. I want others to have access to similar information and be able to take control of this condition.
Published On: February 28, 2011