By Richard J. Anthony, Sr.
I recently sent my urologist an anniversary card in appreciation for saving my life after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer ten years ago.
“Mr. Anthony, I have the results of the biopsy. I’m afraid it’s positive. When would you like to schedule the surgery?”
That was the jolting call I’d received from another urologist who, frankly, seemed a bit too eager to cut a straight line south of my navel. I never talked with him again. Instead, I devoted almost a year researching my options: radiation (fry it), seeds (bake it), surgery (cut it out) or nothing (hope for the best).
It’s not that I’m that smart; I’m a coward. Even having blood drawn makes me very queasy. I’ve accepted it and am no longer embarrassed to request the pediatric needle as I extend my arm, look the other way and await the reassuring line “You’ll only feel a little pinch.”
So I was in no hurry to agree to what, at that time, was considered one of the worst surgeries a male could have. Plus the pesky side effects: impotence and incontinence. Not either/or — they usually come as a set. According to the statistics at the time, chances were high that I would be afflicted with both, even in the hands of the best surgeons available. Not a happy prospect. But neither were the consequences of doing nothing in the hope that the cancer would progress slowly or not all.
A second opinion was followed by a third, on top of hours of research and innumerable conversations I had with men who had been confronted with the same life-altering decision. I learned that the biopsy results automatically initiated me into a fraternity of men who were similarly perplexed and leaned on one another for advice.
After months of rejecting surgery as my best option (couldn’t have seeds implanted because my prostate was the size of Toledo and had not responded to a drug that was supposed to shrink it), I met with Dr. Leigh Bergmann. He said that if I were his father, he would strongly recommend removal of the cancerous prostate, the gold standard. I knew he was right and I trusted him. On June 25, 2001, I joined the zipper club. And according to the scans I’ve had since, Dr. Bergmann got every one of those nasty cells out.
A lot has happened in 10 years. The surgery is much less invasive, and the regimen to treat prostate cancer is much more advanced. Early diagnosis usually results in a happy outcome.
One thing hasn’t changed. I still look away and expect the worst when I have blood drawn. And if offered, I take the lollipop and sticker for being a brave little boy.
Richard J. Anthony, Sr., is the Executive Vice President of GRAND Media and the author of Organizations, People & Effective Communication.
• Video: Urologic surgeon Dr. Brian Lane talks about prostate cancer on WOODTV8
Prostate Cancer Topics from the National Cancer Institute
• What is prostate cancer? Cancer that forms in tissues of the prostate (a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum)
• Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH): As men age, the prostate may get bigger and block the urethra or bladder. This may cause difficulty in urination or can interfere with sexual function. Although BPH is not cancer, surgery may be needed to correct it.
• Possible signs of prostate cancer: weak flow of urine or frequent urination
• Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: a discussion of its value and its limitations
• Cases in the US (in 2012, estimated): New cases: 241,740. Deaths: 28,170.
• Prostate cancer prevention: Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot.
• Learn more about prostate cancer
Today’s Options, Tomorrow’s Possibilities
Check out the National Cancer Institute site for detailed information on treatment options:
• Five types of standard treatments: watchful waiting, surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy
• Sipuleucel T, a cancer treatment (FDA-approved in 2010) that improves the survival of men with advanced prostate cancer by means of a vaccine that is created using a patient’s own immune cells
• Clinical trials of new types of treatment: cryosurgery, biologic therapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound, proton beam radiation therapy
Have you been diagnosed with prostate cancer? What choices did you make — a type of standard treatment or alternative medicine? How are you doing now? We hope you’re well! Please email GRAND and share your experiences. We’ll post as many as we can on GRANDmagazine.com on our Health & Wellness pages.