I know many of you in the genealogy world are aware of my recent fight with prostate cancer, but I just wanted to let everyone know that I am doing fine and I received an excellent report on my recovery from my doctor on September 1, 2009. The surgery took place on July 9 and was deemed a success at the time. A pathology report on July 27 confirmed that the early stage tumor was confined to the prostate, had not spread to any neighboring tissue or to any lymph nodes: more good news. I received a copy of that report on September 1. On October 6, I received the results of a PSA test taken on September 3 and the result indicated a level of 0.01: the lowest reading possible and another sign that my recovery is going very well!
It was a long haul from May 5 when I sat down in the chair of my doctor's office to hear the words every man dreads: "The bad news is that you have prostate cancer." My first words in response were, "Where do we go from here?" I was surprised by the positive results of biopsies that were taken nearly two weeks prior but it was not unexpected. My father passed away from an agressive form of prostate cancer in 1997 (diagnosed in 1995) so I knew my chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point were greater. Shortly after my father passed away, I started regular yearly prostate check-ups at age 40. Slightly more than 10 years later I sit here typing this and I thank my lucky stars that I was vigilant about that regular testing.
I would like to say to our male readers of our magazines, this blog, and everywhere that early prostate cancer testing can definitely save your life. Men, in general, don't like having a manual, or digital, prostate examination. However uncomfortable or embarrassing it may seem, the alternatives down the line can be much more so. I chose to have a Radical Prostatectomy (complete removal of the prostate) because I felt that my family history in this area presented enough of a risk that any other treatment might not result in a favorable outcome. My doctor was in agreement with me on that point. There were other less invasive options available to me, but I have an excellent urologist and surgeon who made sure I was informed of all possible treatments and their side-effects. I was completely comfortable with my decision.
Should you find yourself in my position, faced with the reality of a positive test for prostate cancer, be informed as much as possible as to all the available treatments. Talk to your doctor and ask lots of questions. Between appointments, keep a written list of questions or concerns you have, and go through each one with your doctor at your next visit. Don't leave with questions unanswered or concerns not addressed. Ask for any relevant reading material they may have or for a recommended list of reading material. There are many excellent publications available and I've included two below that I would highly recommend.
Take comfort in knowing that great strides have been made in prostate cancer research and the options available to patients are much better today and getting better all the time. Use the Internet, but don't rely entirely on it for your information: there are good sites and not-so-good sites and you can easily get overwhelmed. Be wary of anyone selling herbal remedies with claims of solving all prostate problems and discuss taking any such remedies with your doctor. You may also want to seek out prostate cancer support groups in your area. These organizations are an excellent way for men to exchange information and get support from others who have faced the same challenges. Your doctor or urologist may have information on such organizations available in his waiting room, through the receptionist, or check on the Internet.
Lastly, you'll need a strong support system from family, friends and colleagues. You need to remove yourself as much as possible from day-to-day stress and focus on your surgery and recovery. In particular for me, my wife, daughter, another immediate family members and workmates were mainstays of my recovery and to them I am eternally greatful. Stay positive at every stage along the way! Although this concept may seem difficult to comprehend, it is very important for you to embrace it. Your attitude going in does have an effect on your recovery.
The Canadian Guide to Prostate Cancer
Leah Jamnicky, RN
Robert Nam, MD
Editor: Helen Leask, PHD
John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. 2008
Understand Prostate Cancer
Dr. Fred Saad
Dr. Michael McCormack
Rogers Media 2008
Both the American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society are great sources for information. Both operate toll-free information hotlines and have local offices across respective countries.
American Cancer Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Toronto Man to Man Prostate Cancer Support Group
Movember is annual, month long celebration of the moustache, highlighting men's health issues - specifically prostate cancer.