In December 2011, at 56 years old, I was managing a software organization for a large computer company. With new systems on the line, we were working long hours, seven days a week. On Christmas holiday, I went in to see my Doctor for my yearly checkup and discovered that my blood Pressure, cholesterol and PSA were all elevated. My PSA was twelve vs a normal reading the year before. I had been having some physical discomfort, and urgency issues when I drank coffee or alcohol. The urgency issues, I attributed to the diuretic I was taking to help control my blood pressure. My family Doctor and I discussed that prostate cancer or that some sort of infection might elevate my PSA, but given that prostate cancer typically is a slow moving cancer, we agreed on a course of antibiotics. I found it much easier to believe I had an infection, which could easily be cured.
I returned home in April 2012, after spending a month traveling on business, to complete our system release. I immediately scheduled time with my Doctor. Blood tests showed my PSA continued to rise, but not as I had read about on the internet and other research. My PSA reading was now sixteen rising by almost four points in as many months. My Doctor suggested I take the first available urologist appointment, which I did.
During the month of May, I continued to work, while preoccupied with the idea that I may have cancer. When I met with my urologist, he performed a digital rectal exam, DRE, massaging the prostate and taking blood samples. The DRE confirmed that I most likely had prostate cancer, and my blood work all but confirmed this, as my PSA reading was again above sixteen. Rather than perform the biopsy next, my Urologist suggested an MRI to capture images before the prostate was traumatized by the biopsy. By sequencing the MRI first, we would have more data, faster.
By mid-June, I had completed my MRI and biopsy. The diagnosis was very clear, CANCER. PSA was now 20+, Gleason Score of 8, Stage T3C. Not just cancer, but a very aggressive cancer. I felt as if I was hit by a sledge hammer. But there was no time to relax, this was moving fast, so I needed to as well.
June 1st MRI in Bellevue
June 7th Biopsy in Kirkland (12 Samples)
June 18th Bone Scan in Bellevue
June 20th Brachytherapist, in Seattle to discuss the seed option
June 21st Oncologist, in Redmond to discuss IMRT options
June 26th Surgeon, in Seattle to discuss surgery options
June 27th Surgeon, in LA to discuss surgery options
June 28th Began Treatment
July 2nd Called into work …… stopped work
On June 20th, I met with Dr. Peter Grimm, a Radiation Oncologist in Seattle. During our meeting Dr. Grimm produced a document outlining the work of the Prostate Cancer Results Study Group, PCRSG. Because of the advanced stage of my cancer, Dr. Grimm skipped over the low and intermediate risk groups, and began our meeting with the treatment options for high risk patients. The data clearly showed by combining several treatments, my risk of re-occurrence could greatly be reduced, and the data projected these rates for up to 15 years. Later that same week, the surgeon in LA confirmed the recommendations of the study group. Given that he was identified as one of the top surgeons in the US, this carried a lot of weight.
When I returned to Seattle, I began my treatment straight away. My treatment plan combined three different treatments, greatly raising my chances for a cure. When my treatment began, my last PSA reading was above forty. One and one half years after completing my treatment, my cancer remains in remission, with PSA readings less than point zero four, (<.04). While my side effects from the treatment(s) may be more severe than most, I continue to work toward recovery. I did what I could in the way of research, to see if there were more steps I could take beyond the treatment(s), prescribed by my Doctors. After reading many books about cancer, lifestyle and diet, I decided to make some changes. “The China Study”, by T. Colin Campbell, convinced me to adopt a mostly plant based or vegan diet . During my treatment, I signed up for hot yoga, going when I could, and am now regaining the strength to jog and go to the driving range.
I understand that my case is not normal for prostate cancer, as most cases are slow moving, providing much more time to choose the right treatment. The treatment results comparison developed by the PCRSG helped to develop the roadmap I needed to make the right treatment choice. I realize there is no way I could have replicated the research done by this team of doctors. I would like to express my thanks to the Prostate Cancer Treatment Research Foundation, for working on behalf of patients, like me, to make this information available.
PS. I need to take the time to acknowledge my wonderful wife Wendy. Wendy accompanied me, and in most cases drove me to every appointment, carrying her little green notebook, recording doctors comment, test results, next steps, medications and every bit of detail. Without her love, support, and that notebook, there is no way I could recall this story.