Prostate Cancer: Three survivors’ stories
McELHATTAN –In February, Dave Calhoun learned he had prostate cancer.
The world turned upside down for him.
For several months before, Dave had the urge to urinate more and more often. “I sometimes got up three or four times in the night,” he says. “I thought something was up, but didn’t think it was cancer.”
His wife, Mona, felt something was wrong and urged him to go see his doctor. He went to his family doctor, Dr. Steve Geise, who did a PSA blood test and an exam. Dave had several PSA tests over the years and each had gone up, to just a little over normal, but had doubled in one year. Dr. Geise sent him to a urologist for a biopsy.
The Calhouns tried to get into a urologist at Susquehanna Health, but were told the wait would be three months. With a possible diagnosis of cancer looming over them, they didn’t want to wait.
They decided to go to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to get the biopsy done.
The biopsy showed that Dave had cancer.
The tumor was a lower-grade, slow-growing tumor, but with paraneural involvement.
The doctors weren’t sure if the tumor was contained.
Dave and Mona studied and discussed options with their urologist at Johns Hopkins. They looked at possible side effects and long term prognosis. “I spent a lot of nights worrying instead of sleeping,” Dave says.
The Calhouns decided the best option for Dave was radiation, not surgery.
They gave him two hormone injections three months apart to shrink the tumor. Then he underwent radiation treatments at Johns Hopkins.
Mona wanted to help relieve his stress, so she took care of all the planning. Dave needed 40 radiation treatments, done five days a week. The Calhouns moved to Baltimore for the summer, starting June 9 and returning home Aug. 5.
Radiation was exhausting for Dave; he is used to walking miles every day.
He was glad they opted to stay in Baltimore until his treatments were done, even though it meant not being with his family and friends.
At the end of treatment, his PSA score was a .01, which is the low score the doctor had hoped for. He has an appointment in February to check his PSA again, and it will continue to be tested every six months.
Dave knows that by choosing radiation instead of surgery, he limits his options if the cancer returns.
“This treatment isn’t the answer for everyone,” he says, “but I would go through the same program again.”
Jim Maguire’s PSA had gone up significantly.
Dr. Steve Geise and physician’s assistant John Hanna, Jim’s son-in-law, urged him to get a biopsy, but he kept putting it off.
He didn’t think it could be cancer.
Jim’s father had a high PSA for a long time, but had no problem.
This gave Jim hope that it was nothing to worry about.
His wife, Lori, says it was a life insurance policy that finally made him get the biopsy.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“When you hear the news, you have too much time to think and study,” Jim says. “You don’t realize the stress, but it’s always in the back of your mind. The hardest part was the diagnosis, because it’s embarrassing.”
It’s a “guy thing,” he adds.
Jim’s cancer was a stage 1, which is the lowest stage, and the doctors felt it was contained in the prostate. They gave him options for treatment. He chose to go to Geisinger for robotic surgery to remove the prostate gland.
Jim had surgery at the end of June.
“The laying around after the surgery was the worst,” he says, “what I anticipated and what was were so different.” Lori makes sure he behaves and doesn’t overdo. Jim says he has had no lasting effects. He credits his wife, children and grandchildren for helping him through.
At his three-month follow-up, his PSA had dropped to a negative number. His doctors will continue to do PSA follow-ups.
“Years ago, this was a death sentence, but I’ve met lots of people who have been through it,” he says. Jim has a very positive attitude and says “there is a reason today is called the ‘present.'”
The third person interviewed asked to be anonymous for this article.
Survivor Three went to his family doctor with concerns when he started having problems getting an erection. Before age 60, he had a low PSA, but when he went to the doctor they did another test. His PSA had skyrocketed.
He was referred to Dr. Bloiso, a urologist at Susquehanna Health in Williamsport. Dr. Bloiso saw his prostate was enlarged and ordered a biopsy. The diagnosis was prostate cancer, but the doctors felt it was contained.
He was given options for treatment and chose robotic prostate removal. The doctors told him that with surgery he might live to 100. After surgery in June, his PSA was down to zero. He will continue to be tested and if the PSA goes up, he knows that radiation will be the next step.
“When you get diagnosed, you worry more every day,” he says. Like Dave and Jim, he says his wife was “a rock.” She made sure he got appointments when he needed them and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“My dad died of cancer at the age of 67 and I seem to get the same things as my dad,” he relates. So he always had the thought of cancer in the back of his mind. “If you find something that’s not feeling right, get it checked out,” he stresses.
All three survivors hope that in telling their stories, they may save the life of someone who might be where they were last year at this time. They all stress the importance of talking to your primary care doctor about any problems, and not waiting.