While each patient’s battle with prostate cancer is an individual one, my experience is hardly unique. My story began 4 years ago, back in 2011, when my wife Susan literally begged me to see a doctor for a physical exam. At the time, I was dismissive—even incredulous at this suggestion—even though 2 of my close relatives, my father and uncle, had both been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I’m a doctor! I thought, what’s the point in visiting another internist for a physical exam?
But Susan was insistent, and so, against my instinct, I went. I was surprised when my routine blood work revealed something unexpected: my PSA had risen from 1 to 4. My doctor advised me not to worry; an ultrasound revealed prostatitis, so he prescribed some antibiotics. I felt I was in the clear.
However, when my PSA levels remained elevated despite treatment, my doctor was prompted to look further. A subsequent biopsy revealed a new diagnosis: prostate cancer. Following the initial diagnosis, I was on a program of active surveillance, also known as “watchful waiting,” for 2 years while my doctor monitored the status of the tumor. Ultimately, upon observing some suspicious changes in the tumor, my doctor was no longer comfortable with active surveillance, and strongly urged surgery.
I’m a doctor! What’s the point in visiting another internist for a physical exam?
My doctor’s discomfort with the situation was good enough for me, and, trusting his judgment, I underwent surgery in July 2013. While many of you were celebrating the 4th of July, I was at home on my couch recovering from a radical robotic prostatectomy. Four hours of surgery had left me in great pain, without an appetite and in need of help from my college-age son, Jordan, to get up and lie down. But I was cancer-free for the first time in at least 2 years. I have since made a full recovery and returned to all of my normal activities with no lasting adverse effects. The only remnant of cancer surgery is 6 small scars on my torso, and they are fading fast.
In September, to celebrate the launch of the MANhoodforgood campaign and raise awareness for prostate cancer, I filmed a PSA with Susan urging men to “get checked.” Throughout this experience, I have been grateful for the support of my wife, and I now have the opportunity to support other men with this exceedingly common disorder from the perspective of a patient. I have had the great privilege of supporting other men through their journey with prostate cancer and I have had the opportunity to become active with the Prostate Cancer Foundation. I am increasingly convinced that the research we are funding has and will continue to provide breakthroughs that will transform the prognosis not only for prostate cancer, but for many other malignancies as well.