I’m here for a reason. I did not survive prostate cancer for my own purposes or desires. I’m still here purely for and by the undeserved, unmerited grace of GOD Almighty. Every day – every second is a gift. So it is more than a privilege to be able to share my experience with everyone, but more specifically with men who need to know about such an experience from someone who can better tell it because they’ve been there. This is also for some brothers who may feel hesitant to talk one-on-one at first and just read a survivor’s account on their own time and in their own space. It is my hope that this information will encourage, enlighten and inspire men to take their health seriously. But mainly for those who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer to know what to look forward to in the days ahead.
As you go through this, it will read like a blog or journal. That’s because it was originally written as individual posts on my previous blog. I’ve gone through and made some edits so that it will flow more like a complete story. Enjoy!
Part One: The Screening
In October 2006, my church (Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, TX) announced that in honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month that they will be having another free men’s prostate screening. They have this every year, but this one was “timely.” My sweet, darling wife encouraged me to go and get it done!!! Now, I’ve had my prostate checked about 3 times before, but only the digital way (that dreaded index finger). I know every brother can feel me when I say that is not a pleasant experience at all!!! But it’s worth it as far as our health goes, right??? I’ve heard a few guys who say things like, “I ain’t gettin’ that done to me! Uh uh, no way!” But, that’s foolish, especially when more and more men are getting diagnosed with it and their ages are getting younger (more about “age” later).
I went to the first room to give a sample of blood. I’ve never had to do that before for prostate screening. That was new to me. Then it was on to one of the classrooms-turned-clinic to meet with one of the doctors. After I got “fingered” (ouch), the doctor told me according to his diagnosis that my prostate felt fine. He said he felt nothing odd and no type of growth. That was a bit comforting to me! I drove home, feeling good, and told my wife the good news.
BUT, it wasn’t over. Remember, I gave a sample of blood for the PSA test. I wouldn’t know about that until about a week later…
Part Two: The Phone Call
Less than one week later from the free men’s prostate screening at my church, I’m at work getting ready to go on to the State Fair with my fellow employees. It’s one of those cool perks that we have that keeps us wanting to come to work! It’s the best job that I’ve ever had (more about that later)!!! As I’m walking to check on something before heading to one of the buses, my cell phone rings. It’s the Methodist Hospital’s prostate screening director, Tim Upshaw. He coordinates the screenings with churches, employers and other organizations. He also makes the phone calls to the men regarding their screening results. Well, I was one of those who got the call from him this time. At this moment, I’m really ignorant of a lot of the things that pertain to prostate cancer. But he proceeded to explain to me what I needed to know so I wasn’t in the dark about any of it and was trying to comfort me at the same time. Tim told me that my PSA numbers were higher than they should be. The normal PSA range is from 0 – 4 for men in general. It’s 0 – 2 for African American men since that’s where it’s most common! My PSA was 7.47. A big chill went through me. Tim went on to say that it doesn’t always mean cancer – and that it could just be an infection, or prostatitis, which is specifically inflammation of the prostate gland. This is treated with the right kind of antibiotics. Now my mind is thinking, “That’s what I hope it is.” Tim proceeded to inform me that I need to get to a urologist as soon as possible to find out for sure. He also suggested a real good urologist at the same hospital and gave me the name of one who is, in his opinion, the best. Just as I’m about to call my “worrying” wife, she calls me. “Did you just get a phone call?” she asked. Tim called the house first so that explains that. She told me that I need to go see the doctor today!!! So, I went to the fair with my job and my wife told me that she would be picking me up at the front gate at a certain time. She was able to get an appointment for me later that afternoon, which was a blessing because this particular urologists’ office is usually booked for months. As she arrived at about 2pm as I walked to the front and hopped in the van. My wife asked me how I was feeling. I told her I was fine, but I was a bit nervous. We arrived and met with the urologist, Dr. R. Carrington Mason. After asking some important and routine questions, he told me that he wanted to check me for himself (the dreaded index finger!!!). Man, that was the most uncomfortable finger check that I ever had! I almost peed on the floor!!! Actually I did a little bit as I frowned in discomfort. He was a little rough, but his purpose was to be thorough. Like the doctor at the church screening, even he said that he didn’t feel anything, although he mentioned that my prostate felt a bit spongy to him. Don’t know what that means, but it was enough for him to say something about it. Dr. Mason then said, “We need to do a biopsy.” Say what??? In other words, he needed to get some samples of my prostate so that they can be sent to a lab to run tests to see what’s really going on. How was he going to do that? I found out one week later…
Part Three: The Biopsy
Another week later and I’m back in Dr. Mason’s office for the biopsy. I’m a bit nervous because I know what he’s gonna do. Once I arrive in the room, I’m instructed by the nurse to strip waist down, lay on the table in a somewhat fetal position and cover myself with the sheet provided. Oh boy! I’m thinking, “I wonder if this will hurt – and how much?” So, I lay there counting the seconds, or minutes, wondering when the doctor will come barging through the door, ready to inflict pain on me! He knocks and comes in and asks, “How ya doin’?” “I’m doing ok,” I responded, with a lie. His nurse stands on the front side of me over a tray containing a few gadgets, 6 small glass containers and a long, long, long syringe with a long, long, long, loooooong needle!!! My eyes get pretty huge now! I ask the nurse about the 6 small containers. She told me that they are for the samples that the doctor will extract from my prostate. I pointed my finger at them and started counting. I said, “Six samples!?” She responded, “You should be glad – it’s usually 12.”
Ok, now the fun part. I’ll try not to be too vivid here, but I want to describe the experience so brothers can know. If you don’t want to know THEN STOP READING NOW!!! For the rest of you, take a deep breath and let’s proceed. The doctor sits in his chair and pulls over a small monitor which is used to view ultrasound images. He then sticks the camera (a long tubular device!) up my rectum and stops right at the base of my lower intestine – right where my prostate is. This doesn’t hurt – just uncomfortable! But, there’s a slender, hollow tube connected to the ultrasound device. This is for the syringe (which is about a foot long – the needle part alone)!!! He gives me a local anesthetic shot right in the prostate!!! My eyes nearly popped out of my head. Mainly out of the shock because it wasn’t excruciating, but it did sting. After the shot they asked me how I felt. I was fine, but then seconds later I felt a little light-headed. It didn’t last long, though. Then comes the real fun part!!! Dr. Mason has a syringe/gun-like device that he inserts through the tube which extracts the sample. Now, I have to admit: Dr. Mason is a really nice guy through all of this. He describes to me every movement he has to make so that I’m not caught off guard. In his words, “Ok, you’re going to feel a sting – then a pinch.” He says this each time which is most helpful. My eyes squint with each sting, but the pinch is not too bad. By the way, I’m counting with each sting and pinch. When he finishes number 6, I’m about to sigh when he inserts the thing again!!! I tell him, “I thought you only needed 6!!!” He replied, “Nah, I need more than that. I just need 8 and I’m done.” Well, that’s not too bad. It’s just 2 more. Once he’s finished, he and the nurse put everything away. The nurse has me sit up slowly and stands directly in front of me. She looks right in my eyes and asks, “How are you feeling?” Since I’m kind of crazy, I respond by saying, “I’m fine” and pretend to be passing out and then jerk my head back and say with a smile, “Just kidding!” She then looks at me and says, “No, I’m serious. We had a patient before who had the same thing done and as we were walking out to let him get dressed, he was laying flat on the floor. Are you sure you’re ok?” Then I got serious and begin to analyze myself. “Yeah, I…I’m ok,” I responded with concern. She walked out and I carefully got up and “cleaned myself” a bit and then got dressed. I was a little lightheaded as I was walking out with my wife, but was fine. Dr. Mason told me to return for the next week to get the results. It was a little uncomfortable riding home. I was obviously sore from the biopsy that lasted a few days. I was also alerted that any blood in the urine or semen was normal and would last a while. Now all I had to do was wait until next week for the verdict…
Part Four: The Verdict
One week later, I’m back in the waiting room of Dr. Mason’s office. My name is called and I’m taken to one of the rooms to wait. As I sit there with my wife, I’m pondering thoughts of prostatitis because I don’t want to hear the “c” word. I’d rather it be just an infection and have a bottle of antibiotics to pick up at the pharm. A long twenty-something minutes go by, and then there’s the knock on the door. In walks Dr. Mason who sticks out his hand to shake mine and he says, “You tested positive.” “Positive?” I think to myself. “You mean positive as in ‘good’?” No, he meant positive as I have prostate cancer! Fear and anxiety began to swell within me as he began explaining how he knows exactly how I feel since he experienced the same thing. Yes, you read right – Dr. Mason, my urologist is also a prostate cancer survivor himself! As he began to attempt to comfort us and explain about the different surgical procedures (sounding like the teacher on Peanuts – wa waa wa wa waa), I gaze at my wife’s eyes as they begin to fill with water and moisten her face. Being a guy, I’m holding back as much as I can as I feel a growing fear within me. We then make arrangements to meet with Dr. Mason again and head home. As my wife and I talk during the ride, all I could think of is her and the kids. I’m not a fatalist, but this kind of experience can make you one – even in the least bit! When we arrive home, I head upstairs to our walk-in closet where we have a small easy chair. I closed the bathroom and closet doors and sat down. And that’s when I lost it! Man, I’ve never felt that way ever in my life. I felt so drained of strength, emotional and physical, that I just stayed there for the next hour or so shedding almost endless tears. Later, after my wife fed the kids, she came upstairs and entered the closet. She asked me how I was doing. I broke down again. Then she broke down with me. We cried together and believe it or not that was the first step in getting my strength back. I will go into more details about this on a later post, but there is nothing like having the right, specific wife to be by your side and in your life!!! In His providence, God gave me the exact person that I need and He strategically planned it that way! My road to recovery began way before surgery. Because of her, I found out bit by bit that there was more to prostate cancer than I thought. She soon began to exhaust our internet service by doing tons of research on surgical procedures, nutrition, cause and prevention. But remember, God’s divine providence is quite active in our lives and keeps unfolding right before our very eyes!
Part Five: The Right Perspective
The next three months are a time of growth – mentally and, most important, spiritually. A dear sister got my information from a former pastor of Christian education at my church. She called and talked with me and the wife and began to encourage us. She is a cancer survivor herself and said something that I’ll never forget. She shared how many who go through experiences like this ask the question, “Why me?” She said the real question, especially for the Christian, is “Why not me?” Who am I that I should have a perfect life with no worries, problems, trials, etc.? There are many who go through various issues, even beyond cancer. Am I better than them because of my faith in God? As I’m going through all of this, I’m thinking that if things are going well, even too well, that means that something’s coming to challenge me and grow me to another level. Things like this happen to me to let me know how frail I am in my humanity and how dependent I am on someone much greater than I. Another reason why things like this happen is because of God’s purpose in using us for His glory – and specifically for me to be used to help other brothers who are going through the same thing! That’s the purpose for this blog!!! I begin to read more Scripture to help me with the proper perspective on life to help me get through this and be equipped to be used to minister to others. I personally realize that real joy is identified when things are not good circumstantially but your heart is characterized with a peace that passes understanding! I slowly began to focus less on the cancer and more on the sovereignty, providence, and grace of CHRIST! My time from the diagnosis to surgery is a great adventure of spiritual growth! To sum it all up: My life is nothing, but is everything in Christ alone!!!
Part Six: PSA, Gleason score and surgical options
It was at the very beginning of all of this that I first became acquainted with PSA numbers. As I mentioned before, I first began to have my prostate checked when I was about 35 through free screenings at my church. But this was only the digital exam (finger). It wasn’t until 2006 at the age of 41 that I had a blood sample taken to check for the prostate specific antigen, which is a protein produced by the prostate cells. As is already known by many reading this blog, a PSA test is a blood test that’s used to measure prostate health. High PSA numbers can be a sign of an enlarging prostate or prostate cancer. Normal levels vary based on age, but it’s 0 – 2.0 for African American men, specifically in my age category (late 30s – early 40s). It is more common in African American men than any other race. My PSA at age 41 in October 2006 was 7.47! That’s pretty high for my age. But, the good thing is that it was less than 10 which means it’s a better chance that the cancer is confined to the prostate. Prostate cancer is known to be a very slow growing form of cancer as long as it’s confined. Once it spreads outside the prostate (usually PSA levels higher than 10) it’s more aggressive and spreads throughout the body into other organs. This diagnosis always requires more than just prostatectomy. Radiation and sometimes chemotherapy are necessary to slow down the spread of and eradicate cancer. My diagnosis was in October, but I was able to wait until my surgery which was December 28. That brings me to surgery options. My biopsy urologist was going to be the surgeon at first and he was going to do a radical prostatectomy, which is the standard procedure where the surgeon makes a large incision and does a manual removal of the prostate. This results in a great amount of blood loss and a longer, tougher recovery among other things. But then the providence of God unfolded – again! At this time, my wife is a stay-at-home mom and runs a home pre-school. In November for only about 6 – 8 weeks she was watching two daughters of a lady who happened to be a nurse at UT Southwestern here in Dallas. She (the nurse/mother) was informed of my condition and immediately recommended one of the best urologists/surgeons who performs the robotic-assisted laparoscopic procedure. It is performed with slender, fiber-optic tools that only require small incisions in the abdominal wall that allow for less blood loss, shorter hospital stay, faster recovery, and no/minimal use of narcotic medication during the recovery period. That’s when we made an appointment to meet with Dr. Claus Roerhborn and I chose to undergo the robotic procedure. There’s actually a standard non-robotic laparoscopic procedure which specifically involves making a series of small incisions in the abdomen and manually operating the instruments that allow surgeons to see inside the abdominal area in order to dissect and remove prostate tissue. For the robotic, the surgical robot is called da Vinci ® [Intuitive Surgical, Sunnyvale, CA]
and provides the surgeon with magnified 3D vision and miniature articulating robotic instrumentation. Robotic means that the tools are controlled with (you guessed it) robotic controls rather than with the surgeon’s hands alone. Think of it as playing a video game with a controller – but in the operating room!
Studies now make diagnosis and survival probability more predictable with the Prostate Nomogram, which helps physicians and patients decide on the best treatment and which will result in the greatest benefit. After you receive a positive diagnosis for prostate cancer consult with your urologist about the nomogram and Gleason Scoring System, which is used to grade how far prostate tissue is from normal, healthy tissue. Samples taken during your biopsy are taken to a pathology lab where they are viewed under a microscope and tissue samples are graded on a scale of 1 to 5. The number 1 is for cells that look almost normal (slow growing cancer) and 5 is for cells that are least like normal prostate cells. Grades 2 to 4 are in between. My Gleason score was 3+4, which had a positive probability for early detection and survival. For more information and to have access to an online prostate nomogram calculator/prediction tool, visit this page of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
and after reading the information, click on “open calculator.” You can only benefit from this calculator after being diagnosed with prostate cancer and getting a printout of your biopsy report.
Part Seven: You are what you eat!
During the time of consistent praying and racking my brain over my condition, my wife and I began to put our focus on another very important subject involving prostate cancer – nutrition! I have to be honest and say that I’m not the healthiest guy at all. I’m 5′ 9″, somewhat thin with the dreaded “love handles,” weighing between 195 – 200 pounds! Based on my height I’m quite overweight. I also have to admit that I have a history of bad eating! There was a time when I would eat nothing but burgers, burgers, more burgers, fries, fried catfish, fried chicken, pizza, pizza, lots of sweets, and more and more burgers! On top of that, I’m not very athletic so there are little to no calories and fat being burned. So, when I think about it more and more, I wasn’t really surprised about the cancer and, upon having the “right perspective,” I’m thankful that my condition wasn’t worse – because it easily could have been! My wife, already doing tons of internet research on prostate cancer and it’s stages and cures, started doing another search on the right foods to eat. (I have to brag on her and say that she is one darn good cook!!!) Actually, I had already slowed way down on the fried foods for about a couple of years so the transition to actually [almost] cutting it out was quite easy. We also increased our intake of green veggies and fruit! Speaking of fruits and veggies, we all know about the benefits of tomatoes, especially for men and the health of their prostates. Tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which may damage the body’s cells. Lycopenes, a type of antioxidant, give off the red color to not only tomatoes, but also watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, etc. which, when digested, are deposited in the liver, lungs, prostate gland, colon and skin. Another great source of antioxidants is the pomegranate. They are high in Vitamin C and the juice is high in three different types of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidant. They are even credited with helping in the prevention of cancer and heart disease. And they’re delicious!!! When I was a child I learned to chew the meat off of the seed, swallow the juice and spit out the seeds. After all this time I found out just last year (06) that the seeds are edible and a good source of fiber! Pomegranates are usually in season from October through to January. Other good sources of antioxidants are blueberries and strawberries.
I’m not a vegan, but I tip my hat to those who go that route! I’m still a carnivore, just a little more cautious with what types of meat I eat and how it’s prepared. I’ve cut out red meat about 90%. I mostly consume baked chicken and fish (tilapia or salmon), sliced or ground turkey and tuna. We are very careful about lunchmeat. The best lunchmeat is the kind without nitrates, a form of preservative that may preserve the food but not your body! They can be very harmful to the lining of your lungs!!! On that note, we spend a lot of our time hunting down and purchasing organic foods: no preservatives, no pesticides – just plain natural! We try to do this with everything – fruits, veggies, meats, jellies, juices, milk and so on. The milk is mainly for the kids. I’m lactose intolerant. So that means soy, rice or almond milk for me – organic as much as possible! As I type all of this I have to admit that I’m still learning everything. But, I’ve benefitted a great deal because since my surgery (which I’ll get to later) I’ve lost about 15 – 17 pounds!!! By late Winter of ’07 I’m in the 175-180 range!!! By the way, not only have I changed what I eat, but also how much, as well. Portions are equally as important as content. Sometimes I have to push myself from the table or just fix my plate and put all of what’s left over in the fridge before I eat! That means no more seconds – or thirds! Sometimes I still get seconds, just not as often as I used to. Nutrition and excercise (so convicting as I type) is highly necessary for our health, brothers! For a healthy prostate and everything else!!!
Part Eight: I love my job!
It’s the beginning of December 2006. I’m already surrounded by the prayers of my family, friends of my fellowship, and co-workers. It was at this time the co-workers really expressed their love at a higher level. As many already know, I’m employed at First Baptist Dallas since January 2002. The staff would meet periodically to go over organizational issues and things involving the church as a whole. This time the plan was to meet and include a time of prayer for yours truly at the end of the meeting. And boy – did they pray for your brother!!! After calling me up to the front of the room, the (interim) pastor pulled up a chair and had me sit down in front of everyone. Before I sat down, I asked if everyone even knew what was happening with me and decided to clue them in just in case someone didn’t know. I proceeded to explain that “in October I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.” I continued to talk about how “the Lord puts many people in your life and sometimes just the right person at the right time – like my wife…” That’s when I got choked up! I’ve got to tell you about that woman, but I’ll save her for her own chapter! When I finished, everyone got up from their seats, knelt down and surrounded me. Those closest to me put their hands on me and the pastor began to pray! Wow!!! What a fellowship! There’s nothing like the sincere prayers of the saints – especially in a time of great need! Now, that’s powerful enough – but that’s not all they did. My supervisor stood up and explained to me how many of those, who were able, got together and purchased numerous gift cards from various restaurants and grocery stores, and some even threw in some cash!!! She explained that these gifts would help my wife and make it easy on her the most so that she wouldn’t have to cook a lot since she’ll be busy taking care of me and the kids! She handed me a gift bag filled with these items and it pretty much took my breath away! I went through the bag thoroughly when I returned to my desk and just praised the Lord!!! When I got home that night, after putting the kids to bed, I told my wife that I had a surprise for her. I brought her to our sofa in the family room and dumped the contents of the bag onto it. We both broke down crying tears of joy in unison! This was just too much love for us to handle!!! We then prayed together in thanksgiving to our great Provider and what He has done for us with these gifts! When I added up the total value of the cards with the cash the total came out to $1300!!! This was totally unexpected and I’m totally undeserving of such gifts! I’m truly amazed at how much the Lord continues to shower me with His grace all my life and more specifically at this time!Now many believers know that when God blesses, it is for us to be a blessing, not just to keep it all to ourselves. That’s the purpose of this blog. But my wife and I decided that it would be good to share our “tangible” blessings with one of her former co-workers who was wrestling with cancer herself – one more serious than mine. We took a huge chunk of the cash and some of the gift cards and my wife met up with her a few days later to present them to her. You know, being a blessing actually feels better than being blessed!!!
Part Nine: The Best WIFE in the World!
As the title states – I have the best wife in the whole wide world! You know, many men say that about there wives, and they mean it. But, this is different. I run out of words trying to express how I feel in my heart how much my darling, loving, unselfish, giving, sacrificing, precious, beautiful WIFE means to me!!! My wife is for me the poster child of Proverbs 31:10-31! If the phrase “Excellent Wife” was a dictionary term, her face would be in the margin as a visual example. First of all, getting married to her made a man out of me! I slowly began to grow through much trial and error – my own, of course. I’ve learned so much from the Lord through her – mainly how irresponsible I’ve been and how much of a God-ly man I need to be for her because she needs it and deserves it! And let me tell you that I’m far from perfect! It is because of her I actually have a doctor! Let’s be honest — most men don’t like going to the doctor and actually don’t go! If a man’s left arm is hanging from its socket and bleeding everywhere he’ll say that it’s alright and that he’ll be ok. I’ve known a few men who will quickly admit that they don’t want any doctor cutting on them no matter what’s wrong. As much as I’m “almost” like most guys, I think that’s very foolish! My wife not only encouraged me to get a doctor and have physicals done, but also encouraged me to get my prostate checked. The first time I had my prostate checked “digitally” I was like, “Whoa, what the heck–!” What an unpleasant experience! But, trying to be responsible, I had to get it done. But, in October 2006 my church held another free prostate screening and with the loving encouragement of my beautiful bride, I went. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, for the first time I had my blood taken for the PSA test. And that’s what revealed it!Now, my wife has been by my side and supported me throughout our marriage, but this time was much deeper! After the biopsy and diagnosis, she spent hours upon hours of time on the internet daily doing research for me, trying to find the best information for treatment, surgical options, nutrition, survival data based on PSA and Gleason scores, and so on! She actually knows more than I do about prostate cancer, as well as nutrition.I know I sound a bit partial but my wife is the best cook! She can come up with a complete meal even when I think there’s nothing in the fridge or pantry that will make a snack! She loves to cook and it shows. We later began to splurge a bit (as if we have money to do so) and go shopping for healthy, more organic foods – specifically fruits and veggies! It was sometimes a strain on our bank account, but it was worth it! Like I said before, we didn’t go straight vegan or even go totally healthy on our meals, but we did make a big shift. My lunches that I took to work, even though always prepared with much love, were a lot healthier! Dinner began to be so much more guiltless!!!I praise the Lord Jesus for having the best wife in the world who does so much for me and the kids better than anyone else would or could. I can’t imagine having anyone else as my wife. God’s providence is perfect and so strategic that for me He has perfectly fashioned and graciously given me the wife of my youth!!! I will write more about her later as the events unfold. I’ll close this entry with the best statement to end with — I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH, MRS. STEVEN CRAIG SMITH!!!
Part Ten: The Pre-Op
It’s the third week in December 2006 – a few days from surgery. It’s time for the pre-op! “Pre-operation” for those unfamiliar with the abbreviated term. Now, let me remind you: I’ve never had to go to the hospital for any type of surgical procedure whatsoever! First, I had to take off my shirt and have the nurse adhere numerous wires to my upper torso to give me an EKG. Technology is amazing in this day and age. The machine she used only took approximately a minute to check my vitals. By the grace of God, I checked out fine. I was a little concerned because I know I’m not the healthiest guy on the block. For those who are not familiar with this type of procedure, it’s necessary to check your vital signs to make sure that there are no other physical complications going on inside of you. Sometimes, depending on what else may be wrong, the doctor(s) can’t operate until other issues are taken care of. I had a co-worker go to the doctor earlier this year to have a hernia removed. When they did his EKG they noticed that a few valves in his heart contained major blockage and instead of hernia surgery he ended up having open-heart surgery! That’s why the pre-op is the routine thing to do! My wife and I asked about the anesthesiologist who was recommended as one of the best and we were able to meet with him briefly. I had heard about how most post-surgery patients have symptoms of nausea and headaches because of the anesthesia administered to them during the operation. He explained the reason why is because of the use of medicinal “narcotics” in the anesthesia which he only uses when needed. He rarely uses them and is known for providing one of the most painless experiences in the operating room and post-surgery. We requested him right on the spot and he accepted as he jotted down my name and surgery date. Now, check this out! As we spoke with the main nurse who would be assisting the surgeon, I asked her a serious question. I asked, “What’s the youngest age of men that you’ve seen come through this hospital to be treated for prostate cancer?” She replied, “35.” I know what you’re thinking … that’s very young, especially when normally it is a concern for men 50 years or older! Remember, I was diagnosed at 41 (no telling how long I’ve had it). But, 35? Man, that’s a shocker! That’s why I’m spreading the word and encouraging more guys to get checked – even before the age of 40! Her response stayed on my mind for a long time. It was almost hard to believe. As the day drew closer and as education concerning my diagnosis increased, I began to lose my fear of surgery through much prayer and with my wife by my side!
Part Eleven: Operation Day – and Recovery, pt. 1
It’s early Thursday morning, December 28, 2006, as My wife and I make our way to UT Southwestern, Zale Lipshy Building. We make it there around 6am-ish and I get checked in. Then it’s on to the waiting area to listen for my name. I’ve been to hospital waiting areas quite a few times, but never as the patient! After I give my name the young lady at the desk informs me that someone arrived earlier asking for me. She then pointed to an elderly man who I recognize as one of my co-workers at First Baptist Dallas. An FBD associate pastor with the Pastoral Ministry department was there to pray with me before my surgery. What a surprise to see him there! Now I’m sure that he does this with most church members/faculty, but it was still comforting for him to get up very early in the morning (he beat me there), find out where my surgery was going to be and meet me to pray for a successful surgery! My mother was there with my wife and I as I was called to the back to prepare for surgery. I changed my arrival clothes to put on the surgical threads which included a cool headpiece and foot covers (don’t know the actual names). A couple of nurses came in to check my vitals again and soon after I kissed my wife and mom and laid back on the bed. I got another kiss from my beautiful wife as they rolled me down the hall into the operating room. I was little nervous, but not too much. By this time I feel a strong peace about the whole thing. I can’t help but rest on the sovereignty of Almighty God and trust in His mercy as He heard my prayers and the prayers of my wife, mom, and other saints lifting me up! I also began to reflect more on all that the Lord has done for me all my life from the beginning up until this point – and I don’t mean just general stuff! My life is filled with grace and mercy, in spite of my foolishness!!! I have far too much to be thankful for!
As I come to a stop in the operating room, I briefly notice a large machine which I find out later that it’s the da Vinci
(robotic laparoscopic machine). Notice I said briefly
– that’s the last thing I remember at this point!The next thing I’m aware of is slowly waking up in the recovery area. Thinking about it now, it seemed like about 10 minutes. Actually it’s about 4 hours later! As I slowly and sluggishly open my eyes, listening to the chatter of the nurses around me, the first thought that comes to my mind is: “Oh…I guess they’re finished.” I then closed my eyes and went back to sleep. I felt very rested and absolutely no pain – praise the LORD!!!
Then, I guess about an hour later, I’m being rolled to my hospital room. I’m quite sluggish but I recognize my wife, mom, sister, neice, and my supervisor. By the way, my supervisor had been there since I was in surgery – I told you that I love my job, right? My co-workers, especially in my department (but not limited to) are my extended family!
I began to be more and more in tune with my body and the state I was in when I noticed the catheter! It wasn’t painful at all, just uncomfortable. The doctor told me that I would have a constant feeling of needing to “go” with the catheter in me. He wasn’t kidding! Later on, when most of my family left me and the wife, I lifted the covers to check out my scars. I had four small scars (two on each side of my belly) where the cameras and tools were inserted to perform the surgery and one larger scar around the left side of my navel. This is where a vacuum tube was inserted to pull out my prostate. Again, I want to stress the fact that I was in no pain at all! I was also wearing stockings that generated a pulsating vibration to encourage circulation in my legs in order to prevent and blood clotting. A few other doctors and nurses came in and out to check on me to see how I was doing. Some of them were students working on their residency (by the way, if you don’t know by now the “UT” stands for University of Texas). One of the guys did something I’ll never forget. He unhooked the tube on the catheter from the “container” and inserted a large, clear syringe filled with saline. He said it was to make sure that I didn’t have any blood clots in my bladder and urethra. He wasted no time when he said, “This will feel weird.” He pushed the saline through the tube connected to me and then pulled in the other direction to remove the saline to reveal the results. He said, “No blood clots. You’re looking good!” I said, “Cool.” But, when he did that, he was right when he said that it would feel weird! That was probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever felt! My eyes bulged as I thought, “Whoa!” It didn’t hurt, just felt … weird.
Later on they bring me my first meal – good old chicken broth, jello, and juice! Yum. Hey, I just had surgery, so I needed to take it easy. Nothing solid just yet. This was not only for my stomach but also for the stool. One of the prescriptions that I had was a stood softener. Remember, I just had my prostate removed. The prostate sits right below the bladder – on top of the base of the lower intestine! Trust me: You don’t want to be constipated now!!! I’m in no pain, but that entire area is very, very tender.
One of my old high school buddies surprised me with a visit. I hadn’t seen him in years. He was told about me by his cousin who I told about my condition and upcoming surgery at church a week prior. It was really good to see him. We were like brothers back in the day, even after high school. Then, one of my first cousins stopped by to see me, as well.
Later on, my surgeon, Dr. Claus Roerhborn, stops by to check on me and give me a report on the surgery. I love the way he put it: “It was exquisite!” That was really a blessing to hear. Another younger doctor stopped by who assisted Dr. Roehrborn and told me that one of the reasons the surgery went so great was that my organs were in the right place – almost perfect! Yes, the Lord is gracious!!!!! Then the nurse came in and informed me that I will need to get out of bed and start moving around very soon to keep my circulation in tact. By now it is about 6pm-ish and I’m helped out of bed and into one of the chairs. Minutes later, I notice that I start to get very light-headed, so much so that I feel like I’m about to pass out! This really worries me! I tell my wife this and she buzzes the nurse. They come in and help get me back in bed. The nurse checks my blood pressure and it’s really low. That’s very odd for me because I have borderline hypertension. My temperature is checked and I’m running a fever of about 104! This scares me but as I lay in the bed, in about 30 minutes to an hour, I slowly begin to get better. Blood pressure rises back up to normal and temperature drops down to the same. This was simply a side effect of the anesthesia and doesn’t happen again. Later on, I receive another meal, but it’s a little more solid this time! And quite good I might add!
The next morning, December 29, I begin to slowly get out of bed and walk a bit. I’m not doing too bad if I should say so myself. Again, no pain, just the uncomfortable feeling of the dreaded catheter. By the way, my urine is quite red-ish because of the blood. This is a normal result of surgery. I’m encouraged to drink lots and lots of water which will clear it up. I have no problem with that. They give me one of those 40-ounce hospital cups with the built-in straw. I emptied that thing quite frequently! Before I know it, it’s approximately 6pm and I’m going home. Yep, you read right! I had the robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy procedure and I’m going home the next evening! I head to the bathroom to get dressed (pajamas and robe), say goodbye to the nurses who provided the best comfort (one of them was from my old neighborhood that I grew up in!), hopped in the wheel chair and headed downstairs to the van. We arrived home safely by the grace of God. I have a two-story home so you can picture me walking sideways up the stairs very carefully.
Let me make it very clear again that I’m very, very thankful to the Lord for His sovereign grace. The surgery was great and by now I’m recovering well with no problems. I get myself situated in my bed with my big water cup on my nightstand along with my Bible. As much as I love the Word and the study of theology, I have to admit I don’t read it enough. Now’s the opportunity to use my recovery time wisely and get into it more than I’ve done before! But, you know, that’s just what the Lord will do. He can put you on your back in order to put you on your face in reverence to Him. I have no excuse not to make valuable time for the study of His Holy Word.
I also take time to enjoy reading other books (like my comics!) and watching some of my favorite movies. I love action and sci-fi, especially anything pertaining to superheroes! My wife told me in the hospital that while I’m at home recovering she’ll watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy with me – my favorite!!! Let me fill you in: Before she said that she didn’t want to watch it because she stated “it seems way too violent and scary for me.” Now, my wife likes action movies like me, but I guess she has her limits compared to my tastes. I told her many times before that she’ll love it and it’s more than just fighting – it’s a great story and the cinematography is outstanding! I like it so much that I purchased the extended edition set!!! I was excited when she told me that she’d watch it with me. The funny thing is that after each part she exclaimed, “Wow! I can’t wait for the next part!” When we finished the whole trilogy (about 5 days later) she said, “That was really good! I want to watch it again!!!” I responded, “I told you you’d love it!”
Did I mention that I love my wife???!!!!! She’s so much fun and I’m glad she’s in my life!!! She took care of me way better than any nurse could and my super kids did a super job showing Daddy some major love! They helped Mommy and me with whatever I needed! They’re the best!!!
Part Twelve: Operation Day and Recovery, pt. 2
Well, it’s December 29, 2006, again, and I’m at home recuperating. The first week goes really well. I make sure that I have that big 40-ounce hospital cup sitting on my nightstand filled with water. I go through about 4-5 of those a day. It’s impotant to do this so that the surgical area (mainly the bladder) is constantly being cleaned out. Not to be gross, but there is blood in urine and this is common. That’s why is important to drink lots and lots of water to clean the bladder out and avoid blod clots and other impurities. My sweet wife was constantly emptying my catheter bag and bringing me more water and cooking me the best, healthy meals which she brought to me in bed. My sweet, sweet mom came by later a few times to check on me and help out, as well. Even my kids would come in and bring food and other things I needed. They would spend time with me and watch movies. Through all of this they remained calm as I rested and healed – and my youngest is about to turn 4!
On Friday, January 5, 2007, it’s time to take a trip back to the hospital (UT Southwestern) to have the catheter removed. Thank GOD!!!!! The doctor told me that while I have the catheter in I would have a constant feeling of having to go to the bathroom. And I did! It was uncomfortable, but not painful. The nurse told me to lie back on the table as she did what one of the doctors did after my surgery – take a huge syringe and inject saline solution through the tube which went into my bladder (that weird feeling again!). Then she tells me to take a deep breath as she prepares to pull the tube out. She asked me, “Are you ready? Then take a deep breath…” Just as I begin to inhale she quickly pulls the tube out (weird feeling yet again) and tells me to hold the fluid and stand up. It is now time for me to “pee” in a square plastic container to test my continence. This is why the Kegal excersices are so important before surgery. As she had her back turned she said, “Ok, start peeing…now stop…” I did this about 3 times before emptying my bladder and demonstrated that my “muscles” are in tip-top shape! Now, I have to mention that I did wear the “man pads” for a while – just in case. I did experience from time to time what one of my doctors described as “stress incontinence.” This is where you may have small leakage after getting up from a chair too fast or laughing too hard. This was quite minimal though. I was concerned as to how long I would need to wear the pads and if they would show through my dress slacks and jeans. Well they’re pretty well hidden and kind of comfortable for a while. I wore them for about 5-6 weeks and decided one day to go cold-turkey and told myself that I would stop wearing them and see how I would do. I have to say that I did good and I’m very thankful that I was able to stop wearing them.I returned home to continue to heal for the next 4 weeks. As I mentioned before, I’m very blessed and thankful to have a supportive job which allowed me to heal in the time needed and even work from home when necessary on a laptop. Speaking of time, another blessing is that since I haven’t used a lot of sick time, I had about 25-27 days of sick time that I had earned and never had to use any vacation or personal time!!! I’ve learned that it’s very important to give thanks for “everything,” whether small or great! As I returned to work, I was able to take my time and come back slowly and work part time until I was comfortable enough and ready to come back in full. At this time, it’s still important for me to get plenty of rest because there’s lots of time needed to heal. The beauty and blessing in all of this is that I’m not only able to rest my body to heal but also my mind. Having a great, loving wife and a great job from the Lord allowed me to not have to worry about anything which supercharged the healing process and I’m very, very, very thankful for that!!!
Part Thirteen: PSA – Post Surgery
It’s about 4 weeks out from surgery around the end of January and time to get my blood checked at UT. Now, the goal is to have almost nothing show up since the surgery removed the entire prostate, and with it, the cancer. To be more specific, the PSA number should read “equal to or less than” 0.05. One week later the results came back at 0.09, which is above the expected result. The doctor (Roerhborn) assured me that this is normal since I’m only about a month out of surgery and it takes time for the blood stream to be cleared of the protein which gives off the reading of the PSA number. He tells me to check back in another 4 weeks or so to see if it’s lower, same, or higher. A rapid increase in the number indicates that cancer has spread to other parts of the body and further treatment is necessary. Speaking of further treatment, my wife and I thought that it would be wise to do research to see if this was necessary. She spoke with an oncologist, who we met through a church member, to get advice on this. She was told that it would be wise and was referred to another one at a different hospital. We made the appointment and drove there when the day came. The oncologist received the data on me a made his assessment. Now, I have to explain something: One of the things that the data revealed is that I have what’s called “positive margins” meaning that there is prostatic tissue that remains inside me where the prostate was which may (or may not) contain cancer cells. These cancer cells can become dormant and die off or grow. Knowing this, the doctor recommended that I should immediately start radiation and hormone treatment. Now, understand this – whatever state I was in at this time regarding continence or anything else in that area would be locked in with no chance of physical improvement, healing of nerves, etc. Plus, hormone treatment would cause such side effects like hot flashes, tenderness in the breasts (yeah, you read right), and etc. again. Think of it as early menopause for men (yikes)! We left and thought about it for a few days. Dr. Roerhborn received the oncologist’s recommendation for me in his office and was a bit upset. He told us later that he immediately sent him an email asking him why in the world would he recommend treatment with only 1 PSA reading right after surgery!!!??? By the way, he told us this when I went back a few weeks later after my second PSA result which was “less than or equal to” 0.05 which is undetectable!!! Praise the LORD!!!!!We then found out that the first hospital (Methodist), where I had the biopsy, gets PSA results out to the thousandths, called “ultra sensitive,” whereas the normal PSA readings are out to the hundredths. We went back there and requested their reading. One week later the results came back and it read 0.008!!! We gave this reading to Dr. Roerhborn and he was floored at the number and exclaimed, “That’s pretty d@#m low.” We laughed as he followed that with a modest, “Excuse me.” He then went on to vent about why in the world would the oncologist recommend that I get treatment (with its side effects) after only 1 PSA reading when I may not even need to go through all of that! I kept going back to both UT and Methodist for PSA readings every 2-3 months as was needed. The UT readings remained the same! At Methodist, the “ultra sensitive” reading jumped up just a little with0.012. However this is still below the normal reading and remains in the “undetectable” range!!! Dr. Roehrborn stated that with the ultra sensitive readings you’ll get a few “ticks” of variation in the reading, especially in the thousandths place, so there’s no need for alarm. Next reading, around late July 07, my reading was 0.011. The urologist at Methodist told me, “You’re doing good. I’ll see you again in 6 months!” So, spreading out my visits for the PSA blood test is a good sign!
Part Fourteen: The Right Perspective, pt. 2
Previously (Part Five), I talked about having the “right perspective” when trials and tests come to basically invade our comfort zones. I addressed the question “Why Me?” and how the better, more divine focus should make us ask “Why NOT Me?” To really hone in on the exact purpose for trials, tests, and even temptations, it’s good to look at Paul’s assessment as he and other followers of CHRIST were persecuted and made to suffer for what they believed in even though they did nothing wrong. We think our trials are bad – try constantly being sentenced to death and always being sought after to be executed for what you believe to be the truth! With all that in mind, Paul told the disciples in Corinth, Greece in his second letter to them that “… we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.”(1:8) But then, he hits the nail on the head and explains the reason for going through it all: “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on GOD Who raises the dead!”(v.9) That’s the right perspective!!! In fact, that’s reality – whether I perceive it or not!So, for the follower of CHRIST – is your trial or test an attack from the enemy or negative circumstances, or are you being “pruned” to bear fruit or rather “broken to serve” in order to rely totally on the One Who saved you in order to use you? For we are His workmanship, created in CHRIST JESUS for good works, which GOD prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
For the non-Christian – is your trial or negative experience a result of bad luck or bad karma, or is this the time and opportunity given to you to realize that life is not about you? There is someone who is absolute and far greater than your experiences who can not only solve your problems, but is Himself the solution to everything! His peace is that which passes understanding – incomprehensible by human knowledge because it is a peace that lives in the hearts of men even when circumstances haven’t changed. I know what you’re asking: “Why does God have to afflict me or anyone else to get my attention to surrender to His will? Why can’t he just tell me?” Maybe He has. How many times have you heard the Gospel?JESUS is LORD, and I am not!!! He is the Shepherd – I am but a sheep, lost without His authority, wisdom, guidance, truth, and peace! Robotic prostatectomy didn’t save me. Early detection didn’t spare me. It is the Sovereignty and Providence of The Almighty Lord JESUS Who strategically orchestrated it all so that I would have the perfect wife to encourage me to be medically responsible and get myself checked and then to get checked when I did before it got any worse!!! That’s divine providence! That’s grace and mercy!!! There is no luck! For from Him and through HIM and to HIM are all things. To HIM be glory forever. Amen! – Romans 11:36
Part Fifteen: Don’t Put It Off!!!
There’s a phrase going around about prostate cancer diagnosis which is “watchful waiting.” In other words, don’t really do anything about it for now. Just wait and keep checking on it to see if it gets worse. That’s a bad move – to not move at all!!! Remember, prostate cancer is slow-growing in its early stages as long as it is contained within the prostate. But, it is growing. In October 2007, the first week, I had the gracious opportunity to give my testimony at church twice – first during our Wednesday night Bible study and then Saturday during a monthly Men’s fellowship. At the Men’s fellowship (which is every first Saturday) we also had our annual free men’s prostate screening following the service – which is how I was diagnosed in 2006!!! I found out later that a few brothers had high PSA numbers. One of them introduced himself to me at another men’s Bible study group that I attend on Monday nights. He told me that he was tested the year before and had a high PSA result but didn’t do anything about it. I told him, “That’s not good.” He went on to say that he was still waiting on the results from the ’07 screening and that he really enjoyed my testimony. About a week later he grabbed me and said, “I got my results back. I’m in trouble.” I told him, “No you’re not. Let’s talk.” I shared with him more information and directed him to read my blog for more details and doctor info. The last time I spoke with him he told me that he had his biopsy done and the results were positive. His next step was to speak with the doctor about surgical options and he was very interested in the robotic procedure. The brother could be in far worse shape, but the point is this: DON’T PUT IT OFF, BROTHERS!!!!! Get yourself tested! Early detection is a blessing! Being tested positive is only a negative if you wait too long!!! Make that doctor’s appointment and MAN-UP to take the finger (digital exam) and the needle (PSA)!!!
Part Sixteen: PSA Update!
On Thursday, February 28, 2008, I went to see my urologist for the first 6-month visit (after doing it every 2 – 3 months) for another PSA blood check. My beautiful, loving, anxious wife called this week (just 3 days later) to get the results. My PSA reading was 0.017 – still undetectable!!!!!! Praise the LORD for His grace!!!!! Now, it’s just a little higher than the last one (6 months prior) which was 0.011 and 3 months before that it was 0.012. But, still undetectable since it’s equal to or less than 0.05! My next PSA check would be 6 months later in August.
Part Seventeen: 6 months later and another PSA!
It’s August 2008 and 6 months since my last PSA test. I had another one on August 27 and I just received the results in the mail. Survey says: 0.013! Yahoo! Praise the LORD again for even more grace and mercy!!! I truly don’t deserve it! Like always, this is the “ultrasensitive” PSA performed by the Siemens Immulite Chemiluminescent Assay (as used by Methodist Hospital – Dallas). The who??? I’m not for certain what kind of contraption that is. I don’t have all of the information on it just yet. When I gather the proper info I’ll provide a link for it. But, as a reminder, the ultrasensitive test produces a number that reads in the thousandths, where as the normal PSA test reads in the hundredths. For the normal PSA, if you have had your prostate removed the result should read < or = 0.05. The ultrasensitive test provides a more “accurate” reading. I’m humbled and highly thankful to my Lord for another good report!!!
Part Eighteen: E. D.
Ok, I’ve put this one off long enough. This is the one area (along with incontinence) that guys don’t even want to think about, let alone experience. These are also the reasons (E. D. and incontinence) most guys put off treatment after they have been diagnosed. Putting it off is not the answer. Would you rather be incontinent with E. D. and cured – or dead??? Sorry for being so blunt, but this is a reality among men and their fear of treatment. However, it’s a reality for prostate cancer post-surgery. When the prostate is removed, there are nerves which contribute to the erectile function that have to be severed. You can speak with your surgeon and request that he do “nerve sparing” during the procedure. But, this is something that is still unavoidable. Yet, thanks to modern medicine, it is treatable! As many of you know there are a few well-known prescriptions out there that assist in “overcoming” E. D. when necessary. Each man should consult with his urologist to find out what works best for him. There are even a few other solutions beyond the pills that are available. So, for all my married brothers who have to be treated for prostate cancer – it ain’t over! There is hope and there is help. Talk to your urologist or if you’d like shoot me an email and I can explain further. I’ll save the details for the one-on-one conversations. I’m not endorsing any one particular medication, but I can help with what I know. Again, brothers, it ain’t over!!!
Part Nineteen: Cool News!
I was at my urologist on the morning of February 25, 2009 at Methodist Hospital
getting my 6-month check up. The doctor informed me that the hospital just got its first DaVinci machine! YAHOO!!! I’ve been in conversation with Tim Upshaw, who directs the Prostate Screening & Awareness Program
there, and he was concerned that while they have the best and busiest screening program in the country, any time someone is thinking about surgery they want to know more about the robotic procedure. The problem is that these men would get screened by Methodist, but had to go elsewhere for the surgery, like I did. Well, they finally got one. That’s some exciting news. When I left the office, I called Tim immediately to share the excitement. It’s about time and it’ll be really good for them because now they can start to give some full treatment and not just screenings. Some more cool news: My doctor told me for my next check up that he’ll see me next year!!! Yeah, baby! Yearly check ups now!!! Oh, how I love the favor of GOD! Especially since I’m so undeserving of Him. Thank you, Father! I should get my PSA results in about a week and will be posting them here. Peace!
Part Twenty: And the results are in …!
Ok, folks. As promised, I checked my mail this evening and my latest PSA results were there. Drumroll, please…Still 0.013! Yes! Praise the LORD for his continuous grace!!! This is the same as my last PSA 6 months ago! And, as I mentioned in my last post, my next visit is next year! Wow – you know, when I think about the holiness and sovereignty of GOD Almighty and what I am compared to Him, I know full well that I’m totally undeserving of His mercy! How about any of you, brothers? Can any of you say the same? Even if you can’t (or won’t), you’re still a recipient! What makes it better for each of us is when it’s acknowledged by us! Deliverance from any form of sickness, from the smallest cold or headache to the worst form of cancer, is only by the grace of GOD! It’s not medicine, it’s not human will, and there is no luck. It’s not even healthy eating, even though it is highly beneficial and we should eat healthy. After all, Who do you think created the healthy, natural foods??? Who gives us wisdom and guides our hearts and minds to decide to eat right? Who blesses our food, mainly when we ask? It’s all Him ’cause He’s all good!!!
Part Twenty-One: Comfort while you heal – the Donut Cushion
My wife reminded me that i need to tell brothers about this important commodity. It is a known fact that after prostate cancer surgery, your crouch will be sore! We hardly think about it, but we sit on our prostates all the time. Cutting it out makes you sore in that area. It will be a bit uncomfortable sitting while you heal, especially when you sit on a hard, flat surface. Enter the donut cushion!!! It was a life saver! My wife found one for me at a teacher supply store of all places. Go figure. But you can find many of them online, at pillow/bedding stores or even through some medical supply resources. Prices range from $10-$20. I used it to drive with and work at my desk. Even when I wasn’t sore anymore, I had gotten so used to it that it had become a near-permanent home in my driver’s seat. This is very helpful and provides the best comfort. To find one online, just type “donut cushion” in your favorite search engine. Ahhhhhhh…so nice!
Part Twenty-Two: THREE YEARS!
December 28, 2009 marked my 3 year anniversary of being a survivor of prostate cancer by the sovereign grace of GOD!!! If I were to express my gratitude I’d quickly run out of words. There just aren’t any to describe how I feel about still being alive and cancer-free — especially since I absolutely don’t deserve it!!! I humbly acknowledge the simple, yet powerful truth that I’m nothing without the grace of GOD!
I wish I had an accurate count, but since my survival I’ve been able to talk and walk with approximately 15-18 brothers who were diagnosed with prostate cancer. A few of them I’ve had the pleasure to talk with more than once as they would call me occasionally with more questions and then would provide me with post-surgery updates. I’m blessed to be used, or rather “broken to serve” my Lord and other brothers in HIS Name!!!
Part Twenty-Three: One-Year Check Up and PSA result.
It’s March 1, 2010 and I just had another post-surgery check up. This is one year after my last one – which is cool because now I’m on the yearly schedule. They did something new this time. The nurse did sort of a sonogram procedure to make sure that my bladder was emptying properly. The result was good! Urine sample checked out fine. Doctor checked my lymph nodes and he said I’m good there (praise GOD!).
I received my PSA
result a week later in the mail. (drumroll) 0.019!!!
Praise GOD again and again!!! Like I mentioned before, this is measured with the ultrasensitive testing that I do through Methodist Hospital in Dallas. It measures out to the thousandths rather than the normal measuring that calculates the results to the hundredths, which makes it much more accurate. The general measurment for an undetectable PSA is ≤0.05. So, with that in mind, you can get a better idea of how low my PSA is! Again, I’m far too thankful for GOD’s amazing mercy and grace to cause me to be cancer-free!!! I don’t deserve it at all!!!
Part Twenty-Four: FOUR YEARS in Survival Mode!
It’s December 28, 2010. It was 4 years ago in 2006 on a Thursday morning that I had my cancer-filled prostate removed and have been cancer-free since! All praise, glory and thanks go to my Lord Jesus the Christ! I’m unworthy and very grateful! Thank you, LORD!
Part Twenty-Five: 2011 PSA result
Hey, brothers! Just got my PSA result for 2011.
And once again, for the fourth year, I’m truly thankful to the LORD! Still undetectable!
As I mentioned before, I still get my PSA done at Methodist Hospital
which uses the “ultra-sensitive” test that tallies results out to the thousandths place (i.e. .001, with 1 being in that place). The normal PSA test gives results to the hundredths (i.e. .o1, with 1 being in the hundredths). Ultra-sensitive PSA gives a more accurate reading whereas the normal test gives a reading of > 0r = .05. So there would be no accurate knowledge of where the number would be with the normal testing if it’s less. Now, the only con to the PSA, which by the way stands for “prostate specific antigen
,” is that there are supposedly other organs in the body that produce the antigen (i’m still researching this). So, with that in mind, a rising PSA doesn’t always mean cancer. As far as the prostate goes, it could be an infection, or prostatitis. So that would mean that PSA isn’t really as “accurate” as it states. But, anytime there is a high result, it should raise an eyebrow to do further testing. That’s why the PSA isn’t the final verdict. Depending on how high the number, the biopsy is really the accurate result. But still, I want to know, as best as I can, exactly where it is, so the ultra-sensitive is for me from here on out!
Part Twenty-Six: Another PSA – 6 months sooner
About 3 weeks ago (early September 2011), my loving wife got concerned that my last PSA was higher than expected, even though it was still at an undetectable level.
Well, I’m thankful to report that the results are the same – 0.026! Rather than waiting another year, my wife wanted to make sure that my number wasn’t rising to signify growth of cancer cells. Keep in mind this is the ultra sensitive test which is a more detailed reading, rather than the common “0.05-or-less” reading. This shows that my PSA is still very undetectable.
Thank you, Sweetheart! Even more, thank you, Lord Jesus!!!
And the journey continues.
I take great pleasure in sharing my information with brothers everywhere who must know what to look for in living with prostate cancer and what to do about it. I have to be honest and say that my experience is not the same as others. Yet what I went through has been (and will be) quite beneficial to many brothers in need and even for their wives (for those who are married).
To keep up with more recent happenings of my post-prostate cancer adventures and to read more information about prostate cancer awareness, visit the homepage. Peace.