DAVE'S JOURNEY WITH PROSTATE CANCER
MY JOURNEY WITH CANCER, THE BATTLE OF MY LIFE...
My cancer started with a small swollen area on my lower left side of my neck. I first went to the doctor in mid February 2009. My primary doctor examined me and just thought it might be a pulled muscle. As I did not have any pain or any other symptoms with this. He did not feel any hard mass or lump.
To further diagnose my problem he sent me to have a ct scan. When I went back to him to get the results of the ct scan I now was starting to have problems urinating. I brought this to his attention. He then did a digital rectal exam to check my prostate and noticed it was enlarged as well as having a nodule on it.
My doctor said the results from the ct scan did not show any cancer or tumors, but did advise further testing, a (pet scan). I freaked out! I knew that generally the only people that have pet scans are people with possible signs of cancer. After his exam, he refers me to a urologist and a oncologist. I just love the fact how doctors don't tell you everything! "The ct scan does not show any signs of cancer, but I want you to see an oncologist"... Yeah ok, I'll just go for the fun of it!
So first I see the urologist. The urologist found the same problems as my primary doctor. After his exam he also found my prostate to be enlarged and with a nodule on it. After explaining to my urologist that my grandpa had prostate cancer I suddenly became a prime canidate. At this point I am starting to put all this together. Everything is pointing to cancer! At this time I can not believe I am even having these conversations with these doctors. What the heck is happening? My urologist also wanted me to get another ct scan of my lower abdominal area as I was experiencing pain in my abdomen and blood work (psa).
After my second ct scan and blood work I now schedule an appointment with my oncologist. After his examination he wants me to have several x-rays taken of my bones. He also refers me to see a Ear, Nose & Throat doctor due to the swollen area around the neck and throat. After the results of the x-rays my oncologist tells me that I should have metal rods put in both of my femurs. I could fracture them just by walking. At this time still no one really knew for sure what I had. But all indications, it was looking like prostate cancer.
But still several more tests needed to be performed. My oncologist told me that there is no cure for prostate cancer and that there would not be much that he could do for me...Needless to say, I went searching for another doctor as this was starting to sound very serious and my current doctor did not give me much confidence of my future. Although I still could not grasp what was taking place. It felt as if I was living a very bad nightmare!
I schedule an appointment with the E.N.T. doctor. After the E.N.T. doctors exam, he suggest a biopsy of my neck. He gave me the choice of needle aspiration or surgery. I choose surgery as he said that is more accurate.
Then my urologist calls me and said the ct scan of my abdominal area shows I have a large blood clot in my vena cava area and I need to get to the hospital as soon as possible. I got admitted to the hospital for three days. The hospital had to do another ct scan (my third), it to showed I had a clot.
The doctors put me on blood thinner (lovenox) which you inject in your stomach yourself and sent me home on Monday and I had my neck biopsy on Tuesday. I then go back to my urologist and I'm told the results from my blood work. My psa level is 179 (normal range 0-4) and my urologist wants to do a needle biopsy on my prostate along with other tests...urodynamics, which checks urination problems and cystoscopy, which checks the bladder and urethra by means of using a scope.
March 24, 2009 was the most horrible day in my life. My life as I currently knew it, was about to change forever. As I went back to see the doctor and my dad and brother waited in the waiting room. I never expected to hear what I was about to hear or even with all the previous talk maybe I was just going into denial. I do remember sitting and waiting for the doctor to walk in the room and I was scared to death! The doctor walked in the room and said, my friend...you have adenocarcinoma.
I have what? "Adenocarcinoma", He said he believes it has started from the prostate. But generally prostate cancer does not travel as far up as the neck. So they will need to do further testing. I truly believe a part of me died right there in that room! I will not ever be the same person as I once was. I remember he was still talking to me, and all I was thinking of was dieing and my family, my wife and kids... A biopsy of my prostate and blood work as well as a PSA test would further prove it to be prostate cancer. He said the next several weeks that I will be very busy...and I was!
I never expected to hear cancer...Your just numb for a few minutes. Not knowing how to respond or what you just heard is real. He told me that was the results of my neck biopsy. The doctor removed two lymph nodes, both detected to be cancerous. I then go to my urologist and had twelve biopsy samples taken from my prostate. Ten of those were also found to be cancerous and a gleason score of 9.
The diagnosis... Advanced Prostate Cancer stage 4 with bone mets. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and bones, shoulders, ribs, spine, femurs and pelvis. They started my treatment on March 30, 2009 with lupron shots every four months and flutimide taken daily to lower my testosterone.
As prostate cancer feeds and grows off of your testosterone. The doctors told me prostate cancer is not curable. With treatment they can possible slow it down or hopefully stop it, but not cure it and with chemo being the last source of treatment.
This as you can imagine was just devastating. After hearing this I was completly numb. My first thoughts were, am I going to die from this disease? and how could this have gotten so bad and spread so much when I felt so good!
A month after being diagnosed the oncologist wants me to see a radiation oncologist to see about radiation for my legs. After my first visit with the radiation oncologist, she schedules me for ten treatments of radiation to start the following week. She wanted me to start to have radiation in my right femur which is the worst.
Radiation would kill the cancer in that area and also help relieve the pain in my thighs. Through out our conversation I was concerned about my bones which radiation will weaken my bones. The radiation oncologist then suggest that I see a orthopedic surgeon before I have radiation.
At first the orthopedic surgeon suggested putting metal rods (prophylactic nailing) in both of my femurs as a possibility. But first wants me to have MRI's and Xrays. The results of the MRI shows the cancer is attacking the bone marrow not the bone (cortex) at this time. So, the rods could be put on hold for now. With all this confusion...radiation, metal rods in my legs and different opinions from different doctors. It was just to over whelming. It was time to seek a second opinion.
I was not satisfied with the treatment plan of my local oncologist. So, I now decided to go to Chicago in July 2009 to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America for a second opinon. Since going to CTCA and getting that second opinion. I currently at this time do not need radiation or metal rods. I can't stress enough the importance of a second or even third opinion.
Going through a devastating illness such as cancer, it certainly is a wake up call. You certainly look at life in a much different way. I don't know what is around the corner for me, as none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. But when I first was told I had cancer I was totally shocked. I immediately went into denial. I was scared. I felt completely alone.
At times I feel I am still having a bad nightmare and I am waiting for someone to wake me up to tell me everything will be okay. I have a wonderful wife and two great kids that I love very much and want to be with for a very long time. I have learned through this whole ordeal how much people really care. I can't stress enough how important friends and family support is.
I want to thank my entire family for all you have done and your continued support. I don't know how I could have
gotten this far without your love, concern, hope, your inspiring strength and all of your prayers to give me the courage, strength and hope I need to fight this battle. Again, I thank you all and I am so blessed to have friends and family like I have.
I don't call myself a survivor as I don't feel that I have survived anything! As with every new day I am still fighting for my life. If someday that this cancer takes my life...then yes I truly lost and cancer has won! But if someday that I am so truly blessed and this horrible disease is no longer invading my body, then that is when I will become a survivor. Until then I will continue to fight this cancer minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.