Twisted Systems

How I Dealt With My Recent Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

As you may have surmised, this is a very personal article.

It’s about me.

It’s also about how I deal with all things i.e. business, personal etc.

I took off this past April and May to deal with a health issue.

This article is not about getting sympathy (those dreaded “Thoughts & prayers”) and, so far as the doctors have determined, my prognosis appears to be that I will die of something else eventually.

What this is about is more of a PSA (no, not a prostate blood test, more of a Public Service Announcement).

It’s about early detection.

It’s about not putting your head in the sand.

This about choosing to live first, and figuring out everything else afterward.

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March after my 6th biopsy. My father died of undiagnosed prostate cancer in 1984 at the age of 74.

We, meaning my older brother and I, figured that our dad developed it in his mid to late 60’s and by the time it killed him, it had metastasized into his liver and bones. It was so bad that the doctors told us that his ribcage disintegrated in their hands during the autopsy.

Yes, he was also a heavy 2 pack a day smoker and a regular drinker.

It’s interesting to note that both my brother and I—he is 10 years older—were so repulsed by the smell of tobacco and the incessant quasi-drunken atmosphere that permeated our apartment, that neither of us ever smoked or drank.

Our parents never went to doctors, and we are the total opposite.

About eight years ago, when my brother was 66, he was diagnosed with Prostate cancer. He called me and seemed very matter-of-fact about it.

He said that they caught it early and he was given several options to deal with it.  His cancer was not very aggressive.

My brother chose seeds and radiation and pretty quietly went about his business. He never brought it up unless I asked him. When his treatments were over, he told me and would occasionally mention that he is totally fine.

It’s been 8 years and he is, by all accounts, cancer free.

This is how I knew that it was not a matter of if for me, but when.

I am turning 66 this July so this time frame of cancer development, as it regards the males in my immediate family, was right on cue.

The only thing that was a little scary was that, this new tumor that they found on my 6th biopsy looked very aggressive: a Gleason 9, which is kind of like a 5-alarm fire.

After all the watching and testing. All the dozens of PSA’s and MRI’s (not to mention all the biopsies) this one came out of nowhere.

I was told that my decision making time was very short. No “watchful waiting” for me.

Because I had been getting biopsies for close to 13 years and had many friends who were treated for prostate cancer, I was armed with all the tools to make a decision that worked for me.

I chose surgery, a radical prostatectomy, over radiation. I didn’t want 40 radiation treatments and 2 years of hormone therapy.

I just wanted it out. Now.

Here’s why:

Out of the 20 or so guys I know who have had prostate cancer, most were younger then me when they were diagnosed, and most chose surgery. None of the guys knew each other but they all, to a man, said the same thing to me when I asked why surgery and not radiation.

They all just wanted it out of their bodies and, if it didn’t spread they all would get over the operation and move on with the lives quickly.

This is an aggressive decision as the operation is a tough one ,but one that mirrors my view on business.

Make the tough decisions, prepare yourself as best as you can, and then….go for it.

The other question I asked each one was:

How are you dealing with the incontinence and sexual dysfunction issues?

To be clear, there are these issues with any of the treatments, to the point that I was telling myself, kind of half jokingly over the years  “Hey, i’d rather die with my organs fully functioning then have any sexual or incontinence problems!”

I was told the following to a man:

“Save you life first, then you will figure it out”.

You have so many goals and dreams and you need your health to attain them.

Everyone has a different response to the surgery, and living is the only option!

I can say now that I totally endorse this position.

My wife, daughter, family and friends are grateful that I made the decision that I made.

Speaking of friends, the men I called who had gone through this were extremely generous with their time. They were always there for me and helped me through the first 3 weeks post op which were tough.

I had a great hospital and a great surgeon.

While this may sound obvious, many people go where they are comfortable.

This is a very, very critical operation where the surgeon and after care makes all the difference.

It has been 16 weeks since the operation and I am fully healed from the 5 incisions that were made (this was a robotic surgery).

The great news post op was that the tumor, after clinical analysis, was found to be a Gleason 7 which is much, much better and there appears to be no cancer beyond the prostate gland (none in the margins or lymph nodes)

My first post-op blood test came back last week and no cancer was present. These tests will go on for several years at intervals that are suggested by my urologist!

My hope in being so open about what I went through that if you know someone who is having prostate issues or you, the reader is having them, get checked and deal with it.

I am so grateful to the guys and especially my wife who has also been absolutely amazing, that helped me through this that I want to “give back’ to anyone who is also going through this whole difficult process.

Do not hesitate to write to me if you have any questions!

Save your life first, then figure it out.