Like every man I know who is living with prostate cancer, I’ve had my bad moments. But right at the start, during the phase known as “newly-diagnosed,” I knew the odds were in my favor; knew I could die with it not from it. Now, after more than two decades of successfully and peacefully co-existing with this disease, I am once again feeling anxious and at risk.
I have succeeded in one area: the treatment I have undergone has been minimally invasive: no surgery, zero radiation, no chemo. Only a stint of hormone blockade, aka androgen deprivation therapy, and/or Testosterone Inactivating Pharmaceuticals (TIP). And even then, instead of the conventional triple medication—Proscar, Casodex and Lupron—being a minimalist rather than a fan of saturation bombing, I took only Lupron. Still, since there is no question about prostate cancer being testosterone driven, it was appropriate to choose TIP as the least invasive treatment option and, in my case, reduce my testosterone level to that of a pre-pubescent boy.
What else did I do to “fight” the cancer? I confess that my behavior as a prostate cancer patient does not receive high marks: slovenly attention to weight (I’m 5’9” and weigh 218). Diet? Despite my wife Jeanne’s best efforts, I was only part time successful. Exercise? A stationary bike at my neighborhood YMCA, 20 minutes twice a week; no weights work. I am not proud of my record.
Prostate cancer specialists are now rethinking the validity of PSA monitoring. Still, as it was general practice with the option known as “Watchful Waiting,” I was regular in getting my PSA recorded. And until about six weeks ago, my levels were reasonable for a 79-year-old semi-careful patient of a conscientious, competent oncologist, my writing partner, Mark Scholz.
Then, in what might be called “overnight” after two decades of stability, my PSA doubled, vaulted up to 23 and change. And I confess, my sleep is being riven with anxious thoughts. The all but forgotten “What if . . .” assault has begin again earnest, with its companion stomach acidity, staring into the darkness, a renewed sense of urgency and, most upsetting, the writing on the wall has become the mirror image of my mantra: Die with it not from it.
However, since my last PSA test, I did undergo a form of heavy duty stress: two surgical procedures for kidney stones. And since surgery—together with heavy lifting, bike riding and recent sexual activity—is known to drive PSA to unrealistic levels, following any of these stressors, you are advised not to be re-tested for a good month or more.
Furthermore, although I was unaware of it for several months, I have been host to a nasty infection known as Proteus Mirabilis (More about that rabid puppy later!). Remembering a previous scare when my PSA suddenly jumped to an alarming level due to infection, I need to undergo a course of antibiotics—in my case Cipro—and then get another PSA test, and a rectal probe with analysis of prostatic fluid to determine whether the infection was actually the cause of my elevated PSA.
Then I will want two essential consults.
First, I need to see Duke Bahn, MD, radiation oncologist, and for my money, the world grand master of the Transrectal Color Doppler Ultrasound for Diagnosis, monitoring with Active Surveillance, and the management of Recurrent Disease.
And finally, I will consult with Lisa Chaiken, MD, radiation oncologist at
St. John’s Medical Center in , and herself a grand master in the forefront technique of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), the only radiation procedure I would feel even provisionally comfortable undergoing. Santa Monica
So first things first: I just came back from my neighborhood CVS Pharmacy with 39 tablets of 500mg Ciprofloxacin HCL. Took the first tab in the parking lot. I’ll complete the two-a-day course of antibiotics; then redo the PSA and get the opinions of the prostate mavens I trust. But whatever the case, I have decided that it is time for definitive treatment—aka cure. Living with low testosterone is downright debilitating.
Enough is enough.