BY RALPH BLUM
2013, I had lived with prostate cancer for almost 25
years without submitting to any form of radical treatment. I was
fortunate that my cancer was the non-aggressive, slow moving variety. And over
the years I became a strong advocate of a “Die with it not from it” policy.
learned early on that a “Whatever you say, doc,” attitude can be dangerous, and
I knew that the longer I could simply monitor the cancer and use the time to
educate myself about the disease, the better off I would be. However, the main
reason I resisted radical treatment was the book Mark Scholz and I wrote with
the sub-title: “No More Unnecessary Biopsies, Radical Treatment or Loss ofSexual Potency.” I reckoned I’d better practice what I preached.
a little over a year ago, when my PSA suddenly spiked to 26 for no reason I
could determine (like BPH or an infection), I figured the cancer was finally on
the move. And maybe, after all these years, my immune system was no longer the
staunch ally it had been. Mark was reassuring. My cancer hadn’t changed—it was
still the non-aggressive type. Which meant the odds of surviving were pretty
much in my favor if I decided not to submit to treatment. Still, “To treat or
not to treat” remained the question.
determining that the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph system or to my bones
(big relief there!), I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps I was pushing my luck
by sticking to my credo. And to tell the truth, I was getting tired of living
with cancer. So as I am no fan of surgery, and anyway at my age (81) it was not
an option, I decided to go for a cure with IMRT, Intensity Modulated Radiation
is now almost five months since I completed 45 sessions of IMRT, and I could
not be more pleased with the results. At first, I was dismayed to see a rather snail-slow
descent of my PSA. Then I learned—and this is the really big news—that cell
death, or apoptosis, continues after treatment for another year to a year and a
half. According to Lisa Chaiken, MD, an admirable and patient teacher, who is
in charge of St. Johns Hospital’s IMRT program, “The cancer cells turn over
slowly. More and more die off with the passage of time. There is an immediate
impact of the radiation—the damage, is done—but the process takes time."
get this: the cells only die when the time comes for them to divide! In trying
to participate in the creative process of replication, cell death, apoptosis,
is the result. The cancerous cells are
actually committing suicide: How’s that for irony?
confirm with visual evidence what is taking place, I’ve been to see radiologist
Duke Bahn, MD and compared his various ultrasound images of my prostate: the
multiple red tributaries indicating angiogenesis (the flow of new blood to the
tumor), once as thick as a busy river delta, are now reduced to a scattered few!
unexpected bonus for me from undergoing IMRT is a new understanding of PSA
function, about which I was always uncertain in the past. Now that I understand
the process, the behavior of my PSA—post-treatment—makes total sense: As the
cancerous cells die off, the PSA falls. I am now almost five months post
treatment, and my PSA has dropped from 26 to 17 to 7.8 and a week ago, in the
most recent PSA, to a gratifying 2.8! A level I haven’t seen in a quarter of a
Technically speaking, I still have prostate
cancer. But my cancer is terminally feeble, itself waiting for the final cut by
the Grim Reaper of cancers.
IMRT is truly the gift that keeps on giving!