One decade. 522 weeks. 3,654 days. 87,696 hours.
That’s how long I’ve been living with prostate cancer since being diagnosed on 11 November 2010. Of course, the operative phrase is “living with.”
The diagnosis was terrifying. The treatment decision was excruciating and exhausting. The surgery recovery was longer than expected with some complications along the way. The long-term side effects have been what were advertised at the beginning.
On the positive side, there were 54 months of undetectable PSA results to indicate the surgery had done the trick. Or so we thought.
When my first detectable PSA test came in five years ago, I was even more terrified and panicked than when I was initially diagnosed. It meant that my first line of defense had failed. Now I had fewer options to control or rid me of the cancer available to me.
My doctors convinced me that there was no need for immediate panic and that we could and should monitor my PSA before considering any action. My PSA fluctuated up and down, but had a slow but steady upward trend.
As my PSA continued to climb—passing several markers that are normally used to consider starting salvage radiation therapy—I continued to do nothing. I’ve been pretty steadfast in my reluctance to start zapping without knowing where the cancer is, and even some of the best new imaging techniques won’t pick up the cancer at my PSA levels.
With a PSA doubling time of four years, I’m comfortable with that decision. Heck. I’m still here five years after that initial detectable PSA reading, and ten years after my initial diagnosis.
We may find out a little more about my future direction next month when I go for my next PSA test just before Christmas. As I’ve learned (albeit slowly) over the last decade, don’t get too worked up about the results until you have them in hand. It just doesn’t do any good to speculate about the unknown. January will tell me whether I can continue the status quo or it’s finally time to take action.
If you asked me ten years ago when I started this blog (to keep family and friends informed in my pre-Facebook days) that I would still be doing this ten years later, I would have said you’re nuts. But here I am.
I’ve tried to inform and educate others about prostate cancer along the way, and to give insights to the newly diagnosed as to what you may encounter two, three, five, or ten years down the road. All the guys I spoke with pre-surgery had, themselves, only been less than a year out from their own surgery date. They had no long-term post-surgery insights to offer to me.
I’ve tried to inject a little dose of reality to those who, just like me, gleefully declared themselves to be “cancer-free” after a few undetectable PSA tests. “Not so fast.” My story is a reminder that there can be unexpected plot twists, even in the later chapters.
Along the way, I’ve met some wonderfully supportive men who have been through their own journey—some just virtually and some in person. Sadly, three of them have lost their battle with prostate cancer and they’re sorely missed.
It’s been a decade of living with prostate cancer. Living with. Let’s hope that I’m still around to write the blog post, “Two Decades Living with Prostate Cancer.”
9 thoughts on “A Decade Living with Prostate Cancer”
It’s fantastic for me to follow your journey. I am coming up to 3 years of undetectable PSA since my surgery and think I will take a similar approach to you if my PSA readings do increase over time. Thanks for sharing. Cheers,Paul
Hi Paul. Thanks for your comment and I’m glad that you continue to have undetectable PSAs–many they continue for many, many years so that you don’t have to follow my lead. 🙂 Continued good health! Dan
It’s good for the morale of the many many thousands of men living with Prostate cancer or newly diagnosed and fearful to mark the successes Dan, in your case from surgery. But as you have done in this blog entry it needs to be tempered with the reality that many men die directly from this cancer and others from the side effects of treatments like ADT on their cardiovascular systems. The longer people survive at this time the more options the medical and research teams have developed. New medicines like the “lutamide” family of drugs, new targets like PSMA via Lutetium or AMG 160 and more precise identification of genetic factors that might be at play in a specific case because this is a group of diseases not a single uniform cancer. So far so good Dan, here’s my best wishes to you and your next decade.
Thanks, Charles. You bring up an excellent point in that so much has changed in the field of prostate cancer and treatment in those 10 years, it’s amazing. I’ve been fortunate that my cancer seems to be progressing so slowly that I can potentially take advantage of some of those advances when the time comes. Others with more aggressive cancers have to act with the current treatments available. All the best to you! Dan
Hi Dan, you give hope to many men with the same diagnosis. I know we are all different in our severity, but we all have it just the same. Your blog has helped me cope with my cancer when I had no one to talk to about it. I hope and pray for your continued health so you can pass along your message of hope to others who stumble upon your blog like me. I want to wish you a happy holiday season. Peace and Love.
Thanks for your kind words, Sean. I’m glad to have been a small part of your own journey along the way. All the best to you and your family! –Dan
Congratulations on 10 years “living with cancer”. That takes a lot of patience and self discipline to stay calm and live life with a positive attitude!!! Great job doing so!!!
Thanks, Sis! I’m not sure about the staying calm part at certain points along the way, but I’m still here. 🙂
Dan, you da man!
Congratulations on 10 years of more-than-just-survival!
Your medical knowledge and imparting your history is a godsend to many, I’m sure.
I’m now past the 5-year mark, myself. Woohoo! And no sign of a PSA blip on the radar. Like you, I avoided the radiotherapy from day 1, having read some ghastly stories re quality of life. Unlike you, I’ve almost completely ignored it until I had to have another blood test. Post-op my head was 99% concerned with my body’s behaviour, now probably 2 or 3%. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
The UK response to Covid-19 has, for me, been a blinking nuisance. I’ve tried to get a doctor’s appointment three times in the past few months, without success, and have had to resort to a hospital visit just to get a dose of antibiotics and analgesics (e.g. for a painful facial swelling).
Life is for living. Keep living.
Thanks for your persistence. 👏