My name is Alvin Chin and I am a 6-year prostate cancer survivor. After 31 years, I retired from a federal government career in 2003 and was in the process of looking for things to do in retirement. I took the required physical exam for a volunteer job I held within my local community. Interestingly, it was during this thorough exam, rather than with my own primary care provider, that the doctor noticed that my PSA was rising above 4, the usual cutoff for referral for a biopsy. My first biopsy was negative, but the PSA level kept rising. A second biopsy, six months later, was positive for prostate cancer, and that resulted in a period of watchful waiting and dietary changes. While my dietary changes reversed the PSA rise, I recognized that this was only temporary unless I was willing to make even more substantial lifestyle changes. Eventually, I decided to go for brachytherapy treatment with radioactive seeds in 2005. This included a 6-month Lupron treatment to reduce the prostate from 60 cc to 40 cc and allowed treatment with 126 seeds of Pd 103. My PSA level has since receded to 0.35 to 0.4, and I continue to periodically have it checked. As much as I tried to avoid them, side effects of the treatment occurred and continue to affect me.
My involvement with prostate cancer advocacy began shortly after my diagnosis, when I joined several US TOO prostate cancer support groups associated with the INOVA Hospital System in Northern Virginia. Two leaders of these support groups happened to be directors of the Virginia Prostate Cancer Coalition, a statewide advocacy group. I was invited to become the organization's Coordinator for the Speakers Bureau, which sends out volunteers to speak and engage the public in outreach and education. Eventually, I was invited to become a Board Director.
In 2006, upon nomination by the Fairfax INOVA Prostate Cancer Support Group, I joined my first PCRP Peer Review Panel. Initially, the work was slow going. Reading proposals about biological experimentation was not my area of expertise. However, as a materials engineer and attorney, I was trained to take copious notes, analyze, and think logically, so these were the tools I applied to reviewing proposals. My previous work as a government procurement officer also aided me in analyzing proposals on a competitive basis and making effective verbal presentations to the panels. And, of course, the help of fellow reviewers was invaluable in gaining an understanding of the proposed research. Underlying all this, of course, was my understanding of prostate cancer from the survivor's point of view; typically, this underlying knowledge and understanding is brought about through working with others who have prostate cancer, usually in local prostate cancer support groups, where knowledge and experience is shared.
My involvement in prostate cancer advocacy developed right after retirement and during a period when I was looking for non-profit activities to keep me busy and engaged. I have numerous other volunteer activities with which I am involved: the Red Cross, the local volunteer fire and rescue department, a non-profit overseas artisan development assistance group, and charitable golf tournaments. But the most fulfilling of these activities are those that involve prostate cancer advocacy, the need for finding a cure, and providing assistance to others afflicted by the disease. I feel it is very important to empower men and their families with the knowledge and awareness necessary to survive a disease that eventually affects 1 in 6 men.