In the late 1990’s, I heard the words ‘prostate cancer’ for the first time when my father was diagnosed with the disease. At the time, everyone had heard of lung cancer and some had heard of breast cancer but unless your family had been directly affected, prostate cancer was not on the general radar.
My father chose to have generalized radiation as his treatment of choice. Up until our conversation that day, I was unaware of any symptoms he was suffering from. His doctor did a random PSA test as part of a normal physical and he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At his next doctor’s appointment, the urologist made a very impactful statement telling me that I was now in a susceptible class of men who were more likely to get prostate cancer. At the time, I didn’t believe it since I was in my mid 40’s and thought of prostate cancer as an old man’s cancer.
My father’s radiation over the course of several months had effectively killed his cancer. I can still see his face and how happy he was after learning he was cancer free. It was not until 2-3 years later that we found out that things were just not that simple as he developed side effects from the radiation, including blood clots in his bladder. In the next few months, the discs in his spine weakened and would basically fall apart causing excruciating pain and frequent falls. He developed colon issues as well, all attributed to the effects of massive doses of generalized radiation. On October 26th, 2004, he went in for surgery to help fix his back issues but sadly never woke up after the operation and passed away from a blood clot lodged in his lung a few days later.
Thanks to research advances, men today are fortunate to have better diagnostic tools, treatment methods, and live longer lives. Following the loss of my dad, I remembered the doctor’s statement telling me I had an increased chance of also developing prostate cancer. Because of these words, I had decided to regularly get my PSA checked. In April of 2013, my PSA began to rise so I went back for a more expansive biopsy. This time I heard those life-changing words that in the back of my mind I feared I would hear at some point: “Ken, you have cancer”. I received three different opinions and consulted with friends who were doctors. I learned that general radiation (far more focused, accurate and targeted than when my dad was treated), surgery, and radiation seeding all had about the same 5 & 10 year survival rates and side effects. I chose seeding because it meant that I could go home that day.
On July, 3, 2013, my procedure was completed. I decided that I needed to be in the best shape I could be in to deal with having been diagnosed with cancer so I began to run for the first time in 30 years. I needed something to do that would make me stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually. Since May of 2013, I have run five half marathons, many 5K’s and on May 6th to celebrate 5 years of survival, I ran my first full marathon. July, 3rd will be 5 years cancer free. I wish my dad would have had the opportunities that I have had.
My journey with prostate cancer has been one of good fortune and I wanted to be able to pay it forward to others battling the disease. After having advocated for prostate cancer awareness on Capitol Hill with Zero – The End of Prostate Cancer, I was nominated to become a Consumer Peer Reviewer for the Prostate Cancer Research Program at the Department of Defense in 2015. 2017 marked my third year to be chosen to be a part of the program. Through this participation, I have been privileged to work side by side with brilliant scientists from all over the world with the singular goal of finding the best research to eliminate prostate cancer in our lifetimes. The work is challenging but also rewarding, knowing the next research breakthrough may very well come from one or more of the research proposals chosen for funding from this program. Becoming a Consumer Reviewer is definitely something positive that came out of my diagnosis and I am proud and honored to represent prostate cancer patients and survivors in this way.
Last updated Tuesday, September 4, 2018