Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Ken Priest

Prostate cancer - Stage IV

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for prostate cancer

My story

Rising PSA

When I was diagnosed, at age 64, I had no outward symptoms of prostate cancer, which is often the case with this disease. I’d been monitoring my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, a possible indicator of prostate cancer, along with digital exam for ten years at my annual physicals. When my PSA score started to rise, the doctor suggested (and I knew it was time for) a biopsy.

I worked as a respiratory therapist, with experience in outpatient, inpatient, home care and aero-medical transport. In 2009, I was working at one of the top-ranked hospitals in the country. I went to see a urologist there for my biopsy. He determined that there was cancer in my prostate, and we agreed that the best course of action was surgery. I had a prostatectomy with robotic assist.

Unfortunately, the cancer had spread beyond the prostate. This spreading was impossible to detect prior to surgery, and I know that my surgeon did the best he could to remove the cancer from my body. But four months after the operation, my PSA was rising again.

At that time, my surgeon recommended watching and waiting, rather than pursuing further treatment. My wife, an RN, and I began researching other options, which included information regarding Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). We visited the location in suburban Chicago in 2011 for tests and evaluation over the course of three days. Based on test results and extensive conversations with the radiation and medical oncologists there, we (it was “we” not “me” because my wife and I were in this together) decided to pursue radiation with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).

My radiation vacation

Deciding on IMRT was not easy. It meant eight weeks far from our home in Florida, and being away from my wife and son, as they both worked full time. It also meant taking a leave of absence from work, to spend two months in suburban Chicago, including over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Winter in Chicago is quite different from winter in Florida, but my wife and I felt it was worth the leap of faith to go for it.

We had explored other options, but we didn’t think that any other facility offered what CTCA® could offer, which is patient-centered care. CTCA offers expert medical professionals who make recommendations and invite the patient and caregiver to be part of the decision-making process. The integrated care options like nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine and spiritual support were an integral part of the experience for me. I also felt that acupuncture, massage therapy and mind-body medicine were vital to my care.

The eight weeks I spent in Chicago far exceeded my expectations. CTCA made every effort to provide activities for me to participate in so that I would not feel isolated in my room. I never felt alone there. I became involved with the Cancer Fighters® network at that time and joined group outings to Christmas-related events that I would probably not have done back home. Those experiences took my mind off cancer, the treatment and the side effects. A wonderful benefit was they enhanced my spirit and motivation to get well.

With regard to side effects, there were always people available to help me whenever problems arose. A naturopathic oncology provider, physician or dietitian would recommend a solution to help ease the side effects almost immediately.

It was my son who began calling my trip to CTCA my “radiation vacation.” I guess he was right. When things are difficult, CTCA goes above and beyond to make life more comfortable. The transportation staff even made arrangements for me to spend the weekend with my daughter and her family in St. Louis, Missouri, during the holiday.

Not having my wife/caregiver with me made it crucial that I understood the test results and explanations that my care team was relating regarding all aspects of my cancer treatment. My wife/advocate was in Florida, so I had to rely on great communication and trust the caring relationships established with my physicians and their staff. They acted in my best interests and the secure patient portal allowed my wife access to my test results the same time they were available to my doctors and me. This gave her assurance of my well-being.

Lifestyle changes, lifelong friendships

I am currently on hormone therapy. I have no evidence of disease, and I am visiting my oncologist annually. I try to keep up with a proper diet and exercise. I want to put to good use all the advice and help I’ve received from the dietitians and other experts at CTCA. Toward that end, I am now actively involved with Cancer Fighters Care Net, a network of CTCA patients available to speak with newly diagnosed patients seeking information and insights. I was also appointed to the CTCA Patient Advisory Council from 2014 to 2015. I’m honored to be part of these groups because they give me a chance to bring hope to patients in their cancer journey, and to be a voice for them with the CTCA Board of Directors.

I retired in September 2015, and my wife retired in June 2016. This allows us to travel and spend time with our two grandsons. It was great to return to CTCA for Celebrate Life® in June 2016. And I continue to be in touch with many of the people I met during my treatment at CTCA. From the janitor at the hospital to the CEO, everyone on staff was incredibly warm and friendly to me, and patients I met are still on my phone list. In fact, I share my story when appropriate, which has helped others explore CTCA as an option for cancer treatment. In March 2017, my wife and I received training through Our Journey of Hope®, sponsored by CTCA. We took this training back to our church in Florida and have started a Cancer Care Ministry for our community. When a person is as blessed as I have been, it is good to share those blessings with others.