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Thomas James

Prostate cancer - Stage II

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

I was 56 years old when I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999. During my annual physical, my doctor noticed that my PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, score, which can be an indicator of prostate cancer, had risen since the previous year. He wanted me to see an urologist for some tests—namely, a biopsy—to see if I had any signs of prostate cancer. The test came back positive.

My initial reaction after hearing the diagnosis was one of panic and anger. I was mad that this was happening to me. But then I made the decision that I had to do something about it.

I wasn’t sure about continuing treatment with the urologist I’d seen near my home outside of Hartford, Connecticut. My hesitation was not to do with his medical expertise, but with the feeling he was not speaking to me as a whole person. So I ended his service as a physician with me.

During my search for a new doctor, my sister, who works as a nurse, told me about a place she knew of in Illinois—Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). My initial response was, “Why would I want to travel that far?” She told me about a friend of hers who’d treated at CTCA, and she had a very good impression. So I had my records sent and then my wife and I flew out there for an evaluation.

Our decision was quick and clear: CTCA was where I wanted to be treated. It was in the manner of the people there, the way they spoke to us; it wasn’t just what they said, but how they said it. We returned home three days later, and then I returned soon after that for five weeks of radiation treatment.

Not always easy, not always hard

During my first treatment with radiation in 2000, I had some side effects. In particular, there was fatigue toward the end of the treatment that eventually disappeared after I returned home. And I was clear of cancer for several years after those five weeks of radiation.

But then, in 2008, my doctor noticed that my PSA score began to rise again. I had some bone scans done and there was evidence of cancer. By that time, the CTCA facility in Philadelphia had opened, so I began going there instead because it’s closer to my home. The doctors there recommended radiation, so I underwent the treatment again for five weeks. Just as the first time around, there were side effects that gradually went away a few weeks after completing the treatment.

In 2013, I had five days of radiation after an MRI revealed cancer in my left hip socket. That left me with some fatigue and some pain in the left hip, but that is also fading.

Cancer is not easy. Even when you have a good treatment outcome, and even as you live your life and believe everything is fine, it is hard to not wonder, “What if?” It’s hard not to worry about the next check-up revealing a problem. The smallest pain can cause more worry than it otherwise would. At least, that’s what it has been like for me.

But the care I have received at CTCA, the partnership of my wife, who is my caregiver, and my own determination have kept me from letting those worries get the best of me. The warm welcome, the friendliness, the mannerism of the doctors and all of the services offered at CTCA (massage is my favorite) have made my experience with cancer treatment so much better than it could have been. The staff was also very mindful of my wife as my caregiver, always inquiring whether she needed anything.

A 14-year journey

I’ve been on this cancer journey now for 14 years. I am 69 years old, have two grown children and am still working part time. I work out at the gym, go fishing and volunteer with CTCA as part of the Cancer Fighters® Care Net. Talking with other patients is one of my greatest joys. I’m very glad for the chance to help others navigate through their own journey.

One of my strongest messages to people facing a cancer diagnosis is to not act like a victim, because you’re not a victim. Stand up and ask questions if you have them. Raise the hard issues with your doctor. You don’t have to stop your life because you’ve been diagnosed with this. Cancer doesn’t mean the end; it just means cancer. You can be a patient when you go in for treatment. But once you leave treatment, put it behind you and live your life.

Sometimes people ask me about traveling for treatment when there are cancer centers so much closer to their homes. I tell them about my experience, and then I ask them, “How far would you go?”