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Tom Westling

Prostate cancer - Early stage

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

Overview

My story

When I was 64 years old, my annual PSA test showed an increase. I knew that PSA, which stands for prostate-specific antigen, is a protein that can sometimes be an indicator of prostate cancer when the level begins to rise. When my PSA score reached 5.6 and remained at that level for about a year, my doctor near my home in Oakland, Tennessee, just outside Memphis, suggested that I see an urologist for a biopsy.

The urologist took 12 samples of prostate tissue, and one of the samples was 25 percent cancerous. That was the first time I heard the big “c” word. Immediately I was in a daze that lasted about a week. No matter how you prepare or what you expect to hear, when a doctor tells you that you have cancer, it’s a shock. Questions were racing through my mind: What will life be like now? How will things change? What will happen to me?

Fishing season

As I began to take steps toward deciding on my treatment, many options were presented to me. The urologist who diagnosed me recommended prostate removal. But he also gave me a book of 101 questions about prostate cancer and referred me to two other doctors at different facilities.

At the end of those consultations, I had several options to consider. I could simply watch and wait, because the cancer constituted just 25 percent of one sample. I could have surgery to remove my prostate. I could have external radiation or internal radiation. Or I could have cryotherapy, which was available at one regional facility.

All of these options gave me a lot to think about. The situation wasn’t urgent because the cancer was in an early stage, which was fortunate for two reasons. First, I needed time to weigh the pros and cons of these approaches. Second, it was summertime, prime fishing season, and I didn’t want to miss it.

I decided I would not pursue any treatment until the fall so I would not have to miss all the great fishing, and so I could be thorough with my research.

Finding CTCA

It was during those weeks of my research I came across Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). One of my main concerns after hearing my diagnosis was what condition I would be in physically after treatment. I am in good shape and enjoy exercising, and I was worried I would not be able to be active in the same way. I wanted a holistic view of cancer treatment. I wondered if there were dietary changes I could make during radiation treatment. Were there supplements that would help my body withstand the treatment too? What else could I do in addition to the medical care that might help? The website for CTCA presented that kind of whole-body view, so I decided to find out if it was for real.

I traveled to the CTCA hospital near Atlanta in early August 2013. From the moment I arrived, the facility exceeded my expectations. I had never been to a hospital like it before. Even though it is a cancer center, CTCA felt like a place where people come to be well, not a place where people come to be sick.

My care team was very informative about my medical options and care. They even addressed my questions about nutrition and my overall well-being. There was no pressure for me to commit to being treated there. The doctors I spoke with were truly concerned about my health.

Dr. Cavanaugh, who recommended radioactive seed implants, also known as high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy or internal radiation, took the time to show me the seeds so I could better understand exactly how the procedure worked. He also explained the potential side effects.

A place of healing

I chose to have brachytherapy treatment at CTCA. My daughter and wife traveled with me to Atlanta for the treatment. I stayed at CTCA and they stayed at a nearby hotel. They were given caregiver IDs that enabled them to have meals at a discounted price. They were also able to take advantage of other services offered at the hospital. They were with me just before the procedure and were kept notified of my status while I was under anesthesia.

Our stay was nothing but pleasant. We all enjoyed the food at the hospital, which was wonderful. Everything was in one place, and CTCA had so much to offer during our stay: computers, a chapel, books, a pool table, etc. I especially loved the white boards that hang outside the hospital rooms where people write inspirational sayings. It’s such a nice touch that adds to the sense you are in a place of healing.

My side effects were minimal, just some minor indigestion. For the first week or so after treatment, I had discomfort that required me to rest and not be too active. But after that, I was back to my usual lifestyle. A couple of weeks after the seed implant, I was painting the house.

Nothing and everything changed

Even though cancer treatment barely made a dent in my lifestyle, I am a different person today. Being diagnosed with cancer is fearful. What will tomorrow bring? I made sure my life insurance was up to date because you just never know. Being diagnosed with cancer forces you to consider such issues.

Now I know there is life after cancer. I am going to be OK. And in fact, I am more than OK, maybe even better than before. The little annoyances that used to get to me don’t affect me so much anymore. I have a different, better perspective on what is truly important in life, and what is not. So even though cancer changed nothing about my lifestyle, it changed everything about how I experience life.

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