Donald W.

Prostate Cancer - Stage IIB

Donald-W-Prostate
quotation

I had robotic surgery to remove my prostate in June 2018. My surgeon was wonderful throughout the process and explained everything. I asked a lot of questions, and he didn’t rush me. The surgeon didn’t make me feel like this was routine. He let me know I am unique and so is my cancer.

I have traveled all over the world and throughout the United States, and I have learned a lot about life. I was in the Army for over 25 years. My wife, Elveda, and two children moved with me wherever I was stationed. I have lived in countries such as Germany, Japan and South Korea. I have also lived in many states, from New York to Texas.

After experiencing medical complications, I left the service, and our family settled in Fairburn, Georgia. I spent the next 10 years working as a civilian for the Army and Corps of Engineers.

In September 2017, I was feeling tired and run down. One day, I passed out at work. I saw many different doctors to determine what was wrong. I met with a cardiologist and neurologist, among others. But no one could find the problem. One day in early 2018, at my annual physical, I was given a PSA test, a screening I did yearly given my family history. My PSA had a history of fluctuating in and out of range, and results showed it had doubled since the prior year. 

Then, in February 2018, I lost my father to prostate cancer. He had a long battle with the disease, living with it for almost 20 years. My father talked to me a lot in that time about listening to my body and being vigilant about seeing doctors. Men don’t often feel comfortable talking about prostate cancer, but my father and I were very open about discussing it.

My father encouraged me to be an advocate for myself and others and to be actively involved in my health care decisions. After talking to my doctors, a biopsy was ordered. I got back the results, and it showed that I had cancer on the outer edge of my prostate.

Determined to find the right cancer care for me

I was only 53 years old when I was diagnosed with stage IIB prostate cancer in March 2018. It was aggressive and could soon metastasize. When I heard the word “cancer,” it wasn’t a shock. My focus was on finding a solution to treat the cancer as quickly as possible.

I went to a few different doctors and hospitals for consultations. I never connected with the doctors, and I was often being told what I was supposed to do. I kept researching treatment options and searching for quality care. Being a veteran, I had most of my medical appointments through the Veteran’s Affairs (VA). I had seen commercials for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), but it wasn’t until my social worker at the VA recommended the hospital that I finally considered it.

I lived only 20 minutes from the closest CTCA® hospital in Newnan, Georgia. I called CTCA for an appointment, but in Georgia at the time, there was a law requiring that at least 65 percent of the hospital’s patients come from out of state. I couldn’t believe that our state government would limit my ability to access health care. CTCA offered me an initial appointment at one of its other hospitals, located in Chicago. However, I knew I didn’t want to be away from my immediate family. So, I called every day for 30 days until a spot became available for me. 

My initial evaluation was in May 2018. CTCA isn’t like any other hospital I have experienced. As soon as we walked through the doors, we felt comfort, warmth and hope. Everyone was so nice. Each doctor and clinician answered my questions, and I didn’t feel rushed. Having all my appointments under one roof was a great advantage and very convenient. After the three-day consultation, I knew this was the place I needed to be. My wife was with me for all the appointments and believed the same.

I took some time at home to research the options presented to me. I decided that, for me, life was more important than any side effect I had to live with. I wanted to remove the cancer. I chose a pathway that was best for me: robotic surgery to remove my prostate.

I had surgery in June 2018. My surgeon was wonderful throughout the process and explained everything. I asked a lot of questions, and he didn’t rush me. The surgeon didn’t make me feel like this was routine. He let me know I am unique and so is my cancer. The surgery went well, but I had some side effects immediately after. While I was in the military, I fractured my back, and the surgery aggravated the old injury. The doctors had me stay overnight to monitor my pain, and I left when I felt comfortable. Back at home, my family was so helpful and supportive throughout my recovery.

After the surgery, I worked closely with supportive care providers to manage my side effects. I see the chiropractor every couple weeks to help control my back pain. I use acupuncture for a variety of reasons, and I’ve found it helps me with depression, digestion and pain.

A focus on helping others

In April 2019, the governor of Georgia signed a bill to open access to CTCA for Georgia patients. Now, cancer patients in Georgia have more opportunity to receive treatment at the Atlanta-area hospital. I believe that when facing a cancer diagnosis, patients deserve the freedom to decide where they want to receive treatment.

Over a year out from surgery, tests continue to show no evidence of disease. I am back to an active lifestyle, golfing, bowling and participating in sports. I have become a strong advocate for prostate cancer. I am an active Champion with an organization called ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. I help with fundraising for research and education. I have been to Capitol Hill to share my story and to advocate for funding to help others. I also volunteer through a program called Cancer Fighters® at CTCA, and I mentor other men battling prostate cancer. I encourage everyone I meet to consider CTCA after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

I strive to serve as a voice for prostate cancer. Often men don’t want to talk about prostate cancer in the same way that women discuss breast cancer. Prostate cancer is a risk for men as they age, but if it's caught and treated early, the outlook is better. I want other men to know that as you age, it is important to have open conversations with your doctor about your risk. I hope to spread awareness about the disease.

In September 2018, I made the decision to retire. My cancer journey has taught me that each day here on earth is a blessing. I want to spend more time with my immediate family and my extended family members. After what I have been through, I cherish our time together even more.

I am thankful for what I have accomplished in my life, and I am still alive because God knows there is more I have to do. I feel like I have a second chance to do something great for humanity. I will continue to focus on helping others and encouraging them not to give up.

Diagnosed:
March 2018
Treatment at: