Tom C.

Prostate Cancer

Tom Carlson
quotation

The connections I made at CTCA have been one of the most valuable aspects of my journey with cancer. These relationships give hope and encouragement, and they provide spiritual support. Through the people I met at CTCA and my experience there, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself.

I had been diligent about having my prostate specific antigen (PSA) level, a potential indicator for prostate cancer, tested every year since I was 49 years old. In my late 50s, the number started to change, and my general practitioner recommended that I see a urologist, who did a biopsy.

Waiting for the biopsy results to arrive felt like the longest period of time in my life. I was scared. I thought I was going to die. My history with this disease was not one of triumph over an enemy; it was one of sadness and loss for other people. Finally, the urologist who did the biopsy delivered the news that I had stage IV prostate cancer.

Making a choice

At first, I wasn’t sure what to do. I was feeling fatalistic, like nothing I could do would make any difference. But then I had a moment of clarity that arrived with the thought: Get this out of me.

I had several treatment options, including watching and waiting. But I wanted to undergo surgery to have the cancer removed. I felt that if I waited, somehow, I would become more negative in my attitude, more pessimistic. I had moved to Arizona before the diagnosis, and that change was affecting me emotionally. It was clear to me that I wanted to avoid doing anything that could lead me to a more depressed state. I had to take control.

A surgeon at the urology clinic did a prostatectomy. For about six months, my PSA score remained at a low level.

Back on the rollercoaster

About six months later, the PSA began climbing again. During those six months, I had met some other people who invited me to join a support group that met on the first Thursday of each month. At the time, I was 57 years old and working as a teacher, so I had an excuse not to go. But in January 2009, when school was closed for winter break, I finally went. Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) had recently opened its Arizona location, and the group was meeting there in the morning. That afternoon, I was scheduled to see a doctor at the urology clinic where I’d been going.

At the morning support group meeting, the speaker was a radiation oncologist from CTCA®. I paid close attention to her. When I asked questions that afternoon at the urology clinic, I felt my questions weren’t answered. Afterwards, I called the CTCA radiation oncologist I’d met that morning to ask about treatment options at CTCA.

Shortly thereafter, I was at the CTCA location in Suburban Chicago for an initial evaluation. The radiation oncologist I met with told me about the Calypso® 4D Localization System of radiation, explaining that this treatment would be the recommended approach. I didn’t feel any pressure to go along with this plan, but I also felt like he took the time to make sure I understood my treatment options so I could come to a decision about my treatment.

I went home to talk things over with my wife and returned to CTCA for the treatment.

Immersion

The treatment took nine weeks, and I stayed near CTCA during that time. This stay was one of the best things that I’ve ever done. I wanted to immerse myself in my treatment. I had a room at a hotel nearby, and I would go to the hospital so I could focus on getting better.

After nine weeks of treatment, I returned home to Arizona. After that, I returned to Chicago for follow-up visits every three months. My PSA score never went to zero, but it remained at a low level for four years. Then it shot back up again.

In 2012, I began hormone therapy treatment with Lupron®. My PSA score decreased. In June 2015, my PSA test showed the lowest score since I was diagnosed.

During my treatment, the side effects have been reduced. I lost weight, but as long as I watch what I eat, my weight is under control. My care team helps me with my nutrition at my follow-up visits.

New connections

The connections I made at CTCA have been one of the most valuable aspects of my journey with cancer. These relationships give hope and encouragement, and they provide spiritual support. Through the people I met at CTCA and my experience there, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself.

It was hard to leave behind the fatalistic attitude. Believing that a challenge can be overcome and then doing what you need to in order to succeed is often harder than just giving up and giving in. I try to give others the same encouragement that I received, so that they, too, will have the strength to believe that cancer may not be the end, but rather just another moment in life.

In June 2014, my wife and I traveled to CTCA together for my five-year survivorship celebration. She was able to meet some of the people I’d known for years, which turned out to be a very healing experience for her. She could see the support network that I had.

Cancer changed my life. Now, every day is a celebration. Things that once seemed so important no longer hold the same weight. My priorities have changed for the better.

 

Cancer:
Prostate Cancer