Walt K.

Prostate Cancer - Stage 1

Walt Kotecki

At City of Hope, we met with a surgeon and a radiation oncologist. Both doctors explained my treatment options, which included seven different possible approaches. What struck me even more than all the options, though, was how the doctors were neutral about each one. No one was trying to persuade me about which route to take.

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. 

For many years, I was going for a prostate screening every other year at our local hospital. In 2012, when I was 59 years old, the screening test showed that my prostate specific antigen (PSA) score had doubled since my previous exam.

The test results came as a complete surprise. Dozens of men come to the hospital at the same time for screening sessions, and a nurse provided information to everyone at the same time. It felt like I was going through the motions. I was not expecting to have any result other than the normal one. I had no symptoms and would never have expected that I would be the one among those dozens of men.

The hospital’s screening clinic is run in conjunction with a local urology team, so I went to that practice for a biopsy. The urologist who did the biopsy told me that the results were positive for prostate cancer. Then, he told my wife, Linda, and I that my treatment options were surgery or radiation with seed implants. I had just been diagnosed with cancer, and we wanted at least a weekend to absorb the news and consider our options.

Family encouragement

We have three sons, and we got together the following weekend to tell them the news. One of our sons had just started working at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA),* and he encouraged us to at least call to speak with someone about my diagnosis and treatment options.

So we did. I spoke with an Oncology Information Specialist (OIS), and we clicked right away. He was compassionate, understanding and patient. He took my insurance information and told me he would be back in touch by the following afternoon to let me know if our insurance would cover my visit. He called the next day as promised, and we scheduled a visit beginning that week.

A decision from many options

At CTCA®, we met with a surgeon and a radiation oncologist. Both doctors explained my treatment options, which included seven different possible approaches. What struck me even more than all the options, though, was how the doctors were neutral about each one. No one was trying to persuade me about which route to take.

I decided to have minimally invasive robotic surgery. This was uncharted territory for me; I had never had an operation before. But my surgeon and his team did a wonderful job. I was walking by the next night.

There were some side effects to get through afterwards. The surgery can impair bladder control for a time, for example. But two years later, that problem has become manageable. I still have a minimal amount of leakage when I cough, sneeze or stretch. I have learned to be aware of my situation. My care team instructed me on exercises to strengthen the muscles, and gradually those exercises just became part of my everyday routine, and I still do them to this day. Sexual function was also impaired for a time, but again, my care team helped guide me through possible ways to address the problem. 

Why not me?

When I consider what others go through with cancer, I know my journey was not so arduous. And when I did feel a little sad for myself and wondered, Why me? my very wise caregiver—my wife—was there to point out, Why not me? Do other people deserve cancer more than I do? Of course not. Her perspective helped snap me out of my depression so I could just get on with my treatment and recovery.

I have been fortunate in so many ways. I was lucky enough to have a family member encourage me to get a second opinion, something I now advise for anyone newly diagnosed with cancer. And now I have many years ahead with our family, including our many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In the summer of 2017, I was fortunate to be included in the CTCA program Celebrate Life®, which honors five-year cancer survivors. It was so special to have Linda and our three sons there to celebrate with me. It was very emotional for me, because the first day I walked into the CTCA lobby, I told Linda that someday, I’m going to be on that tree. We often ask, “Why me?” when things are bad, but not so often when things are good. Today, I look at my family and my wife who supported me through this time and think, Why not me?

Linda's story

I was so surprised the day Walt came home from his screening exam and told me he needed to have a biopsy. But I wasn’t overly concerned because his PSA score was still quite low and within a normal range.

Once we got to CTCA, we learned there were many options that Walt could consider. Just as the urologist had done, the surgeon and radiation oncologist told Walt that, of course, it was his choice. But this time, we were given the time to ask questions. The doctors wanted to make sure he had all the information he needed in order to make his decision.

I agreed with Walt’s decision to pursue robotic surgery. I knew he was concerned that radiation could have a longer recovery time that would keep him away from work. The approach he chose was associated with the shortest recovery time.

Walt did have some side effects, but his care team members helped however they could. At CTCA, they helped Walt with many things. If something became impaired from treatment, they helped Walt restore that function if they could. It is all about the patient. When we walked in, we were greeted like we were special. We had their undivided attention. The care and kindness are genuine.

Walt was up and about quickly after surgery. As his caregiver, I had a hard time only with keeping him off his feet for longer than he wanted. He would feel down sometimes, and I would keep him focused on the bright side. Once the catheter was removed, his physical recovery was minimal.

I’m so relieved that our son encouraged us to seek a second opinion at CTCA. Walt is doing great, and we have returned to life as usual: being with our children and grandchildren and enjoying life together.

Since Walt completed treatment, he has retired, we have celebrated Walt’s 64th birthday, and we have gone to Alaska, Savannah, Georgia; and most recently to Nashville. But more importantly, we have two more grandchildren and another on the way, and have also been blessed with two great-grandchildren. We are very fortunate indeed.

* Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, working together to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care. Because this patient testimonial was written and published before CTCA® and City of Hope joined forces, mentions of legacy CTCA locations have not been updated in the interest of maintaining the patient’s original voice and story details.