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James Compton – A Marine’s Cancer Story – Semper Fi And Semper Gumby

Publication: Austin American-Statesman

Everyone knows the U.S. Marine Corps motto Semper Fidelis – Latin for “Always Faithful.” But here’s a lesser known Leatherneck truism: Semper Gumby, which means “Always Flexible.” It is perhaps a more fitting maxim for James Compton, who faced the most difficult battle of his life after a 21- year career as a Marine. Compton’s time in the service meant global travel, with tours of duty in Mexico, Russia, Japan, and other locations.

While he was stationed in South Korea, he began learning martial arts, including karate and taekwondo. His lifelong dream of becoming a black belt during retirement was disrupted when he began experiencing unusual pain during tournaments.

“I started feeling some problems,” said James. “I just wasn’t feeling right.” VA doctors began monitoring James’ fluctuating PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) count every six months. In 2015, after his third visit, James also saw a local urologist who conducted additional testing, which confirmed that he had Stage IV prostate cancer. And there was more bad news. Scans show that the cancer was metastatic.

“The test results showed that my prostate was fully engulfed with cancer and that I’d had it for years,” said James. “I had it so long that it spread to three different locations in my body,” said James.

James was referred to Dr. James Uyeki of Texas Oncology—Austin South, where he is currently being treated. He enrolled in a clinical trial under Dr. Uyeki’s care, and is receiving a new checkpoint inhibitor drug, which is an immunotherapy treatment, in combination with a hormone therapy pill that can help slow the growth and spreading of prostate cancer. Dr. Uyeki said James is seeing great results. Immunotherapy is treatment that activates a patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

“He has had a dramatic response with a marked decrease in his PSA,” said Dr. Uyeki. “His PSA level was at 473 when he started treatment in December 2017. Three weeks later, his PSA was 102. It continues to drop and in May, his PSA was 23.” Since enrolling in the innovative clinical trial, James has also had a decrease in size of his metastatic lesions—on physical exams and by CT imaging—along with alleviation of his pain, and improvement in his energy.

 “James is tolerating the treatment well without significant side effects,” said Dr. Ukeyki. “He will continue treatment on this trial.We are optimistic because in other cancers we have treated with checkpoint inhibitors, we have found that a significant number of patients who respond continue to respond for many months.” James said that Dr. Uyeki has been outstanding, and that the clinical trial has already significantly impacted his life.

“Dr. Uyeki is something else,” said James. “He’s got me on this new clinical trial that’s helping me, and I feel great.” Along with recommending and administering effective treatment, James said Dr. Uyeki is always involved and engaged with him as a patient by taking an active, personal role in the treatment process.

“He’s hands-on,” said James. “He’s caring, he listens, and he explains everything in detail. I sometimes even have to tell him to stop telling me details.” In addition, James said the entire team at Texas Oncology—from the x-ray technicians to the nurses— have made him feel comfortable and welcome from the start.

 “When I started going to Texas Oncology, of course, I was scared,” said James. “But the team there is great. They’re so involved in my care, constantly checking up on me when I go there, and they’re really down-to- earth people who care about how I’m feeling.”

One side effect of James’ cancer fight has nothing to do with his medical care. Rather, it’s the emotional toll of losing contact with some friends during treatment, especially among a group that he teaches country dance lessons. Thankfully, a handful of people are standing by James, including a few close friends and, of course his family. It means the world to James.

“It means quite a bit that they stuck by me,” said James. “They helped me out on a day-to-day basis, and it really meant a lot that I wasn’t going through this alone.”

James say that he’s driven and motivated by his family everyday—including his 5 kids and 21 grandkids. As he continues his fight against prostate cancer, the former Marine is staying faithful and flexible, with a calm and confident outlook, and grateful for the measures Dr. Uyeki has taken to keep him fighting.

“I think I’m alive right now because of Dr. Uyeki and his treatment,” said James.

Men over the age of 50 should talk to their physician about the most appropriate screening test for prostate cancer. For more information on Texas Oncology, please visit www.texasoncology.com.


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