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Guest Perspectives: How a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Taught Me to Prioritize My Health

September 30, 2020

Editor’s note: September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer survivor and author John Griffith, from McKinney, shares his perspective on the importance of prostate cancer screenings and men’s health.

Left unattended, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and colon or prostate cancers are performance stoppers and man killers – and you can't perform if you are dead, right?"

If you are a man between the ages of 40 and 60 and learn you have prostate cancer, then deal with it before it has colonized new locations, your chance of being alive in five years is nearly 100%, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Localized prostate cancer is like a stray cat hanging around your house’s back door. Remove it, or at the very least, monitor it. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it.

If ignored, that cat can grow into a ferocious lion that will eat you as metastatic prostate cancer. If prostate cancer colonizes new locations in your body, the ACS reports there is a 66% chance you will die within five years.

The ACS reports that prostate cancer the second leading cause of cancer death among American men.  I find this statistic disturbing because it should be much further down – and I would know.

How it All Began

On August 29, 2019, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Before that day, my interests were all about performance. I cared about regrowing hair, better physique, and improving my libido. Preventive healthcare made me feel fearful, vulnerable, and less manly. Heck, I didn’t even know the prostate’s function.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on performance-based healthcare. But left unattended, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and colon or prostate cancers are performance stoppers and man killers – and you can't perform if you are dead, right?

About two months prior, I was seduced by an advertisement promising to restore my manhood through testosterone replacement. Two days later I was front and center at a clinic ready to receive the “elixir of man” – until my lab tests came back with an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA). I had to be cleared by a urologist before I could begin hormone replacement.

I arrived for my appointment with the urologist for my very first prostate exam, full of fear. I imagined the worst, but the procedure was quick and straightforward. The results, however, indicated a biopsy was needed. Two weeks later, my biopsy results came back – prostate cancer. It was time for me to go on the offensive.

Placing My Care in Those I Trust

I placed my care in the hands of Tobenna "Toby" Nwizu, M.D., a hematologist and medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Allen and Rowlett, with whom I had an existing relationship for a non-cancerous blood condition. Dr. Nwizu counseled me, discussed options, and soothed me with his smile, optimism, and humor. He then ordered a bone scan and several MRIs to determine if my cancer had spread beyond the prostate.

Six days later, Dr. Nwizu called and the news was good. My cancer was still living at home in the prostate. The odds were in my favor.

I had the opportunity to witness Dr. Nwizu and his staff interact with patients. At the time, I expected a cancer clinic to be a somber place; yet to my surprise, everyone was chatty, witty, and in good spirits. Dr. Nwizu introduced me to Anand Shivnani, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Texas Oncology–McKinney. After discussing my options with Dr. Shivnani, I selected stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), a cancer treatment that delivers extremely precise, intense radiation doses to cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. The timeline for this radiation treatment is condensed into two weeks consisting of five sessions.

Dr. Shivnani and his staff were ecstatic, and the overall vibe was one of authentic positivity. It was one of those happy spaces in a place I didn't expect to be happy. I completed my last SBRT session with Dr. Shivnani, just 66 days after being diagnosed.

Right before my treatment began, my PSA had soared to about 10. Since my SBRT therapy, my PSA results have plummeted, most recently (July 2020) to .47.

Listen Up!

Now, my brothers, my parting pleas.

  • Anytime you see a doctor, and there is lab work to be done, request a PSA if you have not had one within the past year.
  • If your PSA comes back high, see a urologist. An elevated PSA is not an indication of cancer. A biopsy is the only way to know. Your urologist will tell you if a biopsy should be performed.
  • If you are diagnosed with cancer, deal with it swiftly.
  • Strive for positivity. Emotional health is a big part of your physical health.

In the words of the most remarkable Vulcan ever, "Live long and prosper."

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.