It has been nearly two weeks since my last blog post. I want to explain my absence.
Late last year during a routine physical I discovered that I had a higher than normal PSA. That caused me to seek additional medical counsel and testing. In mid-February, I had a biopsy that confirmed I had prostate cancer.
That was the bad news. The good news is that the physicians treating me believe the disease was caught at a fairly early stage. I have quickly become aware that with prostate cancer there are more numbers thrown at patients than a baseball official scorer has to deal with during a doubleheader. There is the PSA, mine ran in the 10-11 range depending on the test. Not great, but still in a range that indicates a disease that is treatable. There is the Gleason score, mine is a 6. They tell me that is fairly good news. Out of 12 samples taken during a biopsy, just one showed cancer and another had a pre-cancerous lesion. Again, this was encouraging to my doctors. I had a bunch of other tests, including a bone scan, scan of my pelvic region and organs, and a lung x-ray. All came back clean.
I decided to have surgery as soon as possible. I wanted to be aggressive to make use of the fact the disease had been caught early. This was no time to be a piker. On April 7th, while the rest of the drinks world was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the return of beer after Prohibition, I was in Chicago having prostate surgery at Northwestern Memorial by Dr. William Catalona, one of the top prostate surgeons in the world.
This was the first time I experienced major surgery, but Dr. Catalona and his team, along with the nurses and staff at Northwestern, did a great job. Tests done during the operation found no spread of the cancer to my lymph nodes, blood vessels or seminal vesicle. The tumor, which was just 5 percent of the gland, was at the edge of the prostate and did puncture the capsule. That means some cancer cells would have been able to escape. Sometimes the cells die on their own or my antibodies might have attacked and killed them. They could also just be hanging out. I'll have follow up PSA tests to determine what is happening and have favorable treatment options available, if necessary.
Why am I being so open and honest about my health situation? Well, I'm 47 years old. Originally, I was told that PSA tests are only given to men when they reach 50 years old. I have a close friend who has prostate cancer. His willingness to be open and honest about his situation caused me to request a PSA test during my physical. I had no symptoms and might not have known about the disease for another three years. Time is precious when you are fighting prostate cancer.
I want to pass along the advantage I was given by urging all of the men reading this over the age of 40 to get an annual physical and request a PSA blood test from their doctor. Be proactive and don’t assume that your doctor is running the PSA test unless you ask for it. There are more than 180,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the U.S. each year, about the same number as new breast cancer cases. The more awareness men have of the disease, the better chance they have to successfully fight prostate cancer.
I am lucky to have a great support system from my family and friends, which has made my recovery progress fairly quickly. As I feel stronger in the weeks to come, my plan is to work on a project involving members of the drinks industry to try to bring the message of the importance of PSA testing to more men. If you have not had your PSA tested, or if it has been a couple of years since your last test, do yourself a favor and book an appointment to see your doctor. Now is the best time to take control of your health care.
Trust me when I tell you that getting your PSA checked is the best thing you can do for yourself and the people you love.