My story actually began in 2010 when my yearly check up came back with a somewhat high PSA - I think around 6. My GP sent me to the Urologist who performed a prostate biopsy in July of 2010. No cancer! But my PSA continued to slowly climb so I had another biopsy in July of 2011. That's when I was actually diagnosed with prostate cancer.
At that time, only 1 out of 12 sticks showed some very early non-aggressive cancer cells. After reviewing the various options, I decided not to do any of them because they all sounded like they had a lot of bad side effects. I was 68 at the time, was not having any symptoms of anything, and thought I could get by and out live it.
So I went into the "Active Surveillance" program and thought I would be ok for the rest of my life. But my PSA continued to slowly climb and in March of 2013 after the biopsy found cancer in 5 out of 10 sticks, I decided to do something. Two samples showed a Gleason score of 7 (3+4) and three samples had a Gleason of 6. They estimate 10% of the prostate has cancer but has not jumped ship into any lymph system...yet… and is still not aggressive and there is no swelling in the prostate.
After researching a lot of options including Proton Beam Therapy and CyberKnife, (I couldn't bear the thought of surgery - too dicey down there for my taste) I decided on the IMRT using a NovalisTx. One of the reasons for this decision is that there is a machine in the town where I live so it is not a huge inconvenience and it seems to have as good a result as the Proton Beam with minimal side effects. That's what I was looking for…minimal collateral damage.
There will be a total of 43 treatments that take about 10 minutes each. I drink several bottles (36+oz) of water 30-40 minutes before each treatment while I drive to the facility to try to get the bladder filled and out of the way. They debated on whether or not I would have to have a balloon inserted into my rectum to move it out of the way, but so far they have done the treatments without the balloon...thank God.
I am told I will start to have burning when I urinate in a few weeks and possible constipation or diarrhea. I have already experienced both constipation and diarrhea for short periods of time but I am just starting out on this treatment journey. I will update this journal as I go along and relate any unpleasant side effects I might have.
I have now had 10 treatments on the IMRT machine and have 33 treatments to go. Each treatment takes about 10 minutes. I lie down on the table with a full bladder and the techs line up my 6 tattoo dots and leave the room. The machine takes a couple of pictures, lines up on the 3 gold flecks in the prostate and away we go. It is over with very quickly.
So far I have been a little more tired and have had loose bowels but that is about it. I am going to start taking B12 to fight off the tiredness and have changed my diet based on a cook book titled "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen" by Rebbecca Katz. You can get it off of Amazon.
I finished all 43 treatments last August 2013 (almost a year ago now) and have had no side effects what so ever. My PSA continues to fall. They track this following treatment for five years every 6 months and they expect it to continue to fall well below 1.
I am very happy with the decision I made utilizing the IMRT Novalis machine. It was painless, it was exact, it was fast, and it was over with very quickly. I can still have an erection and I still ejaculate some amount of liquid but nothing from my prostate. I know there may be long range side effects from the radiation, but so far so good and I am happy to get on with my life. I just finished a week long backpacking trip in the Teton Mountains and have all the energy a 71 year old male can expect to have.
I am very glad I got my PSA checked when I did. I think it was a life saver for me. The one guarantee my doctor gave me was to say, "You will die of something else, not prostate cancer." That is good enough for me.
It has been two years since I finished the IMRT treatments. My PSA continues to fall each time they test it every 6 months. The doctors tell me they do not expect it to ever go to 0 but they say that does not matter. They are very happy with it down just below 1.0 and so am I. They also say it may bounce around a little but that is normal.
I still have absolutely no side effects from the treatments I received on the NovalisTX so I am 100% happy I made that decision. I still take a Vitamin B12 everyday and continue to eat a healthy diet. I think this helps my energy levels to remain high but I do not know this for sure.
One of the side benefits other than absolute no side effects is that I do not have the urge to urinate until my bladder is really full. I am still able to have an erection and there is still a little bit of ejaculation so my wife and I are still able to have a pleasurable sexual relationship.
So far so good! All in all I am thankful for the PSA test and that this was caught early. I am thankful there was a NovalisTX IMRT machine and a very experienced doctor to develop my treatment program located here in Tallahassee. And I am thankful I did not postpone getting this taken care of two years ago. I just completed another week-long backpacking trip in the Sawtooth Mountains and am still working at my consulting business full time. Not too shabby for a 72 year old guy who once had prostate cancer.
Another year and things just keep getting better with the continued decline in my PSA scores. Although I have been warned that side effects from radiation may show up 5 years from the completion of treatment, so far I have had no side effects what so ever. I can still ejaculate and from time to time there is some fluid with the ejaculation...but not from my prostate. I am still able to have satisfying intercourse with my wife. So all in all, I am doing fine and as my doctor often reminds me, I will die from something else but not prostate cancer.
Another year and I just keep getting older but not sicker. I am now 74 years old and it has been over 4 years since I had the IMRT treatment for the prostate cancer. I am still very active. Did 6 days of backpacking into the Sawtooth mountains in Idaho to see the eclipse in August and am planning another summer full of activity for 2018. My PSA did bounce up one number, from .08 to .09 but my doctor said that was nothing to be concerned about. I have had two heart stents put in, lost my hearing on the left side, had intraocular lens surgery to correct cataracts in my eyes, and strained my shoulder digging post holes… but no issues with cancer. I am still glad I got that issue taken care of when I did and hope to continue to enjoy the rest of my life without any side effects or complications from the treatment!
Skip's e-mail address is: gregoryskip AT gmail.com (replace "AT" with "@")