Hello Readers !
I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in the fall of 2013. My initial PSA was over 100, with prostate cancer nodules in both of my lungs, confirmed by a lung biopsy and a prostate biopsy. It was a sobering diagnosis, as I had perfect health up to that point, so the diagnosis was quite unexpected at the age of 48 years of age.
I started on ADT shots, which brought my PSA down to 0.13 in a few months. Lung scans also showed that the lung nodules had resolved themselves after the ADT treatments, for which I was thankful.
After seeking treatment from my original urologist, I also added an oncologist to my medical team after a year. That was a very important decision in my medical care, and I recommend adding an oncologist to other friends facing this same diagnosis. I am very loyal to my doctors and have formed a close partnership with them in making all my medical decisions.
I do a fair amount of research, to keep up on new findings and treatment research in the field of prostate cancer. I like to do enough research that I can have meaningful consultations with my doctors during medical appointments and also to share advice with friends of mine who are also facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
In the summer of 2014, I decided to pursue six rounds of Taxotere chemotherapy treatments, which brought my PSA down to an all-time low of 0.04. I experienced relatively few side effects from the chemotherapy treatments. I lost all my hair shortly after my first infusion. I also needed additional shots of Neulasta to restore my immune system during chemotherapy treatments.
I found that maintaining an exercise routine, drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods, and keeping up with friends and family helped me get through those months of chemo treatments with few side effects. Thankfully, I went to work each and every day and managed to keep up a full schedule, for the most part. I have continued to work every day since being diagnosed, and I keep up with all my activities, interests, and hobbies, for which I am very grateful each day.
A few months after the chemo treatments were over, my PSA began creeping back up, but remained in the low decimals. In the fall of 2015, I started taking ZYTIGA pills. I've been on ZYTIGA for about two months, and my latest PSA test was 0.01, which seemed like a miracle to me, since my initial PSA at diagnosis was over 100. This is the lowest PSA reading I have ever received, after pursuing ADT, chemotherapy treatments, and now ZYTIGA medication.
I've formed important bonds with several friends of mine who have also faced this diagnosis. We check on each other, send messages, and support each other through everything. I feel a sense of brotherhood towards each one of them and I feel it is important to connect to others who will understand your situation when you are first diagnosed. Faith and prayers for others in this situation have also become an important part of my continuing journey.
I have continued with all my medical treatments, and I am still taking ZYTIGA at the present time. At the current time, my PSA is beginning to climb just a bit, after reaching the all-time low of 0.01 in the fall of 2015. My PSA is still below 0.10 at the present time, for which I am thankful. My PSA, testosterone, and lab work numbers are closely monitored by my oncologist. We meet together for a consultation every month.
Over the course of time, we have closely monitored my testosterone levels in an attempt to suppress the PSA levels to the greatest extent possible. Over time, I have been on LUPRON shots, then FIRMAGON shots, and I am currently on ZOLODEX injections --- all forms of ADT to suppress the PSA levels. At times, my oncologist and I have noted testosterone "spikes" and I encourage readers to ask for occasional testosterone tests, in addition to your regular lab work and PSA test, to ensure that your treatments are suppressing your testosterone to the greatest possible level.
I also receive shots of PROLIA to strengthen my bones, to counteract the effects of the ADT shots on my bones. Over time, my oncologist has also ordered a Circulating Tumor Cell lab test, which is another newer diagnostic lab test which can be used to assess the effectiveness of your current treatments. In my case, the Circulating Tumor Cell test is sent away to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where it is assessed by a lab oncologist.
In October 2015, I decided to travel to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for additional scans and diagnostic testing, with the full encouragement of my urologist and oncologist. At Mayo Clinic, I was given a detailed M.R.I. of the prostate and also the PET-CHOLINE scan, which can detect minute traces of metastatic cancer cells throughout the body. I had a very positive experience at Mayo Clinic, and I encourage readers here to always consider seeking a secondary medical opinion, especially for advanced cancer cases.
While at Mayo Clinic, I was privileged to consult with Dr. Eugene KWON, a leading researcher and noted expert in the field of prostate cancer. We discussed my case in-depth and talked about future treatment possibilities for my case, looking ahead. Dr. KWON is now a part of my medical team, which also includes my original urologist and oncologist. I will return to Mayo Clinic in March 2016, for follow-up tests and another consultation with Dr. Kwon.
Meanwhile, I am busy with my full-time career, my hobbies, volunteer work, exercise, social events, and get-togethers with friends and family. I am thankful that my treatment side effects have been minimal and that I have 100% of my drive and energy.
In the interest of helping others and keeping others EDUCATED about prostate cancer, I encourage all readers on this website to continue telling THEIR prostate cancer story to their brothers, sons, nephews, old high school and college classmates, work colleagues, neighbors, and friends from their community, church, fraternal organizations, and civic groups. Friends and colleagues of mine who listened to my story have gone in for check-ups, and now a few of them have also been diagnosed with prostate cancer. They are now pursuing medical treatments. Please continue sharing YOUR story, in the interest of helping others.
Hello Readers !
My medical journey has continued, with some meaningful successes over time. I have now been on ZYTIGA for eight months now, which has proven to be effective. There can be slight fluctuations in P.S.A. levels over time. I meet with my oncologist every month, just like clockwork. He shows tremendous care and diligence, and is very proactive in his approach. My oncologist closely monitors my lab levels each month, including P.S.A. and testosterone. He believes strongly in watching the testosterone level, to make sure we are suppressing the P.S.A. levels to the greatest extent possible.
As far as ADT shots, I've gone back to once-a-month ZOLADEX injections, which have the same goal as LUPRON or FIRMAGON shots. With multi-month doses, my oncologist and I were noticing some testosterone "spike and flares" and we decided to go back to monthly shots, which has now kept my testosterone levels BELOW 10 each month, and this has helped control the P.S.A. at this point in time. I encourage others on ADT shots to have their testosterone levels checked periodically, to make sure that your brand of ADT shot is keeping your testosterone level low, to help suppress your P.S.A. level.
I have several close friends who share in my same diagnosis, and they are finding meaningful success with various combinations of ADT hormone shots, chemotherapy treatments, and some of the newer breakthrough medications such as XTANDI and ZYTIGA. I encourage every reader to form a close bond with their medical team, ask specific questions when you visit your doctor, share specific details with your doctor, and communicate often with them. I recently sat down with my oncologist and we "mapped out" a future plan of treatments, as we continue to look ahead in a proactive way. Having that conversation was a very positive experience, and I recommend it to others engaged in this battle.
I recently returned from Mayo Clinic, for follow-up tests and consultations. This time, they provided me with a DETAILED M.R.I. scan of the abdomen and then the pelvis, to check for any traces of cancer in the inner organs. I also had a second PET-CHOLINE scan, which provided comparative data from the past PET-CHOLINE scan from last year. Both of these diagnostic scans provided detailed imaging, to stay on top of any changes in my condition. Larger medical facilities often have advanced imaging techniques that are not always found at smaller, local hospitals.
I consulted again with Dr. Eugene KWON, while I was at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It's been wonderful to see the emergence of a "team approach" between Dr. Kwon and my local doctors, all of them working together and consulting together on my case. All my scans and lab results are shared with all of my doctors. If you have never sought a second opinion, I heartily recommend seeking additional expertise for your case from a certified urology oncologist. There are thousands of urologists in this country, along with thousands of oncologists, but for advanced cases, I recommend seeking the expertise of a UROLOGY ONCOLOGIST, who specializes in advanced prostate cancer cases. We all deserve the best care we can find, and there are tremendous doctors and medical facilities to be found all over this country.
My tests and scans showed that my situation remains stable at the current time, for which I am thankful. Dr. Kwon affirmed the continuance of all my current treatments and medications, with plans for continued follow-up at Mayo Clinic in the summer of 2016.
Personally, I continue to recommend to all my "Battle Brothers" facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer to strive towards getting some exercise each day, whether it be strolling around your neighborhood, walking your dog, using some exercise equipment at home, lifting a few weights, riding your exercise bike, going for a game of golf, working in your yard, or stopping by your local gym. Find a form of fitness and exercise that suits YOU ! Along the way, remember the importance of drinking water and eating healthy foods, as well.
No matter what treatment you are pursuing right now, it's important to stay active and involved in daily activities, to the fullest extent possible. Stay involved with your friends, family, church, community, hobbies, & activities. Getting involved with a bit of volunteer work or charity work to support cancer causes can also be meaningful and beneficial and provide a positive way for all of us to share our stories with others facing a cancer diagnosis. Keep reaching out to others, no matter what!
Hello Readers !
It's time for an update, with some good news to share with you. It's now been two years ago since I pursued the TAXOTERE chemotherapy treatments. I continue to be an advocate for upfront chemotherapy treatments for those with advanced cases at the time of diagnosis. I feel that that early series of chemo treatments gave me a tremendous advantage in fighting back against my prostate cancer.
I continue to take ZYTIGA pills each day. ZYTIGA has helped to keep my P.S.A. levels consistently below 0.05 for the past several months, for which I am thankful. I continue to receive ZOLADEX hormone shots each month, as well. I encourage other fellows to ask for occasional testosterone tests to make CERTAIN that your treatments are keeping your testosterone levels suppressed to the greatest level possible, which can help keep your P.S.A. under greater control. Currently, my testosterone levels have registering at very low levels below 10, which has helped keep my P.S.A. suppressed at low decimal levels.
I continue to check in with my oncologist every month. He is extremely caring, compassionate, and proactive in watching over my lab numbers each month. It's important to form a close and trusted bond with your doctors. Make certain that you select a doctor who has EXPERTISE in prostate cancer cases.
I just returned from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I found out that they treat one million patients each year, with patients from all 50 state in the United States, and that they also treat patients from 150 countries from around the globe, as well. It is a tremendous medical facility.
While there, I had a detailed M.R.I. of the prostate and also a PET-CHOLINE scan. Both of these scans showed that my metastatic prostate cancer is considered "undetectable" at this point in time, for which I feel grateful. I am to continue with the daily ZYTIGA medication and the monthly ZOLADEX injections and return to Mayo Clinic for another follow-up this winter.
I feel fortunate as I continue to enjoy my full-time career, daily exercise, hobbies, interests, volunteer projects, and social events. Keep living life to the fullest and stay strong in the battle, my friends !
Happy New Year !
It's time for an update on my treatment story. I recently celebrated my fourth Christmas since being diagnosed and feel grateful for reaching another milestone, as my treatments continue.
I continue to consult with my primary oncologist each month. Because my case had some complexities at the time of my original diagnosis, we assess my lab work and PSA levels each and every month. I value this ongoing, proactive approach to stay on top of my case.
My PSA levels remain in the low decimal range, which seems miraculous compared to where I started at the time of my diagnosis. With the help of monthly ZOLADEX injections, my testosterone levels have now remained consistently below 10, which also helps suppress my PSA levels.
I just returned from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I return there every few months, for the purpose of repeating high-tech diagnostic scans, for comparative purposes. This time, I repeated a detailed MRI of the abdomen and pelvis. I also repeated the CHOLINE-PET scan.
Following the scans, I consulted with Dr. Kwon at Mayo Clinic. The scans showed that my current course of treatments continues to be effective in my case, for which I am grateful. I will continue with my current course of treatments which include monthly ZOLADEX hormone shots, and taking ZYTIGA medication each day. I also receive PROLIA shots twice a year, to maintain bone strength.
At this point in time, I have been on ZYTIGA for 18 continuous months. Other friends of mine have also been helped by ZYTIGA. I am thankful for the emergence of these newer breakthrough medications that are helping prostate cancer patients all over the globe. ZYTIGA has been very helpful, in my particular case.
It has been over two years ago now that I completed a series of TAXOTERE chemotherapy treatments. I was in the first wave of fellows who pursued the "early chemo plan" for advanced cases, following the release of the CHAARTED and STAMPEDE clinical trials which showed the benefits of adding chemotherapy treatments. Other friends of mine have now followed suit at the time of their diagnosis, and they have also seen a benefit following chemotherapy treatments.
I continue to stay active each day, with my full-time career, hobbies, interests, social events, and daily exercise. Even with winter weather this time of the year, I like to go walking outside, as often as possible. On stormy days, I visit the local gym, to maintain my daily fitness goals. I think it's important to stay active, to the greatest extent possible, for every person facing a cancer diagnosis.
I continue to connect with others who are facing a health diagnosis in their lives. It's important to find ways to support others who are undergoing medical treatments and to share friendship, camaraderie, and brotherhood along the way !
Hello Fellow Battle Brothers!
It's now been three full years ago that I pursued the "early chemo plan" with TAXOTERE infusions. I feel it helped me immensely.
I have taught school for nearly three decades. I was diagnosed four years ago, and will soon be starting my fifth year of teaching school since my original prostate cancer diagnosis.
Continuing to teach full-time is immensely rewarding ... and continuing to teach has served as an encouragement to school children in my school who also face serious health concerns.
To be proactive this summer, I had a full CT scan, an MRI of the abdomen, an MRI of the pelvis, and a CHOLINE-PET scan at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
My local doctor and Dr. Kwon at Mayo Clinic continue in their "teamwork" approach to my case by consulting with each other and sharing test results and scan results. At the present time, my situation remains stable, with no problematic area noted on any of the detailed scans, for which I am very thankful.
Something I've learned over the course of time: fellows in our situation should expect some fluctuations in PSA scores, from time to time. My local oncologist tracks my PSA levels each month, and also tracks my testosterone levels each month, to ensure that my ADT shots are working to their best advantage.
If you haven't asked for a testosterone level test in a while, you should request this, to make sure your ADT treatments are working to their full advantage. My current testosterone level registers below 0.10 each month. This helps suppress the PSA levels to the greatest extent possible.
I have now been on ZYTIGA for over two years. As a way to track my progress, I started saving the empty ZYTIGA bottles each month. I now have 25 ZYTIGA bottles, from the past 25 months, all lined up in my medicine cupboard. I think that is a testament to the importance of the breakthrough medications and treatments that have emerged for prostate cancer in the past decade.
I continue to stay active in my career, my hobbies, and with daily exercise. I set goals each and every day. It's important to stay connected to your family, your friends, and your faith, in whatever form that takes for you.
I think it's important to stay connected to others who are facing a cancer diagnosis --- and I encourage you to keep sharing your medical journey with others --- and to keep finding ways to support OTHERS who stand alongside us in this battle. We're all in this together, as BROTHERS IN THE BATTLE!
Find your voice --- share your experiences --- reach out --- be proactive in your approach to treatments --- stay connected --- get involved --- stay informed --- and BE THERE for others, in whatever ways you can!
Darin's e-mail address is: iowastatecyclone1990 AT gmail.com (replace "AT" with "@")