How a Simple Test Changed My Prostate Cancer Diagnosis – And My Life
Six years ago, my doctor told me I had prostate cancer, and the news literally brought me to my knees.
To say that I was scared at that moment is a big understatement. Nobody wants to hear the words, “You’ve got cancer,” and there are just no words to describe the devastation I felt. I didn’t know what I would tell my wife, my six kids or my grandchildren.
I had seen other friends go through their own battles with this disease. They had undergone surgery and it had changed their lives for the worse. My own father had fought colon cancer. Now here I was, facing an uncertain future. I had just retired and was looking forward to spending more time with my family and friends. There was so much I wanted to do with my life. Now it felt like the end of the world.
My doctor went through all the potential courses of action to fight the disease. At first, I wanted to get surgery to remove the cancerous nodules. I wasn’t sure if I would live or die, and I thought, “Just get this cancer out of my body and I’ll be all right.”
If the cancer turned out to be aggressive, then I would need to get surgery, start chemotherapy and radiation, and deal with the side effects that go with all that. I researched those procedures, talked to specialists in that area, and I thought it was horrific. I just didn’t want to go in that direction if I could at all help it.
But my doctor said, “Let’s look at other options before we do anything,” and that’s when he brought up the idea of submitting to a 46-gene diagnostic test, called Prolaris. At the time, the test was brand new. My doctor gave me all the information about this test, for which I will always be grateful.
He was with me every step of the way, explaining to me what the test was and what it did, and how it may be able to accurately determine whether my cancer was aggressive or nonaggressive. Really, that was all I wanted to know. And he helped me map out a plan.
My doctor told me that if the cancer was nonaggressive, then I wouldn’t need surgery at all. We would need to keep a very close eye on it, but I could go on with my life the same as before. I agreed to do the biopsy, and it was really very easy. They just went in, took a sample from my prostate, and sent it to Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City, who manufactures the test.
The test results came back from Myriad, and the results said that the chances of my prostate becoming malignant over the next ten years stood at about three percent. Basically, my cancer was nonaggressive. My doctor advised that at some point, the cancer could grow and that we would have to address it head on, but for now, all I would need is active surveillance. I would not need any surgery, and I could go on as before.
Well, believe me, my whole life changed from A to Z. I can’t even begin to describe what I had been going through since my initial diagnosis. I have just always been full of life. My family and friends have always been a priority, I enjoy camping, and I am also a big motorcycle enthusiast. I also love to go out dancing with my wife. In fact, we attend dance festivals all throughout my home state of California. At age 73, I can still cut a rug!
I thought I would never do any of that again. And then it was all given back to me.
For the last six years, since I got the results back, I go to see my doctor about three or four times a year for active surveillance of my prostate and those two cancerous nodules. They are about the size of a grain of rice each, and we want to make sure they stay that way. I get my PSA checked, plus a physical examination and a blood test. My disease is being managed very well. For the last six years, my PSA levels have sat there at about 1 or 1.1.
I feel like I still have my whole life ahead of me, just because of what a simple genetic test showed. I would encourage any man reading this to get checked out, and to get educated on this whole process. It was very easy, and I learned that a prostate cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence.
Today, I have a new goal, and that is to die with my cancer as opposed to dying because of it.
By Al Piazza