When you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, it seems everyone you know, has a relative who had it or knows someone who had the "same thing." But every case is a little different. Maybe it was found at a different stage or the unlucky chap was older than me. I smiled as some of my younger colleagues told me their elderly grandfather had it. What nobody talked about was the side effects of the treatment. A couple of things like erectile dysfunction and incontinence, to name just two, come to mind.
Although one friend who had the surgery told me that he'd rather "be alive than a dead guy with an erection!" I guess that is one way of looking at it.
Inevitably the conversation went to "so what are you going to do?" or "when are you having the surgery?" or "well, if you're going to have cancer, this is the best one to have!"
None of it was reassuring. I felt very vulnerable. I always believed that growing old was mandatory, but growing up was optional. Suddenly I was not only a grown-up. I was dealing with cancer. My cancer. But wallowing in self-pity gets you nowhere. Knowledge takes you everywhere.
I talked to three prominent urologists, and got three different recommendations. I spoke with clinics in Canada and the U.S. I looked at a study being done in the UK. I read everything I could find online. And there is an overwhelming amount of information online. The challenge is figuring out which path to take. I read a book that really helped me make my decision called The Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers. It talked about alternate approaches but really demonstrated that in America, prostate cancer is a big profitable business.
This idea of watch and wait, or as I call it active surveillance sounded better all the time.
My biopsy indicated a Gleason Score of three and three for a total of six. If you don't know what a Gleason score is you'll find it online. What it means is that my cancer was in the early stages. It was later explained to me by a prominent Vancouver urologist, that the biopsy process was tantamount to looking for a needle in a haystack. It is somewhat hit and miss. A biopsy I had two years earlier because of a spike in PSA, showed no cancer. Maybe they missed it that time?
If you are reading this entry, then welcome to my journey to wellness.
I will talk about my choices, my progress and observations along the way. Response to my first Huffington Post entry was interesting. Many were surprised that after 35 years in the advertising business, I wasn't writing about advertising. I think this subject is more important.
What to know more? Follow my journey right here.
Ron Telpner is Chairman and CEO of the BrainStorm Group, an international ad agency in Toronto.