Trust… Then Verify
It is so easy to overreact to an initial diagnosis. Being told you have cancer is life-changing and it is good to remember that medical professionals can and do make mistakes. Here is what I have learned on my personal journey with 2 very different types of cancer.
The beginning of my cancer journey
While I am new to Blood-Cancer.com, I am not new to cancer. In 2012 thanks to a routine PSA blood test, my MD suggested that it might be a good idea to visit a urologist to test for prostate cancer. Sure enough, after a lump was detected, I underwent a 12-core needle biopsy. Within days, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Further testing and scans suggested the disease was confined to the prostate and had not spread.
Removal of the gland was “successful” and no traces of cancer were seen in the margins. Within 2 years, PSA blood tests indicated a rising PSA score. Plain and simple: the cancer was back. In 2018 I underwent 40 radiation treatments combined with a form of chemotherapy called Lupron, given in a single injection. The shot is supposed to last 6 months but in my case, it lasted for all of 14. If you are not familiar with Lupron, the injection removes all male hormones. In my case, it caused significant reactions from dramatic mood swings, to hot flashes and night sweats, to weight gain.
During that 6-year period, I made it a mission to reach out to men and their partners on the need for men to actively engage in and take responsibility for their personal health. Candidly, most men today do not visit doctors for routine check-ups. As a result, men tend to die years earlier than women because we often choose not to be seen and treated early. To help address the issue, I formed the National Prostate Cancer Foundation and its sister organization, The Prostate Cancer Coach. Both organizations are designed to help men and their partners who are often at a loss when faced with the many challenging decisions that surround the prevention, detection, and treatment of prostate diseases.
A scary second diagnosis
On July 4, 2020, my world was once again turned upside down during a visit with my daughter and grandchildren in Virginia. At 11:00 PM I needed to visit the emergency room due to chest pains. At 4 AM the emergency room MD came in and announced (without any type of biopsy) that I am facing a case of advanced metastatic pancreatic cancer and I may want to get back to Connecticut for treatment.
The observations the emergency room doctor made were not based on testing rather they were based on a simple look at a CAT scan. The panic that “diagnosis” caused our family was devastating.
Two weeks later, at home, my oncologist called me at 8:45 PM. He had good news based on a biopsy. The pain I was experiencing along with loss of appetite and bowel issues was due to stage 2 non-Hodgkin lymphoma - a treatable disease when caught early. I immediately turned to Health Union and began reading articles. As of this writing, I am undergoing R-CHOP chemo and learning more every day.
It did not take long to understand that in addition to being a moderator and writer for ProstateCancer.net, I now had a new calling - to become involved in Blood-Cancer.com and to share my experiences and offer insight into my personal journey with blood cancer.
That is my story to date, and I will update as I go along. One piece of personal wisdom I will pass along: Always take a deep breath before reacting to any medical diagnosis.
Trust... but verify is good advice when it comes to cancer.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?