Profiles In Courage


St Petersburg Times, St Petersburg Florida
Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Susan Aschoff
Copyright Times Publishing Co. May 28, 2002

More than 1-million American men are living with prostate cancer. Millions more have never been screened for the disease, which is second only to lung cancer in cancer fatalities among men.

The good news is that a simple blood test (called PSA) and physical exam can provide a timely warning. The bad news? If prostate cancer is found, a man must choose from a confusing array of treatments with potentially serious side effects and no guarantees. Surgery. Radiation. Even doing nothing at all.

In this highly personal battle to live and live well, the only unanimous weapon of choice is knowledge, the kind that comes from talking about one's most intimate physiology. And fears.



Counsels other men with prostate cancer


Age: 54.

Diagnosed: Age 49, detected in annual PSA test. No symptoms.

Risk factors: Father had gastrointestinal cancer; no known prostate cancer in family.

Treatment: Cancer advanced when discovered. Surgery to remove prostate, radiation.

Current status: Takes hormones. Cancer has spread to chest and lymph nodes.

What he learned: "One of the things that drives guys nuts is there are no easy answers.
Cure is not a word I'm using. The gift embedded in cancer is that you can lead a gentler life, you can open your heart up more."


Manufacturing technician at Jabil Circuit

Coordinates prostate cancer support groups, gives speeches, lobbies for funding

St. Petersburg

Age: 65.

Diagnosed: Age 60, after experiencing difficulty urinating, back and thigh pain.

Risk factors: African-American; younger brother with prostate cancer.

Treatment: Surgery to remove prostate.

Current status: PSA levels slowly increasing.

What he learned: "I ask men, 'Where's your prostate?' They say, 'What's that?' There are people who are consumed with fear. There are men who have been treated and their families don't know. It's time that we as men take control of our health."


Retired maintenance worker

Pinellas Park

Age: 74.

Diagnosed: Age 64, in his first PSA test.

Risk factors: Father died of prostate cancer at age 69.

Treatment: Surgery to remove prostate; hormone pills and injections.

Current status: Incontinence and loss of bowel control; after 11 years of good numbers, PSA levels climbing, indicating spreading cancer.

What he learned: "I was healthy as a horse. I've always been of the belief that the farther away you stay from doctors the better. I still feel that way. I've learned that cancer is not a sentence. It's just a word."


Design engineer for city of Tampa


Age: 56.

Diagnosed: Age 54, during a checkup as a kidney cancer survivor.

Risk factors: None known.

Treatment: Cancer found outside prostate. Radiation and seed implants, hormone injections, low-fat diet.

Current status: PSA level below 1 (0-4 is considered a good result).

What he learned: "We have a saying: I'm going to die with prostate cancer, not from prostate cancer. You must learn how to deal with it. It's not only about your health. It's your family."


Private investor

Belleair Beach

Age: 57.

Diagnosed: Age 56, detected in biopsy after PSA number slightly elevated.

Risk factors: Adopted, but later found siblings, including older brother with advanced prostate cancer.

Treatment: Surgery to remove prostate.

Current status: Normal PSA levels; short-lived, postoperative incontinence and impotency.

What he learned: "I was assured everything would be fine, and it was not. There were no warning signs.
If I hadn't had the PSA, I wouldn't have known. Get the test result every year and write it down.
Track your own levels."

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

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