PROSTAID CalgaryCalgary's Prostate Cancer Support Group  
Monthly Meeting: Tuesday, August 8th at the Kerby Centre downtown. Speaker and topic TBA.

PROSTAID Calgary: Survivor Stories

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Below are stories from some of our members. Click on the story title to expand or collapse the story.

[-] One Man‘s Story by Bob Shiell

Bob ShiellMy journey with prostate cancer started about 12 years ago with a phone call from my father. At age 75 he had been diagnosed with metastasis prostate cancer. I had just turned 50. My knowledge of prostate cancer was very limited. I called our family doctor who filled me in with information about what to expect with my father and also suggested that I start regular psa testing. I soon started getting regular dre's and psa tests. My father went on to hormonal therapy and lived another 4 years, ultimately dying of a heart attack.

During this period every time I went for a test I heard "everything's normal". When I was 55 my psa came back at 3.6 and I was sent to an urologist. Again, "everything's normal - come back next year." The following year my psa climbed to 5.6 and a subsequent biopsy gave me a Gleason score of 6, and six positive core samples out of 6 taken. I had prostate cancer!

My urologist told me that surgery was my best option, but because of the extent of the cancer and the good possibility of it having spread outside the capsule, he would have to be aggressive in his surgery. He assured me I would most likely be impotent, and possibly suffer from incontinence. Radiation was also mentioned as a secondary treatment if the surgery failed. Needless to say I was in shock! I was 56 and I had thought, healthy. My routine for over 8 years was to swim a mile a day, watch what I eat and drink and not smoke. I had no symptoms and felt great. But suddenly I felt like my life was over.

After getting over the initial shock I decided to be equally aggressive in my search for treatment options. I went first to the library. Remember, this was almost six years ago. The books I found were not very helpful. Most dealt with surgery – the operation, recovery, living with side effects, etc. While I was doing research I sent copies of my biopsy slides to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York for a second opinion. I also sought out and had an appointment with another urologist in another city. The internet provided me with links to other treatments, to survivors, and prostate cancer specialists. To make a long story short I finally linked up with Dr. Haakon Ragde in Seattle, Washington. His recommendation was three-fold. A 4 month course of hormones (Zoladex and Flutamide), 25 sessions of external beam radiation and finally brachytherapy – the insertion of tiny radioactive seeds directly into the prostate gland under ultrasound guidance.

I went with his recommendations. The hormonal therapy and external beam radiation was provided by the caring staff at Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary. As brachy was not yet available in Canada I had that procedure done in Seattle. I finished my treatment in December, 1997.

Now over seven years out and my psa is stable at 0.1. My quality of life is excellent. Knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Absolutely. But I also recognize that my choice of treatment, while right for me, is not necessarily right for others.

Since my diagnosis I have become very active in the prostate cancer support community. I took over as President of PCCN Calgary (the local support group) 4 years ago and in January 2003 became President of the Prostate Cancer Canada Network.

Prostate Cancer support groups fulfill an important role. They are there when the newly diagnosed need someone to talk too right now! They can also provide up-to-date information on various treatment modalities. Many groups regularly feature medical guest speakers at monthly meetings to keep members informed. Building awareness for early detection and advocating for treatment options are also important functions of the groups.

PCCN Calgary's mission statement says it all: "Our objective is to assist and support patients, families and friends as they deal with prostate cancer. We inform, empathize and reassure men on their journey. We share our experiences with our own cancer, lift our spirits and strengthen our resolve to fight for quality of life and a cure."

PCCN is the national organization representing some 120 independent support groups across the country. PCCN speaks for tens of thousands of men suffering from prostate cancer to government and business. PCCN builds awareness through projects like "Living Proof" – a national awareness campaign featuring prostate cancer survivors and a soon to be released national television campaign featuring Red Green.

What can be done to help in the battle with prostate cancer? If you're a man over 50 or over 40 with a family history of cancer, talk to your doctor about getting tested. Watch your diet and exercise regularly. If you have already been diagnosed, get in touch with your local support group. Our web site at www.prostatecancer.ca. is a good source of links and information about prostate cancer and provides contact information to groups across the country.

One in three Canadians will experience cancer. In my family, my father had prostate cancer, my mother died with ovarian cancer, and my wife was diagnosed and successfully treated for breast cancer 6 months after my initial prostate cancer diagnosis. Having faced cancer, and at least for the time being having beaten it, I now have a much greater appreciation for each day. I firmly believe that maintaining a positive attitude and helping others along their journey goes a long way to a successful recovery.

[+] My Story by Marvin Crowley

[+] Our Story by Don and Nell Jacques

[+] One Man‘s Story by Alan Rankin

[+] My Journey with Prostate Cancer by Gil Carlson

[+] Get Your Ass Down There by Vic Germaniuk

[+] My Prostate Cancer Story by Keith Brown

[+] My Story by Robert Buckles

Please consider submitting the story of YOUR journey with prostate cancer to the PCCN Calgary website. It is through sharing our experiences that we can learn from one another. Please submit your story to stories@pccncalgary.org.

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