I should first note that I have a family history of prostate cancer. My father passed away years ago due to prostate cancer and both my brother and uncle have had prostate cancer. Also; being an Afro-American (according to a number of published research reports) increased the likelihood I could develop this disease. My reason for selecting to have surgery came after conducting my own research, taking into consideration my age, the intermediate aggressiveness of the cancer and my desire, as well as my wife's, to not delay in terms of the realistic options for my particular circumstance. In addition; when asked, I valued and respected my current urologist's opinion that surgery would be his selection for me (Due to a number of urological challenges I have experienced for many years, Dr. John Ludlow has served as my urologist for over 20 years. He has either performed and/or recommended very successful surgeries for me in the past). In my case, unlike what may be advised by most, I trust my urologist and did not desire to have a second or third opinion.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I was engaged in several years of active surveillance of a rising PSA. Although I was unaware that I had cancer, I wanted to do whatever I could to offset or reduce that possibility. I had already began to make reductions in my food intake and weight during the year of 2015. However; in part, to possibly lower my PSA and prevent cancer or diabetes, as well as to "ward off" any other health challenges, I significantly changed my diet and exercise efforts in January of 2016. I cut down to two meals per day. My diet consisted of primarily fruits, vegetables and fish (On occasion, I did eat a little chicken, although red meat was totally eliminated). I increased my water intake. Refined sugar, sweets, carbonated drinks, breads and dairy products were also completely eliminated. Supplements such as Saw Palmetto, Soy Isoflavones, Flax Oil, Beta Carotene and Pomegranate Juice were, periodically, inserted into my regular routine. In addition, I increased my exercise routine to 30 minute workouts about 4-5 times per week. During this period, I lost about 40 pounds, reduced my cholesterol and blood pressure medicine usage and "felt" more physically fit than what I had felt for many years prior to these changes.
However; these efforts seemed to have little impact on my PSA, which continued its steady rise and then took a sharp spike up in the Spring of 2017. It was then that my urologist and I decided that a biopsy was necessary.
In May of 2017, I was officially informed by my urologist that my biopsy results from April showed that both lobes of my prostate contained cancer. 10 of the 12 cores were malignant. At the time, it appeared to the doctors that the cancer was confined to the prostate gland.
I would assume that at least one, and maybe two of my initial responses were most likely typical of most who receive a cancer diagnosis. First; I was certainly concerned about how this disease would negatively impact me, my wife and other loved ones. Secondly; I began an intense research to learn how to approach and rid myself of this disease. Various individuals, books, and a number of web sites proved to be quite informative. I am especially grateful to the founders and current administrators of this site. The prostate cancer background and clarifying information along with the survivor contributions have been down-to-earth and valuable. I found myself going back to YANA survivor stories repeatedly during the initial weeks following my diagnosis.
However; my eventual and more desirous faith-based responses came to me shortly after the concerns I have cited in the previous paragraph surfaced. These responses have been incorporated in the remainder of this communique. God willing, should I have the opportunity to do so, I will regularly share similar-type responses that direct my decision making and actions in future update submissions.
On June 22, 2017, Dr. Bradley Willoughby successfully completed a Da Vinci Robotic Prostatectomy on me at Holland Hospital in Holland, Michigan. I have had little pain thus far and the catheter inserted, although awkward, was manageable. Ten days after my surgery, my catheter was removed but at the time of this writing, I am experiencing significant incontinence. Nevertheless; I have been able to manage relatively well. It is certainly a blessing to have my loving wife's assistance. I am also appreciative of whoever designed absorbent pads, briefs, bed underpads, cleaning wipes and even lysol disinfectant spray! Although it can be a little pricey, these items certainly make this rather pronounced lifestyle adjustment a little "drier" and provide, under the circumstances, refreshing comfort when needed. It has been especially revealing to me how one can be thankful, even in difficult circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5: 18). At this juncture, several others are providing personal and material assistance with tasks heretofore I had generally taken for granted. I found it amazing, especially after my catheter was removed, how I am so grateful to God for the gifts of mobility, particularly in terms of being able to freely, and without discomfort, walk and use both arms/hands flexibly! Also; at this point in time, due to my current challenge with incontinence, I have been extremely thankful to be able to acquire certain items/services as well as perform added and/or increased tasks I had not given much thought about previously. Some of these items and tasks include having the daily use of a washer & dryer, an adequate supply of PJ's, bedding, towels, prescribed medicines, plastic bags, being able to take frequent warm showers, trash disposal services, etc. The list could probably go on and on. There is so much to be thankful for!
On June 27, Dr. Willoughby called and informed me that the initial post-surgery lab report had detected no cancer in my lymph nodes but did find cancerous cells in at least one of my seminal vesicles.
My initial disappointment was quickly, and thankfully, short-lived. While I would like to have taken a quicker route to the complete physical healing I believe God will provide for me, His thoughts and ways are higher than mine. He knows what's best for me. The method, timing and placement of my cure from cancer is indeed totally in His hands. It is a wonderful assurance to know that the God of the universe is enabling/empowering my steps as I travel this path.
CAUTION: There seems to be an unlimited amount of information in books, on the web, published by medical institutions and offered by professionals and well-meaning friends. As mentioned earlier, I have certainly been helped already by much of the information I have read. Furthermore, I truly believe this YANA web site significantly exceeds other related sites I researched, in the areas of comprehensiveness, quality and helpfulness. Nevertheless; beware of the possibility of becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, some of which may be conflicting, scary and untrue. Even what appears to be reliable information can be "too much."
My Solution: I intentionally make time to increasingly saturate myself more in prayer, the Holy Bible and Bible-related resources (while being very selective about what other information I internalize and actually apply). Biblically-based principles and resources are my first and most important resources of information and guidance. My deepest desire is to measure all other life decisions, including prostate cancer, against this grid.
SOME SCRIPTURES I HAVE FOUND AND CONTINUE TO FIND HELPFUL
Note: I believe the only way I can appropriately respond and be absolutely guaranteed to have a successful journey and complete cure from prostate cancer is to be assuredly saved by Jesus Christ.
(Romans 3: 23.....Romans 6: 23.....Romans 10: 9, 10 & 13.....1 John 5: 13)
(Ask for wisdom).....James 1: 5 (Nothing is too hard for God to cure).....Jeremiah 32: 17)
(God will hear you and take away your fears).....Psalm 34: 4
(God can provide you with inner peace of mind).....Philippians 4: 7)
God willing, I plan to provide an update shortly after I receive my next lab report.
It has now been over 8 weeks since my surgery. I have much to be thankful for. My recovery and healing from this operation has gone quite well. While I have experienced consistent incontinence and frequent urination, it is slowly improving and currently manageable. For the first week or so after the surgery, my urinary leakage was really more of a continuous urinary flow. One day (during the entire 24 hour period) I estimated that I went through about 21 absorbent pads! Although still a challenge, I am now down to about 3 or 4 pads per day. This improvement may be due to my learning how to more efficiently and creatively use pads and briefs, adjustments in how I am doing my Kegel exercises, but most importantly, answered prayer.
My first post-surgery lab report has been received and the PSA level was 0.10 or basically undetectable. My next PSA testing is scheduled to take place in October. Nevertheless; because some of the cancerous cells had spread into at least one of my seminal vesicles, there is the possibility there may still be some remaining cancer. Therefore, I have decided it would be beneficial (and thus have scheduled) to have an informational meeting with a local radiologist (Radiation would be my preference should I go ahead with a follow-up medical intervention to address the possibility of lingering cancer cells).
I have received the okay to resume my normal physical activities, although I plan to do so gradually. I am also looking forward to going on a short (4-5 days) vacation with my wife at the end of this month to celebrate our wedding anniversary and to resume several Christian outreach ministries in September. This is truly a blessing considering what has been occurring in my life during the past 6 months. I can only give credit to God for His continuing healing, faithfulness and sustaining grace.
NOTE: I know that my journey on this path may have just started. However; I am especially grateful for the sincere prayers and loving supportive actions of so many individuals on my behalf, both within and outside of my family.
SOME SCRIPTURES I HAVE FOUND TO BE PARTICULARLY HELPFUL SINCE MY SURGERY:
(Prayer is essential and effective) James 5: 16
(God hears, heals and delivers us from fear) Psalm 30: 2 and Psalm 34: 4
(When you need assurance that something not visible now will certainly come to be) Romans 10: 23
(Nothing is impossible for God to do) Luke 1: 37
I am thankful to the Lord that my 2nd PSA test results came back in late October at 0.10 (no cancer cells detected). In addition, I have regained my physical strength and have been able to perform all of the physical tasks I had been doing prior to the surgery. Also; during the time I was in recovery this past summer, I was able to see the "hand of God" in clearer and exciting ways. Although I have only been on this journey for a short period of time, I have already grown spiritually in areas I do not think I would have grown in had I not been in my current situation. In September, I resumed active participation in all of my ministry involvement efforts and have even added two more!
How am I doing with my incontinence? While this side-effect remains, it has improved significantly (I am down to 1-2 pads per day). However; for the past few months, the healing in this aspect seems to be coming at a much slower pace. Of course, this is not actually the case being that God is doing healing inside of me at the pace I need. This healing is beyond the physical manifestations I have been able to recognize at this point and time.
After prayer, further research, confiding with my wife and considering the researched results reported for those who have experienced seminal vesicle spread similar to my own, I decided to undergo follow-up radiation therapy. At the time of this writing, I have completed 2 of the 39 sessions I am scheduled to go through. At this point in my journey, all is well and I have much to rejoice as I celebrate Thanksgiving this year with a special sense of gratefulness for God's faithfulness and healing.
SOME SCRIPTURES I HAVE FOUND TO BE PARTICULARLY HELPFUL
(God hears and answers my prayers for healing.....Isaiah 58: 9)
(Healing will often require patience.....Psalm 40: 1)
(My desire is to always have God as my primary leader as I travel this path.....Proverbs 3: 5-6)
(No matter what I am going through, I find there is always something I can thank God for.....1 Thessalonians 5: 18)
Paul's e-mail address is: pfife777 AT gmail.com (replace "AT" with "@")