When I was a young medical reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I sometimes wrote about the mysterious prostate gland, so little known but such a big problem for men as they aged. I remember my father and my father-in-law, then in their 60s, whispering about their issues with enlarged prostates. I should've seen the prostate cancer train coming, but I didn't. The chestnut-sized gland was about to cause me a heap of trouble. Eight years ago, at the age of 62, my PSA had hit about 4 and my family physician started to worry, He referred me to a urologist who performed a biopsy. (My wife Judi was right there with me as the urologist took target practice on my prostate in his office. Judi has been with me every step of the way though we agreed she didn't have to attend my other biopsies.) The long and short of it was on a follow-up biopsy a tiny (one millimeter) scrap of cancer was found and was rated a Gleason 6. The urologist gave me seven options. He recommended a prostatectomy and just happened to have an opening in his OR the following week. I declined. The next day I got a second opinion at the University of Chicago. The urologist there recommended a relatively new approach--active surveillance. I just needed to be monitored with PSA tests, digital exams, biopsies and MRIs. He said the odds were I'd never need surgery. So far so good. That cancer has never been seen again after six biopsies and scores of cores. A multi-parameter MRI also showed no cancer, I often think about how things would've been had I listened to the first urologist, who didn't offer me active surveillance but wanted to rush me into an OR. Ask questions. Get second opinions. Recently, my health became more complicated when I was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. In six months, following a low-carb diet and taking a variety of supplements, I lost 35 pounds and reversed the diabetes. An amazing thing happened. I also dramatically improved my Prostate Health Index Score. My urologist said the glucose control and weight loss had a huge impact.
My experience has changed my life, but it has changed the lives of others. I started writing a mini-blog in Facebook about my experiences as a patient. I started to hear from FB friends, their families and friends looking for advice about prostate cancer. One of my "lurkers" was an old friend who was the editor of MedPageToday.com. The publication was interested in a blog on shared decision making. It's been a surprise hit for me. I am looking forward to coming to Iceland. When Judi and I were discussing honeymoon destinations in 1971, I suggested Iceland, not a common stop for newlyweds--at least Americans--back then. So it's time for a second honeymoon