Prostate Cancer Survivor
My name is Mike. I'm 70 years old and I've had the same primary care doctor at Virginia Mason since 1998. At my annual checkup three years ago, he told me there was a “nodule” on my prostate. This really surprised me because I had no symptoms of any problems. In fact, I've never really been sick a day in my life.
I had a biopsy next and learned that I had an aggressive prostate cancer. That was a shock. When you're diagnosed with cancer, your worldview changes in about three seconds. I remember that I learned the diagnosis while sitting in a brand new chair at our home in Bellevue. I have never sat in that chair again and I never will – we gave it away.
Luckily, I've been married to a wonderful woman for 50 years, Pat, and I knew we would get through this together. She also has the same primary care doctor as I do. It was good to know that we trust both him and all of the care we get at Virginia Mason.
“When I expressed my concern about cancer to my doctor, he reminded me that I had some very smart people at Virginia Mason worrying about my cancer with me.”
After the diagnosis, we had a meeting with the surgeon, oncologist and radiologist. We talked about my options and what I appreciated was the attention they gave my family and me. All our questions were answered and I felt fully informed about the choices that I had. It was now up to us to make a decision between surgery and hormone/radiation therapy.
We made the choice of surgery. Everything went well, but blood tests revealed slowly rising PSA levels afterward. Nine months later a bone scan showed a lesion on my femur. PSA stands for prostate specific antigen, a substance produced by the prostate gland. Elevated PSA levels are one indication that cancer may be present. I started on hormone treatments and that brought the PSA levels back to zero, and no lesion was evident on subsequent bone scans. Now I have blood tests every three months and a hormone treatment and so far, it all looks great.
Since my cancer diagnosis I have worked to become much more physically active. I had always had an "outdoorsy" life and even went scuba diving two weeks after my diagnosis. But now when I go diving or hiking, I think about staying healthy as much as having fun. I'm eating better and I control my weight through diet and exercise.
I've been supported in all of this by the people at Virginia Mason. I was encouraged from day one to continue to live my life fully. When I expressed my concern about cancer to my doctor, he reminded me that I had some very smart people at Virginia Mason worrying about my cancer with me. To me, that’s the perfect definition of team medicine.