Prostrate Cancer Survivor
Cancer was the furthest thing from Richard’s mind when he went in for a checkup with Dr. Markham in 2008. The checkup included a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, which measures the level of a protein produced by the prostate gland. According to the National Cancer Institute, the higher a man’s PSA level is, the more likely it is that he has prostate cancer. The continuous rise in a man’s PSA level over time may also be a sign of prostate cancer. “In 2007, my PSA was 4.3,” Richard said. “In 2008, it doubled to 8.6.”
A biopsy confirmed the presence of prostate cancer. For Richard, the very aggressive nature of his cancer shaped the treatment options. On the 10-point Gleason staging system physicians use to describe how likely a cancer is to be aggressive, a score of 8, 9 or 10 indicates a potentially fast-growing, high-grade cancer. Richard’s cancer scored a 9. “I was given all of the appropriate options, including surgical removal and radioactive seed implants,” said Richard. After discussing his options with his wife, Sharon, Richard chose robotic-assisted surgery to remove the cancer and prostate. To his relief, chemotherapy was not needed.
Radiation therapy, however, was essential. For this, Richard chose Methodist Jennie Edmundson Cancer Center, where he first met with radiation oncologist Michelle Haessler, MD, in February 2009. “To make sure there were no leftover cancer cells,” said Richard, “I had daily radiation therapy treatments from March to May.”
Eventually, Richard achieved the test result they had been working toward. “My PSA dropped to zero,” Richard said. “To celebrate, Sharon and I took a special trip to Australia and New Zealand in 2014.” Recently, the PSA level bounced back up a bit, and Richard is being carefully monitored. He is also reaching out to help others, giving his time to counsel men facing a prostate cancer diagnosis. “It really helps to know what others have gone through and hear firsthand that it’s not so bad,” said Richard.
He continues his longtime support of cancer through the Shelby County Relay for Life as well as the various Pink Outs, Blue Outs, Teal Outs and Green Outs at school athletic events. Richard says, “I want to do what I can to help find a cure so cancer is not such a terrible disease.”