Prostate Cancer: Bump in the Road or Train Wreck?

A rush of thoughts went through Keith Lawrence’s head while he waited for his prostate biopsy to come back.

Did he have cancer?

Had it been caught early?

Would treatment be painful or debilitating?

How would it affect his ability to work? Earn an income? His quality of life?

“Will this be a bump in the road or a major train wreck?” the 58-year-old realtor from Ponca City, Oklahoma remembers wondering. “Worst case scenario, prostate cancer can take one’s life. At the very least, I knew it was going to be life-changing.”

When two of his twelve biopsy cores tested positive for cancer, Keith says he first felt a wave of numbness. “But then, I felt at peace about it all,” he says. “Biblical scripture says, ‘This world is not my home.’”
  
Fortunately, the cancerous cores were close together—indicating Keith’s prostate cancer was most likely localized—and his Gleason score was low.  

“The doctor who did the biopsy was quick to tell me that any treatment choice I made would be successful. He said I had a lot of options, and that was reassuring,” Keith says. “Also, my wife, Victoria, is a nurse, so it was helpful to have her there to decipher the medical lingo and what things meant.”

Keith focused on educating himself about his treatment options.

“I got on the Internet and read all the information on the John Hopkins and Mayo Clinic websites, the American Cancer Society website, and MD Anderson site,” he says. “I wanted to go to a urology practice or cancer center where all treatment options were available, where the latest technologies were available and known. If one doctor couldn’t provide a particular treatment option, then I could go down the hallway or to the next floor and have the services.”

He also reached out to friends and family members who had experience with the disease. During these conversations, one facility was recommended by a couple of people—Urology Associates on North Texas, an affiliate of USMD Prostate Cancer Center.

After reading the UANT website “forward and backward”—including the bios of every surgeon, Keith decided to schedule a consultation with Dr. Justin Lee.

Before his meeting with Dr. Lee at USMD Prostate Cancer Center, Keith and Victoria had researched and discussed all of the treatment options and were leaning toward robot-assisted prostatectomy.

“We had pretty well made up our mind that unless we learned something in that meeting to dissuade us that surgery would be the route to go. My wife had seen lots of patients who had undergone radiation and the complications from the resulting life changes were troubling. Not that it was completely ruled out, but I was pretty much convinced after everything I had read and people I had talked with that robotic surgery would probably be my choice.  I just wanted to put myself in the hands of the most capable surgeon.”

In April, Keith and Victoria met with Dr. Lee.  

“He was very relaxed and took at least 45 minutes to an hour to talk with us, explaining what he would do if we chose surgery,” says Keith. “He gave us time to ask questions and he thoroughly answered them—never showing any signs of being short on time. We immediately felt at ease with Dr. Lee. He also answered my wife’s questions in ways that I could understand and that were meaningful for her with her medical background. She felt very comfortable, very reassured that we were making a good choice.

“I also had confidence in Dr. Lee, and believed if he thought another treatment or therapy other than surgery would be better for me, he would recommend it. Neither of us have had any misgivings or regrets about choosing the route we chose.”

Keith’s prostatectomy—his first surgical procedure—went smoothly.

“Next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery,” he says. “The surgical staff was great, and the recovery and post-op staff were really terrific. I spent that night at USMD, and had some pain and discomfort from the carbon dioxide gas that’s used to inflate the abdominal cavity for the procedure, but we got that under control with medication. Initially, I had a urinary catheter. The catheter was removed sometime after midnight, and then I had a suprapubic catheter for a week. I was released from the hospital the following evening after surgery, and stayed at a motel right across from USMD until the catheter was removed.

“At the motel I was able to walk the halls. I probably built up to walking a mile-and-a-half or more per day during that week. It was a little uncomfortable at first trying to move around with the catheter. Of course, sleeping and bathing were a bit of a challenge, but not anything that was upsetting at all. It was just part of the procedure.”

Once back home in Oklahoma, Keith’s recovery continued to go well.

“I did the things Dr. Lee told me to do and didn’t do the things he told me not to do—like mowing the lawn even though I felt like I could. There was a bit of leakage, but it was manageable. I improved that with Kegel exercises and medication. Sexual activity is still pleasurable, but different—a new normal to get accustomed to.  Even with these changes, I would make the same choice again.

“I’ve been back for my three-month checkup, and Dr. Lee confirms that I’m doing well.  I’ve already had my first three-month PSA and it was very, very low—just .01. I feel like it was very much a blessing to have found it early and taken care of it early.”

Keith is glad that he had his first baseline PSA test when he was 45 years old, and advises other men not to forgo prostate cancer screening. He also encourages men who find themselves diagnosed with prostate cancer to explore all of their options.

“Ask a lot of questions,” he encourages. “And as uncomfortable as it may be, talk with men who have gone through it. Ask around. You certainly can find a lot of people who have gone through some bout with prostate problems or prostate cancer. The conversations I had with my relative who underwent prostate surgery were extremely helpful. He filled me in on a lot of things he went through. In fact, he told me he first determined he would not have surgery under any circumstances because of the stories he’d heard about bad side effects afterward. Then when he did all his research, he decided that surgery was his best option. So I got the full circle story about initially not wanting to have surgery to choosing surgery. His insights certainly helped me decide that surgery was not out of the question.”

Keith says men shouldn’t be shy when it comes to interviewing potential care providers.

“Choose physicians and surgeons who will address your questions and respect the fact that you have questions. It may be old hat to them, but you’re going through it for the first time and there’s a lot of uncertainty. Dr. Lee explained all my treatment options. He even answered my questions about experimental treatments and therapies. They weren’t offered at USMD because they’re not USDA approved, but he knew all about them and was right on top of things. It gave me confidence to know that he was on his game as well.”

By educating himself and pursuing answers to his questions, Keith is confident that he made the right choice for his treatment.

“Victoria and I felt that the precision of robotic surgery performed by a skilled surgeon was the best option for us. We’re glad we made that choice.”

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer and would like to know more about your treatment options, please contact USMD Prostate Cancer Center online or at 1-888-PROSTATE (1-888-776-7828).

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