Taking the Tornado Out of Prostate Cancer

Many men are lulled into thinking a PSA level below 4 means they don’t have to worry about prostate cancer.

WRONG.

As a successful real estate agent in Plano, Texas, Mike Harvey thought he was in the clear with a PSA below 2—until it started trending upward.

“It started out at 1.8 and went to 2.2,” he remembers. “I said, ‘Well, it’s under 4 so we don’t have anything to worry about.’ My doctor said, ‘No, it has nothing to do with the jump, it has to do with the size of the jump. Let’s watch it for a while, it could be an infection.’”

Despite a round of antibiotics, Mike’s level rose again to 2.6 within six months. A biopsy with a Plano urologist revealed he had early-stage prostate cancer—a diagnosis he likens to a tornado ripping through his life. Unfortunately, the urologist’s delivery of the news didn’t help matters.

“His bedside manner was anything but wonderful,” Mike says. “To put it mildly, he made the tornado worse. By the time my wife and I left his office, we were buzzing because we didn’t know what to make of what all he said. We were so upset.”

One of Mike’s good friends had already been down the prostate cancer path and done a lot of research. “He told me, ‘You need to go see Dr. Justin Lee. It will be a whole different experience.’”

Mike and his wife, Pam, went to Dr. Lee, director of robotic surgery at USMD Prostate Cancer Center, for a second opinion.

“We just loved him right off the bat. He took the tornado out of the equation. He spent all the time in the world with us—you think you’re his only patient. He has a great calming way about him that really puts you at ease about what’s ahead of you. Not that he sugar coats it—he does not. He just makes you feel comfortable that you’ll deal with it and you’ll get through it.

“When I went to other doctors, they were more apt to tell me what could go wrong, how bad it is, how bad it can be—and Dr. Lee did not do that. He looked at the charts, looked at the biopsy and very calmly told us, ‘Here are your options.’”

Mike also appreciated the great care Dr. Lee showed to his wife.

“He was wonderful with her. She didn’t ask questions, but he answered her questions so she didn’t have to ask them. He gave us a very good prognosis about what we could expect. Any time you’re in your 50s and your sex life is being discussed, it involves two people. I tell every man, ‘Take your wife with you.’ She needs to hear everything as much as you need to hear it so she’ll know what to expect. Dr. Lee was very reassuring about all of that. We both left feeling real good—like this is not as bad as we think it’s going to be. We can get through this.”

Although Mike was still researching radiation therapy and other treatment options, he valued Dr. Lee’s level of experience.

“Sometimes you’ll ask a physician how many surgeries they’ve performed and they have a mental lapse. He can answer that question. I hadn’t made my final decision yet, but knew that if I did have surgery, Dr. Lee would be my man.”

Mike eventually decided to undergo a robot-assisted radical prostatectomy.

“The day I had my surgery, Dr. Lee was at the end of my bed and my blood pressure was way off the charts,” he remembers. “I was so stressed out and they were trying to get it down. I said to him, ‘Do you know how many people are praying for your hands today?’ And he looked up and he said, ‘I know.’”

Mike’s surgery went well. Although his biopsy had only shown one cancerous spot on his prostate, a second one was discovered after it was removed. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread beyond the prostate.

“The hospital experience was wonderful,” he says. “The staff, the nurses, everybody was very understanding, very supportive. I had surgery at 7:00 in the morning, and was out by noon the next day. I was sore for a couple of weeks and had some temporary incontinence. I wore a pad for about 45 days—I’m not sure I needed it that long, but I was too nervous not to wear it. Every other function is working perfectly.”

Mike only has one regret about it all.

“I postponed my surgery six months to go on a wonderful trip to Spain I had planned with my kids,” he admits. “I was so worried I would get over there and have to wear a diaper—which I never had to do—but I worried I might have incontinence issues when I was there. Had I known how quick and thorough my recovery was going to be, I would have had my surgery sooner. For six months I woke up every morning thinking this is a great day, but I’ve still got cancer. From a mental standpoint, it created a little bit of anguish.” 

Now eight years cancer free, Mike is an advocate for other men blindsided by the disease.

“I talk to a lot of men who have just found out they have prostate cancer. I try to take the fear out of it. I tell them I’ve got a great doctor for you, but I also say you’re two biggest concerns—incontinence and erections—will probably clear themselves up. Let’s get our priorities straight and take care of the cancer first, then let’s talk about the side effects. If you read and keep up with stuff, you’ll realize you probably aren’t going to have a problem with either one, but you might. Your doctors can tell you. I had a great recovery from it and I feel like Dr. Lee was instrumental in that.

“I tell everybody Dr. Lee is one of the guardian angels in my life. He takes such great care of you.
He’s a wonderful person, but also an incredible doctor—and that’s a rare, rare, rare combination these days.

Having buried three of his friends last year who died from prostate cancer—one only 60 years old—Mike is mindful that his outcome could have been very different if his cancer had not been detected early or if he hadn’t received expert care. 

People tell me all the time, ‘Well my PSA is under 4.’ I tell them that means nothing. At 2.6 you think you’re safe. But you may not be. I know. I had prostate cancer and didn’t have any symptoms.

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

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