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Behind the Headlines-27

Us TOO FLORENCE
Behind the Headlines
BY BOB HORNEY - PROSTATE CANCER SURVIVOR - Us TOO CHAPTER LEADER
(Published August 10, 2016, The Siuslaw News)

This month, I want to address prostate cancer post-treatment life. There is a big difference between a high or rising pre-diagnosis PSA and a post-treatment PSA that remains high or drops but rises. With pre-diagnosis PSA, there can be a number of possibilities as to its meaning with prostate cancer being only one of them. With post-treatment PSA, its significance will bear heavily on the success or failure of our treatment - being cancer free, demanding continued scrutiny or needing additional therapy.
It is not unusual for those of us who have undergone prostate cancer treatment to deal with some PSA anxieties as we periodically check the success of our treatment with PSA tests. There often seems to be a "what if" lurking in the back of our minds as we await the results of each test.
I well remember a discussion of PSA anxiety with a man who had attended Us TOO Florence meetings following his diagnosis. His choice of treatment was external beam radiation. The periodic follow-up PSA tests were causing a high level of anxiety, enough so that he was about to stop the follow-up tests. As he said, "I'd rather stick my head in the sand."
That might seem like a strange comment from someone who, from his tests thus far, had been successfully treated for his prostate cancer. But, having been bit once can play all sorts of tricks with the mind. I can fully understand what he is saying. Some men simply want to put it out of their mind and go on with their lives. They don't want to attend Us TOO Florence meetings, get their PSA checked or talk about their experience - "Just let me go on with my life."
Even though the newly diagnosed men gain immeasurable information from talking with those who have taken the prostate cancer journey, not every man is capable of sharing his story. To some, this is a very personal journey that they want to keep strictly to themselves. This is not wrong and everyone needs to understand that. I am personally very thankful for the men who are open and willing to attend Us TOO Florence meetings and share their experiences, but it would be wrong to hold ill feelings toward those who are unable to do that.
I used to go through some of the same PSA anxieties with each 6-month test, but mine were short-lived and are getting shorter. My surgery in 2002 was followed with unsettled PSA results which finally increased to the point, in 2007, that additional therapy - radiation - was recommended. Having been through both treatments, I fully appreciate the importance of my PSA test results. I know they have helped extend my life considerably beyond what "could have been," so will doggedly continue to get them.
Do I, therefore, insist that every man who has been treated needs to follow my example? Absolutely not! We in Us TOO Florence have a common understanding: The correct decision for what a man does is the decision that he makes for himself...and we do not question it. Each man makes his own decision and owns the results of it. That applies to choice of treatment and follow-up to that treatment.
My experience is that those choices are made much easier by talking with men who have already worked through those decisions. But, some men are more comfortable making their choice in private and that is ok, too. With that being said, I (and other survivors) will continue to attend Us TOO Florence meetings to share our experiences with those men who are reaching out for information.
As valuable as our experiences are for men beginning their prostate cancer journey, the icing on the cake for those who come to our Us TOO Florence meetings, is having our urologists in attendance. Dr. Bryan Mehlhaff attends our evening group and our lunch group is attended by Dr. Roger McKimmy and his PA-C Cameron Derbyshire. Whether it is pre-diagnosis PSA testing, choosing a treatment or life after treatment, their expertise is invaluable - and free!

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