April 15, 2013
Today, I began the journey of transitioning from my 2-year treatment plan following the radiation at UCSF in 2011. I have now been taken off both medications that I was on for the last 26 months. Dr. Freedman said the treatment has obviously been effective. My testosterone and PSA levels have been very low during the treatment period, which would indicate that any remaining cancer has been well-controlled. I have been thankful for that good news during this journey, plus the fact that I have generally felt quite well and have been able to do most of life in a normal (aging!) way.
So I asked, “What do I do next?” Normally, one simply watches their PSA and prays and hopes that it stays low – indicating no further cancer. However, two and a half years ago my cancer became Stage 4 Gleason Score 10 advanced cancer without ever being indicated by a rising or high PSA. Dr. Freedman said he would recommend that I now connect with a Medical Oncologist and a UCSF Urologist who are part of a larger team and have access to a variety of additional medicines should further treatment be determined to be necessary. He recommended that I become a part of the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center where all of these specialties work together to try and provide the best coverage. So I have been referred to Dr. Green at the CCC and should have an appointment within a month or so.
I am extremely grateful for the ongoing support and prayers of our SBC family. In so many ways, my ministry at SBC and connection with all of you during these last two years has been a significant part of the strengthening and healing work that God has done in my life. Thanks…and keep praying please!
March 26, 2013
I am very grateful for your continued support and prayers for my health. Thankfully, I feel quite well most of the time, and I am able to function almost normally in most ways. My 2 year follow-up is now scheduled for June 6 at UCSF when I expect them to take me off of my medications. They will then assess my current status and start a monitoring and treatment process to detect and deal with any recurring cancer. Please continue to pray that the doctors will say I am all clear and to proceed with retirement full-steam ahead!
July 13, 2012
Finally…some changes to report…and good changes to boot!
Thursday, I had a follow-up with my oncologist at UCSF, and this morning with my local urologist. Even before meeting with them, I have been telling people recently, “the last 3 weeks I have felt the best I have felt in the last 18 months!” Meeting with the doctors confirmed my suspicions: I have survived the effects of having radiation! I no longer have to use a catheter, some of the body functions effected by the radiation have returned to normal, I am sleeping much better, and feeling much stronger! We kind of celebrated earlier this week by hiking in both Mt. Hermon and Big Sur. It is great just feeling good again.
Now the prayer is that the cancer did NOT survive the radiation and is gone for good. However, I won’t know the status of that for probably another year. When I asked the doctor about going off of the hormone therapy (which he had indicated earlier was possible at this one year point), he said that because I had a high risk cancer (Gleason Score 10, Stage 4, aggressive and advanced at discovery) and since I was able to tolerate the side effects, that it would be best to “go the whole way” and do the entire two years of hormone treatments. So, of course, I will do everything I can do.
Again, I thank you for your prayers, encourage you to continue…and hopefully hear some more good news in a year!
November 9, 2011
I am thankful so many of you continue to ask for an update on my health. Believe me, if there was anything to report I would be passing it along to you, as I very much covet and appreciate your prayers. The only little update is that recently I did another PSA test (even if no one else keeps the PSA people in business anymore I think I will do it!), and it came back again extremely low, indicating that the therapy is working as planned. So we stay the course…take the medicine…get the shots…live with the side effects…and pray that when this phase is done (another 15 months – can you believe that it has been exactly one year since I came home from Russia sick?) there will be no cancer, and we look back on this as a bump in the road of getting older! Thanks for your continued prayers and support.
July 22, 2011
Yesterday, we had a good appointment with the radiation oncologist at UCSF. He confirmed everything we had been told locally on Tuesday. He clarified that “we shouldn’t see anything really exciting” for some time, i.e., as long as I remain on the Hormone Therapy, and hopefully long after that. He also confirmed that they had really blasted the prostate and that they hope that this will have done the job on the cancer! Now my job is just to get a little better each day until everything is more like it is supposed to be. My next appointment there is in 6 months…so for the next months to come, I just appreciate your prayers that everything corrects itself in my body and that the cancer remains completely gone. Thanks.
July 19, 2011
I appreciate many of you “complaining” that I’ve have not recently updated my health information. This is because I have not been to a doctor since my hospitalization on June 9…and not seeing any doctors for 6 weeks, I now feel better than ever! This week, I begin to do follow-up both locally and with UCSF, and today I received some good news from my urologist. My PSA was down to 0.01 (that is about as close to “0” as you can get) which he believes is the result of both the Hormone Therapy and the initial effects of the radiation. As a result, I was able to change medications from the monthly “shock and awe” initial treatments to something that only has to be done every 4 months. This Thursday, I will be at UCSF to meet with the radiation oncologist. Today’s appointment is the first step in confirming the effectiveness of the treatments, and it was very encouraging… I will keep you informed as things develop.
Thanks for your prayers – please keep them up!
June 17, 2011
A week ago Thursday, I completed the High Dose Radiation treatment at UCSF (avoid this is you can!). The 5-6 hour process turned into an 11 hour procedure due to some complications with the anesthetic. Then, of course, the overnight stay in the hospital was peaceful and relaxing (HA!). From 9pm-1am, I had hourly check-ups and, in between, tried to figure out how to sleep on a bed that was self-adjusting every 60 seconds or so – not a fun night! Thankfully, the doctors seemed to feel good about the treatment and talked very positively about the results they have seen with this procedure. Now the plan is to continue on the hormone therapy, recover from the effects of the radiation, regularly check my PSA, pray that the treatments have been very successful, eat more conscientiously, and then in a few months after the first wave of effects are over begin to address some of the ongoing bladder issues. I appreciate your continuing prayers!
May 25, 2011
Time for a brief update with two important progress reports. First, I graduated! With the completion of the 25th treatment, I received my “graduation certificate.” Now on to the High Dose treatment in a couple of weeks…
Now an even nicer update, as far as I am concerned. Last night, I slept great for the first time in a while; and this morning, I woke up thinking, “Wow, this is what it is like to feel normal again!” I am very grateful to be feeling better, but also sensitive to their input that the “down” time will be for a couple of weeks and then the body starts rebuilding – but I’ll take it sooner rather than later if possible. Thanks, again, for your continuing prayers.
May 16, 2011
Two important things this week: I am now beginning my last full week of radiation treatments; and this week, Ev is here with me! Both are good news. Most everything else remains the same. I have received my schedule for the 2-day High Dose treatment – June 8-9, after which all of the treatments will be over. The most common questions I receive at this stage of the journey are about whether the treatment is working. The answer is, I don’t know…and neither do the doctors for that matter! The reality is that as long as the hormone therapy is working, and I am scheduled to be on it for two years, we will not know whether any or how much cancer remains. Of course from all of their previous experience, the doctors can deduce that undoubtedly the radiation is doing the most effective job possible disabling the cancer, hopefully completely.
I certainly continue to greatly appreciate your prayers and support.
April 28, 2011
I have just finished my 9th radiation treatment, so I thought an update is in order – hopefully as an encoragement for your prayers! I appreciate those greatly. My housing situation this week has worked out much easier than the previous week, thanks to the generosity of a Sonora family that has kept their San Francisco family home and now generously makes it available for those who need a place to stay near the hospital – it has been a wonderful gift!I will get to use it again the last two weeks of my treatment. It is located about 1 mile east of the Pacific Ocean and a mile south of Golden Gate Park, so it is about a 20 minute drive to the hospital and in a location with some wonderful walks nearby. I am very thankful for this beautiful little place.
The treatments seem to be going fine. I met with the doctors again this morning, and all of the side effects are normal, and they suggested some options to try and minimize them. Some of the days seem fine, and some not so fine, but none of them awful, so that is good. I am glad for computers and cell phones (when they work!) as it has kept me feeling like I am in touch and involved with life at home. We are now planning for Ev to come down my fifth week of treatment, so that will be nice. Next week, she travels to Bend to help with childcare needs and get another Mama Fix! We are both rejoicing in good news from Brian yesterday that he received an offer for a new job to start May 9 that he (and we) had really been praying and working to receive. That is a huge answer to prayer for our family.
I continue to greatly appreciate the encouragement and support from friends and family. Last weekend, Beth came for several days with her girls. Last night, I had dinner with Duane and Joan Porter, who visit UCSF periodically to check on cancer concerns. Today, Kathy and her girls are on their way here to do an overnight and hopefully spend some fun time romping around the wharf! God is good, and I thank all of you for your prayers and encouragement.
April 15, 2011
Today, I did the “dry run,” but instead of radiation they took some pictures and 5 doctors decided their plan for my future in the next room. I did get to see the graphs that show how the radiation is going to be applied and the pictures of what parts of me will get which dosages or radiation. I felt good again that I am under their care. They will give radiation, in varying degrees, to the prostate, the larger pelvic area, and “up quite high” in the abdomen. They treat the areas where they know there is cancer and where they assume it is even though they can’t see it.
I also am very grateful for what has worked out for my housing: the first and third weeks, I will stay down in Atherton; and the other weeks, I am able to stay nearer to the hospital in San Francisco. It also appears that there is a good chance I will be able to do late Monday appointments (my first one is at 4:40) and then pick up an earlier time on Fridays. That would make the commute the most convenient. I’m also picking up things to do while I am down there (as if I didn’t already have enough planned!). Quite a few people from our church family spend regular time in the Bay Area it turns out, and we are making tentative arrangements to get together as we can synch our schedules. Just today, I made one new tentative appointment and realized that I will get to spend some time with people I hardly ever get to see in Sonora. Sometimes you have to go away to get to see people!
Thanks again for all your prayers and support as I begin this radiation phase.
April 11, 2011
Someone asked me yesterday if I was worth more now than I had been previously. I guess the answer is, “Yes,” because I now have a little gold not only in my teeth but elsewhere! I also have something else I never imagined getting: tattoos! Other than those exciting developments, there is not a lot of new news. I have now completed the diagnostic phase, so they can now plan my treatment. On Friday, April 1, the fanciest test I did was a Lymphoscintigraphy! (You can look it up if you really care). Last Friday, I did a new CT scan, and now the doctors will meet to look at the results; and next Friday, April 15, I will get those results and do a “dry run” so the radiation can begin on Monday, April 18. I am grateful that I continue to feel fine, and the expectation is that this should continue to be the case.
I am meeting with a Sonora friend today who has a “family house” about 15 minutes from the hospital to see if I can stay there some of the time. We looked at it last Friday, and it is in a beautiful location where you can pick your walks from the beach to the west, Golden Gate Park to the north, or a hilly area to the south – looked great to me! Even a Trader Joe’s 2 blocks away! I will give you one more update once we get the specifics, but I wanted you to know to keep praying! Thanks for all your support and encouragement.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Twice on this cancer journey, we have been surprised and delighted to hear joy in the voice of my doctors. The first was two months ago after the high PSA count was followed by a negative (which is positive!) report on the Bone and CT scans. This was great news because, while we know the cancer has spread some outside of the prostate, it was hopeful that it had not gone too far – a very important factor in treatment resulting in a cure. The last “joyful” report was on our answering machine last night. The doctor called and said they had good news and would try and reach me at church. They called back and said since they had been unable to get through at church they would just tell me the “great news.” The good news was that my latest PSA count was 0.16 which was exactly what they had hoped for with the Hormone Therapy. It is amazing what 3 shots and thousands of prayers can do in a couple of months!
I will continue the Hormone Therapy for now (they said for up to a couple of years), and soon we are on to treatment at UCSF, which looks something like this: On April 1, I will have the Gold Seed Markers placed, and a week after that will have a new CT scan to see exactly what we are working with at this time (wouldn’t it be great if they found nothing!), and then a week after that the daily radiation treatment would begin. This will go on for at least five weeks, and during that time they will do an assessment of the value of doing the High Dose Radiation treatment as well.
I do appreciate your continuing prayers and support even during these “lull” times because obviously stuff is still going on even though I look fine (well, maybe that is debatable!) and feel fine. I’m grateful some of what has been going on has been good stuff these last two months! Thank the Lord for low PSA counts!
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
This week’s doctor’s appointment was encouraging! My PSA has decreased over the last month due to the Hormone Treatment from 7.8 to .69 – the treatment is working! I received my “March shot,” and they are hoping it will go down even lower before my first UCSF appointment. March should be a quieter month. I have no more doctors appointments at this time until a recheck on the PSA the end of the month. I am glad for that. At the present time they are postponing any further treatment of my bladder problems in the hope that the effects of the Hormone Therapy and the reduction in size of the prostate will help. Thanks again for all your concern and prayers.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
There are two tracks presently being pursued with my health: (1) I continue to have bladder dysfunctions which intensified originally during my time in Russia and ultimately led to the revelation of the prostate cancer. While the focus of my treatment has changed to dealing primarily with the cancer, I am continuing to have tests and treatments to try and resolve these problems as well, hopefully with some success before cancer treatment which could complicate the treatment of the bladder dysfunctions; (2) I now have my first appointment to prepare for my radiation treatment at UCSF to treat the cancer. On April 1, I will have the placement of the non-radioactive gold seeds into my prostate to be used as markers for the radiation treatment. While this all sounds pretty weird to me, this will allow more accurate radiation treatment of the cancer thus increasing the likelihood of success in dealing with the cancer and minimizing complications to surrounding areas.
Let me say again (being on the receiving end never seems to get old, so I’ll assume that saying it again doesn’t get old either), we appreciate so much the support and encouragement and prayers of so many during this time. Thanks!
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
We appreciate your continuing interest and support as we deal with my Prostate Cancer. Last Friday, we had a good consultation at Stanford; and it felt very comforting to be in such a caring, knowledgeable, and experienced environment. On Monday, we met with doctors at UCSF and, again, were thankful for all the incredible effort that has been made by so many dealing with illnesses like cancer. After thinking and praying for God’s direction, we felt like the best decision was to pursue further treatment through UCSF. We are grateful that housing relatively nearby has already been offered for the radiation treatment period, which is likely to begin in April. They told us they want me on the Hormone Therapy, which I began the end of January for two months before radiation, during which time they will do a variety of diagnostic tests to determine the exact treatment they will recommend.
Our prayers have been for God’s direction to be clear, and while we realize, and will continue to research, the many options and alternatives that are available for cancer treatment, we feel confident and comfortable in God’s leading in this direction. Once we get more specifics about treatments and timelines, I will update that information. In the meantime, please keep praying!
Friday, February 11, 2011
The best news this week is that this morning we are meeting with radiation oncology at Stanford, and we have a similar appointment with UCSF on Monday morning. I am very thankful that we were able to schedule these two consultations so closely together. This week has also involved collecting lots of information about mainstream as well as alternative treatment options, including lots of valuable and personal input from people within our church family who have taken this journey before me. We continue to appreciate your prayers and encouragements very much! Our prayer this week, after the request for complete and miraculous healing(!), is for good guidance and discernment about the next steps we should take in dealing with this cancer.
Thanks for your support in so many ways!
Friday, February 4, 2011
On Tuesday, I did a Bone Scan, CT Scan, Chest X-Ray, and blood work-up at SRMC in preparation for my consultation at Stanford. Here is what we learned about the results from our meeting at Stanford:
The Best News: My bone scan, CT scan, and chest x-ray all came back negative, and blood work-up looked normal. The doctors were very excited and pleased about this, as we were also. Thanks for your prayers! One doctor said that because of this we were now able to work toward a cure for this disease rather than just a potential remission with maintenance of the ongoing disease.
The Mixed Blessing: The blessing part is that I am not a candidate for surgery (our meeting was with a surgeon). So I don’t have to be concerned about any of the complications or potential side effects happening from surgery. The “mixed” part is that I am not a candidate for surgery because my cancer is too aggressive and advanced, so if I had surgery I would still require radiation (doing both is an option he discussed with me that potentially does have some benefits, but it seemed to be quite clear the potential liabilities outweighed considerably the potential benefits) – but taking the prostate out by itself would not do anything to resolve the cancer problem. So…I think I am glad about that…but not exactly sure how to feel about it. I was at least glad to have this opinion expressed to me by a surgeon who really likes to do surgery to resolve prostate cancer. He was quite clear this wasn’t much of an option.
This leaves me having radiation as the primary option to pursue. I now have an appointment with Radiation Oncology at Stanford next Friday and am waiting on the details for an appointment with a radiation oncologist at UCSF as well. I will also continue to pursue other radiation options, as well as seek advice concerning other alternatives. At the same time, we are beginning again to pursue the bladder issues that started us on this journey three months ago to hopefully have some solutions there before I would begin radiation. The most likely scenario right now involves 2-3 months on the Hormone Therapy, followed by a couple months of radiation…and hopefully no more cancer and a working bladder!
We are thanking God that the cancer has not spread to other places in my body and seems confined to the prostate and surrounding area. With this news, it feels like we are fighting the battle on our homeland rather than on enemy territory! We recognize clearly there is still a significant battle ahead. Every doctor that has looked at my biopsy results has said something like the Stanford doctors, who acknowledged that my case simply doesn’t fit what they are used to seeing and that they don’t really have any modalities to explain my particular situation. We will continue to seek God’s direction and provision each step of the way. We are very grateful for all the doors that have opened up just within the last few days and expect that God will continue to guide our steps one step at a time.
Thanks for praying, and for your many offers of love, support, encouragement and help.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
I want to give you this morning an update on the condition of my health. Many of you have been faithfully praying and supporting me since our return from Russia in early November, when I first experienced some seemingly more serious health issues. I want to ask you to continue your faithful prayers and maybe even notch them up just a bit for at least the immediate future.
We returned from Russia on Thursday afternoon, November 4, 2010, and Friday morning I ended up in Emergency. We knew there must be some sort of bladder problem when the nurse came in to check the drainage from the catheter and said, “Wow! I think that is the most I have ever seen!”
Within a few days, we had our first appointment with a urologist, thanks to an office manager who attends SBC who facilitated a quick response for me. The doctor began to address various potential bladder issues and indeed confirmed that it was not working properly. The prostate seemed like it was fine because all of my annual check-ups had been normal, and everything appeared to be in order. A current check of my PSA showed some expected increase due to the activity checking the bladder. A second PSA test was done a few weeks later while working on bladder issues, to make sure that it had gone back down. Surprisingly, it showed a dramatic increase, and the doctor said we had better check it out. The biopsies were taken a little later, and last Tuesday we met with the doctor to review the results.
When we met with the doctor, he said that I had the worst kind of advanced prostate cancer. The measurement of the extent of the cancer placed it at Stage 4, the highest level, and in fact the biopsy report clearly showed that it had impacted practically the entire prostate. The Gleason Score indicating the aggressiveness of the cancer was scored at 9 out of 10 – which at first seemed better than the worst until he said no one ever gets a 10. This was one time in my life when I was not happy to score the highest on an exam! He went on to show us how the cancer had also spread a least slightly outside the prostate to the seminal vesicles, which seemed to be the matter of greatest concern.
I said that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. He said that wasn’t what he wanted to tell us. He said a small percentage of men get this kind of aggressive cancer that doesn’t give much warning until it is significant and challenging, rather than the far more typical slow-growing cancer.
He reviewed what would be our most likely options and said, in essence, Get Busy! He immediately started me on Hormone Therapy and scheduled further appointments. Last Friday, we met with the Radiation Oncologist at SRMC. Tomorrow, we have another consultation; and on Tuesday, I will have a CT scan and a Bone Scan. Wednesday morning, we meet with the Prostate Cancer Clinic at Stanford. We are very grateful that the doors have opened to be able to seek all of this information within only one week.
We are trying not to over-react to this news, but also not to under-respond. We are thankful to not be on this journey alone. God, of course, promises to be with us through all of life. Our family has become more precious than ever, and already has been our greatest source of joy and gratefulness and strength. Church family and friends also now look completely different…not just people to spend time with and brighten our days and help us along, but people with whom we can share life in its pains and sorrows as well, and from whom we can gain much strength and encouragement. I met with the staff on Wednesday morning to update them, and their prayers and response were most helpful. Yesterday, I met with the Elders, and again the time of support and prayer was very meaningful. Some of you as you have heard this news have been most compassionate and caring, which already has meant a lot to me.
All of this has also reminded me that my life right now only represents and joins what is reality for any number of people within our church family at any given time. Even now, we have other people suffering with serious, life-altering and life-threatening conditions in several hospitals. And so today we are setting aside our normal Sunday plan and asking you to join as family and friends to support in prayer those who are struggling with difficult conditions and uncertain futures in their lives.