My prostate cancer journey: Update and giving back

Feb. 13, 2019 — The second part of my journey was first published in February 2015. After a steadily increasing PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) and three biopsies, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Gleason Score 7. Nine of the 12 samples were positive, with seven of them over 90 percent cancerous.

I decided to be treated with external beam radiation instead of surgery because there was a chance that the cancer had escaped the prostate gland and radiation, extending beyond the prostate, could kill any cancer in that area.

Because testosterone feeds prostate cancer, I was offered a clinical trial to lower my testosterone before starting external beam radiation. The clinical trial required me to take a pill every morning to lower the testosterone instead of an injection every few months, which is usually prescribed.

I started my nine-week, 45 treatments at Oregon Urology Institute’s Radiation Center in Springfield on March 24, 2015, ending May 26. The clinical trial to keep my testosterone level low ended on June 1. At that time, using a standard PSA test, my PSA was undetectable, and my testosterone level was 9. An average testosterone level is around 600 and low is anything under 250.

I continued getting PSA and testosterone tests monthly for three months and then was tested every four months until March 2016. At that time my PSA, using an ultra-sensitive test, was 0.032 and testosterone had come up to 146. Ultra-sensitive PSA tests continued at six-month intervals until February 2018 with PSA results of 0.054 and testosterone 259.

I am now on a one-year testing schedule and my latest results, as of January 2019, are PSA 0.093 and testosterone 301. It’s normal for my PSA to fluctuate since I still have a prostate.

My urologist is Dr. Bryan Mehlhaff from the Oregon Urology Institute (OUI) in Springfield. At this time, he feels that my chances of being cured are good and recommends that I continue annual tests for the rest of my life. As long as my PSA tests do not begin to rise significantly, chances are that the cancer is gone.

My recommendation is that all men get a single PSA test in their mid-40s to establish a baseline and ensure that their PSA isn’t elevated, then start annual testing in their 50s. One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. It is vitally important that prostate cancer be caught early and treated before symptoms develop.

Believe me, it’s better to know than not know.

I continue to attend Us TOO Florence Prostate Cancer Education and Support meetings monthly because I feel a responsibility to share (give back) some of my experiences and knowledge to help men who are just beginning their prostate cancer journey, like so many men did for me when I began my journey. These meetings are an excellent source of information for anyone who has questions or concerns about their prostate health.

The meetings are attended by prostate cancer survivors, men who are undergoing treatment, have recently been diagnosed or are just concerned about their prostate health. Spouses are encouraged to attend.

The meetings are the second and third Tuesday of each month, the first in the evening at 5 p.m., attended by Urologist Dr. Bryan Mehlhaff, and the second at noon, attended by Urologist Dr. Roger McKimmy. Both meetings are held at the Ichiban Restaurant in Florence.

Giving back in another way, I recently started driving the Friends of Florence bus to Eugene and Springfield. This bus has been taking patients to the Willamette Valley Cancer and OUI’s Radiation Center, Monday through Friday since 1985 and 2008, respectively.

This is a no-cost means of transportation to and from the medical centers for people receiving radiation treatments.

I highly recommend this volunteer job to anyone looking to help people in our community. It doesn’t take a lot of your time, only one day per month, and is very rewarding.

If interested, contact Bart Mealer, 541-997-8663.