Choosing to live well in the face of advanced prostate cancer
Why my diagnosis doesn’t mean it’s the end
By: Ron Grant
Every day, we’re faced with choices. What to eat, what to wear, what to read and even how to react to situations. Regardless of our decisions or the outcomes, we are lucky that in this country, we have the right to choose. That became even more apparent for me when I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2010. Until then, I never realized how much I took the ability to make my own decisions for granted.
When I received the diagnosis, I was completely shocked. I was told that the cancer had spread to my ribs, pelvic area, femur, and spine. I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer years prior, but still maintained the ability to navigate my treatments, including radiation and hormonal therapy. With this diagnosis, my only option at the time was to undergo more aggressive treatments like chemotherapy. After five rounds of chemotherapy, my cancer continued to progress and my physical and emotional health were also taking a toll.
I was constantly in pain and it was so debilitating that I couldn’t continue doing things I love like watching my grandsons play hockey, attending music festivals and going on Sunday drives with Lilly, my wife of almost 50 years. After failing on chemotherapy, I became even more discouraged. My only choice for treatment had failed, and I was left asking myself: “Is there anything else we can do – is this really it?”
As fate would have it, a new choice became available to me around the same time the chemotherapy had failed: a newly approved medication my oncologist prescribed that could be taken orally at home. Once on this treatment, my condition drastically and almost immediately improved. After six months on the treatment, I could go camping, fishing and travelling ‒ things I wasn’t able to do for years following my diagnosis. I’ve been on this oral treatment for over four years now and it has dramatically changed my quality of life – both in the activities that I’m now able to do and the time I’ve been able to save with my treatments.
For example, many patients undergoing chemotherapy know that a great deal of time is spent going to and from medical appointments, especially if one lives in a rural area like I do. Now that I’m on a treatment that can be taken orally and at home, I have even more time to spend doing things that I love. I can also access local nurses and health care professionals to monitor my health, which means I don’t have to make a trip into the hospital for monthly check-ups or lab testing.
I truly believe that my oncologist’s dedication and advances in treatment options for men like me, have given me a lifeline. When my back was seemingly up against the wall four years ago, an additional oral treatment option put my life choices back in my control. I’ve recently learned that an oral treatment is now available to men facing similar circumstances even before chemotherapy.
Five years ago when my cancer was unstable, I was unable to leave the country. I could not choose where to take a vacation because I was unable to receive out of country travel insurance. Being empowered with the ability to make choices in life again is invaluable. In fact, now that my cancer is stable, I am able to take the trip of a lifetime, and celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with Lilly, on a Caribbean cruise.
If you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, it’s important to speak with your physician about your options. Visit www.prostatecancermatters.ca for more information.