Norm Robinson, Cancer Survivor
My father died of prostate cancer. My brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was 55 years old. This family history resulted in me having my PSA done regularly beginning in 1991 at age 50. From that time on, my primary care physician, Dr. Boggs, had been watching my PSA, and my numbers were never very high.
Two years ago, he didn't like the rate of increase of my PSA, even though it was barely over borderline for somebody in my age group. He suggested that I see Dr. Bassett, a urologist at PAMF. Dr. Bassett didn't like the rate of increase either, and he performed a digital exam, which did not feel normal to him.
Looking back on it, I thought I had done everything I could do to prevent the cancer, including diet and exercise. I also read as much as I could about prevention. In some ways, if it's going to happen, it's going to happen –- especially like in my case, where there is family history. But because I had been so proactive and vigilant, when I got my diagnosis, I was really ticked off. I wasn't so much worried about my health as much as I was just really mad.
The good news is they found the cancer on the first biopsy round. After diagnosis, I met with Dr. Bassett and lots of other people at PAMF, and I was really impressed with everybody. No matter how many times I asked the same questions, I never felt rushed. It was remarkably good care. From the very beginning, the attention and the care at PAMF could not have been better.
I had a lot of treatment options because the prostate cancer was caught so early, and this began the odyssey. I saw various doctors to find out what their treatment would be like: the radiation oncologists and surgeons, including Dr. Yao, who performs robotic-assisted prostate surgery, and then I circled back and met with my primary care physician.
In the meantime, I had talked with my brother countless times, as well as with friends and friends of friends all over the country who had dealt with prostate cancer in one way or another. Finally, I decided that with my family history of prostate cancer and everything I had learned, I wanted the surgery. I just wanted to be as completely free of the cancer as possible. I didn't want to do the radiation.
The whole surgical process went remarkably smoothly. After barely two nights in the hospital and two weeks after the surgery, I was back to swimming my regular laps. I have nothing but good things to say about the care I received at PAMF and at Stanford University Hospital.
Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee
A few years ago, PAMF conducted an in-service training for physicians, nurses and anyone who came in contact with prostate cancer patients. Dr. Bassett asked several men to speak about our own prostate cancer experiences.
In the letter inviting me to participate in that meeting, I was referred to as a "cancer survivor." I had never really thought about myself that way. To me, the idea of removing the cancer was sort of like dealing with strep throat; you get diagnosed, have a treatment and it seems to be successful, and you move on. Hearing the words "cancer survivor" made me realize that, yes, I am a cancer survivor. That's how this game is played; it's not over when it's over. It has a way of going on. There are side effects.
Having the cancer patients share their experiences at the in-service contributed to the idea of forming PAMF's Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee. The committee and the survivorship program are really good ideas. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006, I had to ask if there were other patients who had undergone the various treatments that I could talk to. Now, this whole communication process will become routine and offered up-front instead of waiting for the patient to ask the questions, and this is just one of the really positive outcomes of the committee.
With a dedicated prostate cancer navigator and Buddy Program available, we are trying to make this as hassle-free as possible for patients. Participating on this committee has given me an opportunity to help an organization, which has been providing my medical care seemingly forever.
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Norm Robinson, prostate cancer survivor and member of PAMF's Patient-Focused Cancer Care Committee