Metastatic prostate cancer survivor: Why I participate in the Boot Walk to End Cancer
Prostate cancer runs in my family. My father, older brother and twin brother are all prostate cancer survivors. I received my own diagnosis in 2018.
That August I developed severe pain in my hip. Nothing would stop it. Knowing my family history, I asked my primary care physician for a PSA test. Subsequent bone and CT scans revealed extensive tumors throughout my skeleton and lymph nodes.
I made the most important decision of my life from that emergency room hospital bed: I became a new patient at MD Anderson.
Finding the right prostate cancer treatment
On Sept. 11, 2018, I received my first of six chemotherapy infusions of docetaxel. I also took a hormone therapy called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) to deprive my body of testosterone, which feeds prostate cancer cells.
My initial treatment was effective, but that didn't last long. My PSA levels began to rise a month after I’d completed chemotherapy. This is when I learned a new term: "castration resistant." That meant the ADT was no longer working. My prostate cancer cells were making their own testosterone.
I was accepted into a clinical trial that combined six rounds of the chemotherapy drug cabazitaxel with abiraterone acetate and prednisone. This clinical trial has been very successful for me.
I also underwent genetic testing to help identify why prostate cancer was so prevalent in my family. I learned I have a genetic mutation identified as HOXB13, which is directly related to early onset prostate cancer. I hope this knowledge will help identify any risks for my two sons, three nephews and two great nephews.
Why my family raises funds for MD Anderson
My family and I have participated in MD Anderson's Boot Walk to End Cancer® from the very beginning, taking part in the first event in 2016. When my employer, LyondellBasell, became the presenting sponsor of the Boot Walk in 2017, it not only reinforced my desire to participate in this event; it also made me proud to say I was an employee of a company that cares about their employees and the communities where they reside. The sponsorship by LyondellBasell ensures that 100% of every dollar raised for the Boot Walk goes towards research.
But after my prostate cancer diagnosis in August 2018, the Boot Walk became even more personal.
I was halfway through my initial chemotherapy treatments, and I wanted to give back to MD Anderson for the wonderful care I have received. My wife organized my team. Friends and family traveled from various locations in and out of state to walk with me and support my team. For this, I was and am still very grateful.
Going virtual: what this year's Boot Walk means to me
This year, the Boot Walk is going virtual. The support we receive through the donations is wonderful; however, it’s the people who join us in the walk who give us the strength to continue this journey to end cancer. The fellowship and support we receive is immeasurable.
This year we will be walking along the San Bernard River near our home instead of in the Texas Medical Center. Though we won’t be surrounded by thousands of other people looking to give cancer the boot, we’ll find strength in knowing people around the country, and possibly around the world, are walking with us wherever they are.
Each year, my goal is to fundraise and raise more awareness than I did the previous year. For each of the past two years, I have been recognized as one of the top individual fundraisers for the Boot Walk, raising $2,735 in 2018 and $2,460 in 2019. This year, I'm already up to $2,500, and I couldn't prouder.
Advice for other prostate cancer patients
My prostate cancer diagnosis has taught my wife and me to enjoy every day. When our youngest child went to college during my last six rounds of chemotherapy, we purchased our dream home on the San Bernard River in Brazoria, Texas.
My hope is that by raising awareness about prostate cancer, people will be diagnosed earlier and there will be fewer people diagnosed with prostate cancer in the future. But until then, my advice for other cancer patients is to trust your instinct and your body. Be honest with your doctors, and don't be afraid to ask questions and do your own research.
It's OK to be scared and angry when receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Take advantage of everything MD Anderson’s Supportive Care Center has to offer. The Supportive Care Center at MD Anderson has been instrumental in assisting me with pain management and spiritual support. It’s also provided dietary assistance, including acupuncture to help combat nausea during my chemotherapy treatments. Receiving cancer treatment is as much mental as it is physical. You'll find the services provided by the Supportive Care team are as important as the treatments used to directly fight your cancer.
This year's Boot Walk to End Cancer will be a virtual event. Participants will walk in their own neighborhoods on Saturday, Nov. 7. Register today.