In June 2012, I was a 41-year old husband, father of three and Army squadron commander in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I was about to deploy to Afghanistan, when a stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis changed everything.
Well, not everything.
Instead of retiring or changing jobs in order to focus solely on my health, I made the difficult choice, supported by my commanders, to remain in command. I wasn't able to deploy but I did continue in command of almost 700 soldiers while doing all my treatment.
In retrospect, this decision was the best one I could have made. Doing what I loved allowed me to continue my normal life with my family and soldiers, while still undergoing an aggressive prostate cancer treatment program at MD Anderson.
My prostate cancer treatment
When I received my diagnosis, I tackled prostate cancer the same way I had looked at any other problem I've encountered in my 20 years of military training. I wanted another opinion and more aggressive prostate cancer treatment options, which brought me to MD Anderson. From the beginning, I started learning about prostate cancer.
I spent a lot of time at MD Anderson's Learning Center, researching everything I could about the enemy, developing possible courses of action to deal with the threat, and finally, choosing a treatment path based on research and the advice of doctors, friends and other patients.
My prostate cancer treatment began with hormone therapy shortly after my diagnosis, followed by chemotherapy from November through April, and then, surgery in July.
Unfortunately, the prostate cancer recently progressed, and while I continue on hormone therapy, we're currently trying to figure out what the next treatment looks like. That's the good news -- thanks to research at MD Anderson and other institutions, there are many new treatments available for advanced prostate cancer patients, providing men with many more options and lots of hope for the future.
Finding and providing support during my prostate cancer journey
For me, getting up and going to work every day, continuing with my normal routine and training with my soldiers, has been just as important as chemotherapy, surgery and hormone therapy.
In fact, continuing my normal routine as much as possible has helped me better combat the depression that sometimes comes with a cancer diagnosis. I've gotten the support I need to continue fighting not just from my wife, our kids and our church, but also from our Army friends, my soldiers and peers.
Now, I try to provide support for my fellow prostate cancer patients. I originally contacted myCancerConnection, an MD Anderson support group that provides new patients with advice from more experienced patients, asking to be matched with someone as part of the program.
There wasn't really anyone who was a close match because most prostate cancer patients are older than me.
So, instead, I offered to talk to other men. We compare notes about treatments and living with the disease. It's easier to share with someone who is walking the same road. Although the system is set up so that I give new patients the benefit of my experience, I learn just as much, if not more, from them.
Cancer is a reality for me now, but I try to make sure that it's just one small part of my life. In the Army, we try to build resiliency in our soldiers: the ability to withstand life's challenges, even when you're handed a serious curve ball.
I've watched soldiers overcome incredible challenges, including combat injury, serious illness, separation from their families and demanding training. I try to set an example for them and others by living my life and doing everything I can to beat cancer.