ALK Cancers Lung Cancer Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Shyreece’s Stage 4 ALK+ Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Story

Shyreece’s Stage 4 ALK+ Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Story


Shyreece Pompey dedicated her life to teaching kids. Outside of her family, it was her whole world. Then came the shock of her life: a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis for this mother and grandmother with no history of smoking.

8 years later, Shyreece is thriving as a different kind of teacher. She is lifting others through her own experience and lessons learned since her diagnosis in 2014, like the importance of patients advocating for themselves, ensuring they get comprehensive biomarker testing that could shift their entire treatment path, the importance of clinical trials, and understanding her experience as a Black cancer patient.

Thank you for sharing your story, Shyreece!

This interview has been edited for clarity. This is not medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider for treatment decisions.

Video (Part 1)

Introduction: Tell Us About Yourself

One of the things that I like to talk about is that I loved teaching before I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. I loved teaching so much that it became a part of me.

Now, even after diagnosis, I still teach. The art of teaching, the philosophy of teaching, and everything about teaching is what I love. I did that for probably about 17 years, professionally and even in other aspects in the community.

If there was a teacher needed for something or a class to be taught, I taught. I’m a bona fide teacher at heart, and I think that part of me is a part of me that can never go away. I don’t want to get too deep, but it will always be a part of me. 

That is my legacy, just everything that I’ve had to overcome. Teaching is it for me. The people that I come across today, I still teach, but in very, very different ways. In ways that allow them to be their best person.

I was scared, and I said, ‘Something’s not quite right.’ Then I heard a wheezing sound that came out of my body. I said, ‘That’s something that I’m not controlling, and it’s coming out of me. What is that?’ 


What were the first symptoms?

Great question, and it’s going to continue to flow with the first question you asked me: what I love to do is teach. Well, I was teaching that day, preparing the students for one of the most important tests ever in the state. 

As I was teaching them, I took a brain break with them. We’re dancing; we’re doing the wobble. Then all of a sudden, I got so heavy. My arms got heavy, and I got tired and fatigued. I had to tell the kids, “Y’all got to sit down. I don’t know what’s going on, but y’all sit down. Get out your book and read.” 

I needed to sit down for a minute, and there was a throb. There was like a skip, a beat in my chest, and it had to throb and calm down. I said, “I don’t know what that was, but it really scared me.”

I was scared, and I said, “Something’s not quite right.” Then I heard a wheezing sound that came out of my body. I said, “That’s something that I’m not controlling, and it’s coming out of me. What is that?” 

When was the first time you sought medical care for these symptoms?

Long story short, probably about a week later after that, I ended up in the ER room. The ER doctor said, “You are not going anywhere. Matter of fact, we’ve got a room ready for you, and I don’t even trust your husband to take you to the hospital. What we’re going to do is put you in an ambulance, Shyreece, and take you to another location.”

That was the beginning of my journey to being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

When did you first realize this might be cancer?

The first inkling that I knew that I was dealing with cancer was when all the tests that were run pointed to absolutely nothing that was on the surface. It wasn’t pneumonia. 

I was like, “Come on, everyone. I have to get back to work. Give me some cough syrup. Give me your cough syrup so I can get back to work.” No cough syrup ever came. 

They hooked me up to the EKG to see what was going on with my heart. Perfectly fine. Nothing was coming up. I’m like, “Okay, I’m good. I’m good.” I’m getting excited. I’m good. But then they said, “We have to go inside. We’re going to do a VATS (video-assisted thoracic) surgery on you to drain the liquid that is crushing your lung.”

Now things are getting serious. I’m like, “This sounds deep.” “We’re going to scrape some tissue, and we’re going to send it off.” That’s when I’m like, “Whoa boy, this doesn’t sound good because you’re not finding something on these preliminary tests, and yet something is still gravely wrong.” 

“Now you need biopsy tissue.” That’s when it was like, “Oh boy.” That’s when I knew that something deeper may come out of this. 

I’m like, ‘Cancer? What is cancer? Give me whatever cancer needs to be dealt with.  I’m good. Let’s go.’

The test results

The test did come back that it was a malignant cancer, including the biomarker. The FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) test indicated that I had an ALK-positive mutation. That was the beginning of one of the most frightening journeys. 

Being the kind of person that I was, I don’t know why that didn’t faze me like that. I was so gung ho about doing something else. I wanted to press through it. I’m like, “Cancer? What is cancer? Give me whatever cancer needs to be dealt with.  I’m good. Let’s go.”

Boy, how I wish it was that simple.

Describe getting the lung cancer diagnosis

It took 2 weeks to get an actual diagnosis. All of those tests, and this is during hospitalization. I always go back to the fact that this is a hospitalization-type of moment because my lungs were crushing. That was an indicator that something gravely, seriously was wrong, and it was more than just a cough. It was more than just heaviness. 

Then 2 weeks after hospitalization, on the last day, the hospitalist came to my bedside and said, “I’m so sorry. It’s cancer, and it’s stage 4.” 

That’s when I had the first cry. I cried on the phone with my cousin, who’s a nurse, and she was living in another state. When I posted on social media that I had to do a VATS (video-assisted thoracic surgery), she called me immediately and knew that.

She said, “Wait a minute. What’s going on?” Then I shared with her right then that they found cancer and it’s malignant. We both cried.

Guidance to other people on processing the diagnosis

The type of person that you are before cancer is important to help you endure that moment. Part of me — yes, I cried and broke down — became very vulnerable, and every conversation that I have ever known that I had with… this is where I bring in the God component. It happens in almost every traumatic moment. It’s like, “Oh, God. I thought this about my life. What is happening?”

In that moment, you want to find reasoning that is spiritual or medical. Every kind of component of philosophy comes into your mind and heart right then. Now I’m reaching for character, right? I’m reaching for moral. I’m reaching for something that can ground me through this moment as to what is being shared with me and who’s there for me. 

Who can I call? The doctors are here delivering information, but they are not the ones I want to talk to right now. Who can I call? What could I reach for? In that moment, I stayed there for a moment, but then something on the inside, that part of me is like, “Okay, fine. Fine. If this is what it is, then what’s next? What’s the solution, somebody? I’m like the lady in ‘Wiz’ now. Don’t bring me any more bad news!”

Okay, so if it’s chemo treatment, that’s what they brought to me. Chemotherapy treatment was next. I said, “I’m not waiting. Bring it to me now. Hook it up in the machine. How hard can this be? Let’s do this.” 

Now, looking in hindsight, I was like Superwoman going quickly down by the head, and I didn’t know it. Intravenous chemotherapy was hard. They loaded me up, and I was like, “Boom, took it.”

Eventually, I started getting weaker and weaker, and then I really had to reevaluate some things, even the D-word. Not diagnosis. If I’m going to die, then let me start preparing my funeral.

What was your reaction to hearing that it was lung cancer?

Just that I don’t have a history of smoking. Where did this come from? I even thought that it could have possibly come from all the smokers that ever came around me when I was growing up. I blamed them.

I said, “This is smoking-related.” But research and as I continue to grow and learn, the lung cancer and the rarity of it and the complexity of it, it’s absolutely not at all smoking-related. 

Within that, it had given me an opportunity to heal on some very mental, spiritual issues that I’ve never dealt with in my adulthood that stemmed from my childhood. I needed that to happen because I needed to know the best treatment plan for me. If it was going to work, I needed to be centered and whole. I needed to be clear. 

I need you to know me. I need you to hear what I’m saying to you from me and then going to teach about these different biomarkers.

Breaking the lung cancer stigma 

First of all, I really had some of the most challenging statements to me, and that was one: “When’d you smoke? I didn’t know you smoked.” 

That stigma alone was something to deal with. Based on my character, I tried to find the most Christian way to respond without getting really, really upset and seeing my other side.

Then again, it became a teaching moment. I said, “Great, I get a chance to teach about my type of cancer and my type of mutation. It’s not smoking related.” I start there.

Then I also let them know that I’ve never smoked. Yes, I grew up around a smoking environment, but that is not the cause of this cancer. I had to go into a teachable moment and also let them know that, no, I do not look down on anyone who smokes, but I know that that’s not my story.

For you to understand that smokers are just not the only ones who can get lung cancer, I need you to know me. I need you to hear what I’m saying to you from me and then going to teach about these different biomarkers. 

That’s one of the major approaches, that I use it as a teaching moment now. That’s what I was trying to say before. My teaching skills and degree and everything about it and my talent for it never go away. I just use it in a different form. 

I don’t know why I got this lung cancer. I reserve the right and the stance to say that. I am shocked that a non-smoker can get this. It’s not saying that I don’t love you or I’m judging someone if they did smoke. No, all I’m saying is that I want to make sense of this. Make this make sense.

Treatment Decision-Making & Self-Advocacy

Video (Part 2)
Describe the first treatment conversation with your first oncologist

I’m so glad that we get an opportunity to go there, because the first oncologist was appointed to me as one of the 5 doctors who came to my bedside while I was hospitalized initially to figure out what was going on with my lungs. Why they were crashing, and where is this fluid coming from? 

1,700 mL units had to be drained from my right lung. They left half of the liquid in there, reserved for the VATS (video-assisted thoracic) surgery, and they got some more of it out that way.

There was the oncologist that was represented. I had the surgeon. I had the oncologist that was appointed nearby, a local one that came in. I had the hospitalist and a couple of others, maybe a cardio doctor that came in, so that now we can rule out some things. 

The lucky one that stayed was the oncologist and the hospitalist. The oncologist there was sharing with me because now we’re asking her about prognosis. This is critical. You’re at my bedside, and you’re sharing some things with me. 

First, it was like, you know, you’re talking that way. In another breath, you’re like, “Oh, you’ve got about 15 months to live.” 

I’m like, “Whoa, that changes the whole gamut of things. Well, what can we do about this?” She said, “I can start you on…” They call it the “salad mix.” I’m not going to even try to pronounce all the medical names that go with that (carboplatin, pemetrexed, bevacizumab).

Then I knew deep down. I said, ‘I think I need to go somewhere else.’

When you decided to get a second opinion?

Most folks in the community of survivorship or cancer patients, you know that there is a mixture of intravenous chemotherapy to try to stop and reverse the cancer in its place. I did that for about 3 cycles, 3 weeks with this local oncologist who knew absolutely nothing about the different biomarkers and how to treat these different mutations.

I know that for a fact because the different treatment plans she had me on were killing my cells. I was dying quicker, it seemed like. It was like, “Wow, this doesn’t look like it works, and I have to stand up for myself.” 

Plus, it was like a treatment that she was giving that — I’ll just say it because it’s my story — was the same treatment that she would give a smoker. There, I said it. Same treatment, stand in line.

Matter of fact, when I went there, there were people literally lighting up cigarettes waiting outside somewhere to get their treatment, and there were signs in the bathroom that said, “No smoking allowed.” I’m like, “Wow.”

Then here it’s like, “Okay, stand up. Your turn. Stand in line. Roll up your arm. Or do you have a port? Do you have a port? Okay, well, use your port. Put this in there.”

It was like, “Whoa, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait, stop, stop. Wait, can you tell me? Can you pinpoint to me where exactly is my cancer?”

I’m not going to say that doctor’s name because I don’t have her in the best light. I brought her a coloring sheet. I used one of her brochures in her clinic, and I took and drew the lung shape. I said, “Can you tell me which one of my cancers is in your brochure? What does mine look like?” She really, really didn’t have the best answer for me.

When I did that, here’s the big insult. She said to me, “Shyreece. You have monkeys in your head, and they’re speaking to you. You need to just stop listening to them and accept your diagnosis.”

Then I knew deep down. I said, “I think I need to go somewhere else.” I followed that hunch. I went to University of Michigan, where I learned that there are different mutations and that I have options.

I did not need to do right away the intense, hard, chemically-altering cell intravenous chemotherapy treatment that they had me on immediately. That came to a stop immediately.

Guidance to others on patient self-advocacy

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story): Even as an advocate, I feel like there are moments when you don’t want to be the “bad patient,” and you want to say, “Well, you know what? The doctor knows everything. They know what’s best. They’ve got all the medical training, so I should just listen.” And it’s hard. Can you help give people guidance here? What can motivate them to say, “No, I need to speak up for myself. I can and should speak up for myself”?

Here’s the teacher-type skill in me coming back out again. There’s a concept called Kagan strategies. It allows people to come together and interact in a way that you can move and get a goal done, accomplished, completed.

You help folks get together and have a camaraderie of spirit so that the end goal would be the best practice for that patient, project, individual, whatever we’re going for. 

When it comes to me, I know how to collaborate and get whoever is on my care team. That’s the homework that I have to do. It’s like, “Okay, this doctor specializes in this. This one is needed for side effects. This one is the neurosurgeon.”

I need to see how they all are [and] why they are on this team. First of all, that’s homework. Why are you on this team, Team Shyreece, Patient Shyreece?

When I know that and something that’s going on with me, I can say, “This may fall in these 2 categories, so let me get these 2 in a conversation.” I do it through my patient portal, or I’ll write down questions so that I can take it to my appointment and compare notes.

At the end of the day, the patient has to decide exactly which way you’re going to go to what’s been presented to you. If you are presented with options, I have to look at the data that I’ve been collecting and the anecdotes. Sorry if I’m using too many teacher-type behind-the-scene concepts, but that’s what I use now in order to make data-driven decisions.

Biomarker Testing & Working with Specialists

How did you get the second opinion?

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story): It’s an important message for people. Going back to this biomarker testing, I want to really dive into this because it had not been brought up at all in your first conversation, right? It was, “Skip to this harsh chemo, and that’s that.” You go to a second opinion. You get a second opinion. What did the doctor say there?

We’ll go back a little bit [to] while I was being hospitalized. Then, unbeknownst to my knowledge, the biomarker testing and all that had already been done. They took my specimen from the VATS (video-assisted thoracic) surgery and sent it because it’s a local hospital in a rural area.

They took my specimen, shipped it off, and sent it off to the nearest university, which was about 2.5 hours away. When they received it, they ran all the tests on it and sent the report back to the hospitalist.

The hospitalist knew to do that in the first place because he was from the University of Michigan. University of Michigan were the ones who’d done the biomarker testing. The hospitalist called in the local oncologist and said, “Okay, this is a cancer patient. Ball’s in your court.” 

That local hospital did not have access to the [report], or I don’t even know if they knew how to read all of the report. All they knew was [for] lung cancer, you stand in this line. Lung cancer goes to this line, when there’s 15 or 16 different aspects.

I’m speaking more intelligently now because I’m speaking in hindsight. But then, it’s like, “Oh, I don’t know.” I said, “Let me just go to University of Michigan and find out.” Yes, I had some options. 

Biomarker tests may lead to new treatment options

One of the options was through a targeted chemotherapy. The local oncologist knew nothing about it. The local doctors that I had knew nothing about it. It wasn’t even in their database.

That’s a whole horse of a different color. If I had enough time to spend the rest of my life advocating a thing, that would be why doesn’t the local, rural — that’s where most folks who are living just above poverty. I was a teacher with teacher salary; we have to go to those kind of doctors and clinics. It’s in our area. Why are they not knowledgeable of the different biomarkers? 

Working with a lung cancer specialist

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story): It’s incredible because it shifted your entire trajectory. It’s an important point for me, too, is understanding and why we do this at The Patient Story. We are trying to reach people who don’t have access to the big research academic centers, who already have people who work both in clinic and in research, know about all these things, and know all the latest developments. This information does need to get out to the millions of people in this country who go to rural, community cancer care centers.

I also do understand that there are a lot of general oncologists. They do their best, and they’re trying to keep up. What I will say is that’s why there are these partnerships, right? You can go to your local oncologist. But if you know to say, “Hey, I’d like for you to work with so-and-so who’s at University of Michigan or UCSF or Mayo Clinic,” wherever, you can have that partnership.  I think an important point here, too, is the right doctor is okay with that, right? There’s no ego there. There’s yes, I have my strengths, and I need you as a specialist.

Work together as a team. I don’t know why we’re territorial. I don’t know. Where does that come from? Because it doesn’t help a patient like me. It doesn’t help us.

We need you to collaborate and work together. I need the site, the palliative care doctors, the PCPs, whatever you want to call. You have a meeting every once in a while. 

In the education world, there are diagnoses that can help in a student’s life, but it doesn’t keep them there. We’re just saying that today you’re wrestling with ADHD. Today, you may need a 504 plan to help you with your behavioral needs.

Guess what? We have to have meetings. We bring in all the professionals, we bring in the teachers, we bring in their doctors, and we bring in their parents. Everybody sits around the table to develop that plan.

My goodness. To me, it’s just simple. How about my doc? I’ll just keep it personal because we’re talking about the patient’s story. Here’s Shyreece’s dream, and it might happen after I’m called home to glory. But I would sure love to see the day where the oncologist, the neurologist, the neurosurgeon, the radiologist, and everybody just have a meeting every once in a while. Maybe every year, once a year, or every 6 months.

I know you are busy. We thank you for all that you do, but please consider coming together just to have a patient review with everyone that’s involved. That’d be great. Thank you for your time.

How did treatment options change after the ALK-positive result?

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story): With the biomarker testing, it turns out that you were ALK positive. For people who are not familiar with biomarker testing, it’s also known as genomic testing or mutation testing. You’re trying to figure out if there is a driver mutation that’s targetable. That’s what you were saying about targeted therapy, right? ALK positive for you. That was the targetable mutation. 

[My oncologist] just said, “Here are some options. I said, “I’ll take door number 3.” When I picked it, which is the targeted chemotherapy, he said, “I have to run this by your insurance.” I’m like, “Oh, insurance, what?” Now, there’s another topic. 

They ran it by the insurance, went through that process, and waited for hours just to see if I can go and get the targeted therapy.

I’m so glad that University of Michigan had their pharmacy right there. We’re just talking about special deliveries because I’m thinking, “You can’t just send this prescription to Walgreens so I can go pick it up?” No, honey. We’re going to have to see if the insurance approves it, and if they don’t approve it, that would be a shot to me.

What if they didn’t approve it? I’m glad they did. But what if they didn’t approve it? It’s like, for me, now what? That door number 3 is not available to me. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

Let’s stick to [the fact] that it was approved. I had to wait and go get it and then for them to fill it. It’s through their pharmacy only. I would have never been able to get it anywhere else anyway. That’s why nobody else knew about it.

Targeted Therapy & Clinical Trial Experience

Video (Part 3)
The targeted therapy experience

I started taking [targeted therapy] in April. One month after diagnosis, I start a whole new world, and I can cry. The day was sunny. I’m sitting in the car with my husband. We leave University of Michigan to take this new elixir of knowledge in this bottle in the form of pills. I can’t even remember how many a day I had to take with crizotinib, the first one, and so I started taking them.

We had our lunch, and then not too much time went by until I felt different. I did feel the side effects of it a little bit, but some things started kind of clearing up a little bit in my throat area, where I was always challenged after surgery.

I started being a little bit more tolerable to what was going on with my body. I felt different. I said, “Wait a minute, something’s different.” I lived 3.5 years on it.

I maintained side effects, but I also knew when it stopped working. That’s a scary place to be also. That’s when I knew I woke up to another reality is that I can’t put all my hope into these targeted treatments. So now what? 

Experience in a clinical trial

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story): I think it’s good for patients and caregivers to have those expectations set. I also love that you’re talking about the need for constant research. This is why clinical trials are so important, because you’ve got these, like crizotinib, that were approved, and you just need them to be approved in time for you. 

But then at some point, you know that there’s resistance and the cancer sometimes finds a way around it. So what’s the next thing? That’s why these clinical trials are constantly being done. Do you have a message about that, the importance of clinical trials and that research, what it means to you?

I am all in for clinical trials and research. I participated in a clinical trial during a May 2015 through to July 2015. I remember like it was yesterday because that’s when I made the decision to come out into retirement.

I could not do the clinical trial at that time. It was very intense. It was like three times a week driving the University of Michigan, which was two and a half hours. Then there were complications, and understanding was this clinical trial that I was participating in. Would there be any help to me in regards to gas and transportation? That got confusing with the university and so we worked through that.

I wanted the world to see this process of this new strange lung cancer that’s rare. No one’s ever really heard of it before.

There’s a resolve that in this journey, it will require three components of you. Mind, body and spirit. You cannot afford to ignore any one of those components.

Importance of more diverse representation in clinical trials

Look at me, I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m Black. I was trying to figure out is there anybody else that looked like me that has this? 

Yes, I am all for clinical trials, and that’s another thing. I just like being transparent and I like being authentic and real. There are not a lot of African-Americans who participate in trials in the first place, but I did. I went on ahead and did it.

I didn’t like how it was working with my body. And so by July 2015, the physician assistant, I just love her to death, at University of Michigan. She looked at me in my eyes and she said, Shyreece, this is not the quality of life we want for you, and you don’t have to do this. So because I was having a bad time with it, so she pulled me off of that.

I participate in trials and I do support research where I can.

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story):  I think there are a couple of points there. One is clinical trials are, someone put it as tomorrow’s treatment today. Sometimes it can give you access to something that’s not yet on the market. And the other part is helping people for research.

What is your message overall to the patient, to the caregiver right now who’s watching this, who’s a little bit nervous, who knows, logically speaking, or rationally, I should speak up, but it’s a little bit hard to do in the moment.

You have to have a resolve. There’s a resolve that in this journey, it will require three components of you. Mind, body and spirit. You cannot afford to ignore any one of those components. They all have the same level of importance to your overall well-being, as well as how effective the treatment is going to work.

Everybody is different. That’s correct. But one thing remains a fact, and I wish that there was enough time to do scientific research on the survey that most cancer patients must complete prior to their return visit with their doctor.

The survey asks how are any one of these everyday circumstances under these categories, family, spiritual, financial, affecting you this week on the scale of one to 10?

And if your spiritual balance and inward being balance is off, that will affect the success of the treatment being prescribed to you. So keep that in mind on your journey – mind, body and soul. All three of those components are equally important as you journey in your cancer walk.

Shared treatment decision making between doctor and patient

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story):  When you think about the patient doctor relationship and the paradigm we’ve been living in, where it’s shifting, but it’s still slow, from doctor knows best, I will sit here and listen versus I need to be in charge of my own cancer care or my healthcare in general. What is that message to doctors, to patients about the need for more patient self advocacy, for more listening to patients?

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity as we’re winding up that section to thank the collaboration of all of the doctors, especially the ones that I’ve had at University of Michigan, as well as Stanford Health Care. I think that they are a phenomenal team. 

The minute that I walked into Stanford Health Care, they knew my back story. There’s a word on the street, back story, what’s your back story? Then they’ll say, well, I’m just living my back story right now. Well, Stanford, they knew my back story. I was shocked about that and they looked at it intently. They had a plan of where they would like to go. 

It was easy for me to trust in that. So there were some components that I was looking for in their approach. They say the first impression, it’s important. So they had a great first impression, which was, ‘Let us take a little time. We don’t need you to fill out the paperwork of a new patient today, Shyreece, just to know you. No, we went and did a little background work on you.’ So to know the patient is very important to me. 

Own your data.

If somebody is going to take the time to know you, then yes, that’s a good starting place to where we can enter into a healthy collaborative. Now I have to say collaborate still, because this is my temple. This is my temple. I am not a guinea pig. I’m not a lab rat. This is my temple and nobody walks in this temple but me.

So, yes, there are some parts of me that I have to bring to the table because I can’t expect them to know everything there is to know unless I tell them. There are some things that I have to share as well. So it’s going to take that collaboration.

Also, when you’re presented with options, that’s all they’re doing, is presenting you with options. At the end of the day, you have to make a decision.

So my advice is, look folks, study your own data when you’re presented with some options. The doctors may not know everything before your cancer diagnosis. They’re not gods. They’re your doctor, so have a participative approach to your care.

Own your data.

Diversity and Inclusion in Cancer Care

Video (Part 4)
Amplifying diversity in healthcare and research 

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story): We know that Black men and women with lung cancer are significantly less likely to get diagnosed in an early stage compared to their white peers. If you’re getting diagnosed later, the odds of survival are smaller, right? But there is a lot of human impact here that I want to unpack. What is your message in terms of what we all need to do better? Whether it’s clinical trial participation, whether it’s messaging to the Black community, what do we need to be doing?

It’s definitely not in the rural areas yet, it’s coming, but there are some African-American initiatives community movements where on the health front, they’re really going into communities and neighborhoods.

They’re setting up fairs and booths and handing out literature to where you can really be active in your health on all fronts, whether it’s lung cancer or breast cancer awareness, all of it.

Reaching faith-based communities

I do know that it’s not enough, though. It’s not. So much more to be done, but it’s a start. Within those communities, and I’m just going to be brutally real, it might have to creep into our faith-based communities because even I have to continue to combat this as a believer.

I do attend church, but I’ve also learned how to grow in this challenge of having cancer. I have the opportunity to see both sides as a cancer patient and as a participant in church activities. So the disconnect is that, and this has happened to me a lot. ‘Girl, just give it to God. Just pray.’

As if the God that I’m praying to is not going to answer through people. When that realization hit me, I was like, oh, He’s going to answer through people when He does, so people, how can we get ourselves in a position to actually do some really wonderful things? 

I think that that aha moment is going to come from let’s get out of being territorial first. We do have some owners of the information, ‘this is our information and it’s going to stay in our university.’

There’s that extreme, to just providing the information through flyers. You go to a church gathering and present, I don’t know, have a day of food and medicine. I don’t know. We can be creative, right? I hope.

If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for the day. You teach a man to fish, he’ll eat tomorrow. But how about we show them where to fish?

Improving outreach to Black communities

Stephanie Chuang (The Patient Story):  We’re painting with broad strokes. Black people or African-American communities are not one monolithic thing, but generally speaking, there is a sense of distrust with some folks when it comes to institutions, to healthcare, to testing.

And of course, Tuskegee the experiment is a huge part of this because people from that era are telling their family members and passing that down, okay, you’ve got to watch yourself because we have to protect ourselves. 

There are these cultural nuances.  So you suggested let’s meet people where they are in the community. Is there anything else that we can do better so that we have more participation?

Oh, absolutely. First and foremost, with all due respect, the first thing outside of race, color, creed – I had to choose if I wanted to live or not. When I decided that I want to live, I started looking at everything through the lens of, okay, so what is the best approach? What is this? 

Let’s go back and let’s connect something real quick. The first oncologist who said, ‘You have monkeys in your head,’ I could have decided right then to take that as a total racial write off and just go all into some kind of march or whatever and raise a flag. But I chose not to because that energy would have taken away from the energy that I needed to live.

Because when you talk about monkeys and apes and stuff like that, oh, that can raise an alarm in the Black community in a minute. But for me, I needed to look at the bigger picture. I didn’t need to address her that way. Not at that moment. 

I need to live first. Let me find out how to live first. So now I’m reaching for the exchange. Can we get to a place where we can feel comfortable engaging in a conversation? 

We talked about the stigma of lung cancer being associated with smoking, then we need to remove the stigma that the reason why people are not getting diagnosed early or vice versa, is it all race related or is it because they really don’t know where to fish? 

If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for the day. You teach a man to fish, he’ll eat tomorrow. But how about we show them where to fish? Where is the information at? I wanted to know, so I sought. I now teach people, not color first, gender first, and all this, but I teach you where to go to find information. Is that where the energy goes now? 

Democratizing access to treatment information – for everyone

That way, I can demystify the Tuskegee approach. I’m sorry that happened, it did. You’re right, but that’s not today. That’s not today. So I’ve got to stay present.

So what’s today? Today’s issue is just like we talked about once before, which is the information is not made available to everyone. And University of Michigan had knowledge about a targeted therapy that the local rural area that I lived in had no idea about. 

I don’t think all the way that that had anything to do with race, color, or creed, it had to do with the dissemination of pertinent information for just people who are not who are not in the university.

You can never give up hope.

Not now, not then, not ever.

Final message to others

I’ll start with the end and work backwards, which is hope. The hope is in knowing that there’s more to life than just your existence. The hope for me was I joined a lot of groups. I joined a lot of advocacy groups and the hope was always in just the research alone. We don’t know what’s coming out. So there’s that hope in the unknown. 

You can have fear or you can have hope. Then when you have hope, what is it in? No different than fear. What is your fear in? I can have fear of my scans. I have a scan coming up the end of April. Now I can have fear of the scans, or I can have hope that when the scans come out, that there is an answer, that there is a remedy. That there is something on the horizon.

When I had that hope at first, that hope didn’t kick in right away, it’s weird, even when I called myself a believer, but in a cancer diagnosis, you’re staring at something that people have died from. That’s a whole different walk because you’re planning your own funeral. 

But yet a glimpse of hope came, to know that the crizotinib that I was on didn’t even exist 10 years ago. I did pray and people were praying for me and I know that on a cancer journey, the people that love you, they go into prayer. Well the prayer is that, the hope is that yes, research is changing, and it’s creating opportunities to live longer.

I’ve been living eight years now. You can never give up hope. Not now, not then, not ever. So I get the hope to live longer, but I can’t just hope in the next pill. I need to have a place of peace. I need to have a disposition that even if the next pill doesn’t work for me, can I live a life of giving back because that gives me joy. 

I want the next person who’s diagnosed to know that not only can you have hope in the research, but you can have hope in a very divine essence of love. Love is an energy that I know that after the last pill doesn’t work for me, the quality of life that I was able to live because of the cancer research, it’s great. And I’m thankful. 

So resolve. Get your place to a resolve where you can enjoy the research and take advantage of it for the quality of life and give back. Give back to your family. Give back to your community. Give back to something.

More on Shyreece’s book

HOPE: It Will Not End with My Death is on It’s basically my six-year lung cancer journey. The first six years in all of the ebbs and flow of it. 

It’s not just about the hospital, so it’s not a boring read to where it’s like she’s in the hospital today and then you’ve got to go get a test. It’s not like that. Anyone, even if you don’t have cancer, can read it and just follow me on this awesome journey.  I do call it awesome because there are so many other discoveries of me becoming. 

Thank you so much to Pfizer for its support of our patient program!
Cancers Prostate Cancer

Theo’s Gleason Score 7 Prostate Cancer & Early Stage Kidney Cancer Story

Theo’s Gleason Score 7 Prostate Cancer & Early Stage Kidney Cancer Story

Theo shares his story of getting diagnosed with relapsed and metastatic prostate cancer, undergoing surgery, and radiation.

Having rampant cancer in his family and the African-American community, Theo lends a voice to advocate awareness, early diagnosis, and open conversations.

Explore his story below to hear all about his experience and very timely message. Thank you for sharing your story, Theo!

  • Name: Theo W.
  • Diagnosis (DX)
    • Prostate cancer
    • Early kidney cancer
  • Age at DX: 52 years old
  • 1st Symptoms
    • PCP, PSA of 72
  • Treatment
    • Surgery
    • Partial nephrectomy
    • Radiation

This interview has been edited for clarity. This is not medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider for treatment decisions.

Life outside Cancer

I’ve always adopted the mantra: You get to live a day at a time, and you get to choose how you live it. That’s really all we get.

I’m happily married to my wife of 42 years, Beth. We have three daughters. Leanne is the oldest. Randy is a middle child. She’ll tell you the dreaded middle child. Lauren is the youngest. We now have seven grandchildren.

I run a business in Akron, Ohio. My business is to manage money for people that are about to retire or are retired, make sure they have enough for the rest of their lives, and leave a legacy to some institution or some people.

Learning about prostate cancer

I have no symptoms of anything whatsoever. My doctor is also a dear friend of mine and who also happens to suffer from prostate cancer.

During my routine annual exam, he said, “Theo, your PSA is elevated. I’m going to refer you to a urologist.”

I went to the urologist. He got the results of a blood test. He asked me a few questions and said, “Let’s do another blood test in about three or four days.” We did another one, and my PSA rose again from 12 to 14 very quickly. So they did the biopsy.

I remember where I was and what I was doing when I got the phone call on a Saturday morning from my doctor at the Cleveland Clinic. Incidentally, my wife had been diagnosed with melanoma the day before.

We’re in the car, and I get the phone call. He says, “Theo, it’s prostate cancer. Let’s set up a time to talk. I want you to interview me, the surgeon, talk to a radiologist, and determine a plan of action.”

I think it was the following week that we went to the Cleveland Clinic. That began the process of my prostate cancer journey.

Getting diagnosed

It was 2003 when I had the first biopsy. That biopsy was inconclusive. It said I did not have prostate cancer.

But it was not the Cleveland Clinic then. It was a local hospital and doctor here in the Akron area, a local nephrologist. Knowing what I know now, there should have been some type of phone call. I left that doctor’s office, and there was no follow-up appointment of any kind.

Normally, I guess there should be a three-month or six-month routine biopsy scheduled. I missed a couple of years of getting my annual exam from my primary care physician. So when I went to the primary care physician, he said, “Your PSA is up in the 60, 70s range. You need to see a urologist.”

My doctor, my primary care physician, being a person that had prostate cancer himself and was able to keep his numbers low, possibly should have been more alarmed about it and said, “Get back there every six months.”

I was instructed by no one, and at that point, I didn’t know enough about the disease on my own to say get back in there every six months.

I was diagnosed in 2009 at 52. High end of intermediate risk and the low end of high risk. No staging. That’s with aggressiveness, and that’s pretty aggressive, especially at 52.

Family history of prostate cancer

No. My dad did not. His dad did not. My brother did not, and he’s an older brother. This came out of left field on us here.

Receiving the bad news

He looked at me and said, “Don’t panic.” He literally said, “Mine has been up close to 1,000.”

He took a new prime shot and took them the rest of his life, and his PSA remained low. He did not die from prostate cancer. He lived into his early 90s. 

I thought about two things. He’d always told me in my early 30s that I had an enlarged prostate. In my mind, I said, “Maybe that could be part of the PSA issue. No one is being really urgent about it, getting back in there after 2003.” 

I was hoping, so I said, “Maybe it’s just a high PSA because of that.” Of course, I was very nervous that it could be prostate cancer.

»MORE:Patients share how they processed a cancer diagnosis

Describe the biopsy

Be grateful that times have changed since my biopsy then. Currently, they give you a shot literally in the prostate that numbs it, and so it’s not painful. That was not the case with my biopsy. There was nothing.

I think they do three to four snippets per quarter. It’s in quadrants. By the time you hear the clip, it’s too late. It’s a very painful, uncomfortable but short procedure and process, which has changed now.

Getting the results

We got the call. The surprising thing is neither one of us broke into tears right away.

We ran a stoplight, actually, when I received the information. We looked at each other. I think one of us said, “What are the chances of both of us having cancer at the same time?” That’s how our relationship is. She tells me even to this day, “If cancer doesn’t kill you, I might.” That’s the kind of relationship we have.

We finished our errands. Of course, we kept the conversation going and talked about what the next steps may be and that we had to call the girls. They were naturally pretty devastated. The ones that were close to home came over as quickly as  they could.

We just started plotting out when and what. They were all for surgery. My whole family was. I quite frankly was not interested in surgery at all [and] wanted to do the radiation instead because it was less invasive.

At the end of the day, I never really had peace about it. I opted for the surgery.

Breaking the bad news to the family

It’s difficult as the process was literally to put everybody on speakerphone and called everyone.

We did joint calls with all of our close friends, our pastors, our family, and our parents. That really took a few days because at that point, there’s some crying on your own you’re doing. You’re physically exhausted, and you’re saying, “We’ve talked to eight people today, and let’s just pick this up tomorrow.”

»MORE: Breaking the news of a diagnosis to loved ones

Just make sure you talk directly to your closest friends, whether it’s phone or face to face. You do not want them to find out secondhand at all. They show up, and they go way beyond the call of duty to make sure you’re okay.

What support was most helpful?

You have to make the assumption that people want to help. I’m more of the person that is the helper and less likely to call and say, “Help.”

We would meet a group of guys at Einstein’s for breakfast. Leanne can tell you about this. She says, “I don’t believe you have 10 to 12 guys that meet every morning and just talk. No, guys don’t do that.”

Because I was at home with a catheter, I couldn’t get out. One friend says, “Is there anything I can do for you?” I said, “Yes. Go to Einstein’s, get me a cup of coffee and a bagel, bring them to my house, and sit with me and have breakfast.” That did as much for him as it did for me.

People just want to help. That story is an example of you needing your friends and your friends needing you. The opposite end, for kids, it could be scary.

Antonio, Leanne’s son, was five. He walked into the library and saw me in my bathroom, sitting there. I think Leanne had to tell him, “It’s okay to go over there and sit in his lap. He’s fine. He has cancer. Number one, he’s not going to get on you. Number two, he’s not fragile at this point. It’s perfectly okay to go sit in his lap.”

He was very cautious. With kids, when you see them, you need to tell them, “I’m okay. Come over here and give me a hug.”

Why was that an emotional moment for you?

I’ll tell you exactly why. “I want you to look at this chart.” He literally put his head down and wouldn’t look at me.

I took the chart, and I said, “Is this me right here?” He says, “Yes.” I said, “I’m at the high end of intermediate risk and the low end of high risk.” I said, “This is saying the average life expectancy is 11 years?” He says, “Yes.” I said, “Explain that to me.” He says, “Well, eight years will be great, two years you’ll be on hormones, and last year you’ll be miserable.”

The very first thing I thought was, “Antonio is five. Where will I be when he’s 16?” I did the calculations, and I said, “I’ll live long enough to see him turn 16 and get his driver’s license. If I make it that far, I’ll be fine.”

That was my first thought. Will he be driving? Will I get to see him drive? Will I get to see him become a 16-year-old?

Of course, we’re beyond that now, but that was my first thought when I calculated those numbers.

First of all, if they’re really close to you, you’re more forgiving.

Most times, people don’t need to say anything. Just an, ‘I’m sorry. I feel bad. I’m here for you. If there’s anything I can do, let me know. This is terrible. This is devastating. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I feel horrible.’ Leave it at that, for the most part.

Treatment Decisions and Surgery

I have a very good friend in Chicago who incidentally was also going through prostate cancer. This gentleman was retired. I called him up.

He was at his vacation home. He said, “All the treatments are pretty much the same success level. If I were you, I would strongly consider radiation, because by the time you add up all the side effects, that one in your situation with your PSA number, that’s what you should do.”

Monday morning at eight o’clock, my cell phone rings. “Hi. I’m Dr…. head of urology at the Cleveland Clinic.”  

I said, “Well, doctor, he told me that you said radiation makes the most sense.” He goes, “No. I don’t think so. I think here at the clinic, you need to do surgery because if you do surgery and you have a relapse or recurrence, then we can do radiation.” He said, “We do a nerve-sparing surgery so you don’t have issues going down the road.”

Once I heard that, I said, ‘I don’t know where this is going, but I’d rather have more than one shot at it if this is not going to go well.’ That’s what I did. I did the surgery.

Fears with surgery

You’re always concerned about your sex life going forward. But a nerve-sparing surgery makes it more possible for a man to maintain an erection, to have sex. That’s a big concern for a lot of guys.

I did have one of my buddies tell me, “Hey, at the end of the day, your wife may prefer just a lot of cuddling, and you will be alive.” That was great advice. 

Cleveland Clinic made sure to tell me that. It was also one of the discussions that I had with the second opinion doctor. He kind of felt like if you went with the radiation, then you would have less issues later, and it would not affect your sex life now. That was his reason for it.

He says, “If we’re going to come up with the same success rate, then why impact your life in that way now?”

Then again, as I said before, for me, it was more important to do the surgery, and then the added bonus was when he said they could do the nerve-sparing. I said, well, okay, then that’s it. That makes it less of an issue.

Describe the surgery

My doctor said, “This is going to be a pretty routine surgery. We will be using robotics. That will help with less bleeding and a much quicker recovery.”

I am told that my father accosted him when he came out because the surgery ended up being about six or seven hours. It was substantially longer than it should have been, and my father just was not too happy about that.

He told me the recovery would be three to four days and I’d be out of there. He said, “You’ll have a catheter for several weeks. Come back, and we’ll take that out.”

He said, “You should be off and running, for the most part. You can start back to work in a month and a half or so.” He felt that the surgery would be pretty routine, with very few complications. That ended up not being totally true.

But you never know until you get in there. So I’m glad he did. Things took a little longer, the surgery and the recovery. Getting out of the hospital took longer than normal.

How long was the surgery?

Three to four hours.

He always talked about the nerve-sparing, and one of my seminal vesicles actually had cancer, so he had to remove that, and then the margins. When you do the surgery, you remove lymph nodes and they usually do a few, but they ended up doing 10 or 11 removals of those. That’s what took the time.

The recovery was supposed to be four to five days, but I stayed for eight days in the hospital.

How you were able to get through?

My issue was my creatinine levels were higher than they needed to be, and so they were worried about kidney function. It took a while to get those belts under control.

My advice is, if you’re in a hospital, you need to have your family guard how often people come and go.

They really have to look out for you in terms of your rest and be able to delicately say, “He’s glad you came to see him, but he really needs to sleep right now, because I’m sure you know you do not get any rest at the hospital.”

Every three to four hours, someone’s coming to do something to you, and so therefore the only time you get a rest is when you get out of the hospital.

They’re going in at all hours of the day and night, checking your blood pressure, checking all the different stuff you’re hooked up to.

Post-surgery care

One of my main issues is I could not pass gas. When I finally did, no one was in the room but me. I got my phone, and I text to my wife, “It’s a girl.”

She said she read it out loud and everybody knew what it meant, and everybody out there just erupted, and they want you to go. I tried prune juice, everything, and nothing worked. They said you cannot leave, and so that was the last thing I had to do before I left. After that, I went home.

Taking it lightly helps. You just have to.

I did have another kind of strange experience. There was one person that I have a temporary rift with. But sometimes when you’re sick, they feel a need to come around and try to fix it all before.

She told me that someone wanted to come, and my blood pressure went up. She had to kindly tell them no, and that’s difficult. But I will say people will come to see you for the right reasons, and people will come to see you for the wrong reasons.

»MORE: Read more patient experiences with surgery

Dealing with extended period of time at home

I think I ended up going two weeks longer than I should have, but I thought the catheter was great. You don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom, because you’re sore after surgery.

Every time I tried to lift myself off of a chair, it’s just painful. So with that, I didn’t have to get out of bed and go to the bathroom at night. I was reluctant to let it go, but I had to.

When I found out it didn’t come out the day it was supposed to, it quickly became irritating because I was mobile. I was in less pain, and now it became an inconvenience because I can’t go running around outside, although I did around the house. I was living in the country at the time.

The last week or so was really, really hard. “Just get this thing out.” Initially, it was very convenient.

I was supposed to have it for two weeks. I think I had it double that. If it was supposed to be a week, it was two. But I’m pretty sure it was close to a month that I had that catheter.

I have to just be careful of infection, just have to keep it clean. Other than that, I didn’t have any issues with it whatsoever.

Radiation therapy

First of all, I made a very dear friend in this process. I was going to my first radiation treatment, and I got out of my car in the parking deck. I’m about 6’7, and Black obviously, and there was this 5’7 White guy who got out of his car. We both went through the door out the deck.

We went to the building for cancer treatment. We got on the elevator. He said, “Are you following me?” I said, “It depends on where you’re going.”

He said, “I’m going to start my radiation treatment for cancer. You’re the last person I want because you should not be following me.” I said, “I actually am following you because that’s where I’m going, too.”

We’re dear friends up to this day. I had a buddy who got treatment sometimes around the same time.

It was treatments every day, Monday through Friday, for seven weeks.

At that point in time, my youngest daughter worked downtown near the clinic. She would just show up unannounced. I never knew what day she was coming, what day she wasn’t coming.

She wouldn’t tell me. She would show up, and I would be in there for probably 20 to 30 minutes. It wasn’t long. Out and back in the car, and back home or back to work.

It was an inconvenience from a travel standpoint, but there was a certain amount of comfort.

The hospital is about a half hour from my house. It was a highway drive mostly. It was a good time.

Until this day, I get comfort when I drive under the main campus of the Cleveland Clinic. Seven weeks out, you know you’re done, you ring the bell, and you just hope your PSA doesn’t climb.

Describe the process of radiation

For prostate cancer, you just get on the table. They put a tarp over you. You pull your pants down to your knees. You’re on this flatbed, and the radiation machine just goes around.

It actually tilts and goes around and hits specific areas that they’ve targeted and certain margins outside of where they think the prostate cancer may have spread to.

You see the same three or four nurses, so you develop relationships with them.

That’s really the process. You’re done, and you leave and go back to your life.

Side effects

I had no side effects until the last two weeks.

I would have some burning during urination. Women have urinary tract infections, so they may be used to that. 

That was my first experience. It gets to the point where you tell yourself you don’t want to drink water because you don’t want to have to go to the bathroom, but you have to.

You let them know, and then they give you things like pills you can take to help with that. They did work. It was very surprising when I first started, and I was very glad to take those pills after I got to.

The doctor did tell me that could happen. I was actually surprised that it took as long as it did and thought maybe it wouldn’t, but it did.

Outside of that, no burns, no rashes, no irritations of any type.

The issue with me was when they checked my PSA after the surgery, and it started to rise again. That’s evidence that I have a recurrence. We don’t know how far.

They looked at the surgery and said, “Let’s do an additional margin of X.” They feel they can go so far before they start affecting the lymph nodes. Once they affect the lymph nodes, then you have a whole different set of side effects.

The radiation itself was targeting a specific area with the idea of not having issues with your lymph nodes down the road.

Signs of recurrence

I think when it got up to about two was when they said, “Okay. Hey. We need to start doing something,” Because, at one point, it was almost undetectable right after the surgery. Then within two weeks, it started declining.

Addressing the recurrence

It was, “Hey. Let’s start every three months and see where this goes.”

Unfortunately, it went from two to four and from four to six, and then they said, ‘You’re going to be dealing with this the rest of your life. You need to talk to a medical oncologist.’

I went to his office, my wife and I. He reared his chair back and put up his cowboy boots on the desk, and he says, “Do you know why you’re here?” I said, “Yes. I have prostate cancer, and my PSA is still climbing.” 

He goes, “Do you understand that from now on, we’re monitoring this and that you are going to be dealing with this the rest of your life?” I reluctantly said, “I do.”

He started out, and he just wanted me to know the gravity of it. “We’re just going to be maintaining this for the rest of your life.” That’s when it really hit me.

When the doctor said, ‘You’ve got eight good years, two years of hormone treatments. Your last year is miserable.’ That’s when it hit me. I said, ‘This really could be me.’

Managing a chronic disease

That’s the case; it was a chronic disease. He told me what we would need to introduce, when, and what things they would use, and then went on through [to] talk to them about clinical trials.

He said, “For now, we’ll monitor it.” Then that’s what starts the CT scans, the bone scan once a year, and I’d heard about kidney cancer also. I was getting the chest X-rays, and then all ended up fine. So I’ve got to stop the checks.

2nd Cancer

Getting diagnosed with kidney cancer

I was diagnosed with kidney cancer five years after the radiation. They removed it, and of course, the concern is if it returns, it could spread to the lungs. So I have to do the scans, basically chest X-rays, because I was already getting a CT scan.

That kind of doubled for both the kidney issue and the prostate issue. I had to get the X-rays, and five years and that was done. That was totally successful, and I had a recurrence there. I’ve had some cysts on my kidneys that I didn’t know I had until then, and so they’ve watched them. That’s how they discovered it.

It was at a very early stage.

In fact, I had a colonoscopy and was out to dinner, getting ready to go to a Todd Rundgren concert. My side started hurting me, so off to emergency I went. Didn’t go to the concert.

They said, “You have cysts on your kidneys. That’s not why you have pain, though. You have pain from the gas that is stuck in your body from your colonoscopy. But you have cysts in your kidneys and probably want to get those watched.”

That’s when I started getting them washed, and not too long after that, they figured that it’s all the colon cancer and not the kidney cancer.

I had a PSA check every three months, every half a year, every six months a CT scan, and then every 12 to 18 months a bone scan. That’s just because they’re watching to make sure it doesn’t spread to the bones.

So far, it’s been all good.

PSA levels so far

It’s crazy. They continue to climb until 2019. It got to 52. Since 2019 it has gone up and down, which is really strange.

It sits at 57 now, so I called my doctor, because I was supposed to have a bone scan in December, and said, “I don’t see a bone scan on my chart. Shouldn’t I be having the bone scan about now?” He said, “Well, think about it. In 2019, your PSA was 52, and now it’s 57. Percentage-wise, there has been very little movement. I don’t see any reason to do one right now.”

There’s a couple of philosophies, and his philosophy is if hormone treatments after metastasis do not prolong your life any more than taking hormone treatments before metastasis, why subject yourself to the side effects?

That’s what we’ve done. I have not started hormone treatments at all, and they have not found any metastasis at all.

I did mention my dear friend, who I’ve met, the little 5’7 guy, and he’s a worrywart. He started his hormone treatments when he hit 10, and so it’s different for different people. I talked to him often, and he tells me, “Theo, I’d be a nervous wreck.”

I said, “I know you with time, and I’m glad you’re taking hormone treatments. It’s different, and the doctors are different. I have a different oncologist now than I did then — Dr. Timothy Gilligan. He’s a white gentleman, but he specializes in prostate cancer for African Americans.”

I really feel like I’ve got an individualized treatment plan that is geared towards the quality of life, according to the risks that the patient wants to take. You just have to say, ‘Hey, I don’t feel like taking any additional risks by not starting these hormonal treatments.’ I just don’t. I haven’t.

I think Lan said there’s a Dr. Pan. I can’t really recall the guy’s name, but he knows a doctor that’s out there at the City of Hope, and the previous doctor ended up taking a job somewhere else. Then I just got on the Cleveland Clinic website and fell upon his name and then called him and said, “Hey, I need you to come to be my doctor.”

Homeopathy and naturopathy

What supplements do you take?

I have a bunch of supplements that I take, but the real key is a machine called a HOCATT. It’s designed to get in there for about a half hour.

They shoot oxygen and carbonics into your nose, which drains you, but more importantly, they raise the temperature. It gets very hot, and the idea is it stimulates your white blood cells because it says my body has a fever. I need to run and attack anything that is suspect, and I get that.

I go every Friday at 2:30 or 3, what’s called my spa treatment at the end of every week.

They told me it will raise my PSA temporarily, so I don’t want to get my PSA check when I get out of this thing. Overall, it should slow down the process and give my body the best fighting chance that it has.

I also take vitamin D and fish oil.

Deciding on integrative treatment

I just did it and then told them, and fortunately, Cleveland Clinic is adopting some of that on their own at this point. He’s perfectly fine. There’s no, “Hey, you know what’s in these supplements? Do you know what you’re taking? Is this going to counteract what we’re trying to do here?”

No resistance, judgment, or anything of any kind from him at all. It’s been great.

When to start hormone therapy

For him, it’s just whenever the bone scan shows metastasis. It’s cut and dry with him. I did ask him a question. I didn’t want to ask him, “Doc, at what point in time are you pretty sure you’re going to find something?” But he said at 50.

The next time I see him after, I asked him. I’ve been over 50 for a while, especially if my next bone scan is clean. I said, “What does that say?” I don’t know what that says, but he says, “Most people were going to find something when they start getting a PSA of 50.” I’ve had scans since it’s been 50 in 2019.

Managing “scanxiety”

I don’t do very well with that one because of my charts. If I get my PSA checked today, I know I’m probably going to get an answer within 24 hours.

If I get up to go to the bathroom at 3:00 a.m., I’m checking my phone, and there’s a certain amount of anxiety. Once you do the password, I get an email that says ‘test results.’ That’s also stressful.

I had a very dear friend who died from prostate cancer. It was caught in the latest of late stages and did a lot of experimental stuff.

He told me the best advice I’ve had. He said, “You have to thoroughly enjoy the highs.” You’ll have the highs and you’ll have the lows. But you got to celebrate every high you’d get.

Whenever my PSA stays the same or goes down, I keep a chart. I look at that graph, and I look at how fast it goes. If it doubles in three months, you’re in trouble. I’m always looking at what rate is it doubling? Is it nine months? Is it 10 months? Is it a year? That affects me emotionally.

You don’t really want the information, but you do. It’s a mixed bag there. I don’t do a good job of handling that part of the anxiety.

»MORE: Patients describe dealing with scanxiety and waiting for results

Caregiver support and survivorship

You keep your plans and your dreams until you can. From a caregiver’s standpoint, being the guy messes with my wife’s security.

We do talk about that. Her statement now is, “You may end up living longer than me.” That could be true.

I don’t know. We don’t know. You have to have people, whether it’s a spouse or a good friend or both, that you really can talk about everything you’re feeling.

We’re both type A personalities to the point that if I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I’ll come back and my pillow will be on the floor, and she’ll say “Go make some money.”

I’m like, “It’s 4:00 a.m. I can’t. Let me sleep for another hour or two.”

Humor has a lot to do with everything in terms of hightailing. Find somebody safe with whom you can express how you really feel and will let you express that.

I don’t get a lot of sympathy, and I don’t want a lot of sympathy. I don’t feel like I need it. There may be a time that I do.

Life is normal, because as long as you are able to, you still get to choose what you’re going to do and what your outlook on life is going to be in the end.

Some friends and I have a saying, “Your tombstone should have three dates on it, not two dates: the date you were born, the date you stopped living, and the date you died.” Hopefully, the last two will be the same day.

My wife has been the best thing for me. Because if I wanted to have a pity party, which I typically don’t, I couldn’t have one anyway.

Having children as support

Leanne and I are a lot alike, and we do things without really talking about it a lot.

She didn’t really tell me she was going to start doing the research. I found that out almost secondhand. That was the inspiration for it.

I remember when she was in prep school in high school and brought home straight A’s the first semesters as a freshman, and I asked her, “Do you feel any pressure to get straight A’s?” She said, “No. This is okay.” “Good. That’s all I want to know.” I’m floored.

She’s never been afraid of things. She likes the limelight. I’m just impressed by her all the time. I’m just, “Damn. She’s an impressive woman.” That’s why I’m proud of her, that she is on a mission.

Advocating in the community

We do now, but nobody talks about it until you get it. Then all of a sudden, out of the woodwork comes, “Well, I had prostate cancer three years ago.” “Well, I had prostate cancer four years ago.”

You’re walking around with all these guys, 3 out of 10, 80% African American, which have had it, and nobody knows anybody else has had it. Now there are support groups, that type of thing.

Not having it in my family, I was not that exposed to it.

Then having a doctor that had prostate cancer that was doing okay and died in his ’90s and not from prostate cancer. There just wasn’t as big of a fear of it, but then once I got it and you start looking around, you’re like, “Whoa, wait a minute, this is everywhere.”

At the Cleveland Clinic, they told me they had a kid in his late 20s, a Black kid that had prostate cancer. Do you start checking in your 20s? They say no. I learned about the process after I was already in it and the numbers after I was already in it.

Conversations in the Black community

Men generally, but especially men of color, don’t go to the doctor. A lot of them don’t. Some of it is because they don’t have insurance. Some of them are macho. Some of them fear the doctor. They don’t want a rectal exam.

I think getting out there, like getting your blood drawn. If you can do that, and you could start doing that when you’re 40, it’s going to save your life. I think the education process.

 You’ve got to look at the hand of the government with the Tuskegee issues, saying, “I don’t know if I can trust.” Which, by the way, is a whole other story with COVID, because I’m finding more middle- and upper-class white men not wanting to take it, which is strange to me.

A lot of my Black friends have gotten the shots. I’ve had my first shot. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

Just the lack of trust for doctors, the absence of African-American doctors.

Again, I’m 63 now, and so I’m talking for my age group. It may be different for people 20 years younger than me, but those are some of the reasons.

My mom to this day calls me when my dad goes to the doctor and asks me to go, because he does not want her in the room while he’s in there with a doctor.

The last two times, I told her, “Yes, that’s the macho thing.” It’s the “keep her in the dark” thing so if I get bad news, she doesn’t have to think about it.

I just convinced her, “You just barge in there and hear what the doctor has to say.” That’s what she’s doing now. She’s 91, and he’s 88. There’s just this fear of doctors.

What needs to change?

I asked Leanne about that at one point in time. Can’t some medical association or some medical say, “Hey, all the doctors in Summit County, and such, every African-American that comes in here, tell them that we have to do a blood test. We have to draw blood as part of your health. Not just for PSA.”

I don’t know if that’s an oversimplification, but it should be almost demanded that doctors do that for people that are at risk. Because that is the first step. It’s the least costly; it’s the least invasive. It’s the least threatening thing you could do that gives you the information you need to take care of yourself.

Prostate cancer is one of those cancers that are very treatable if you can catch it. My prostate and kidney cancer was that example. They caught it quickly, did it, and I’m done with it.

Cultural differences and doctor training

I think it’s a great conversation. The way that conversation in a perfect world should have gone is, “Theo, your PSA is at 14. That’s high. You are a candidate for getting prostate cancer. However, the success rate if we find it early is you basically get to live your life as if you never had it. As scary as this sounds, Theo, I need you to come back every three months. Do this so we can catch it and do something about it, and then you can have a normal life.”

I would have been scared to death walking around feeling I’m a walking prostate cancer. That’s a whole different psychology, but coming out on the other end of that with less risk at the end of life. That’s a difficult discussion that the doctor should have with the patient.

Opening the conversation of risks to kids and grand kids

I have not, but I will. I’m 62; 20 years puts me at 82 if I live that long. 17 put him at 37. I’ve done the math.

We’ll have the discussion before he’s a candidate for getting diagnosed with prostate cancer. Whether that’s him and I talking over an ice cream cone, or me telling him goodbye in his life. I feel there’s time, but having had this discussion with you, I’ll approach the subject with him now. Why not?

The critical part is you’re at a higher risk than most because I’ve had it. It is 100% curable if they catch it on time. Just stay in front of it. Promise me at 35-36, if not sooner, that you’ll get an annual exam. That if you do not hear from your doctor about a blood test by a certain age, you’ll ask for it.

Normalizing the conversation

We’re all interested in living as long as we can. Part of that is taking steps to assure that. One of the easiest things you could do is just go get an annual physical exam.

When you get one, ask for a blood test to find out what your PSA is. I don’t care what number they give you. You want to know that number today, more than you want to know that number tomorrow.

Diversity in clinical trials

I think I would try, and my doctor, Dr. Timothy Gilligan, that’s another thing. He is well on top of clinical trials and will suggest one at the appropriate time.

I am all for anything that could prolong and improve the quality of life.

With prostate cancer, chemotherapy does not. Chemotherapy with a lot of cancers is curative. I don’t feel that I would opt for that if they said, “We can give you three more months.” I’d rather have the quality of life.

Now, if I can go into his office and he tells me, “You have to start chemotherapy,” all bets may be off. I may be retracting everything [I’m] saying right now because, at the end of it, everybody wants to live as long as they can.

I’ve seen a few people elect not to get chemotherapy. I looked at them, and I said, “They went out the way they wanted to go out; they looked the way they wanted to look.”

I’m also concerned about what view will your grandchildren have of you before you die? What will you look like? I know that could be vain, but I am concerned about it because those imprints stay on your life for the rest of your life.

I think we should go online and look for doctors that talk about doing clinical trials and specialize in dealing with African-American prostate cancer. They’re out there. I had four that I was looking at, and that’s why I chose him.

All of us get a day at a time. Relationships are the most important thing in this world, period, and that’s it.

Inspired by Theo's story?

Share your story, too!

Other Prostate Cancer Diagnosis Stories

Clarence S., Early Stage

Cancer Details: PSA levels fluctuated but were never extremely elevated, cancer contained to prostate
1st Symptoms: No symptoms, caught at routine physical with PSA test
Treatment:Radical prostatectomy (surgery)

Steve R., Stage 2

Cancer Details: Started at stage 2 and gradually progressed to stage 3, and then to stage 4 with metastasis to lymph nodes
1st Symptoms: Rising PSA score
Treatment: IMRT (radiation therapy), brachytherapy, surgery, and lutetium-177

Al Roker, Gleason 7+, Aggressive

Cancer Details: Aggressive but caught early
1st Symptoms: No symptoms, caught at routine physical with PSA test
Treatment: Radical prostatectomy (surgery)

Bruce M., Gleason 8/9, Stage 4A

Cancer Details: Staged Gleason 6/7 pre-surgery, post-surgery changed to 8/9, PSA level at 27
1st Symptoms: Urination changes, brother's prostate cancer diagnosis
Treatment: Radical prostatectomy (surgery), salvage radiation, hormone therapy (Casodex & Lupron)
Dennis Golden

Dennis G., Gleason 9 (Contained)

Cancer Details: Staged Gleason score 9
1st Symptoms: Urinating more frequently middle of night, slower urine flow
Treatment: Radical prostatectomy (surgery), salvage radiation, hormone therapy (Lupron)

Theo W., Prostate Cancer, low-end high-risk

Cancer details:
Low-end high-risk prostate cancer, early kidney cancer
1st Symptoms: PSA level of 72
Treatment: Surgery, radiation

Jeffrey P., Gleason Score 7

Cancer Details: Diagnosed at 59, biopsy had not detected it
1st Symptoms:None, routine PSA test, then IsoPSA test
Treatment:Laparoscopic prostatectomy
Mical R. feature profile

Mical R., Stage 2

Symptoms: No symptoms, caught at routine physical with PSA test
Treatments: Radical prostatectomy (surgery)

Mark K., Prostate Cancer, Stage 4

1st Symptoms: Inability to walk

Treatment: Chemotherapy, monthly injection for lungs
Prostate Cancer

Al Roker’s Gleason Score 7+ Prostate Cancer Story

Al Roker’s Gleason Score 7+ Prostate Cancer Story

From TV Star to Patient Advocate

Famous Weather Anchor Shares Prostate Cancer Story, Gleason Score 7, and Passionate Plea: “Please Get Screened!”

Al Roker is a celebrated TV journalist, personality, Weather & Feature Anchor for TODAY and the co-host of 3rd Hour of TODAY, and now a prostate cancer thriver and patient advocate.

Diagnosed at 66 years old with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, Al was able to catch it early through a routine PSA test at his annual physical. After surgery, the husband and father has no evidence of disease, and has used his celebrity to send a clear message to other men to screen for prostate cancer with the PSA test and digital exam.

This message is especially important for African-American men to hear, as they are disproportionately impacted by prostate cancer. Thank you, Al, for sharing your incredibly powerful voice to uplift others.

  • Name: Al Roker
  • Diagnosis (DX)
    • Prostate cancer
    • Gleason score: 7+
    • Aggressive
    • September 2020
  • Age at DX: 66 years old
  • 1st Symptoms: None, detected by routine PSA test and digital exam
  • Treatment
    • Prostatectomy: surgery to remove prostate, surrounding tissue & lymph nodes
    • Laparoscopic (robotic) surgery
  • Follow-Up Protocol
    • First 5 Years: PSA test every 6 months
    • 5+ Years Out: PSA test annually

This interview has been edited for clarity. This is not medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider for treatment decisions.

First Tests & Scans

How did you know to test for your PSA?

You just knew about it. It was one of a battery of tests that your doctor always took along with the digital exam which everybody knows Moon River kind of thing *sings song*.

I knew about the PSA. It was just like your cholesterol and your blood pressure, and it was just one more metric that you measured your health by.

What was your Gleason score

I had a 7+ Gleason score. That wasn’t terrific obviously, but again it also speaks to having access to good healthcare. They could have easily said, “Well, let’s just watch this,” but it was like, “No. Let’s do an MRI.” 

TODAY — Pictured: Al Roker on Monday, June 10, 2019 — (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
What were the scans and biopsies you underwent for diagnosis

Did the MRI. Didn’t show any target areas. It was like, “Let’s [still] do a biopsy.” That’s when we found the cancer.

It wasn’t really until I did the genetic testing on it at Sloan Kettering that it was like, “Oh, this is pretty aggressive.” There was a lot more than the biopsy showed. 

How were the MRI and the biopsy

Look, it’s not a walk in the park per se. The MRI is a little easier. If you’ve ever been in one of those MRI machines, you’re lying there, you’re still. It’s, I don’t know, about 45 minutes, almost an hour of constant noise.

To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t so bad for me. I think I literally took a nap till we were done because I’m always up early.

The biopsy, you have to get anesthesia and all that stuff. That’s never pleasant, but it’s important, so you put up with it.

I’ve been through so many surgeries in the last several years that it was like, “Okay, what’s one more, here we go.”

The most annoying part about it is really the IV needle, but other than that, you’re under anesthesia so you don’t really realize it. Then you wake up, and boom, you’re done.

Getting Diagnosed

The benefit of “aggressive” doctors

I was very fortunate. I had access to good doctors, and that’s not to say other people’s doctors aren’t good or anything like that.

I had doctors who are good and aggressive. As aggressive, if not more aggressive than the cancer itself. I think that if it had been more of a wait and see, my patient story might have been a little different.

Describe the appointment when you got the diagnosis

It was one of those things where I did the biopsy and made an appointment for follow-up at the same time. I didn’t really think anything of it. I just assumed. I guess I thought that if there was a problem, they were going to call.

My doctor came in and closed the door, and he said, “I always like to have these meetings face to face.” It was my first like, “Oh. Wait. What? What does that mean?”

Then he went into it. Truly, I was thinking, it wasn’t even really about the cancer as much as I was like, “Oh, my god. My wife is going to kill me.”

Obviously, she’s very compassionate. She wouldn’t want me getting that diagnosis by myself. Realistically she’s thinking, “What’s the doctor going to think about me as a wife not being there to be there with her husband to get this potentially life-changing news?”

I took in what he said but I just kept thinking, “She’s going to kill me.” If the prostate cancer doesn’t, she will!

How did you break the news to your family

I called my wife and said, “Okay, I’m on my way back.” She said, “What did the doctor say?”
I had waited till I was almost home. Then I said, “I’m just around the corner. Let me get home.”
She goes, “I don’t like the sound of that.” I said, “I’m literally 30 minutes away. Then we can talk.” She was upset obviously.

We waited till the weekend to tell our kids. I’ve got a 33-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and then we’ve got a 22-year-old who’s in college in Paris, and our 18-year-old son who lives with us here. The family Zoomed and I explained.

They were very upset, obviously. I said, “It’s okay. Doctor said, yes, it’s aggressive. I’m not going to sugarcoat this, but he said we caught it early.”

»MORE: Breaking the news of a diagnosis to loved ones

At that point, I hadn’t decided on treatment. In my heart of hearts, I’d decided I was going to have surgery, but I wanted to do due diligence only because I’m one of those people.

I had the idea that’s just in there and, “Well, we’ll do the radiation, and the CyberKnife, and there’s the focal thing, and then we have to wait to see that it…” I’m like, “No. Let’s just get rid of this.”

My son, Nick, is very sweet. He’s a sweet boy, and he’s got some learning issues. He was really upset and was kind of reacting.

We realized it was happening right about the same time as Alex Trebek. He was conflating pancreatic cancer with prostate cancer. I think he thought I was a goner. It’s like, “Nope. Dad’s going to be around a while longer to bother you.

It was tough on my middle girl because, at the time and still, she was stuck in Paris because of the pandemic so she couldn’t come over. They’ve been very supportive and happy that everything’s turned out okay.

»MORE: Parents describe how they handled cancer with their kids

Surgery (Prostatectomy) & Follow-Up

Describe the surgery (prostatectomy)

I had the surgery done at the beginning of November. I had a shoulder replacement in August, and I’m still doing rehab on that.

Whereas the most difficult part of this has been, you come home and you’ve got a catheter for a week, which it’s not the worst thing in the world, though not the greatest thing.

It was less of a problem than I thought. There are the issues of a little incontinence, a little erectile dysfunction, but that’s rectified itself. 

What’s your follow-up protocol

Then in January, went for the bloodwork. The PSA level was below .05. Now every six months, I go get a PSA test and every six months thereafter, bloodwork, knock on wood.

ßIt’s five years with no problems, and then it’s once a year. You do bloodwork once a year anyway.

How did you process the news of no evidence of disease

Dr. Vincent Laudone was my surgeon, and he’s obviously a real pioneer in this area. Somebody like that has done a whole ton of these. He was very optimistic after the surgery.

We were doing pathology during the procedure. We took out the lymph nodes surrounding that area, didn’t see anything. I was already cautiously optimistic. You’re still waiting for that blood work. Once you get that, it’s a real weight off, and then you’re like, “Okay.”

Now the clock starts again for the next six months. You probably get a little anxious right before that, but here we go.

Survivorship: How do you manage waiting for the next test results

I always keep thinking that five minutes before the doctor walked in, I felt one way. Then five minutes or 30 minutes later, when I’m walking out the door to get in the cab, it was like always this kind of weird because I don’t really feel any different, but somebody says, “Oh, by the way, you have cancer.” Those three words.

Then all of a sudden, you don’t feel differently, you are different. It’s the same with this. You’re still going to be living every six months, but you’re alive. I don’t really think about it. It’s a good feeling.

»MORE: Patients describe dealing with scanxiety and waiting for results

Al the Advocate

What’s your message to men who are reluctant to get screened for cancer

I wouldn’t understand it. Listen, if you have problems finding healthcare or something like that, maybe, I guess. If you’re a guy who goes to the doctor once a year for the physical, you’re already there.

What’s the big deal?

Again, it’s that finger moment (digital exam). That was funny because all along doctors said whenever I had the exam, “It doesn’t seem swollen. You’ve got a small prostate,” which was great. If you’re going to the doctor anyway, why not?

What’s your message specifically for Black men, who are 50% more likely to get diagnosed with prostate cancer and 2x as likely to die from it

You can ignore it at your own peril, but if you love your family, love what you do, love the people around you, you’ve got to do this.

There’s no stigma to it. Just get it done. Make sure you’re going to be around for your family.

It is imperative.

There’s more research being done, but until that happens, you have to make sure you’re going to do what you can to minimize your risks of disease.

This is a disease that we’re more likely to get. You just have to do it. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Can the messaging to the African-American community be better

I don’t know that it’s so much the messaging as it is access. Look, the current healthcare system is, I’m not saying this in a negative sense, but it’s a little bit of a factory to it.

Doctors, unfortunately, have to move their patients through. I’m not saying that these are not dedicated doctors and they don’t care about their patient’s health, they do, but by the very nature of the way the healthcare system works now, you can’t spend a lot of time [with each patient].

The importance of access to healthcare for communities of color

The problem with prostate cancer is, there are generally no outward symptoms, but if there are, you’re pretty well down the line with the progression of the disease.

I think making sure that in communities of color, where there can be medical treatment deserts, just like there are food deserts and pharmacological deserts, pharmacy deserts.

We have to make sure that there is access for this.

Al with his family (source: @alroker)
How important is it to get more diversity in clinical trials?

You look at what we just went through in the pandemic, when obviously, communities of color were far more impacted by the pandemic.

But when it came to the vaccine, there was a very huge push to have a real diversity in the folks who were tested so that we knew that this was safe across all ethnic groups, male and female, things like that.

I think from a research standpoint, especially given that this is far more impactful to men of color, the studies have to reflect that, as well.

What’s the importance of the patient story of people like us speaking out of industries listening to patients?

People have to, especially the medical industry. It’s, in a sense, kind of cut and dry, especially when it comes to diagnoses, treatments, medical interventions.

You tend to forget that these are people. I don’t think it’s a malicious forgetfulness. It’s just data and medical research treatment, there are a lot of data points, but those data points come from people.

That’s why personal stories are important.

Al Inspired Others to Share Their Stories

Clarence Seegars’ Prostate Cancer Story

When he read about Al Roker’s prostate cancer diagnosis, Clarence Seegars sent a message of support on social media. He wanted Al to know that he would be okay.

Hearing about it also inspired Clarence to share his own powerful story of getting diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Read Clarence’s Story

Pictures Courtesy of: NBC News, Al Roker

Thank you, Al, for sharing your story!

Inspired by Al's story?

Share your story, too!

Prostate Cancer Stories

Clarence S., Early Stage

Cancer Details: PSA levels fluctuated but were never extremely elevated, cancer contained to prostate
1st Symptoms: No symptoms, caught at routine physical with PSA test
Treatment:Radical prostatectomy (surgery)

Steve R., Stage 2

Cancer Details: Started at stage 2 and gradually progressed to stage 3, and then to stage 4 with metastasis to lymph nodes
1st Symptoms: Rising PSA score
Treatment: IMRT (radiation therapy), brachytherapy, surgery, and lutetium-177

Al Roker, Gleason 7+, Aggressive

Cancer Details: Aggressive but caught early
1st Symptoms: No symptoms, caught at routine physical with PSA test
Treatment: Radical prostatectomy (surgery)

Bruce M., Gleason 8/9, Stage 4A

Cancer Details: Staged Gleason 6/7 pre-surgery, post-surgery changed to 8/9, PSA level at 27
1st Symptoms: Urination changes, brother's prostate cancer diagnosis
Treatment: Radical prostatectomy (surgery), salvage radiation, hormone therapy (Casodex & Lupron)
Dennis Golden

Dennis G., Gleason 9 (Contained)

Cancer Details: Staged Gleason score 9
1st Symptoms: Urinating more frequently middle of night, slower urine flow
Treatment: Radical prostatectomy (surgery), salvage radiation, hormone therapy (Lupron)

Theo W., Prostate Cancer, low-end high-risk

Cancer details:
Low-end high-risk prostate cancer, early kidney cancer
1st Symptoms: PSA level of 72
Treatment: Surgery, radiation

Jeffrey P., Gleason Score 7

Cancer Details: Diagnosed at 59, biopsy had not detected it
1st Symptoms:None, routine PSA test, then IsoPSA test
Treatment:Laparoscopic prostatectomy
Mical R. feature profile

Mical R., Stage 2

Symptoms: No symptoms, caught at routine physical with PSA test
Treatments: Radical prostatectomy (surgery)

Mark K., Prostate Cancer, Stage 4

1st Symptoms: Inability to walk

Treatment: Chemotherapy, monthly injection for lungs