“Without the lab, I may have succumbed to metastatic disease in the future.”
As a pathologist, former ASCP President, and lifelong advocate for patient-centered care, Lee has spent his entire career aware of the importance of lab testing and spent years acting as a resource to his friends, family and patients navigating cancer diagnoses. When he started to see the signs of prostate cancer at 66, he wasn’t shocked and saw it as his turn to undergo treatment.
Lee started getting routine PSA blood test screenings in his forties given his father had prostate cancer. PSA, or Prostate Specific Antigen, is a protein created by prostatic tissue. PSA tests can indicate higher levels of this protein in the blood; however, they do not indicate a specific diagnosis, such as cancer. In fact, 15 years earlier he had an elevated PSA but biopsy did not show the presence of cancer. When his PSA results started to increase, again, faster than expected, Lee’s doctor sent him to get an MRI, where they saw a mass in his prostate that was suspicious for cancer. After talking to his urologist, Lee decided on surgical treatment to remove his prostate.
Lee is very familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, but that didn’t remove the emotional aspect of his diagnosis: “It’s scary even if you know what it is and know what to do. You ask yourself ‘Why Me’?”
To combat his anxiety about treatment, Lee reached out to other prostate cancer survivors, including other Patient Champions, for support and community. Connecting with his support system was vital to his recovery. He also focused on the logistics of the treatment, rather than his fears: “I focused on what I needed to do to deal with, rather than the anxiety of it. It was in the background, but I had to do what I had to do.”
He has the following advice for other patients “If you are worried about the diagnosis, the best thing you can do is take care of it. Make sure you have a good clinical team, including an internist and urologist that can help you make the right decision about treatment. In the long term, you are far better off dealing with something, as scary as it is, rather than avoiding it.”