When Prostate Cancer Returns – Mayo Clinic’s Choline C-11 PET Scan – Part 4

October 20, 2013

“Your prostate cancer is back.”  As any man can imagine, those were words that I didn’t want to hear.  Thought I was over this phase of my life…apparently not.  But I have two choices, dwell on how I feel or find a solution.

Mayo Clinic LogoAs the journey continues it appears that for recurring prostate cancer there are few tests (well only one that I’ve found) that can shed light on where the cancer might be in my body.  That test is the Chloine C-11 PET scan done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Here are comments from the Mayo Clinic website:

  • Helps detect recurrent prostate cancer sooner. Choline C-11 PET scan can help doctors detect recurrent prostate cancer before it may be detected by more conventional imaging tests. In men with rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, this test may help detect sites of possible recurrent prostate cancer at PSA levels as low as 2 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Conventional tests may not detect a recurrence until PSA levels are between 20 and 30 ng/mL.
  • FDA-approved Choline C-11 PET scan site. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is the first, and currently the only, medical center in North America to receive approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prepare and administer the Choline C-11 PET scan imaging agent (Choline C-11 Injection). Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is currently the only site in the United States using the FDA-approved imaging agent.
  • Helps identify areas of recurrent prostate cancer after all forms of treatment. Previous treatment may leave scar tissue that can be confused with active cancer when viewed using conventional imaging. Choline C-11 PET scan can help doctors distinguish between scar tissue, inactive cancer cells and active, recurrent prostate cancer.

THE PROCESS

Not being a person to delay action, I went to the Mayo Clinic site and requested the test.  Of course, it was not quite as easy as that.  I was informed that I would be approved for a consult and an appointment was scheduled.

Wow…that was easy.

Then it hit me, wonder if my insurance would pay for my treatment choice.  My wife, the person in my life that thinks more analytically than I, suggested that I call my insurance provider to see if preapproval was necessary.  Now I have to be honest, I really have a hard time with insurance.  When did big insurance companies become the dictators of one’s health?  Arrrg.

THE APPOINTMENT

Not sure what I expected, but the Mayo Clinic was far nicer that my wildest imagination.  Johns Hopkins provided great service, but the place was kind of a dump – especially compared to the Mayo facilities.  But pretty wasn’t what I was there for.

I met with Dr. Eugene Kwon and quickly found a kindred spirit.  He was articulate and focused on, what I would call, the right kind of patient care.  He made the comment that all too often Doctors, with recurrent prostate cancer, were concerned with palliative care for the patient vs. cancer elimination.  In fact, he seemed to believe that we need to do better with initial treatment options.  Either way, after our interview Dr. Kwon laid out a specific course of action that would lead me to gaining what I desired – a Choline C-11 PET scan.  But there were some pre-conditions.

1.  I would need to have a CAT scan.

2.  I would need to have a bone scan.

Now, to me, that made no sense.  But, as Dr. Kwon explained, in order for the insurance company to approve the Choline C-11 PET scan, I would have to fail both a CAT and bone scan.   While I’m not sure the costs, it appears that these are prerequisites to insurance approval for the scan that would make a difference.  Such a game and one that makes no practical sense.  Doesn’t it just make more sense for reason to rule when making decisions like this?  Seems that the insurance companies set the rules and doctors have to play by them.  What a waste of time, energy and money.

As I left the Mayo Clinic I have to admit I was impressed with the efficiency of their operation.  On the spot a PSA test was ordered and within 1 hour it was completed.  I was told that I could sign in to the Mayo Clinic website and create my own account so that we could use that as a portal for results and communication.  OK…that’s different.  And by the time I flew home and logged in (the next day) I had my PSA results.  Amazing!

NOW THE TESTS

I have to admit it’s a bit funny…both the CAT scan and bone scan are painless so why the anxiety.  It’s the freaking needle!  Yes, I am such a baby when it comes to being stuck.  So here I am at the imaging center and what I fear is a simple injection so that the scans can be done.  Oh well…it appears that I may as well prepare for the fact that being stuck is going to be an active part of life moving forward whether I like it or not.

So…I tell the nurse that I request a “baby” needle.  She looks at me kinda funny and says, “Really?”

“Yes, really!  Or perhaps you want me flopping around on the floor.”  I’ve come to understand that if I want baby treatment I will exaggerate my fear of needles so that they take me seriously.  Why not?  Seems that any babying I can get is better than just being treated as a piece of meat.  And then as they prepare my arm I hear, “Good veins!”  My I hate to hear those words as I know being stuck is the next thing that follows.

“Now drink this.”  Before the CAT scan I had to drink what seemed to be a quart (but more likely a pint) of some nasty liquid flavored with vanilla.  Now that’s a way to turn someone off of vanilla.  But drink it I did and within an hour or so, I was in for the CAT scan.  The scan – well that was easy – just lay down and the machine does the rest.

“The scan is done, Mr. Gallagher.  You’re free to leave.  Come back at one for your bone scan.”  And with those words I gladly left the imagining center for some nourishment.

MIND GAMES

The tests weren’t what was bothering me.  Rather, it was the thought that here I am at 56 and facing again those dread two words, prostate cancer.  Somehow I felt, having defeated prostate cancer once (or at least I thought I had), that I would have a long life ahead.  Now there were doubts.  Not that dying is a great fear (well I guess for us all it is at one level), but more than that it is not finishing what I came into this life to accomplish.  For the current moment, it seems that I dwell more of the value of the moment rather than taking them for granted.  Actually I wonder at times if I have done OK.  God knows that I’ve made mistakes, but I’d like to think that when I am gone – the world will be a better place.  Then I think about my life to date and wonder if it truly is.

Mostly I think of my two sons and hope that I’ve been a good enough father.  Being reared without a father, I have had little to go on as an example.  I love my sons.  Perhaps it’s time to show that more than I do.  Either way, it is becoming painfully clear that life doesn’t last forever and we all have a mortality…so what ever I can do I need to do it now.

FINAL TEST FOR TODAY

“Mr. Gallagher, step back here for your scan.”

Soft music was playing and in no time I found that I was awakening myself with a resilient snore.  Seems I had drifted off during the bone scan.

“We done here.  Hope you had a nice rest.”  And with those words this part of the journey was complete.

https://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/when-prostate-cancer-returns-one-mans-chronicle-psa-rising-part-1/

https://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/when-prostate-cancer-returns-one-mans-chronicle-where-from-here-part-2/

https://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/when-prostate-cancer-returns-researching-treatments-for-a-rising-psa-part-3/


Prostate Cancer Solutions – A New Blog is Formed

November 1, 2008

Some of my collegues have said that I’m crazy – as I’m expending energy to focus on an area that is not a part of my daily livelyhood.  I am a business ethics and sales motivational speaker and trainer.  I am also a prostate cancer survivor!

Because of my speaking and writing, I have elected to be an open book.  That choice has carried into my work with prostate cancer as well.  Because of that and the strong number of people who have contacted me asking questions and seeking help – I have chosen to write a book about not only my experience with prostate cancer but the experiences of literally hundreds of men.

When I was diagnosed I became frustrated at the volume of information, but the lack of credible data from a survivors perspective.  As a result serveral things are happening that may benefit the 280,000 men who this year will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

One…the book is well underway.  I am still conducting interviews from men who have had treatment for prostate cancer in various forms.  GUYS…I know that it may sound strange, but I need your help.  Your comments (taken confidentially) could save someone else’s life.  So, PLEASE, contact me so I can get your story.  The time you spend with me in this short interview may be all it takes to help another or save a life.

Advance copies of the book can be obtained by contacting me at chuck@chuckgallagher.com

The other major issue is a new blog has been formed devoted strickly to the issues of PROSTATE CANCER.  The blog can be found here and is called:  http://prostatecancersolutions.wordpress.com.

Feel free to visit this blog and take the time to comment.  Every comment has value and together we can create a safe place for men to focus their efforts to beat this dreaded disease.  Your comments and help are greatly appreciated.


Sex Following Prostate Cancer – The Real Truth from a Prostate Cancer Survivor!

October 4, 2008

Before reading this post…if you have been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer or are a Prostate Cancer survivor, I would appreciate your help.  I am writing a book, from a layman’s perspective, about Prostate Cancer and how to find solutions to improve our lives.  I am conducting interviews during the months of October 2008 through November 2008.  The interviews are confidential and your name will not be revealed.  If you are willing to discuss your experience…please contact me at chuck@chuckgallagher.com.  From there we can set up a time for a phone interview.  Likewise, this disease no only affects the man diagnosed but also his family, so I am interviewing spouses and/or significant others.  Thank you in advance for your help.  Now I hope this article is of some benefit to you.

First, if you are reading this you, like I, have had the unpleasant experience of being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer.  Just like a diagnosis of breast cancer to a woman, prostate cancer to a man is devastating to hear and begins a long physical and emotional road to a life changing phase of life.

Allow me to make certain assumptions:

(1) You are alive and have survived.  If you have just been diagnosed then this article, while informative, will be a bit premature.  Yes, I know the issue of sex following successful treatment for prostate cancer is on your mind, but your priorities must first be – what is the best treatment that will cure this cancer and eliminate the issue of mortality from my mind.

(2) The therapy you chose allowed for the physical nerves to be spared and hence allow for the potential resumption of sexual function.  All the research for years has shown that removing or substantially damaging the nerves eliminates the ability to achieve an erection and hence resume a “normal” sex life.

(3) Lastly, you recognize that you have undergone a substantial change in your body and accept that sexual function may never be quite the same.  That does not mean that sexual function can’t be quite good, approaching normal, but more than likely by the time you’re diagnosed and have gone through treatment, you are middle aged.  Face it, middle aged men aren’t quite as viral as they were when, say they were seventeen.

In an earlier blog entry I wrote about my experience with sexual function following a highly successful prostate cancer surgery.  The article is referenced here.  For clarity and convenience, allow me to restate a portion of that article here:

Sexual Function: Candidly, that returned much slower than I expected.

  • Within three weeks of the catheter being removed I wanted to test sexual function. To my pleasant surprise with physical and visual stimulation I was able to achieve a marginal erection and orgasm. I was elated. However, I soon found out that my first experience was not sustainable on a regular basis.
  • Like most men, I was given prescriptions for Viagra and informed about other alternatives.
  • Within three to six months, I found that achieving an erection was difficult and that any mental distraction would prove to be an impairment.
  • Viagra would provide some help, but the side effects were bothersome – especially the flushed feeling I felt in my chest and nasal cavity. Even with Viagra or the other alternatives, I did not feel that the result was successful.
  • By the seventh month I was concerned about the lack of consistence in sexual function. That took it’s toll emotionally. While women may not completely understand, men will get it. We are sexual beings and, while we don’t define ourselves by sex, we certainly understand the important role sexual function has in our lives. Inability to perform can have direct effects in other areas of ones life.
  • I was told there would be no ejaculate. That was true and false. There was no ejaculate as men generally know it. However, I did leak a fair amount of urine. I think the urine leakage surprises and disturbed me more than it did my partner She understood that urine is harmless. I soon learned that I should empty my bladder before sex otherwise, there would generally be urine leak when orgasm was reached.
  • By the ninth month I woke to a nocturnal erection. I must admit I was surprised and elated. However, the natural erection was still missing.
  • There had been no significant change from the sixth month through the tenth month, so I was becoming a bit concerned. I sought help in an unusual way, I sought Hypnotherapy as a possible solution. Wow…now that was worth it.

Hypnotherapy: Perhaps for the skeptics I had just healed enough to experience a change, but when I sought help I had the same results. Not knowing what to expect, I was open to anything that would provide some normalcy. I had come to know that things would never be the same. For one thing, I wasn’t 17 years old any more. I had to know that with age sexual performance will change. Likewise, I knew that without a prostate (the old plumbing if you will) I would never have an ejaculation – although an orgasm is quite normal without ejaculation. In any event, I elected this alternative form of therapy. What did I have to lose?

I went through the process feeling quite relaxed. The female hypnotherapist wasn’t sure that it would be comfortable for a man. Frankly, in my mind, if I got the result I didn’t care who provided the service. The process lasted and hour to and hour and one-half.

Within three days it was time to test the program. To my great surprise, I had an erection with less effort than it took over the prior 10 months and the orgasm was powerful. Since that point, there has been a marked difference in sexual function. Why? I’m not sure I know. I feel that two things converged at the same point. One – I had taken time to heal physically and with practice one can achieve a return to normalcy. Two, I feel the hypnotherapy allowed me to by pass my conscious emotional fears and empower my subconscious to know that I was fine and fully functional (within the physical confines of surgery). Either way…the process worked.

Three Years Later

There is a reality for us all.  For now all I can speak for is myself. (I am conducting research into this area – see the tab “Prostate Cancer” if you are willing to help). There are three areas that I feel need to be exposed as men and those who love them deal with the very real and significant issue of sexual function after prostate cancer.  There is no order to the issues listed below – each are important in their own way.

Issue One:  Psychological ramifications of sexual function after prostate cancer surgery. Following my earlier articles and blogs I received a number of e-mails and calls from men and women who appreciated the candid discussion and insight.  As time has moved on I have come to understand that sexual function, especially following prostate cancer, is as much (if not more) about the mind than it is about the body.

Women/Partners – I am not yet sure that you know just how much a man’s identity is tied up in his sexual function.  Now, I can hear two responses as this is being read: (1) you think I didn’t know that? and (2) it can’t be that important.  At the risk of sounding preachy – ladies – No you don’t really know that and, yes it is more important you’ll ever conceive.

While a man is far more than his sexual ability, the lizard brain in us all sends messages that we cannot control – to a man it is to procreate.  So to eliminate that possibility means that the subconscious mind diminishes the worth and value of the being.  On the outside he may seem invincible, but on the inside he is crumbling, but rarely will he be emotionally connected enough to show it or willing to show it.  Showing that pain (emotional pain) is a form of weakness to most men and revealing that would only slide him further into a downward spiral.

What to do? The less pressure there is to sexually perform the easier it is to perform.  Now, by that statement, I do not mean reduce the frequency of sexual attempts.  First, create an environment that will allow for play, fun and all the joy that comes from being sexually with your partner.

Secondly, be willing to become more active in order to help the recovery process.  I have been told by several physicians that muscles grow if they are used.  Basically they were telling me to use my penis (sexually of course) and do so whether through masterbation or with a partner.  I will be blunt here.  I have found that masterbation produces a more consistent result.  For a while I wondered why, then it hit me – I can take all the time I want to with myself.  There is no pressure and I can image that where ever my thoughts may take me, the person I imagine myself with is patient, willing and engaged.

Let me be clear, I am married and my wife has encouraged me to continue this writing knowing that others may, very well, be feeling the same thing or experiencing the same issues.  That said, while sex with my wife is very pleasing, I find that while I can gain an erection, often the sexual experience does not result in an orgasm.  As we have spent time discussing this, it has become clear that my inability to achieve a satisfactory sexual result was psychologically connected to my wife’s attitude and engagement in the process.  It takes more effort to achieve what used to be easy.  Hence, in order for the experience to be satisfying to me – my wife has to, bluntly put, work harder.  Not only is that a substantial change for her, but it puts pressure on me and the more pressure the less performance.

Issue Two:  Bodily Function. As I mentioned in the first article, it took me time to recognize that my body was different.  While sex was more difficult following surgery, it became clear that there was a greater than likely chance that urine would be released sometime during the act of sex.  Hence, I have discovered three things: (1) the less you drink before attempting sex the less chance of leakage; (2) urination immediately before sexual intercourse (or whatever method of sex is selected) reduces the chance for any substantial leakage; and (3) since urine is sterile and effectively harmless, allow it to be used as a form of lubricant or play.  I can hear many scoffing at the third suggestion, but going back to Issue One – if a man is concerned about what might happen (urine leak) during sex, he will be constrained physically (because of that mental state) and hence have a much more significant problem with achieving an erection or achieving a sexually satisfying experience.

Issue Three:  Practice…Practice…Practice. Now, as I write those words, it occurs to me that some may interpret this as applying pressure and increasing the sexual anxiety associated with prostate cancer.  I don’t mean “practice” in that sense.  Rather, it means either love yourself or love your partner (that will depend on who is reading this – you or your partner) enough to provide any and all outlets necessary to heal.  I would suggest that you consider spicing up your sex life so that the stimulation (whether visual, auditory or by feeling) is enhanced.  Having talked with others I know that sexual healing can take place, but it does come with a cost – and in most cases that cost is increased effort.

Question: If your dog broke his or her leg in an accident and the vet told you that he had to walk at least two mile each day and do other physical activities in order to heal – would you do what was necessary to help your dog heal?  If you answer no – “I’d put him to sleep,” please quit reading this article – it’s hopeless.  But, I think most would agree that we’d all say, “I love my pet and would do what ever.”  Strange example, but we need to do whatever is necessary to heal, both physically and emotionally.  No one said it would be easy – physical therapy is hard.

Simply put, sexual healing from prostate cancer is physical therapy that heals on both a physical and emotional plain.  If sex is still a struggle…hang on and keep trying.  It may never be what it was, but in most cases you can sexually recover from prostate cancer.  I did and so have countless others.


Prison – Choices, Consequences and Compassion – Comments from a Reformed White Collar Criminal

March 1, 2008

The Beginning: It’s funny how everything in your life can lead to just one moment. Starting that day was the beginning, but it felt like the end. Never in my wildest imagination did I perceive this day as a beginning. I felt my life was ending. I never wanted this day to arrive; yet time has an odd way of forcing certain issues and today this issue was forced. There was nothing I could do to prevent the arrival of this moment.

Having traveled for a short time, as I opened the passenger door, time seemed to change. Everything was in slow motion as if to etch this experience in my memory forever. I took my first steps into this new life. Visions of my family filled my heart and my mind – they seemed lost to me. I took more steps with thoughts of my ruined career. Yet more steps, with a strong knowing that I literally had nothing. I was experiencing rock bottom and the experience was not pleasant.

On the 23rd step I extended my hand, opened the door and took my first step into Federal prison. As I walked toward the entrance I was “Chuck Gallagher” – what some from my community would have, at one time, called a “somebody!” As I walked through the door I became 11642.058 – a convicted felon – what most people would call a “nobody.”

hand-cuffs.jpg

I would never in my wildest dreams have conceived that in five short years I could so completely destroy my life. As a Tax Principle in a CPA firm in the mid eighties I exuded success. I had been published in National tax publications, testified before the United States House Ways and Means Committee on tax legislation and become an instructor to CPA’s in 30 states. I was, in my mind, a “somebody”. I had made “it”. It was only an illusion – a shell. It wasn’t deep within me. I didn’t know that at the time. I believed the illusion. I believed I was “somebody”.

We all have many rivers to cross as we journey through life, but this one left me wondering how I would ever find my way back and who I would become through this part of my journey. For me, this was bottom…rock bottom. By stripping away, in a very public way, an identity founded on ego, pride and illusion, I was embarking on a new experience with an uncertain outcome and I felt afraid and alone.

The Journey: During our lives we will all be faced with temptation many times. It’s not the temptation that is at issue, but rather, how we respond to temptation that determines the measure of a man. I did not respond well. Out of fear of having the illusion of success exposed and through a series of choices, I set into motion the outcome that took me 23 steps to receive.

I committed fraud. I stole money. I had a need. I must make the house payment or risk losing favor in the financial community. As a trustee of a client’s trust, I had opportunity – opportunity to divert funds without anyone being immediately aware. Lastly, I could rationalize my action by calling my theft a loan. My response to temptation – theft.

 

I lived at that time in what seemed like a parallel universe. On one hand, I was truly making choices that brought about legitimate success. Yet, at the same time I lived this shadow existence making choices that ultimately brought about my downfall. Every choice has a consequence. The outcomes of the choices we make can be extraordinarily positive or extremely negative. The one fact we must all live by is that we reap what we sow. The consequences of our choices may not manifest immediately, but we will harvest the outcome of our choices and actions. That 23rd step propelling me into Federal prison was proof positive to me that there is a consequence for every action. It was my actions that got me there.

Time in prison seemed to move in slow motion as if to allow me all the time necessary to evaluate my actions, my choices, my behavior and to learn many lessons about my identity, my purpose, my focus. If I had to be there surely there should be an outcome worth the time. While I didn’t know what that outcome would be, one thing I was committed to was to remain open believing that God’s plan for my life could rise from even this lowly place if only I were open and willing to learn, grow and receive.

Following Release: Within eight months, after taking the same 23 steps out of that prison door, I was recognized for the choices I had made and offered the opportunity to take a management role. I had no expectations that this would happen, but accepted with gratitude the opportunity placed before me.

As spiritual beings, whether we like to admit it or not, we create our reality. The multitude of choices made each day following my release from prison created the offer and opportunity I was to receive. The abundance, opportunity and prosperity continue to multiply. Within three months, following my reentry into management, I was presented with another opportunity –divisional management supervising two states.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted that one year from my prison release date, I would be managing a $6 million sales organization. But, a clear pattern was beginning to emerge. Choices made with integrity – self integrity – provided positive consequences. I was living proof of both sides of the choice issue. Choices made without integrity or ethics certainly yielded extraordinary negative consequences. Those choices made from an ethical framework with the foundation of integrity were yielding results far beyond my expectation.

Life’s Purpose: From my experience in prison it is clear to me that for the remainder of my life, I am to (try) to help others see the connection between choices – their consequences – and the outcomes that follow. More often than not, the message is well received. People seem to respond and understand that someone who has made bad choices and recovered perhaps can provide some inspiration to others who – themselves – would like to recover as well.

But, I am reminded in the most unusual ways, that all people can’t move past their issues to claim the joy in life than can and should be theirs. I am learning the awesome power of the internet, as well as the unique forum it provides to people who have less than honorable intentions. Recently, I posted video clips on YouTube and received many positive comments. Now, at age 50, I am learning about this medium. I must admit my kids know far more than I.

Anyway, three days ago I began to see a series of comments that were made by a person that I had to dismiss due to their unethical behavior. Interesting the venom that exists when one points the finger at another blaming them for their circumstances. The reality is – and I have lived it – we are responsible for our choices and the consequences that follow. The videos, which you can see on the right of the screen, are to serve as an example of what I say and how I say it. They were not designed as a place for disgruntled former employees to speak their dissatisfaction. After three days, I decided to remove the comments – as they were not germane to the purpose of the videos.

Following the removal of the comments, I received, yet, another. Here it is reprinted in it’s entirety:

How ethical is it to censor embarassing comments from your YouTube page, making it appear they never happened? You can wipe your comments clean, but you can’t erase the past. Karma is a bitch. Oh and by the way, good luck with that cancer when it comes back for a second round.

How sad it is when someone wishes ill of another. I am a prostate cancer survivor and speak to mens groups about avoiding and/or overcoming issues with prostate cancer. Perhaps, there will be a point in this persons life when the light bulb will come on and she’ll realize that wishing another ill does not change the consequences of poor choices.

As I close let me say – look past the illusions of life, make productive choices and claim your success!


Sex after Prostate Cancer Surgery – What Can You Expect? Comments by Motivational Speaker and Cancer Survivor Chuck Gallagher

February 23, 2008

Before reading this post…if you have been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer or are a Prostate Cancer survivor, I would appreciate your help.  I am writing a book, from a layman’s perspective, about Prostate Cancer and how to find solutions to improve our lives.  I am conducting interviews during the months of October 2008 through November 2008.  The interviews are confidential and your name will not be revealed.  If you are willing to discuss your experience…please contact me at chuck@chuckgallagher.com.  From there we can set up a time for a phone interview.  Likewise, this disease no only affects the man diagnosed but also his family, so I am interviewing spouses and/or significant others.  Thank you in advance for your help.  Now I hope this article is of some benefit to you.

Let me begin by saying, this is written with the intent to help those men who have dealt with or are dealing with the issues surrounding prostate cancer. I am not a physician. My perspective is my own and born from my personal experience with prostate cancer at a “relatively” young age.

Background: I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 47. There were no warning signs. To all around me I was the picture of health and as far as I was concerned they were right. I had no symptoms. In fact, I felt great.

I went to my family doctor in order to get a prescription for Propecia (a pill to keep your hair from falling out). My hair line was beginning to recede and I wanted to stop its progress. My physician (who in retrospect saved my life) required that I have a blood test before she would prescribe the hair loss drug. As I recall, she said that the drug would artificially lower my PSA and I needed to have it checked first.

Honestly, at the time I didn’t know what a PSA was – the only thing I did know was – I hated needles and the thoughts of giving blood repulsed me. But vanity won and I had the test. Frankly, the rest was history, as the tests revealed an elevated PSA which ultimately lead to the prostate cancer diagnosis.

Treatment Method: While considering many methods, ultimate I selected surgery using the da Vinci method. I could not have been more pleased. The skill of the surgeon from Johns Hopkins and the method used were both outstanding. I highly recommend that men considering surgery consider this method. The recovery time following surgery was substantially reduced and the side effects were non-existent.

Following surgery there were several issues that were of immediate concern:

  1. What was in the pathology report (if that was good then the other issues were important)?
  2. Were the nerve bundles saved around the prostate (if not, no erection)?
  3. How difficult would it be to recover – move, walk, have a bowel movement, etc.?
  4. How long would the catheter stay in and would it cause problems?
  5. What would the reported incontinence be like (really) and would it last a long time?
  6. When could I expect some normalcy in sexual performance?

#1 = great pathology report (whew…that was a relief!)

#2 = nerves were saved; however, the doctor cautioned about expecting too much too soon.

#3 = no great surprise, the hospital got me moving quickly. It was not comfortable, but in the end they were right. Suck it up and get on with it they told me. You’ll appreciate how quickly you’ll recover when you get out of bed and get on with life. They were right. Within three days, I was prepared (moving a bit slowly I might add) to get on a plane and fly back home from Baltimore to North Carolina.

#4 = That was (at the outset) the biggest challenge. While most catheters stay in a week or maybe two, mine was in for three weeks. The physician stated that he wanted to make sure due to my psychology that it healed well, so I got the pleasure (NOT) of an extra week. Frankly, that was annoying and one of the happiest days of my life was when it was removed. Frankly, it was somewhat painful, unpleasant, difficult to keep comfortable, and all around a real pain (both figuratively and literally).

#5 = Considering I took a good six months from diagnosis to surgery, I had time to work with Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises may be beneficial in treating urinary incontinence in both men and women. Having received wise advice from the folks at Johns Hopkins, I was told that men would be wise to exercise those pubococcygenus muscles in advance of surgery so that they have “muscle memory” after surgery. I was told issues with incontinence would be dramatically reduced and they were right. Within 5 – 6 weeks I was 99% continent.

#6 Sexual Function: Candidly, that returned much slower than I expected.

  • Within three weeks of the catheter being removed I wanted to test sexual function. To my pleasant surprise with physical and visual stimulation I was able to achieve a marginal erection and orgasm. I was elated. However, I soon found out that my first experience was not sustainable on a regular basis.
  • Like most men, I was given prescriptions for Viagra and informed about other alternatives.
  • Within three to six months, I found that achieving an erection was difficult and that any mental distraction would prove to be an impairment.
  • Viagra would provide some help, but the side effects were bothersome – especially the flushed feeling I felt in my chest and nasal cavity. Even with Viagra or the other alternatives, I did not feel that the result was successful.
  • By the seventh month I was concerned about the lack of consistence in sexual function. That took it’s toll emotionally. While women may not completely understand, men will get it. We are sexual beings and, while we don’t define ourselves by sex, we certainly understand the important role sexual function has in our lives. Inability to perform can have direct effects in other areas of ones life.
  • I was told there would be no ejaculate. That was true and false. There was no ejaculate as men generally know it. However, I did leak a fair amount of urine. I think the urine leakage surprises and disturbed me more than it did my partner She understood that urine is harmless. I soon learned that I should empty my bladder before sex otherwise, there would generally be urine leak when orgasm was reached.
  • By the ninth month I woke to a nocturnal erection. I must admit I was surprised and elated. However, the natural erection was still missing.
  • There had been no significant change from the sixth month through the tenth month, so I was becoming a bit concerned. I sought help in an unusual way, I sought Hypnotherapy as a possible solution. Wow…now that was worth it.

Hypnotherapy: Perhaps for the skeptics I had just healed enough to experience a change, but when I sought help I had the same results. Not knowing what to expect, I was open to anything that would provide some normalcy. I had come to know that things would never be the same. For one thing, I wasn’t 17 years old any more. I had to know that with age sexual performance will change. Likewise, I knew that without a prostate (the old plumbing if you will) I would never have an ejaculation – although an orgasm is quite normal without ejaculation. In any event, I elected this alternative form of therapy. What did I have to lose?

I went through the process feeling quite relaxed. The female hypnotherapist wasn’t sure that it would be comfortable for a man. Frankly, in my mind, if I got the result I didn’t care who provided the service. The process lasted and hour to and hour and one-half.

Within three days it was time to test the program. To my great surprise, I had an erection with less effort than it took over the prior 10 months and the orgasm was powerful. Since that point, there has been a marked difference in sexual function. Why? I’m not sure I know. I feel that two things converged at the same point. One – I had taken time to heal physically and with practice one can achieve a return to normalcy. Two, I feel the hypnotherapy allowed me to by pass my conscious emotional fears and empower my subconscious to know that I was fine and fully functional (within the physical confines of surgery). Either way…the process worked.

Three Years Later: Sexual function is normal – for a 50 year old prostate cancer survivor.

  1. I understand that sex will never be the same as before. I accept that knowing that I am living as a result of early detection and appropriate treatment.
  2. With the prostate gone, there will not be normal ejaculate during sex. Strange, but as a man I miss that – but I must say, my wife doesn’t.
  3. As time goes on natural erections (unassisted) are possible. They are not as frequent as they used to be, but from time to time I will have a nocturnal erection.
  4. Orgasm is quite natural, with or without ejaculate. However, expect some urine leakage during sex. Especially early on one might want to keep a towel handy.
  5. Libido did not change even right after surgery.

As a motivational speaker, I have become accustom to sharing personal experiences in order to share more universal truths. This entry, however unusual, is not about personal sexual performance, but rather written in order to help other men understand from a first hand perspective what to expect and perhaps to provide hope that sexual performance, so important to most men, can return after experiencing surgery.

If this posting helps or you have comments…PLEASE SHARE!


Another Prostate Cancer Loss – Ross Younkin – A Tribute To His “Big Life”

January 26, 2008

As we walked into Bluebonnet Hills Funeral Home in Colleyville, Texas, my wife asked me to hold some tissues she had picked up. Looking back at her, I asked, “You think you’ll need these?”

“Perhaps,” she replied, as she was connected to him not only from personal visits, but through close friends of ours. She had met Ross during the last months of his life. He was then dying from advanced prostate cancer and all knew that he was facing his last days on earth.

My connection to Ross was quite different. I only knew Ross through the stories of others – we had never met. What we did have in common was prostate cancer. His was caught late and there was no hope of recovery. Mine, caught early, was now not a part of my life. I was free to live my life. Ross’s life, on the other hand, had been cut short from the same disease.

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So, as I walked to the register book at the funeral home to sign our attendance, I noticed blue pins for prostate cancer awareness (just like the pink pins that women wear for breast cancer awareness). As I picked one up I felt a rush of emotion realizing, that as I pinned this on my lapel, I was a survivor (by the grace of God) and Ross was with God.

People gathered to remember the joy and the experiences that came from knowing Ross. They gathered in support of his wife, children and extended family. They gathered because he made a difference. One after the other his friends spoke of his “Big Life” and the experiences they had in working and playing with Ross during the time he had on earth. Through their expressions of sorrow and humor, I began to see the enormity of the life Ross lived and the depth at which he touched others.

I was moved. While I have been to many funerals, this one especially touched me. Perhaps it hit too close to home. Perhaps, I thought, “It could have been me.” But the part that rang home with crystal clarity for me was his son’s comments about how his son (Ross’s grandson) would come to know of the man his grandfather was. I feel sure that the room, full of baby boomers, won’t let this little man down – he will know of the life of Ross Younkin.

Not long there after, I heard the drone of bagpipes as one of his best friends (and they all considered themselves his best friend) played tribute to Ross. Choking back tears, Chip honored his friend and touched hearts – mine included.

As we drove away from the graveside, I asked my wife, “Just how did Ross find out he had cancer?” She replied (as best she could recall) that he had a problem that took him to the doctor and something showed up but his doctor didn’t seem to be concerned. He (Ross) was angry about that – the doctor should have been vigilant knowing the impact that advanced prostate cancer can have on one’s life. Likewise, Ross was angry at himself. He felt like something wasn’t right, but didn’t push the doctor to make more tests. “Just like most men,” I thought to myself.

Wake Up Call! As a prostate cancer survivor, more and more, I hear stories of how men find out they are cursed with prostate cancer. Two nights ago I received a call from a man who was exploring treatments (for prostate cancer) and wanted to talk about the treatment I elected. One of my first questions was, “how did you find out?” He replied that he had hurt his foot and so while there his doctor required a full exam including a DRE (digital rectal exam). It was then that something unusual was discovered. He, like me, had no symptoms and would have no practical reason to go to the doctor. However, in both our cases, for other reasons, we had physicians who saw the wisdom and logic of requiring exams that saved our lives.

Prostate cancer, unlike most cancers, can generally be detected through a simple blood test. While that isn’t fool proof, a PSA test required by my doctor, saved my life. If Ross could speak to us today, I am confident that he would shout from his Harley – get tested NOW! While the rule of thumb is that you should have the test certainly by age 50 – I contend that you should start in your early 40’s. Mine was diagnosed at age 47. Prostate cancer is curable if caught early enough. If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, consider reading one of my early blogs related to treatment options – a link is attached: prostate cancer blog

Ross Younkin: How can you measure the life of a man? It was said yesterday that Ross collected music – lots of music. I wonder if he had the song “Season’s of Love” from the musical RENT? In the lyrics it says:

How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

How can you measure the life of a man? In truths that he learned, or in times that he cried. In bridges he burned, or the way that he died.

It’s time now to sing out, tho the story never ends let’s celebrate remember the life of our friend. Remember
the love! Remember the love! Remember the love! Measure in love. Seasons of love!

Seasons of love.


Prostate Cancer – Tragic Deaths Of Famous Men

January 10, 2008

As a prostate cancer survivor, I often use this blog (my ethics speaker blog) to discuss issues of prostate cancer and what can be done to cure this disease – dreaded by men worldwide. When I arrived home today there was a wonderful magazine on our kitchen counter – LifeExtension – that my wife brought home. She purchased it for other reasons, but what caught my attention was an outstanding article entitled: Merv Griffin’s Tragic Death from Prostate Cancer.

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In the magazine they publish what they refer to as a short list of Famous Men who died from prostate cancer. While I won’t list them all, here’s some for us to remember and think about:

  • Merv Griffin
  • Dan Fogelberg
  • Bill Bixby
  • Telly Savalas
  • Frank Zappa
  • Earl Woods (Tiger Woods Dad)
  • Bobby Riggs
  • Thomas Witter (Dean-Witter-Reynolds)
  • Johnny Ramone
  • Steve Ross (CEO Time-Warner)

This is truly a short list that I selected – they’re are far to many more to list in this short blog

Portions of the article appear as follows:

Prostate cancer kills 300,000 Americans each year. With proven means of prevention and early detection, death from prostate cancer should be a rarity and not so common.

Merv Griffin was initially treated for prostate cancer back in 1996, but the disease returned with a vengeance to claim his life in 2007. News accounts described Merv’s final days living on feeding tubes and morphine drops, as metastasized prostate cancer cells ravaged his bones, liver and lungs.

It often takes a celebrity death for the public to pay proper attention to a curable disease. If there is any consolation to the ordeal Merv Griffin suffered, it will be that more men will be screened and follow proven preventive strategies to reduce their risk of developing this insidious disease. For example, a recent study published by the National Cancer Institute showed that men slash their risk of prostate cancer by up to 52% by regularly consuming cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower).

The article is excellent. Is the content a magic bullet? No. But from a vast amount of research I have conducted (for personal benefit), I know that their findings are well documented and simple “life style” changes can have a huge effect on your risk of contracting prostate or breast cancer.

Having been diagnosed (quite by accident) at 47 with prostate cancer, I know what it feels like to be told – when you think you’re healthy as a horse – that you have cancer. After getting over the shock – I began extensive research as to the treatment that would allow me to avoid what Merv Griffin faced.

Today, based on my routine tests, I am cancer free. However, let me caution my readers – much as I was cautioned not long ago – surgical removal or any other treatment does not mean that cancer can not return. Merv Griffin is a perfect example of what can happen. Hence, for those of us who have been diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer, we cannot reduce or ignore methods for reducing risk or maintaining health.

A copy of the LifeExtension article can be found at this link: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/jan2008_awsi_01.htm

Here’s to your health! Comments welcome oh and drop by my web site if your business or association is ever in need of a keynote or motivational speaker http://www.chuckgallagher.com