In Sickness and in Health

"When my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer," says author Judy Berman, "we fought the illness as a team."

Daffodils and prostate cancer awareness ribbon on wooden table

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Two years later, Bob remains cancer-free and seems to have overcome his allergy to doctors. But whenever he goes for his PSA test we think about what could have been and, unfortunately, what still could be: that Bob has a cancer for which there is no cure, that the levels of funding for prostate cancer research and awareness woefully lag behind breast cancer, that primary care doctors are being advised not to recommend a simple, effective screening test to a population that is hesitant about the process to begin with.

While the USPSTF says that screening has a very small potential benefit and can cause significant harm, our experience shows the exact opposite: a small potential risk with a very significant benefit. Had we not insisted on the inexpensive screening test when we did Bob would have been on a course to be one of the 30,000 men who die from the disease each year.

Again this September, our third Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we will proudly wear blue ribbon pins and walk in the ZERO Cancer event. We will tell our story and hope it saves lives. We also look forward to a September day when the White House shines blue and the NFL adopts a light-blue ribbon on its uniforms. We remain hopeful that with increased awareness and the work of very smart researchers and advocates around the world, there will be better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat prostate cancer. And most importantly, we look forward to the day that doctors no longer have to say those dreaded words: There is no cure.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Regular checkups are vital to good health. Whether or not to get a PSA screening is an individual choice that men should make in consultation with their partner and their primary care physician.

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  1. I also had no history in our family, but my family doctor was always checking PSA with every physical over the years. I had a small move in numbers and he had me retest. I was 52 and has a urologist perform a biopsy to verify another change in numbers just to be safe. The biopsy confirmed I had prostate cancer.

    At the time, my employer was “reviewing insurance options”. I told them I had to know where they were at with the process so I could decide my treatment options. They told me not to worry, we would have some kind of insurance, and if I had cancer, this was “the best one to have”. That was on a Friday. On Tuesday every employee gets an email saying they will no longer offer insurance and our policy would expire in 1 week. I was torn, as I felt I had no choice to make as there was no time, and with the diagnosis, I wouldn’t have a chance to get insured elsewhere.

    On Wednesday, the urologist called me at 3 pm, aware of my delema. He asked if I wanted to have it removed. If so, I needed to be at the hospital the next morning at 10am. He rearranged his schedule, vacation – everything, so I could have the surgery and be discharged from the hospital the day before the insurance expired. It was so surreal how everything came together.

    I feared the same things your husband did regarding my sex live with my wife. I am happy to report, the first year was tough, but I think some of that was psychological. I have been cancer free for 5 years now. I am amazed at how many men I know have it, and are in stage 3 and 4 now because they were never tested. Your quoted numbers are staggering, but people still are not aware because prostrate cancer seems to have a stigma to it and no one wants to talk about it. We have 5 boys, and I will not be quiet about it. I was lucky to be diagnosed early, and it was contained to the prostate. I too hope it gets the recognition it needs so we can save more lives. Thank you for your story. I will be passing it on!

  2. With September being cancer awareness month…
    A good article well worth reading. Informative and sobering.

    For me, good thing I got my annual physical every year because at 52, I got it about 10 years earlier than the average. If I had not found it early it would have spread by the time I reach my 60’s!

    We should see as many blue ribbons as pink, but unfortunately prostate cancer is not talked about much…

  3. Ms. Berman,
    Your husband’s story is very similar to my own. His making kale smoothies brought a smile, although I refer to mine as a kale slurry. I have a adopted a vegetarian diet in an effort to avoid a reoccurrence. I hope we will see you and your husband in the Survivors Circle at the Zero Prostate Run this year.

  4. I lost my husband to prostate cancer almost 5 years ago. He was diagnosed at stage 3 at the age of 52. Every dr that had examined him said his prostate was remarkably small and no signs of cancer. Even when he had symptoms, his urologist said there was no way he could have cancer. He was too young. After months of testing for other causes they finally did a biopsy. He had a Gleason Score of 9. He had radical surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and every clinical try they could come up with. We had 5 years of battle before it finally took his life at the age of 57. I pray for and remind men every chance I get to be checked. I feel the medical community still down plays the fact the prostate cancer does take lives.

  5. Your story is very similar to ours. In April 2011 I was back in St Louis where my dad and I were starting hospice for my mother who was in her last month of life battling colon cancer. My husband Dave had had a biopsy done right before I left Texas and we were waiting on the results, not expecting any bad news. I will never forget the sucker punch to the gut I took when he told me that he had prostate cancer over the phone. I just remember screaming on the side of the road after we hung up.

    Shortly after my Mom’s funeral, Dave had his prostate removed. Likewise our surgeon felt good about his margins and he never had a problem with incontinence. The first year he had good PSA results but 118 months after surgery, the cancer had returned.

    We than entered into the world of hormone therapy and 9 weeks of radiation. 12 months post radiation, we are still at undetectable and are hopeful that his next PSA in Nov will be consistent.

    Our sex life pre-cancer is gone…I miss that aspect of our relationship and at times, it’s very difficult. However, we have grown closer and our relationship is more intimate than before. I would rather have the closeness that we share now than all of the physical components of our relationship as it was.

    On the 27th, we will be participating in our 4th Prostate Cancer 5K. We have been able to use our experiences to minister to others who are in uncharted territory. My husband is my hero…

  6. Thanks for Judy Berman’s article regarding prostate cancer. We went through that a few years ago and my husband was told to have the surgery. We were not told about the advantages of robotic surgery nor anything else. The results were very frustrating for my husband, as it affected his urinary tract, etc. It has been an emotional journey for us. I recently checked with the American Cancer Society and there is NOT a support group for prostate patients in Nashville, TN. We certainly need one.


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