Q - A few words of wisdom and encouragement from a man with prostate cancer.
In 1996 I was diagnosed with a Gleason 9 prostate cancer tumor and told nothing could be done to save me so I should get my affairs in order. Thankfully, the doctor also suggested a second opinion, and I was sent to Duke University Oncology Clinic. They verified the original diagnosis and were willing to operate. I had my prostate removed, and my PSA dropped from 25 to < 0.1. In a short time the PSA started to rise so external beam radiation was used in the surrounding area. This procedure brought my PSA down to < 0.1 again.
After my operation at Duke, and subsequent radiation I set out to learn all I could about prostate cancer and treatment options. Years ago as a Japanese intercept operator in WWII, I learned the value of knowing your enemy, and this cancer was as substantial an enemy as I had ever encountered.
Unfortunately, a few years later, my PSA started rising again. My doctors told me that only conventional cancer treatment option left was hormone treatments, which would probably buy me a year to five years of time but would also bring a few uncomfortable side effects. I chose not to pursue the hormone treatments and their side effects at that time, wanting to put it off as long as possible since it was considered the last resort. However, I wanted to know if there were other options that I could pursue instead. It was at this point that I received a PAACT (Patient Advocates for Advanced Cancer Treatments) publication ordered for me by some caring friends. Finally learning about my role as a patient to advocate for myself by helping myself was the real beginning of my fight.
Diana Dyer's parents have been long-time friends, which had led me to be aware of how Diana was using nutrition to help fight her most recent cancer (in addition to the conventional cancer therapies suggested for her type of cancer.) Although I had no visible cancer symptoms with my rising PSA, I was in no mood to be passive. Thus, instead of choosing the hormone treatments and their side effects, I decided to first try to help myself by making some major changes in my diet. With suggestions that came from Diana's book and web site, and also from another dietitian at Duke, I changed my diet from the "balanced diet" that I had always consumed to an "anti-cancer" diet. Big difference!
Now my diet consists of foods that have been shown to fight prostate cancer, and I have eliminated those foods that have been shown to be associated with increased risk. My diet is very low in fat (less than 50gr. per day), and particularly low in animal fats. It consists of lots of tofu, tomatoes, other vegetables, and flax seed. I eat very little meat, more fish, and at least 5 or 6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
For dietary supplements, I take daily vitamins and selenium, omit beta carotene and zinc, and keep my total daily calcium intake below 600 milligrams per day. Most recently I have added the dietary supplement called modified citrus pectin. None of my actions were taken without my doctor's knowledge or advice; nor do I change my diet without consulting with a dietitian. The advice I take comes from people that know what they are talking about.
With a Gleason 9 tumor, I was told to expect the PSA to double every few months (i.e. 2, 4, 8, 16 etc.). Though my PSA continues to rise, it is not rising as fast as one would expect. I have had 6 great years since my surgery at age 75, and still have those darn hormone treatments to fall back on, if needed. I will never be happy until I keep that PSA from rising. I will continue in my fight and find that I am very uneasy when tasting something that is not in my diet to help fight my cancer.
I can tell you that your morale gets a boost when you are helping yourself, and that the whole world looks great when you are on borrowed time. I recently reminded my doctor that he had not given me much of a chance and that I was still here. He said that I did that all myself.
Also of utmost importance are a lot of friends pulling for you, and most important of all is an understanding wife.
I hope my tale will encourage someone. It is easy to give up, but wonderful to be alive.
These questions and answers are intended to be of a general informative nature. Please consult with the Registered Dietitian in your cancer center or your health care provider for nutritional advice that can be individualized to your specific medical condition.
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