It’s been several months since I updated my patient experience blog. You may recall that I had my cancerous prostate removed surgically in 2009 and, after 7 years of cancer-free Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood tests, my March 2016 PSA results confirmed that my cancer returned. I began proton therapy at Ackerman Cancer Center in June 2016, and began blogging my patient experience for this website.
I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog about how critical it is for patents to continue with routine follow-up. In fact, in a recent blog by nurse practitioner Katrina Evans, she explains why it’s necessary to continue to have care beyond the last treatment. This follow-up allows our doctors to see how we are doing, including any adverse side effects that may need attention. This is also a great chance for us to ask questions about short and long-term expectations based on the testing results.
In the photo above, oncology nurse Jenny takes my blood pressure and updates my patient history into Ackerman Cancer Center’s database.
In my Blog #21, “What to Expect After Completing Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer,” I summarized what findings and actions these routine follow-up visits might generate, based on the results of the PSA tests. The hope is that the PSA stays “undetectable,” less than 0.1 ng/ml. However, if it rises, there are still positive steps that can be taken.
In my case, I was very happy to find out that my PSA stayed below 0.1 ng/ml, considered undetectable. Dr. Ackerman reviewed my lab results and discussed whether or not I had any side effects. I explained that I felt great, had no side effects and I continue to sustain an unrestricted life-style including regular daily exercise, walking and biking, martial arts and pickleball here in Fernandina Beach, Florida, no different from what I described in Blog #19 about my favorable “quality of life.”
While at my follow-up visit, Dr. Ackerman and Lauren DeWitt, MSW, oncology social worker, presented me with a thank you gift for my volunteering as a BEAM team member.
BEAM stands for Bravely Educating and Mentoring. There are over a dozen volunteer cancer survivors who serve as a point of contact for those either considering treatment or in progress with their therapy. One of Ackerman Cancer Center’s summaries of the BEAM program describes the role of BEAM volunteers this way: “Much like the proton and photon beams we use to treat cancer, it is our hope that you will be a precise targeted source of information for these new and prospective patients.”
I am certainly happy to be a BEAM volunteer. I hope that my blogs have also helped to remove some of the uncertainty and angst that may accompany having to deal with cancer and its treatment. I have only the highest praise to offer when it comes to my own experience with Ackerman Cancer Center’s staff, facilities and process. During one year I have gone from having to face cancer with my elevated PSA reading, to completing my proton therapy, and now happily getting great results during my routine follow-up visits.
I wish you all the best with your own experience. If you have questions or would like to speak with me, please let your oncology social worker know and they will connect us. I’ll be happy to give you my perspectives as a former patient and current BEAM team member.