“My Voice” by Dennis Clendennen

Dennis Clendennen - 'Survivor'

“The only thing we have to fear is the DRE itself.”

Fear is the common or expected result to being diagnosed with cancer. Cancer only happens to ‘other’ people. The fear comes from not only being diagnosed with cancer but the possible effects it can have on one’s body, mind and relationships.

In March of 2006, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 46, thanks to my wife sending me in for blood work unrelated with everything coming back great except for an elevated PSA. The physician delivering the PSA results referred me to a urologist who after one of the next several hundred DREs (digital rectal exams) to come in my future recommended I have a biopsy. I had the biopsy and the results came back with a Gleason score of 9 the urologist, being a surgeon recommended I have my prostate removed. Again being 46 and hearing of the possible side effects of this procedure (incontinence, impotence and being a candidate for depends) and seeing the anger in a friend of mine that at the age of 61 had his prostate removed and the anger he had for not researching more and just following doctor’s orders. I realized that I didn’t want to ‘live’ another twenty to thirty years being angry. I decided not to rush into his plan and began the process of interviewing several doctors looking for treatment that worked for me with my quality of life being as important as just living. The medical industry can keep us breathing on machines at will but life is about living and sharing. After several interviews and not hiring anyone I read about HIFU (High intensity focused ultrasound) in a magazine and at the time decided that is the direction I needed to go. I contacted the facility performing the treatment and plead my case to get in. I was treated with HIFU in Toronto in January of 2007. Two years and eight months later after successful PSA tests, 0.1 – 0.2 received a score of 1.5 and a month later 1.7.

I was then referred to another urologist who of course scheduled another biopsy. I went in for the procedure, tried to get a stand in but had no takers, was taken back to the ‘room’, fabulous décor I may add, undressed and sat on the table in my socks and t-shirt only to stare at the machine for an hour waiting. Had enough trepidation for one day so I got up and dressed myself and walked out to tell my wife we were leaving. Was almost out the door when my wife informed me to make sure we were credited for our co-pay so she went to get the car as I walked back to the cashier. I told the cashier that I needed to make sure we were credited and she asked me to wait a second and lo and behold the nurse comes to tell me the doctor is no ready, damn almost escaped.

Had another fabulous biopsy the day after my 50th birthday and started the fun process of waiting for the results over the Thanksgiving weekend. A week later I received a call stating that I needed to come in and have a consultation, here comes that feeling again. Never understand why they can’t just say got some information you may not like so come in and lets’ talk. Waited patiently went into the ‘room’, crappy view, old books and some ‘highlight’ magazines. The doctor came in gave me the results, slowly, “good, good, good, good, good, abnormal and this core has cancer”. Now I am diagnosed with a Gleason of 7, 3+4. Now starting round two of being a survivor again weighing options and interviewing doctors again. The best patients are the ‘worst’ patients as I realize we are all human and have opinions and separate ideas.

I have beat prostate cancer once before and will beat it again. Being a survivor means doing what it takes to survive by being informed and objective. Being a survivor has its ups and downs and I have always had the mindset that I can do whatever I set my mind to regardless of what comes before me.

I will continue to be skeptical and continue to educate myself. It is hard to comprehend how I would have dealt with this without the internet especially after the doctor diagnosing me told me the last thing I needed to do was research prostate cancer on the internet stating that I would not understand any of the information. I have and will continue to do my research to beat this.

If I could start again I would have spoken out the first time instead of going through this with only a limited amount of people knowing with the mindset that people would see me as less of a man or a failure if they knew. This time I have decided to speak out and not hide behind a wall. It is not easy to share all of the time but I feel that in sharing it will help educate others and demonstrate that cancer does not diminish my humanity but strengthens my resolve to be better. If nothing else it will give people to have the knowledge that prostate cancer is treatable, motivating them or their partners and/ or friends to have men get their PSA tested so that they can be diagnosed in a timely manner and have the time to make informed decisions in their treatment in the case they do develop prostate cancer. It is nothing to be ashamed of and I believe everything happens for a reason sometimes you have to be reminded of your mission in life, hence round two for me.

I no longer fear the DRE’s it is part of the process. Survivors always fight to survive in life they do not become lambs following the shepherd blindly but choose their path with knowledge and support of friends, family and fellow survivors.