A Hidden Cancer Could Have Killed Me—If It Wasn’t for This Routine Test

There are a lot of people who want to live a healthy and lasting life and Jim O’Connell is one of them, he was doing his regular checks, eating healthy exercising. And this is why he was devastated and shocked once the doctors revealed to him that he is suffering from prostate cancer, and what was worse at the time was the fact that the cancer was pretty aggressive!

Courtesy Jim O’Connell

A False Alarm!

Back in 1997, when Jim O’Connell was 38 years old, he decided that he wants to live in New York City. This meant that he couldn’t keep his doctor back in his hometown so he decided to find a new one. Once he signed up with his new doctor, the doctor started doing the regular checks that he does for all of his patients. But, the problem was that one of the tests wasn’t showing good results. Namely, O’Connell’s PSA levels were pretty high, and that was not a good sign. The doctor decided to send O’Connell to a specialized doctor who could do more research on what the problem could be, and if there really is any problem at all. “He did a biopsy, which involves removing twelve pieces of the prostate for examination, and it was quite painful,” said O’Connell. The results of the biopsy came out as negative for cancer, so that meant that O’Connell wasn’t suffering from any kind of cancer!

The Starting Stages

This is pretty much how O’Connell felt for the following 20 years. He still checked his blood regularly and went to all of his doctor appointments on time. But, the problem was, that the doctors that he was visited didn’t seem to be checking his PSA levels. This meant that the PSA levels were increasing as time passed!

O’Connell states that “There’s been controversy about the PSA test and the validity of its use in detecting cancer. My doctors had changed a couple times, and when I realized the current doctor I had wasn’t testing my PSA—and the others hadn’t either—I just didn’t feel comfortable with that.” Once he was referred to go check this new doctor. He requested his new doctor to check his blood and also do a test for his PSA levels. And, when the results came out, the PSA levels had drastically changed, for the worse!

Another Research

When he found out about this, O’Connell was 58 years old. So he decided to go to the urologist that made his research 20 years ago. This time he asked for a digital exam too. The results were devastating… O’Connell was diagnosed with cancer in 3 of the 12 samples that he gave to the doctor. This time, the doctor could also feel the nodules on the prostate of O’Connell which was a clear sign of cancer. Despite the fact that those were the only symptoms that he had, the doctor was certain that he is suffering from prostate cancer. Most of the time, the people who are suffering from prostate cancer oftentimes reported these symptoms: Having a hard time while urinating, erectile dysfunction, urinating blood, blood in their semen, as well as back, spine, and hips pain. “I was shocked. I kept telling myself it wouldn’t be cancer, just like before, and then it was.”

They Are Certain

Once they were certain that he is suffering from prostate cancer, the doctors proceeded to set the aggressiveness of O’Connell’s cancer. They used the Gleason Score 0-10 which would show them how aggressive the tumor is, 0=No Tumor and 10=Very Aggressive Tumor. O’Connell got a 7 on the scale, this meant that he is suffering from a pretty aggressive tumor, and the risks of the tumor evolving were pretty high. The options that he had for treatment of the cancer were: He could either undergo radiation, a hormone therapy, a surgery or they could actively monitor cancer. But, the doctors explained to him that not all of the men who get treated live a long life.

How To Treat It:

“Watchful Waiting” is the process with which most of the people that are at 6 or 7 on the Gleason Score – This is when the doctors actively monitor the symptoms and progression of the prostate cancer as well as the PSA levels. But, O’Connell didn’t feel like he wants to go with the “Watchful Waiting” process. “I opted for the surgery. I just wanted it out of me,” says O’Connell.  Before deciding about the treatment he would want to proceed with, he talked to 4 different doctors in order to educate himself on his case. Vincent P. Laudone, MD was the deciding factor for O’Connell. Dr. Vincent Laudone was the chief of surgery in a Clinical Cancer Center named Memorial Sloan-Kettering. “I immediately felt very comfortable with Dr. Laudone. I had robotic laparoscopic surgery on November 20, 2017, to remove my prostate. After that, it was just a matter of recovering.”

Despite the increased chances of erectile dysfunction and incontinence, when you get a prostate surgery. He said that he is okay with the Kegel Exercises and an exercise plan that is specifically made for his recovery! And in the end, the most important part is that he thinks that it was all worth it after all! “I’m cancer free today—so I’ll take those things any day to be able to say that.”

One in every seven men is diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifespan. This makes the prostate cancer number two most common for guys. There is not an age restriction for developing a prostate cancer, all men have the chances of developing it. But, the older men have higher chances at developing it. And one of the bigger risk factors is the fact if you have someone in your family that has suffered from prostate cancer.

The Second Chance!

Today, O’Connell is 59 years old. He has managed to regulate his PSA levels and he gets it checked every 6 months. He got a second chance, and with it, he decided to educate other men of the risks of prostate cancer but he also wants to live and appreciate his life. “If you or a male family member isn’t sure whether his PSA is being tested, ask. If I can help one person to not go through what I went through, or to catch it earlier, then it’s all been worth it.”