[ Inglês] A Life-Changing Diagnosis: Gary’s Prostate Cancer Story

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Topics include: Understanding and Patient Stories

After prostate cancer treatment, many men take control by adopting healthier habits. How can lifestyle choices make a difference in quality of life? What changes can help patients feel good about their health? Gary Andrus, a prostate cancer patient since 2006, shares his treatment journey and the series of significant lifestyle changes he made after coping with the shock of a cancer diagnosis. Gary also discusses the positive impact of support groups and why it’s important for men to talk about their condition. Watch now to find out more.

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power in partnership with Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. We thank Astellas, Clovis Oncology and Pfizer for their support.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Andrew Schorr:

I want to begin with our patient, someone living with more advanced prostate cancer. That’s Gary Andrus,and Gary was diagnosed in 2006. He joins us from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Gary, welcome to the program. 

Gary Andrus:              

Hello, how are you?

Andrew Schorr:          

I’m okay. Gary, you’ve been through it, but it started in 2006. Just briefly, we want to help people understand a little bit about your journey. What led to the diagnosis, was it justa routine physical?

Gary Andrus:              

It started out as a routine physical in ’05, the latter part of ’05, and then a couple different PSA tests brought it about to a need for greater look, and then it was a biopsy in ’06 and then I was diagnosed in, really, February of ’06.

Andrew Schorr:          

Now, I understand, when you had that biopsy, the cores kept coming back positive. 

Gary Andrus:                           

All 12 cores were positive.

Andrew Schorr:          

Right. That must have been—I wanna—was gonna say a mind-blower, very upsetting, for sure.

Gary Andrus:              

It begins to change your life.

Andrew Schorr:                   

Yeah, I’m sure. Now, you’ve gone through a lot of treatments. It was recommended not to have surgery and go on with radiation, correct?

Gary Andrus:              

Yes, it was. There was a concern that, due to my Gleason scores, and possibility to have the cancer leaving the capsule, some other areas that showed up, that the best thing to do was not to go through a series of surgeries, but then to go right to a radiation regiment. 

Andrew Schorr:          

Now, of course, for some men who are newly diagnosed, they might even be in, we’re gonna learn more about this along the way, an active surveillance situation where they’re monitored, and then some men have surgery, some men have radiation, some men go on other treatments. You’ve gone on to a number of treatments, both chemotherapy and other more targeted therapies, and they’ve changed over time, right? 

Gary Andrus:              

Yes, I guess, most notable, I’ve been on leuprolide (Lupron), and I’ve been on intermittenttreatment since ‘06, which then led to more of a regular treatment right now on Lupron.In 2014, there were two locations in my spine that were used with stereotactic radiation and then that worked very well for me, and then, lately, my bone scan showed numerous other current locations on my skeleton at this point.

Andrew Schorr:          

Right, and you’ve had some of the oral therapies you can take now, and you’ve cycled through a couple and they’ve been switched at different times based on your situation.

Gary Andrus:              

Currently, I am on an oral, which is called abiraterone acetata (Zytiga). Previously,I was on enzalutamide (Xtandi).I think the Zytigamay be working better for me, but it’s very early in the process. I’m only on day – oh, this is Wednesday. I’m on day seven.

Andrew Schorr:          

Wow, so very new. One last question, I’m gonna come back to you more during the program and our audience may have questions for you, too, Gary, living with it, what keeps you going? I mean, the disease has progressed over time, what propels you?

Gary Andrus:              

Life itself. I mean, there’s no reason to ever give up or whatever. I have too much I enjoy doing and I usually try to take the upbeat attitude, and I’m driven to enjoy everything that there is out there and there’s so much to enjoy. 

Andrew Schorr:          

How did you get past the shock and move on?

Gary Andrus:              

You know what, I really can’t tell you how I did it. I just did it. It was more about—I did make a series of life-changing moves, diet, I was in a position I didn’t have to really work anymore, so I quitworking, Ifocused on my own health and everything outside of that, but then I made it fun. I mean, very honestly, Dr. Hussain used to say to me—I drove a 1967 Camaro convertible to nearly every one of my radiation treatments, again, right after the July 4thholiday in ’06, and I had the top down and the music on and would go up and have my treatment, and then jump back in my car, drove back down. 

I refused to wear hospital gowns. When you go into this room, you’re supposed to go in and change and put on your hospital gown one front, one in the back, and go in, and you sit down in a room, and patients – everyone’s kind of hanging out there and then your number is called, or you go in and get your treatment. The first thing you have to do istotake your robes off, so I decided that I wasn’t doing that anymore, and about my third treatment, I walked in in a pair of boxers, really fancy boxers, and a t-shirt and all the guys looked at me, and they’re like, are you in the wrong place? I was like, no, but I’m not sick either, and hospital gowns mean your sick. I just have cancer. I’m just here to get this done.

The next thing I knew, we had a room full of guys sitting there in boxers, that’s what happened, and then we all exchanged email addresses and we stayed in contact for quite a while, about two years. A lot of us stayed in contact with each other, but it was – you go in and you just do it, and yeah, there are side effects and there are things that happen. That’s part of the journey. That’s okay. 

Andrew Schorr:          

Gary, I understand in reading up about you that you changed your diet, too, right? Tell us about that.

Gary Andrus:              

It was a personal decision to stop eating meat, chicken. I went on a very—for a while, it was even macrobiotic, very—just all greens, but that was just the way I chose to do it for my own mental thought, if I felt as thoughI want to get rid of that, but I haven’t had any meat since ‘06. I stopped right away. Still, I don’t eat meat, but everybody has to find their own sense of what is best for them. 

Andrew Schorr:          

Right, Catherine, I think what all of us, any of us diagnosed with cancer want to do is, how can we try to take back control rather than feeling like a victim. If it’s diet, if it’s driving the car with the music up, if it’s wearing t-shirts and boxers instead of the gown, that’s all to the good, isn’t it? 

Catherine Cassingham:           

Oh, of course. No, that’s what we really encourage. Of course, I’m a social worker, so I usually give the spiel about therapy and support groups and all those things, and those are really wonderful, but on your day-to-day, if you can find things that really help you still feel like you during this process, that’s really important, and so, often, that’s having a conversation with a patient because I can’t just give them a list of, oh, here, do these 10 things, and then you will still feel like you. Often, it is just looking and seeing if there were other rituals or traditions thatyou did naturally beforethat you can still keep doing now. 

Andrew Schorr:          

There may be new ones. Gary, if I’m correct, you actually became sort of an evangelist for men knowing about prostate cancer within your community and talking to individual patients, right?

Gary Andrus:              

Well, most men won’t talk about prostate cancer. Women will talk about breast cancer openly, and they’ll gain the support of other women, but men get very standoffish about talking about their own prostate cancer. I’ve tried a couple ways of letting guys get together, I've had some docs even at Oakland Hills come in and speak to men, hosted different things. Dr. Hussain and myself and a few others, we tried the Blue Boxer thing, didn’t get enough groundwork to kind of launch it, but it’s till out there. You can still look up theBlue Boxer Foundation.

 I’ve tried to do it, and I still find, guys, they don’t want to talk about it. Occasionally, at Oakland Hills, now, somebody will—when they get that first diagnosis, somebody will say, go call Gary and talk to him, he’s been through a lot of it, but one thing I do know is everybody’s on their own journey. They have their own lifestyle. They have different feelings. They can’t just walk away from a job and focus on themselves and their health and go to yoga three times a week, and just get a mindset that I’m gonna win. Their life can’t stop like that. Everybody’s got to do their own thing to find their comfort.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on January 21, 2019