Ralph Wozniak: Don’t Get Depressed, Get Informed

Published on

Topics include: Living Well and Patient Stories

How do you avoid depression after a cancer diagnosis?  Patient Power Founder and Host, Andrew Schorr, interviews Ralph Wozniak, who has been living with advanced prostate cancer for more than 10 years. Together they discuss strategies and tools currently available for advanced prostate cancer patients to stay positive and to get informed about their disease.

Sponsored by the Patient Empowerment Network through educational grants from Astellas, Medivation, Inc. and Sanofi. Produced by Patient Power in partnership with the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and Us TOO International.

View more programs featuring and

Produced in association with , and

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:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power. I'm Andrew Schorr. I'm sitting with Ralph Wozniak, who is from Inverness, Illinois, outside of Chicago, moving to Florida pretty soon. Let's go back to 2006. You went to the doctor and eventually were told you had prostate cancer and that maybe it was advanced. Is that right? 

Ralph Wozniak:

Well, they weren't quite sure. It was sort of borderline, but it turned out to be advanced, yeah.  It was Gleason 6—excuse me, Gleason 7. 

Andrew Schorr:

So they said let's try robotic surgery. Let's see if we can handle it.

Ralph Wozniak:

Well, you make that—as a patient, you make that choice yourself, so reading some books, talking to the doctors, talking to the urologists.  She thought I would be a good candidate for robotic surgery. 

Andrew Schorr:

So they try it.  What happened in the OR?  

Ralph Wozniak:

Well, I woke up feeling pretty good. But while I was being operated on, they checked several lymph nodes. And they found that they were involved, so they aborted the surgery. 

Andrew Schorr:

Okay, because it had spread. 

Ralph Wozniak:

Because it had spread, correct.

Andrew Schorr:

So you're given, if you will, the bad news. 

Ralph Wozniak:

Yes. 

Andrew Schorr:

How did you take that? You're a chemical engineer by training. You're a man used to facts and figures, statistics.  This was not good. 

Ralph Wozniak:

Correct, but I overcame it very quickly and said, well, what's the next step?  Where do we go from here? 

Andrew Schorr:

Now, you've been through a lot of steps.

Ralph Wozniak:

Yes.  

Andrew Schorr:

This was 2016 as we do this. You were having that surgery in 2007, I believe.  

Ralph Wozniak:

'06. 

Andrew Schorr:

2006, so 10 years, right? Come a long way. 

Ralph Wozniak:

Yes.

Andrew Schorr:

You've had radiation, you've had hormone therapy, you've had more advanced therapy, pills and shots, etc.

Ralph Wozniak:

Right. 

Andrew Schorr:

How are you doing? Because when all this started you didn't know if you'd live very long. 

Ralph Wozniak:

Yes, I didn't know if I was going to live very long, but I just, you know, tried to be the informed patient, study hard, get the best doctors, and if you didn't like the doctor you have to change doctors and just continue on a path.  And I chose to work very closely with Dr. Daniel Chevron at Kellogg Cancer Clinic here at North Shore Hospital and also Dr. Charles, everybody calls him Snuffy Myers in Charlottesville, Virginia, and those have been the two guys, the two doctors I've worked with and they've been great. Plus the radiation doctors, who…

Andrew Schorr:

…you have had a lot of radiation.

Ralph Wozniak:

Yeah, probably almost a hundred days.

Andrew Schorr:

So how have you dealt with that, sort of the ups and downs of treatment, then no radiation, then you're doing well, then other stuff?  How have you dealt with that and how has your family, your wife Janet, your kids—you have six grandkids, I think. 

Ralph Wozniak:

Well, everybody has been very supportive. Sure, you go through ups and downs mainly driven by how you feel because, to tell you the truth, in the first set of radiation I did get a lot of side effects, but I went to work every day. I was actually retired but retained by the company as a consultant, and I was bound and determined not to get overly worried about this.  So I went in for radiation and got in the car and went to work. 

And a second set of radiations with Dr. Dattoli in Sarasota, I was spending some time in Florida, and I drove every morning, hour-and-a-half to Sarasota and had my radiation treatment. And that's when I had the lymph node involvement, which I explained to you, and which was successful—and went up and back. 

It's, you know, it's painful. You don't feel good, you're not happy, and I got to say probably the first time in my life I ever took a nap was during some of these—the second set of radiation treatments. 

Andrew Schorr:

How are you doing today? So now, we're 11 years down the road, right, just about, and we're looking at a time when there [have] been new treatments, targeted radiation, pills, improved shots.  Lots of things have changed.  Where are we now?  Where are you in your head, and what would you say to other men who are diagnosed now?

Ralph Wozniak:

Well, first thing, I think there [are] better tools now to determine how advanced the cancer is, and I think that's the most important thing, that you start out with the right therapy at the right time or the right set of doctors.  And so I mean there's the 3 Tesla MRI, there [are] other scans. As I mentioned, I took the C?11 acetate PET scan, and that's the first time with all the scans I've had that they've been able to locate some cancer in the bone. 

So number one—well, number one, don't get depressed.  Get informed. Join a support group, which I didn't do for quite some time, because I didn't think it was my style. But I thought it was quite good once I got into one of the Us TOO support groups. And, you know, then you have to just pick your best strategy to go forward, so that's what I would recommend. And as far as where I stand now, I'm happy because abiraterone acetate (Zytiga) works, and I've been very lucky..

Andrew Schorr:

It's worked for you. 

Ralph Wozniak:

…and I'm not independent of hormone therapy yet, and got great doctors, and we'll just keep going and see how long the Zytiga works. And if that doesn't, maybe something else will come around. 

Andrew Schorr:

How do you feel about the future? 

Ralph Wozniak:

Oh, positive.  I've never really been too depressed about this, you know. Maybe—maybe it's God's will or whatever you want to say, and I just, you know, went straight in. What are you going to do? I have to say, and it's really important, and I never give my wife enough credit.  She's put up with some of my tantrums and my, you know, not being quite happy.  And most of it it's driven by not feeling well, by the medicine or by the radiation, or I did have some serious side effects from the first set of radiations. And I had to go in for some ablation, laser ablation and stop the bleeding and that kind of thing. So, but all in all, I'm positive, and I feel good. 

Andrew Schorr:

Good for you.  One last thing, and that is many men have trouble talking about it. They get inside themselves, the cancer's there, it's spread.  Maybe there will be technology or science, they hope, they hope, they hope. But still it's all in here, too. You joined a support group. You talk about it. What would you say to men about considering that? 

Ralph Wozniak:

Well, I have to be honest. I didn't tell anybody at work except the president of the company.  I only told my family, and this is my coming out of the closet, you know. Close friends, I've been very open. To me, you know, having a scientific background, it's just science, it's chemistry, you know, it's physics. So it happens to everybody sooner or later. 

It never really bothered me to talk about it, but I didn't want to have a situation where people were talking about me and saying I couldn't do this, or I wouldn't do that or trying to prejudge. So that's why I kept it very narrowly focused, but now I'm fully retired after 11 years as a consultant, and I don't care as much. 

Andrew Schorr:

Well, I know you're moving to Florida. I wish you a great retirement there and many years.  You know, prostate cancer may be there, but I hope you keep going and that science stays with you

Ralph Wozniak:

Thanks very much. 

Andrew Schorr:

Thank you so much for sharing. All the best.  Andrew Schorr with Ralph Wozniak, a man who has been living many years with advanced prostate cancer, and his doctors and the treatments have helped him live a full life. And we hope that continues for a long time.

Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all. 

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. 

Related Programs

Where Are We Now With Advanced Prostate Cancer Research?

Dr. Russell Szmulewitz and Andrew Schorr discuss the latest updates in the field of prostate cancer research.

Published:

Support Groups: How Can They Help Men With Prostate Cancer?

Andrew Schorr leads a discussion on support groups with Us TOO International CEO, Chuck Strand, and prostate cancer survivor and patient advocate, Jim Schraidt.

Published:

ASCO 2015 Prostate Cancer Updates From a Roundtable of Experts

From the 2015 ASCO meeting, prostate cancer experts Tom Kirk from Us TOO, Dr. Bruce Montgomery, Dr. Emmanuel Antonarakis and Dr. Tomasz Beer discuss the latest prostate cancer news.

Published:


Page last updated on May 10, 2016
<