My name is Gogs Gagnon, and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 57. At the time, I had no symptoms and no health issues. Overall, I was in the best shape of my life, living a very active lifestyle, cycling to and from work, hitting the gym and training in the martial arts. Therefore, the diagnosis was unexpected and difficult to accept. The news hit hard, and I thought my life was over. Just hearing the word, “cancer” was enough for my mind to shut down, and I was unable to hear, let alone process, the words coming from the doctor’s mouth.
The facts at the time were that I had several DREs over the years, even by different doctors, and they all reported everything to be smooth and normal, except for an enlarged prostate. My PSA had been rising over the past five years and was measured 14 times. Results started at 4.2 and continued to rise to a high of 7.8. The results of an MRI indicated a high-grade prostate malignancy in the anterior zone of the prostate, where cancer is rarely found, and out of reach of a DRE. It’s important to note that a previous random prostate biopsy of four years earlier was negative for cancer. This time, the prostate biopsy was MRI guided, and cancer was found in five out of the six tissue samples having a Gleason score of 4+3=7, which indicated a high–intermediate risk for cancer growing at a moderate pace. Overall, 50% of the submitted tissue contained cancer.
At first, I found it very difficult to talk about it and even had trouble speaking to my spouse. But I soon realized that sharing my thoughts and feelings was very therapeutic and helpful. I wouldn’t have fared as well without my wife Mary’s constant love and support. To help distract our minds from worry, we would celebrate every occasion in our life, no matter how small.
The results of a bone and CT scan showed no evidence cancer had spread outside the prostate. After carefully reviewing my test results, researching the various treatments, and considering my general health, age and life expectancy, I opted for surgery, an open radical retropubic prostatectomy. Afterwards, I realized that I made a quick decision, and I would recommend that others take their time and explore the many treatment options available, including active surveillance. It’s far better to take your time with the decision than to rush into treatment and later regret it.
My pathology report confirmed a Gleason score of 4+3=7, and on the TNM system, the cancer was at stage T2c-N0-M0, bilateral disease, meaning that it had invaded both lobes. My prostate was 178.75 cc, nearly three times normal size and contained 43% cancer. For perspective, my prostate was about the size of four and a half golf balls, of which almost two golf balls were cancer.
Overall, I’m doing extremely well in recovery and find that sharing my journey is a big part of my healing. Therefore, I decided early on to write a book that shares intimate details of my diagnosis, surgery and recovery. It captures what it was like and how it felt every step of the way, including what I should have done differently. If there were only one thing I could do differently, it would be to join a support group as soon as I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, even before doing research and especially before deciding on treatment. I find the social interaction very bonding and therapeutic, and I highly recommend it.