Life Changing Moments


Try as she did, the Red Cross nurse couldn’t get the big steel needles in my arms to cooperate. One clotted. The other simply didn’t work.

Therefore, Plan B in my recent adventure to receive the Provenge treatments for my prostate cancer involved some minor surgery.

If needles in both arms aren’t an option for taking blood out and returning it to the body, the next move is a catheter inserted into the jugular vein in your neck. That’s a direct pathway to move blood in and out of your body.

So, there I was, bright and early the next morning at Roper Hospital, for that surgical procedure.

What this involves is the insertion of a tube into your neck which is connected to two “nozzles” for the extraction and insertion of blood so the white cells can be separated and used to make the Provenge vaccine.

That vaccine is then injected three days later with millions of tiny immuno-warriors designed to jumpstart my immune system and hunt down prostate cancer cells in my body.

Now, instead of using or wielding those big needles every other week, the nurses simply connect my “nozzles” to the machine as I watch a movie on my laptop. While it’s uncomfortable having tubes extending from my neck, it does make the process easier on everybody.

The only problem is that I can wear only turtle necks for the next month. Because as soon as people see the medical apparatus protruding from under my collar, they think the worst, despite the fact that this is cutting-edge stuff that could eventually turn the tide for me in this fight against cancer.

Although it has been seven years since I was diagnosed, this is the first time there has been visible evidence of my disease, and the first time I’ve really felt like a cancer patient.

By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at

Editor’s note: Ken Burger is writing a series of blog posts about his current Provenge treatment for prostate cancer. This is the second in the series. Missed the first post? Read Milestone Moments now. 

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