Cancer patients are accustomed to the roller coaster ride known as treatment. One day you’re up, the next you’re down. We have, therefore, come to take all news — good and bad — with the proverbial grain of salt.
This week I got good news. A month after receiving the Provenge treatment for my prostate cancer, my PSA went down instead of up. For those keeping score at home, it had risen from almost insignificant to 5.8, which set off alarm bells with my Roper St. Francis oncologist, Dr. David Ellison.
Any rise in this indicator (protein specific antigen) is worth noting for patients like me with high Gleason scores. On a scale of 2-10, this number represents the aggressiveness of the cancer and likelihood of it returning with a vengeance. The higher the number, the scarier it can be. Mine was an eight.
That’s why Dr. Ellison decided to put me on the Provenge treatment, a six-week process where they used my white blood cells to help jump start my immune system to fight the cancer cells in my body.
Did it work?
Who’s to say?
When we entered this treatment, I was warned by Dr. Ellison that it was actually immeasurable. That it would not affect my PSA numbers. The only way to tell if it’s working is if you’re still alive. Well, so far so good.
But, for whatever reason, my PSA numbers declined significantly this month from 5.8 to 3.9.
In my world, that’s reason to celebrate. But with caution.
I’m a pretty easy-going, Steady-Eddie kind of guy. I don’t get too high or too low. It’s the recovering alcoholic in me. I take things one day at a time.
Today, however, I did a back flip.
By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Ken Burger is writing a series of blog posts about his current Provenge treatment for prostate cancer. This is the fifth in the series. Missed the first post? Read Milestone Moments now.