Life Changing Moments

Anger and Angst

Ken BurgerSeven years into my journey with prostate cancer my oncologist walked into the examination room and said, “Ken, treatment for prostate cancer has changed.”

Really? When?

“Last week,” he said calmly. “A major study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago saying the use of chemotherapy is the way to go now.”

I let that loll around in my brain for a moment trying to put my journey in perspective. I’ve already had surgery to remove my cancerous prostate. Then I received radiation to kill any leftover cancer cells. Now I’ve been on intensive hormone treatments for a few years to keep the disease at bay. I’ve even done a six-week Provenge treatment to enhance my immune system to fight the bad guys.

Over my seven years in the system, only once did the topic of chemotherapy arise. That was early on in relation to a clinical trial for which I did not specifically qualify.

Now, when I’m miles down this road, they’re throwing up a detour sign.

“This study by the National Institute of Health says we should have been using chemo all along,” my doctor said. “We all had moved away from it as new hormonal products became available. It sort of got pushed down the treatment list. But now, the evidence is overwhelming. It can add up to a year to your life.”

I thought about that and said, “Is that a drooling year or a good year?”

“A good year,” he said, somewhat convincingly.

But chemo is tough. This particular treatment lasts 20 weeks. I’d be really sick for the first time since diagnosis. It’s got a list of side effects as long as your arm. And, I’d lose my hair and be tired and nauseous.

So is it worth five months of hell to gain perhaps one year of life down the road?

I don’t like them changing the rules in the middle of the game, and I told my doctor that in no uncertain terms. One week we’re on course. The next week, oops, the rules have changed.

Now I’m caught between anger and angst. I’ve got to make a decision, and soon.

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 sixth in the series. Missed the first post? Read Milestone Moments now. 

7 thoughts on “Anger and Angst

  1. Ken,
    I empathize with the anger you feel toward the medical profession; and your anxiety in having to make this decision. No one wants you to experience any of the side effects of chemo; but everyone wants you to live. My thought is that new and better treatments have a good chance of being discovered and offered to you in the future to continue to add years to your life. You have stood up to and overcome other obstacles in your life…I encourage you to stand up to this one and fight for your life!

    As you pray, hundreds of friends and family will be praying with you through treatments and in health.

    God Bless You My Friend,


  2. Ken …. I’ve followed you for years in the newspaper. I’m going include you in my prayers, as you work your way through this. Please remain strong. Many people wish you well!! Neal Meyer

  3. I’ve just started my own cancer journey, but I already understand how difficult it is to make a decision like that. I hope whatever you decide, you’ll be at peace with your decision.

  4. You have a very serious decision that has to be made soon… First and for most Pray on it, God can only guide the Drs. he will decide what is best.
    What ever you choose we all will love you just the same and as always you will be in my prayers………

    • Thank you for reminding of that. I’ve started a new treatment that’s caused me a lot of stress and anger, and you’re right, it’s not helpful at all.

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