Prostate Cancer Survivor
- Diagnosed at age 70 in 1996
- Treated with hormone and radiation therapy
- Recurrence in 2000 treated with hormone therapy; metastasis in 2006 treated with radiation; and in 2007 enrolled in clinical trial for Provenge
Bob Feutz was 69 years old when he hiked down the Grand Canyon in 1995. Healthy and strong, the next year he visited his mother for her 100th birthday. In November of 1996, Bob had his annual physical and was feeling great. But his PSA results were 10. The average normal score is about 4 for men over 60 years of age.
Bob’s doctor sent him to a urologist for a biopsy which confirmed his diagnosis of prostate cancer. Bob’s Gleason score was 9, indicating his was not a very aggressive form of the disease.
“Well you always feel unhappy, terrified, you know, worried, but inside you say it’s still going to be okay,” Bob says.
Back then, Bob received two treatment opinions: one for surgery the other for radiation therapy. Ultimately, he received hormone therapy to essentially starve the cancer followed by 38 radiation treatments. “That was every day, five days a week for what seemed like forever,” Bob says. “It wasn’t painful, but it knocked me down and was tough on the bowels. But I got to the end of it.”
Bob’s cancer went into remission. His PSA score went to the lowest measurable point and he was free and clear for the next four years. Then his PSA score began to creep upward again. His radiation oncologist had moved away and Bob needed to find a place to get this new score figured out.
“I got in touch with a friend of mine who is the chairman of the state Prostate Cancer Coalition, and a cancer survivor. I asked him where the best place to go for treatment was and who the best doctor in the area was. Without blinking, he said, ‘SCCA and Dr. Celestia Higano.’”
Bob called SCCA and says, “My first experience with SCCA was marvelous.” He spoke to a patient care coordinator who immediately offered help, support, and explained what could happen. “You sort of get welcomed with open arms, and that carried on.”
When he went to see Dr. Celestia Higano, SCCA medical oncologist, for various scans and blood tests, Bob realized he was going to a team meeting. “We met her nurse practitioner, and she hooked us up with a dietician, with a counselor, if we needed to have one, a scheduler. We suddenly felt not alone.”
Dr. Higano began treating Bob with hormone therapy. When it appeared to no longer be working as well, she would change medications. Bob’s cancer is a chronic illness and is one he will treat for the remainder of his life.
After several years, in 2006, Dr. Higano saw a spot on his hip that was clearly a metastasis of his prostate cancer. She elected to treat that with radiation therapy—five days a week for five weeks.
In 2007, Dr. Higano enrolled Bob in a clinical trial for a new vaccine being tested to treat metastatic prostate cancer called Provenge. Harnessing his own immune system to combat cancer cells, Bob’s PSA’s decline steadily while he participated in this trial.
Today, Bob continues to take lupron and other medications, and just keeps “plugging along,” he says.
“Cancer is a problem that has solutions,” Bob says. “The problem is multiple. One is the emotional problem that you have to deal with, you get counseling if necessary. You can have a physical effect that affects your family, so you need that kind of counseling. And the other one is the physical one. You know it’s a deadly disease. You have to concentrate on both of those areas. But hang in there and go to SCCA.”