Just Be You: Living with Prostate Cancer

March 3, 2022
Lance Simon and his wife at the beach
We’re committed to developing a company culture in which our employees are the center of our “people-first” organization—so much so that we’ve made this one of our company values. At Blue Sky eLearn, we encourage our team members to embrace individuality and “Just Be You.”
This blog series highlights some of the amazing things that our people are doing outside of work. From personal triumphs to faraway adventures, we hope you’ll enjoy these stories from employees who embrace our values and are just being themselves!

Our first blog comes from Lance Simon, Senior Director of Business Development at Blue Sky eLearn. Lance is bravely sharing his experience with a cancer scare and hopes to help men his age, and their families and loved ones, learn more about early detection.

This blog is for my 40+-year-old, male-born (prostate-carrying) friends, as well as our colleagues and those who love us. Over the past several months, I was tested for, and received a diagnosis of, prostate cancer. My father died of this cancer, but the secret to my positive outcome was early detection. Here’s a brief story of my journey so far, as well as some suggested Dos and Don'ts.

Please Note: I’m not a doctor, and I’m not authorized to share anything more than my opinion and my experiences with this disease. Always consult your physician for personalized medical advice.

Step One: Let’s get back in the habit of making annual physicals a priority.

Like many of us, I got out of the habit of an annual, in-person checkup. Then I realized that it had been over two years since my last exam (no reminders came from the doctor’s office, and I’m lucky I remembered). When I went to my appointment, they drew blood for routine analysis, including a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Level test.

The results from my blood draw were normal except for my PSA level, which was a bit higher than normal (5.5). Nothing alarming, but knowing my family history of cancer, my doctor referred me to a urologist for a prostate evaluation.

Step Two: Follow your doctor’s advice if they refer you to a urologist—just do it!

Looking back, I almost ignored this advice. PSA 5.5 is just slightly above normal. I’m super busy, and perhaps subconsciously, it was nice to imagine this was something that could wait until my next annual physical to see if it stayed high or went back down to normal. But this was simply an excuse built on the hope that there wasn’t really a problem.

So, what did the urologist say? He immediately recommended a biopsy as the “gold standard” first step in this process. After researching and considering other options, I identified a different possibility: a non-invasive prostate MRI. I went back to the urologist to make the suggestion, and it was immediately approved.

Step Three: Comprehensively review your results with your doctor.

My prostate MRI came back with a finding of “prostate cancer.” But, not all prostate cancers are created equal—far from it. My prostate MRI report had a lot of details, both promising and scary.

After reviewing the report with my doctor, a prostate biopsy would indeed be my next step. Fortunately, because I had the MRI first, I could get an MRI/Fusion biopsy, which is more accurate and less invasive!

Step Four: Get a trusted second opinion, including multiple readings of your biopsy report.

The prostate biopsy report is important. It’s complex and requires analysis by medical professionals. In my case, my urologist’s evaluation showed the need for radiation treatments. The radiation would kill the cancer cells, but the side effects could be significant and last for months. One option required me to go to the urologist’s office over 20 times for treatment, every weekday for a month. Another option would have made my midsection radioactive enough that I couldn’t be around young children for months.

I made an early commitment to get a second opinion before taking any next steps. But I hesitated and almost blew it at this critical moment. I had slipped into the mode of believing that “…Really smart people have looked at all the data and told me what I need to do. So, let’s just get ready and do it.” When I was giving my kids an update on my options, one of them asked pointedly, “So, are you getting a second opinion or not?” That made me realize that I owed myself that extra step.  

It was a hassle collecting all of the test data for the second opinion, but it was worth it. The urologist providing the second opinion did an independent analysis of my biopsy results and came to a significantly different conclusion: my current trajectory should be “Active Surveillance,” not radiation. There was nothing further to do for at least six months. Chances of my cancer spreading in the next ten years? Around 3%. YAY!

My situation is fortunate, and EARLY DETECTION and SECOND OPINIONS made my process much more successful.

So, to sum it all up:

Do’s and Don'ts
  • DO go see your doctor for your annual checkup, especially if it’s been over a year.
  • DO make sure your primary care physician knows if you have a history of prostate (or any other) cancer in your family. My physician knew about my father and my genetic heritage, which statistically has more prevalence of this type of cancer.
  • DON’T take things for granted. Show up sharp and always ask questions. You might want to make a list of questions to ask before your checkup. Our physicians can’t read our minds, and we need to tell them what we’re thinking or worried about and make sure they know everything they should about our medical history.
  • DO start a (shareable) journal during the beginning of this process. Mine started as a Google Doc when I went to the urologist. I pasted in key information and dated and documented every conversation. This was a tremendous help to me, and I referred back to the information repeatedly. The shared document was also great for keeping my wife and kids up-to-date on the details.I gave them occasional summaries and told them they could check out my “Prostate Diary” if they wanted more details.
  • DO keep asking questions of your medical providers, including the question “What have I not asked that I should have asked?" Listen to your gut, and make sure you understand what you’re being told.
  • DO ask for copies of all your medical records. It’s odd that I need to keep asking my providers for access to various test results and documentation. Sometimes they seem to forget that this is my property and body, that the tests are being performed on my behalf, and that all of this is something for which my insurance (and me) are paying. Keep that mindset, and ask for everything.
  • DON’T forget to make medical facilities handle claims to your insurance and ensure they have all the pertinent information and pre-authorizations. Don’t get burned with multiple (and expensive!) medical bills.
  • DO get a second opinion before you decide on any treatment path.
  • DO remember who has ownership over your health—it’s YOU!
  • DON’T take my word on any of this. Always seek the advice of licensed medical professionals and specialists. You can also find more information from the National Institute of Health.

About the Author

Lance Simon, CVEP, is the Senior Director of Business Development at Blue Sky eLearn. Based in the Washington D.C. area, Lance has nearly 40 years of experience in the technology industry and has focused on associations since 2003.

Lance is an expert in all things eLearning and is passionate about helping clients start their journey with learning management systems and virtual events. Make sure to connect with Lance on LinkedIn!

You might also like these
related posts

Want to read some of our success stories? click here.
Blue Sky eLearn White Cloud Icon

Connect. Engage. Learn.

Path LMS is used by hundreds of organizations to deliver high-quality online learning, networking events, and conferences. Book a demo today!

Cookies Notice:
This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us improve the user experience. By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies.