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Prostate cancer survivor: Cancer doesn't mean you have to stop living

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PaulTaylorandfamily.jpgBy Paul Taylor

In June 2012, I was a 41-year old husband, father of three and Army squadron commander in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I was about to deploy to Afghanistan, when a stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis changed everything.

Well, not everything.

Instead of retiring or changing jobs in order to focus solely on my health, I made the difficult choice, supported by my commanders, to remain in command. I wasn't able to deploy but I did continue in command of almost 700 soldiers while doing all my treatment.

In retrospect, this decision was the best one I could have made. Doing what I loved allowed me to continue my normal life with my family and soldiers, while still undergoing an aggressive prostate cancer treatment program at MD Anderson.

My prostate cancer treatment
When I received my diagnosis, I tackled prostate cancer the same way I had looked at any other problem I've encountered in my 20 years of military training. I wanted another opinion and more aggressive prostate cancer treatment options, which brought me to MD Anderson.

From the beginning, I started learning about prostate cancer. I spent a lot of time at MD Anderson's Learning Center, researching everything I could about the enemy, developing possible courses of action to deal with the threat, and finally, choosing a treatment path based on research and the advice of doctors, friends and other patients.

My prostate cancer treatment began with hormone therapy shortly after my diagnosis, followed by chemotherapy from November through April, and then, surgery in July.

Unfortunately, the prostate cancer recently progressed, and while I continue on hormone therapy, we're currently trying to figure out what the next treatment looks like. That's the good news -- thanks to research at MD Anderson and other institutions, there are many new treatments available for advanced prostate cancer patients, providing men with many more options and lots of hope for the future.

Finding and providing support during my prostate cancer journey
For me, getting up and going to work every day, continuing with my normal routine and training with my soldiers, has been just as important as chemotherapy, surgery and hormone therapy.  

In fact, continuing my normal routine as much as possible has helped me better combat the depression that sometimes comes with a cancer diagnosis. I've gotten the support I need to continue fighting not just from my wife, our kids and our church, but also from our Army friends, my soldiers and peers.

Now, I try to provide support for my fellow prostate cancer patients. I originally contacted the Anderson Network, an MD Anderson support group that provides new patients with advice from more experienced patients, asking to be matched with someone as part of the program.
There wasn't really anyone who was a close match because most prostate cancer patients are older than me. 

So, instead, I offered to talk to other men. We compare notes about treatments and living with the disease. It's easier to share with someone who is walking the same road. Although the system is set up so that I give new patients the benefit of my experience, I learn just as much, if not more, from them.

Cancer is a reality for me now, but I try to make sure that it's just one small part of my life.  In the Army, we try to build resiliency in our soldiers: the ability to withstand life's challenges, even when you're handed a serious curve ball.  

I've watched soldiers overcome incredible challenges, including combat injury, serious illness, separation from their families and demanding training. I try to set an example for them and others by living my life and doing everything I can to beat cancer.

1 Comment

Hi Paul - I, too, have Stage 4 Advanced Prostate Cancer, and am currently a patient at MD Anderson in Orlando, Florida. At the time of biopsy, Mar 2012, I was told my prostate was 100% cancer and that I had a very major and aggressive form of the cancer. I underwent surgery to remove the prostate in June 2012. At that time, lymph nodes in that area were sampled and the cancer was found to have escaped the capsule. PSA at time of surgery was 16.0. After recovery from surgery, I began hormone therapy in Aug 2012. This ultimately failed by Mar 2013, and 2 tumors (one under my arm, the other on my neck) appeared. At this point, I contacted Anderson in Orlando and began immediate chemo therapy (Taxotere). I have been through 10 infusions to date, with #11 scheduled next week. My last PSA (3 weeks ago) had dropped to 1.01, the lowest it has been since I started chemotherapy. My tumors have regressed in size since I started chemo by appx 25-50%. I am also on 5mg of Prednisone steroid twice daily. The upside currently of my disease is that, while not cured, the cancer does not appear to be progressing. Actually, as far as cancer is concerned, I have NEVER had any of the typical problems associated with prostate cancer. If not for PSA testing, I would never have known I had cancer, until too late. Even today, I experience NO issues or problems with the cancer. But... the treatment, for me, is worse than the disease. Most notable side effects have been 1) major weight gain (due to the steroids), 2) extreme nausea after each infusion (not throwing up, but just feeling like I am going to) which lasts 1-2 weeks (food tastes amazing horrible!) & 3) extreme fatigue/tiredness, which never seems to go away.

Congratulations to you for being able to maintain your military position and carry on as normally as you can with your life. It's what I am trying to do, too, as best I can. We have been dealt a tough hand, my friend, but never give up hope. One never knows what good news tomorrow may bring for us! Please feel free to contact me, if you l should wish.

Gary

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