I'm Ellis A. Godbee Jr. Okay. It's a very interesting journey in regards to how I was diagnosed. Actually, I really had this terrible encounter with prostate cancer early on in my life as a teenager. My maternal grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and because of his suspicions and his beliefs around getting medical care, he would not get treated. He would not go to the doctor. And so I saw my grandfather, a man probably weighing about 200 pounds. I saw him go down to 85 pounds and he died in his living room in a hospital bed.
So as a teenager, I was just negatively impacted by prostate cancer. I began to know and understand what it could do, and that always stuck with me. So that was sort of my first experience with prostate cancer later in life. My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer as well, and I went to some of the doctor's appointments with my father and the urologist that was treating my dad he told my brother and I, "Hey, you guys are at really high risk for prostate cancer, and I would recommend that you start getting your PSAs drawn at an early age."
And at the time, I was in my thirties actually, and the insurance company wouldn't pay for it. So I started getting PSAs in my thirties and I paid for it out of pocket. So I understood my risk. I'm a registered nurse as well, and that helped. So what happened, I was getting my annual physicals, and each year I would get a digital rectal exam. I would get a PSA from my primary care physician, and he mailed me, said, "Hey, your blood work looks good. All of your labs look good. Everything looks within normal limits." And it was always in my mind, check your PSA. When I looked at my PSA, it read 2.3 and I got to thinking, I don't remember my PSA last year being that high.
I don't remember it being 2.3. So I called my primary care physician's office and I said, "Please send me all of the PSAs that you have over the years that we've been drawing them." And I think I had probably six or seven or more. And that's when they saw it. It was creeping up 0.4, 0.8. It had doubled the previous year. And so I called my primary care physician back, got an appointment. We sat down and talked about it, and he agreed, "Ellis, with your family history, although you're young, you're 47 years old," he said, "I need to send you to see a urologist because you're probably going to need a biopsy." So that's where I ended up at Georgia Cancer Center.
And my urologist at the time, same thing. He talked with me, he said, "I want to repeat your PSA." He repeated the PSA, and it still was at 2.3. So he said, "We really need to take you for a biopsy." And I ended up going for biopsies twice because the first time I went through the biopsy, we just saw some abnormal cells. But he told me, he said, "With your family history, you've got a father with prostate cancer, you got a maternal grandfather that died from prostate cancer." He said, "I think we were just on the edge of it when we were doing your biopsy."
So I reluctantly agreed, okay, let's do another biopsy. We went back, did the biopsy, and then I came back to see him a couple of weeks after that. And that's when he told me, the unfortunate news. He said, "Mr. Godbee, I'm sorry to report to you, but there is a cancer in there, and your Gleason score is seven and it needs to be dealt with." So we began to just go over different treatment options. So that's how my diagnosis began.
Yeah, I tell you, when you hear those three heavy words, "You have cancer," it hits you like a ton of bricks. And of course, first I've been married for 25 years. So I called my wife and I told her, "Babe, unfortunately I've got prostate cancer." And of course it hit her heavy. She was concerned. And then I shared, I have four children, three daughters and a son, and I shared it with them as well.
And so of course, I relied on my faith. I did not shy away from sharing it with anybody. I shared it with my congregation. And of course, everybody's sad and disappointed. However, being an RN, I understood that this is very treatable. And the good news is I spoke with my urologist. He said, "Hey, the best news is we caught this early. This is very treatable. We've got a lot of different options."
So yeah, I had a mentor at Merck, somebody that I actually was mentoring. They were my mentee, I was their mentor, and I called that person and shared with them. And even being a healthcare professional, it still hit me heavy. So I did share some tears, but I had to just get focused in and recognize and realize I got to fight this. And I'm grateful and thankful that we caught it early.
So it really was a collaboration with my urologist in terms of number one, understanding the different treatment options and then what the side effects were or potential side effects were with some of the treatment options. And we really made a decision together. My father had a total prostatectomy, and I also liked the idea of just getting as much of the cancer out of my body as possible. And so we elected to go for the total prostatectomy. We did talk about seeding and radiation, some other things like that, but my urologist thought, you're at such a young age, you're 47, if we give you radiation and some of these other things he was really concerned about that that would put me at risk for other types of cancers, penile cancer, anal cancer. So I didn't want to increase my risk of other cancers. So we decided on the total prostatectomy.
As we went through each of the different treatment options and actually my urologist gave me a book to read, and it was something like 101 questions, answers for men with prostate cancer. So I read through very thoroughly thinking about and realizing all of them had some type of side effect. And one of the main ones that I really was concerned about was erectile dysfunction and how that was going to impact my life sexually. And so I had those discussions with my wife as well, and she was very supportive. First thing that she really was concerned about is like, "Hey, let's make sure that your life is saved and let's get the cancer out and we'll work through the sexual dysfunction. We'll work through those things together." So it was a collaborative effort.
Even as we go back and think about some of the sexual dysfunction, I was able to take medication orally for it, but in the beginning, probably first six or eight months, the oral medication really didn't provide penis rigidity in terms of being able to have intercourse. So we did the injections, and that worked beautifully. So that helped. And then when it comes to prostate cancer, even though I'm a seven-year survivor it never really leaves your mind. It always sticks with you because each six months, and I elected to do this, my urologist, Dr. Klaassen now told me, "Hey, you don't have to get your blood drawn every six months unless you want to." But as I shared with him, a year is a long time. So I elect to get my blood drawn every six months.
There is some trepidation and anxiety when I get to that date of drawing the PSA. However, sort of the old adage, some people think, you know what you don't know won't hurt you, but I want to tell every man, and I really want to get this across to you, what you don't know can hurt you. And an ounce of prevention is worth the pound of cure. So it's best get your PSAs drawn, get your digital rectal exams done annually, because even though you'll have maybe some anxiety in terms of what the results are, it does put you back in control in terms of that I know what's going on inside of my body, the parts that I can't see. So those are things that we talked about and thought about.
I did have some urinary incontinence, a little bit of leaking of urine, and I've just had to adjust. So I work for a major pharmaceutical company, so I do a good bit of traveling, and I do bring extra under clothes. I did have to wear the pads for the first couple of months, but thank goodness, after that, I really didn't need the pads. But every now and then bending down or carrying luggage or getting in and out of the car, I would leak some. But again, I just bring extra clothing to make sure I have a change if needed.
I really, again, would just say to every man, but also to women that are in their lives, to wives, get your screenings, understand your family history. That's what saved my life. Have a relationship with a primary care physician. Don't wait to go to the doctor waiting until you're sick.
And I would say even more specifically to men of color, to black men, to those of African-American descent, you're at higher risk. We don't know exactly why, but trust me, you're at higher risk just because of your national origin and your background and your descent. So please get checked, get your PSAs drawn early. It's just a blood draw. That's all that it is. It's not difficult. It's not hard. And it can make a difference in your life because if you catch cancer early, it's very, very treatable. So that's what I would encourage you to do.