My name is John Gritzmacher, and I am now 71 years old. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago when I was 69. But it was also COVID. Medical appointments were postponed and delayed, and that was August or was July of 2020 when I was diagnosed or when I started the scans, and I was diagnosed in August. And my doctor appointment had been postponed. It was supposed to be earlier in the year and it was pushed back a few months. So some of those things may have affected it, I don't know. But that's also kind of in the back of my mind that that's one of the statistics I believe that people don't really realize that it affected people's treatments and procedures with their doctors and with hospitals.
I found out that I had prostate cancer through my general practitioner, my doctor. We were watching my PSAs and they kept rising until finally they were close to seven when the doctor said, "Well, we need to take further steps." So I went through some scans and they found reason to do biopsy. I did that. And through the urologist, he's the one that told me that I had cancer. At that time, I wasn't surprised, because my levels, my PSAs had been going up, and so I kind of anticipated that that would happen. My wife was there with me at the time.
And I like to be open about things, so right away I wanted to make sure my children, my two daughters and my son knew about my diagnosis. And I have a large family, I have seven sisters and two brothers. I made appointments to see a surgeon and I sat down with him for a while and found out what he thought the best options were. And then I met with a radiologist and I talked with her about my different options. One of the options, which I was kind of surprised was do nothing. And I'm so glad I didn't do that, because I felt I needed to do something about the cancer.
So I chose radiation. I was eligible for a clinical trial where it would go six sessions, and at first I thought, "Well, whatever, if I get taken for the clinical trial, that'd be good. If not, that's okay." But when I found out that I wasn't accepted for that, that I would do the standard procedure, I was disappointed, because it was 28 sessions five days a week from October 6th through the last day of November of 2020. So that was a difficult time. My father died towards the end of my treatments, so I was dealing with that and dealing with the radiation. The radiation was much less invasive even though it was about the same amount of recovery time, or it took about the same amount of time.
I wasn't comfortable with the invasive idea of removing my prostate and the recovery the way he described it, I didn't like it. After the radiation was done, I saw my doctor, the radiation doctor, and she flatly said, "Your cancer's gone." And when she said it so bluntly, she was so sure that it was gone and I had been seeing them, seeing my radiologist periodically every three or six months, whatever it was. And then earlier this year, my PSAs still weren't dropping. My PSAs were staying up, and finally in January, February, the radiologist said, "We're going to have to pass you on to a medical oncologist."
And so I went through more scans and one of the scans that they talked about this morning, the PET scan found that my cancer had metastasized and is now in some of my bones. So that's what really shocked me. That's what rattled me, when I found out that I still had the cancer and the doctor told me that it can't be cured, it can be managed.
So I am on a program of Eligard and Zytiga and some other medications to help with side effects. And so I've been really religiously doing those drugs. My last number of readings of my PSA are down where the doctor wants them, down very low.
And couple of the things that doctor told me was that this would reduce my testosterone to very small amounts or actually kill it off. And some of the side effects would be loss of muscle mass and bone density. So I decided that it's time for me to start working out.
I had never worked out in a gym before, so I joined the Y and we found a nice little center that is mostly it's older people that are there for working out. But I've been working out machines lifting, and my wife and I had ever since I retired six years ago, we have been walking at least three days a week, trying to get our 10,000 steps in.
So this was just a different type of workout, but I really found that I enjoy doing it. And I have a big incentive for continue doing my workouts. I do try to walk more, but it's not as regimented as I had been. Usually in the summer, I don't do it that much, but once the winter comes, then I make sure that I go and make sure that I walk, because it's harder to get out and be moving in the winter.
Physically, I'm fine and my wife keeps teasing me that my female emotions are coming out a little bit more. I'm more talkative to people, which I didn't ever would do that to talk to strangers. But she's caught me a few times doing that lately. So my feminine side's coming out a little bit, I think, which is not a bad thing.
I wanted my brothers and sisters to know about my diagnosis, not just for me, but I wanted them to know that they could tell their children that this is now part of our medical history as far as our family. I think that's important. My sister's husband has been going through some cancer issues also this past year, so I've been sharing with her quite a bit with her husband Dave, about what he's going through. So we've got a little bit of similar topics, not totally, but a little bit. When my family sees me and say, "Well, how are you?" That's not just a greeting anymore. It's an invitation for me to tell them about what I'm going through and how I'm dealing with it.
So I appreciate, I like them to ask me, and I like being talking about it. The part of the problem with being open about it is when you're talking about prostate cancer, it involves some personal things that a lot of times I'll say, "Are you sure you want to hear about this? Do you really want to know more?" Because it is personal, and people don't like to know about my times I have to go to the bathroom and issues with that. But people listen. One person, my daughter-in-law's mother, when she found out, she just put her hands on my shoulder and said, "Let me pray for you."
And she put her hands on my shoulders and then put her hands on my cheeks. And that touched me so much when she did that. She wanted to embrace what I was going through and to try to help me to endure. So just those kinds of things have helped through our faith community and our prayers. And I know that people are praying for me and thinking about me and are actually truly concerned about my welfare, because with this type of cancer, there's no outward thing that you can point to and say, "Oh, you're suffering from this."
And I think it's a lot of attitude. I've been trying to keep a good attitude about it and trying to accept it and go on and deal with it. I have a lot of faith in my doctor. I think she's been doing really well in helping me get through this.
The other people that really helped me were the radiology technicians. Those two women, the young ladies, they were so good to me. They really helped me understand what my body was going through and what I needed to do to get the treatments that I needed. And I was fascinated with the machine, but that's another story.
But they really helped me learn what my body was doing and what they needed my body to do in order to get the results that they needed, as far as being hydrated and just so many things that they taught me and helped me get through. I really appreciated their efforts. They were just so kind and so understanding.
When I started this, I felt like I was alone, that this was something that I was going to have to go through. And this was unique to me alone. And I think one of the things that I should have done, it was in the back of my head and I just never did it, was to find someone else that was going through this and that would've helped me I think.
So a program like this today reinforces that to seek out, men don't share things like that as much as women do. And so it's kind of hard to reach out as a man to say, "Can you help me? Can you talk to me? What did you go through?" Men don't do those kinds of things, but I think it's important to be able to be open to that. When Dr. Nelson asked me if I would do this interview, I said, "Well, I've been open with whoever wants to talk about my experience. I will talk to them, and tell them what I'm going through and some of the details of my medicines, and the way they're working and my side effects and things."
So I'm not afraid to talk about it with anybody that doesn't mind me talking about it. I think the only real regret that I have is when my PSA scores started going up, I wish I would've been a little bit more questioning, "Why is this going up?" Because it seems I waited a little bit longer, although my PSA was still under seven, so that's still borderline. But I think when the trend started, it took about two years, maybe a little bit more for the numbers to go from low, like around two up to six, almost seven. So I wish I would've talked to my doctor earlier and said, "Let's explore this a little bit more."
But also I talked to my doctor, just recently, I just saw him for a physical a couple weeks ago and I said, "Did I make the right choice in radiation and should have I had the surgery?" And so we talked about it a little bit and he said, "You made the right choice." And we kind of came to that consensus, because I was afraid that if I had done surgery, would have my results been different now, would I still have this cancer? Would it metastasized? I don't know. But he more or less said, "It just takes such a small amount to come out into the body to set itself into the bones, into other parts of my body."
And also I was kind of glad now that I didn't have the clinical trial of only six sessions of radiation, because I really would've had a big question mark of did I do the right thing in that? So by having the standard 28, even though that was a lot and it was a rough month and a half that I'm kind of glad that I went through that because I know I would've had questions about did I do the right thing?
I think I'm doing pretty well. As I said, I'm enjoying working out. I feel more energized. And I was telling my daughter that my wife doesn't roll her eyes or say, "Again," when I'm looking around for a bathroom, when we're out somewhere shopping or at a restaurant. So she doesn't do that anymore, so she understands that. But I'm still enjoying my retirement. I've been busy like crazy lately with other people's projects. My sister and brother-in-law bought a house. It's a fixer upper kind of thing. And I've really been helping them. I love doing that stuff, just cleaning it out and getting ready for some remodel. And I love working with my hands and carpentry and whatever odd jobs. So I really like doing that.
So I've been busy with that, and going to the Y takes a few hours a day when we go, it's a significant time. But also my wife and I, we're in our corn hole league in the rec department. So we enjoy doing that. We did it through the summer. That was our first time. And we came in third place, but now we have, it's the fall league and we're in the gym at the rec center in West Ellis. So we're enjoying that. We just started that again.
So when I first saw my doctor, the oncologist, medical oncologist, I had some questions for her and one of the questions I was afraid to ask was, "How is this going to affect my lifespan?" But luckily she answered it so I didn't have to ask. And she said, "By following this regime of medicines, there's no reason that I can't have a good long life, even with the cancer that I have." So I was reassured with that and she's confident of that. So I'm putting my faith in other people, but that's what our lives are.
We have to put our faith in other people, whether they're professionals or family or friends. We have to network with everybody in order to stay healthy and just to be people. So it worked out, I think we did everything that we should do. So it is what it is right now and I'm moving forward and as long as I can keep going, I'm keep going.