Hi, I'm Peter Koskovich, currently I am 61. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer at the age of 54. And at the time, I was living in Oklahoma. I did not believe or think I had cancer of any type, specifically prostate. Went in to see a urologist that was recommended to me by my primary care physician, and they did a series of tests, lab work. And then, after several tests, I had to keep coming back a day later for another test, ultimately leading up to a biopsy of my prostate. And after the biopsy was completed, not a very pleasant experience, they said, "Come back in, and bring your wife." That was a very shocking message to get over a phone. So went in with my spouse at the time, and they set us down. And at some point, they took her to another room, which was very odd to me because I didn't understand all the tests, I didn't understand the diagnosis, I clearly didn't understand prostate cancer.
So I asked some questions, sat in more disbelief that this is the message that I was getting, considering I just came in for the pill to make me help my bladder. And at that point, it was just a myriad of emotions at questions, "Well, what's next?" What is stage 4? How many stages are there?" Nobody had really explained any of that, so it was, for me, a point of getting educated. I understood what was going on, but I did not understand to the degree. And then I went to start doing some research. They wanted to start chemo and radiation immediately. I opted out, I said, "Something doesn't click in my head." I didn't understand why I didn't feel bad. I had been active pretty much my whole life, was coaching soccer. Like I said, it was not an issue of coming in to get diagnosed, it was more of an issue of just coming in to find out what was going on.
After the initial diagnosis, and going to see an oncologist after that, the communication for me was very poor. My spouse had gone with me at the time, and I would ask questions with minimal answers. I was getting more answers online, which was not what I was anticipating. At that point, I realized that even at the point of seeing an oncologist and going through some of the initial, I want to say I was doing Lupron, and that was pretty much the only injection I was doing at the time was Lupron. And so that was a wake-up call to me because my pituitary gland was shut down, my testosterone was shut down, and I noticed the effects of that and I said, "There's got to be more to this. You just can't shut me down and call that quality of life." So I started doing research, and started looking around, calling hospitals through my work, getting second opinions through some of our programs, and took advantage of that.
At that point, my spouse at the time, she had made a recommendation that I can go anywhere I want, it's up to me. And so I started calling Cleveland Cancer Clinic, Sloan Kettering, the Seattle Cancer Clinic and Denver Cancer Clinics, and I just started looking around and getting opinions. And then I ended up, since I'm from Milwaukee, I ended up calling Froedtert. My mom at the time had cancer, so they had a lot of good things to say about how Froedtert was treating her. So I said, "I'll try it." And I found Dr. Kilari. He was a huge, instrumental component. To me, it was a breath of fresh air, a 180 from what I was getting in Oklahoma. Not to say Oklahoma was a bad place to get treatment, it's just that my doctor was very self-contained, he was not very verbose in what my options were.
And so when I got to Dr. Kilari, from having almost zero options and being told to get my affairs in order, he said, "You have a myriad of options, you have at least eight. And that would just be a stage by stage. If this doesn't work, we'll do this. If this doesn't work, we'll do this." So it was very hopeful and it was very encouraging. So I went down that path of looking at all of the options that were out in front of me, including clinical trials. And being of a technical mindset, I said, "There has to be more than one way to attack this." I already had changed my diet from being a good, clean diet to even being a very, very clean diet. So I was doing a holistic approach, if you will, where I was working with my doctors and the clinical staff, and doing the treatments, which still consisted of Lupron, but I was trying to avoid chemo at all costs because I [inaudible 00:07:04] felt chemo was not where I wanted to be at, I just didn't feel that was going to be the answer for me.
So I continued with the clinical trial, and that was a good thing. At the same time, it was, I responded very well to Lupron. I did not understand what it was physically doing to me though, and so I researched more of that. And with the help of Dr. Kilari, he continued to suggest other antigens that could be used outside of Lupron. I also then looked at what other treatments, again, I was researching on my own, to some extent, but trusting Dr. Kilari to quarterback what my treatments would look like. So I did that. And in the process, I became vegan, went away from meat 100%. So for about five years I went away from meat, totally, everything, just pure vegan. I then also had moved from Oklahoma to Florida and found another oncologist, Dr. Cesaretti.
Because then my PSA was climbing again, even though it had been shut down for about five years, my PSA was climbing back up. Instead of flying back and forth to Wisconsin, working with Dr. Kilari, I found the Terk Oncology Center down in Florida, and it got busy down there. I had not considered radiation up to that point, but it was recommended between Dr. Kilari and Dr. Cesaretti that radiation would be a good thing, since it was already stage 4. A series of two rounds of radiation. The first one was 36 treatments, or 36 days approximately. And then, about a year later, after getting a clean bill of health, the PSA was climbing again. So I went in, and they attacked it a little differently with radiation one more time. Both times I had done, Lupron was the go-to antigen for shutting down my PSA and pituitary gland.
That was great, but it also was not the quality of life that I expected of myself. Through day one of this to the day I quit doing Lupron was, and it was only because I had gained over 30 pounds, my psychological and my mental wellbeing was suffering because of that. And so we went down the path of just doing the radiation on its own, on the second go around. I did do one round of injections for Lupron just to help shrink the cancer cells. Since then, I have come out of radiation, second round, and I am on Xtandi capsules for about a year now. And it is working. My PSA is somewhat under control, in the sense that I don't think it's fully asleep, but I believe that everything I do by taking care of myself mentally and physically, and making sure I take in the right foods as, again, a vegan. And now I've also taken on some fish for protein, just because I didn't think I was getting enough.
But I think for the most part, just having a holistic approach to my treatment, and trusting amazing doctors that know specifically about prostate. I don't need somebody that is an oncologist for everything, I need a prostate doctor. And now that the fact that it is in my bloodstream, or it is in my body, metastasized, I'm still focused on looking at doctors that can specialize on the prostate side. That is pretty much where I believe having a great doctor, taking care of myself, because nobody owns me except me, and nobody knows me better than me. So I chose not to ever use the words fight cancer, I use the mindset of cancer does not define me, I will define how my body responds to stress and emotions, and being just mindful of where I'm at. And I think that's helped me a lot. So that's where I'm at these days. And I believe that I went from being told some very, very sad news to making it a reality that I'm a living and walking survivor right now.
The PSA is still down at 0.13, it was at 0.08. Yeah, 0.08, and it just climbed just recently. So we're just going to continue watching that. But it was pretty much shut down for over a year now. At first, to play that proverbial cancer card, when people ask you how you're doing, it's easy to come out of your mouth if you're looking for some empathy. But I think at the end of the day, you can also alienate people around you by saying that, because they're like, "Okay, he's not going to be here, or they're not going to be here that long." And I think that was, to me, something that I didn't want to be known as. I didn't want to be recognized as the guy with cancer, I didn't want it to be recognized with, even at my work, when people found out in management that I had cancer, they had set up certain provisions for me. It's great that they took care of me, but at that same time, I felt that people, there was a little sort of a pity or empathy that I was not looking for.
I was looking for more support than anything. So again, I've chose lately to not mention cancer at all until somebody actually asks about it or if it comes up. And that there, when I tell people, "I have a doctor's appointment," and they're like, "Oh, routine?" And I'm like, "Well, yes, routine, but it's with my oncologist." At that point, I'll bring it up. But I don't let cancer define me as far as saying, if I go to the gym six days a week and people see me, I want them to see me as this presence, not what the disease has labeled me as. And I don't like seeing that. So I choose to just fly under radar and I have to deal with it personally, but I don't want people to know that I'm dealing with it. That's just how, I don't want to be labeled as the guy with cancer.
The biggest thing I would share with any man out there, regardless of age, including I have three children and now my son is 28, and I tell him to take care of himself, number one, skip the bad meals, stay active, don't get stressed out, don't wait for your physical. One thing I wish that I would've stayed on top is with my physicals. I did not. I went for eight years without having a physical, bad decision. Probably would've caught it at stage 1. But again, even though I've been diagnosed for seven years, I probably have had cancer for 14 years. I don't know that to be fact, but I would imagine you don't go from stage 0 to stage 4 in one month. So I would say take care of yourself. Eat the right foods, exercise, be happy, don't let things stress you out. It's the little things in life that make you happy, do those things. Just mentally, physically, emotionally, stay happy as much as you can. And honestly, I have no regrets.
I would've said before that I wish I would've not have gotten stressed out or taken things, being a competitive person by nature, and just being in certain situations, whether it was work related, whether it was personally related or sports related, I think stress, to me, is a huge factor in how your body reacts to things. I believe that my cancer, I don't know if I would say this, and that probably doesn't affect everybody, but I believe that stress is a huge factor in cancer, period. I don't have any regrets because if I had regrets, then I would be stressed out. I don't have any regrets, I am thankful that I have done what I needed to do, to be in a place where I'm comfortable, and I just want to be the advocate. I've seen my mother pass away from cancer, I've lost relatives from cancer. It's a mindset, it's the ability to see yourself in the present, not in the past, and it's to see yourself where you want to be in the future. So to have regrets would take me backwards, so I have no regrets.
Never give up, just never give up. Don't ever stop and think that this is the end, it's far from the end. Everybody has so much to live, and the journey is long, and it's as long as you want to make it. And I think that's my message.