I was seeing a chiropractor at the time. I was having some pain and the pain kept escalating in my back and my chest. And I'd had an MRI and I'd seen the urologist at Northwestern. And I did have some concerns, which he shrugged off and said it was about my age. Anyhow, so it was a combination of blood work and MRI that my chiropractor ordered that Northwestern did. And they all arrived on the same day. And the reason I was in so much pain is that my prostate cancer had metastasized to my spine. So it was really a combination of a chiropractor in Northwestern hospital. It was on a Friday, it was in April and it was Easter weekend in 2017. Northwestern immediately put me in the hospital because they were concerned about the strength of my back, that if I fell or if something happened and my back collapsed, they were concerned about that.
It's been an amazing journey. I did the cancer survivors walk with Brenda and people from Northwestern hospital. I had a large team. I had family come from Ohio and friends from work and my improv team and everything. I was on a poster. I was photographed and I had a banner on the lake front, which I still have. And I ended up being the top fundraiser for the event, I got to go to a Chicago White Sox game. I was on the field at the White Sox game. I had my photos taken on the field at the White Sox game. And again, another amazing thing that happened that wouldn't have happened if I wasn't on this journey in particular. Radiation was not bad. It was fun actually. When I started radiation, you get undressed, but you leave your socks on and they have you listen to music while you're going through radiation.
So I just decided, "Well, if I'm going to wear socks..." I think I had 12 or 15 days in a row of radiation. So I went and bought the ugliest socks that I could find. So every day that I went to radiation, I would have on the socks so the radiation team would want to know what socks I had on. The very last day, I'm a big Christmas fan, the very last day I wore socks that were red polka dot and they had a green toe and a green cuff and they were Christmas. And so for the very last session, they put Christmas CDs in. So I was having radiation in my red, green and white socks and listening to Christmas music. We made it really fun. I didn't realize because I didn't have any side effects with radiation. And then all of a sudden about six months later, all of a sudden, this burning...or this on my back.
And then they said, "Well, sometimes it doesn't show up for quite a while." So that led me then to go see the dermatologist. So I now see the dermatologist once a year, we go through a full body thing. Anyhow, I did acupuncture, which I really, really enjoyed. I took a break from that for a while. I'm starting that back up again.
Chemotherapy wasn't bad. Initially you did crash because they give you steroids to start before and then you wean off that. And I was fine. I did fine until about number five.
And then after number five, I had one more to go, I think. I think I had six. So after number five, it was really rough. That was a rough weekend. I could barely stay awake. I was cranky. I didn't feel good, but I had very, very few, if any, side effects from chemotherapy. I got nauseous maybe twice, but I ate. There were things that I stopped eating because it just didn't taste good, but I'm trying to do them again, reintroduce them to see if I can adjust, nothing big. But chemotherapy was good until about number five and then it just hit. I could barely function and I continued to go to work and went in everyday and went to work and they were amazed by that. And I always had chemotherapy on Tuesday and always crashed on Friday.
So I would just go to work on Friday and just say, "You know what? I'm in a cranky mood. Don't mess with me today. Or don't bother me," because you just crash after a while.
I did go through genetic testing. My mother died of cancer at age 40 and one of my grandmothers on my father's side died young of cancer. I do have the marker and I have a brother and sister who also got tested. I have a younger brother who has multiple myeloma and they were tested, but they're not. So I was the lucky one with the genetic marker.
But those two members of my family are not. And in my situation, once it metastasized and we dealt with that early cancer in the spine, the staff was honest with me and said, "It may show up again."
So we had a good four year run and then last fall, my PSA started to escalate again. And my initial PSA was 3200. That's how high it was. Northwestern called and said, "We think there might be a lab error. Can you go back and do another test?" And I did. And it was still 3100 or 32. A normal range is zero to 10.
So my numbers started to go up again. We've gone along the highway for four years and it's fine. And all of a sudden that highway ended and now we got to make a turn and we have to deal with what we're dealing with now. Currently I'm enrolled. Dr. Hussain is the author of a study. We're using an AstraZeneca drug that was successful in treating ovarian cancer. The study is looking at men who have prostate cancer that's metastasized. I've been on that drug since the end of August, beginning of September of 2021. I take a dose in the morning, a dose in the afternoon or in the evening, a labyrinth. My PSA continues to drop. I go about every four weeks where they take my little two tubes of blood and it continues to drop. So in September or last August or September, it was at 48.
And I think on last week, I think we're down to 10. So we've had really, really good results on that drug.
At age 62, I began 40 weeks of improv training at second city. And at age 63, formed an improv troop and performed around the city of Chicago. And at age 64, I began voice lessons, singing lessons, which I continue today.
There's still no reason to be gloomy and doomy about it. And I want to embrace life and do as much as I can and enjoy it. And you learn a lot, but it's been five years of adventure. And along the way, I oftentimes wonder what my mom would think. I admire my mom so much for what she went through and also know that my journey is much easier than hers. I'm optimistic. I had to lease a new car and the lease doesn't expire until 2025. So I thought, "Well, okay, I'll be around at least till 2025." And then I got a handicap sticker for my car, a permanent one for my car. Not that I use it a lot. I don't use it very often, but it's nice to have if it's raining and it expires in 2025 and I thought, "Well, okay, it's 2022. I'll be around for at least three years until that lease expires or whatever." But I don't really ever think about that.
And Brenda and the team at Northwestern, I would ask that. What's the prognosis or how long is it going to be? And for me, there's lots of life ahead. Your attitude is what saves you I think. You have to surround yourself with people who care about you and who will support you and help you out. And not every person in your circle is going to be able to do...some people may be willing to drive and some people may be willing to drop off food. Some people may just want to take you to coffee and find out. Some people may want to take you shopping. So your circle of friends, each of them has a strength and capitalize on that strength, but you should surround yourself with people who care for you and who are going to support you through the journey.
Get the best care you can. I'm very fortunate because I'm at Northwestern. So get the very best care you can. Be open to other therapies, whether that be eating organic foods, seeing an acupuncturist, getting massages, self care. My therapist said, "You have to take care of yourself. You have to get up every day. You have to take a shower. Maybe you go get a manicure, you get a pedicure, make sure you're getting a haircut." Your hair may fall out. Mine started to get patchy. And of course I just turned it into a fashion statement and just shaved my head, which I did just for today's show. Look for the positive things. I have a gratitude journal I try to write in everyday and I write down things and some things are silly. So today I may put in there, what am I grateful for?
I'm grateful for the Swiss hotel. I'm grateful for Stan's donuts. I'm grateful for a valet parking, a rainy day and I try to look. And I really found that when you start listing all of those things, it really turns your whole thought process around. So be grateful for what you have every day in your life.