Prostate Cancer: A Survivor's Story
My name is Akwasi Maru, and I am 40 years old. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 38, which is a very young age for that type of cancer. To say that I was surprised when I received my diagnosis is an understatement. I have a story to tell all men across this country, young and old.
I am a full-time firefighter and have been in the fire service since 2001. With that said, research is now in progress about whether firefighters have an increased chance of getting cancer due to constant exposure to cancer-causing agents in house fires. Did my disease come from several years of exposure to these carcinogens? I don't know, but I wouldn't doubt it, either. Although prostate cancer one of the most curable cancers in the world, it can be deadly. I have known people who have died from it.
I want to share my personal experiences with prostate cancer to the world. Maybe doctors will change the screening age for this type of cancer, especially for firefighters. As a young man with a wife and kids, I can't begin to explain all of the psychological pain we've endured in the last two years.
Many people ask me what were your symptoms, what made you get tested, or how did you find out? My symptoms were:
- Lower back pain
- Frequent urination
I had wanted to get tested just to be safe, but none of my doctors would do it because of how young I was. The doctors would always say, "we usually don't do those types of test until the age of 40." I was about 35 years old at the time I was asking. After several years of not getting the answers I deserved, I changed doctors. On my first visit to my new doctor, she ordered a full physical, including all blood work. A few days later my blood work returned and my Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) level was 4.3. According to the National Cancer Institute, the normal PSA level is 4.0.
She then referred me to a urologist, and that is when all of the psychological pain started. It began with the finger in the rectum to test the size of the prostate gland itself. After issues with my insurance company I had to change urologists, and get the same test done again. Tell me about it! However, this wasn't the last time either. After a series of those tests from different doctors, as well as a biopsy, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The saddest day of my life!
Do you know anyone who have experienced Prostate Cancer?
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Living With Cancer
The first thought that came to my mind after the initial diagnosis was that I was going to die. I couldn't help but think about my children—and leaving them here alone. My wife said it was many days that I yelled at them for no reason. I quickly realized that I was taking my stress out on my family, and I did not want to continue to do that.
Later, I discussed my options with my doctor. He automatically suggested that I have my prostate removed. I said hold up, wait a minute! Aren't there other options? His response was yes, we actually had three options: watch and wait, radiation seeds, or surgery.
Some complications of the surgery are:
- Will not be able to have kids due to the removal of the prostate
- Will no longer be able to ejaculate sperm
- No erection for 6-18 months
- Unable to control urine flow
Hearing about these three options was a straight-up nightmare for me. I decided to watch and wait. I am way to young and sexually active to go 6-18 months without sex. While watching and waiting, I changed my lifestyle by eating more vegetables, fruits, and exercising. I've heard stories that cancer can't survive in a highly alkaline body, so I decided to try that, as well.
Some alkaline foods:
- green beans
- bell peppers
What option did you take if you were diagnosed?
After several doctor visits, MRIs, X-rays, stressful dieting, and psychological pain, I decided to have the surgery to have my prostate removed. I didn't want to take a chance of it spreading throughout my body. I prayed, and God told me to have the surgery. However, I was not prepared for the pain and stress that came along with it.
On May 3, 2016, I had the surgery. The recovery period immediately after the surgery was very difficult and painful. I had a catheter in my penis, and it was extremely painful to urinate. I couldn't move my bowels. I had to sleep in awkward positions. Once the catheter was removed, it eased some discomfort, but I still couldn't control my urine flow. I had to wear diapers(Depends) due to the constant leakage from my penis. And until this day I still wear them.
I went several months without sex, and during that time I thought my wife was going to have an affair. I almost became an alcoholic because of the stress and mental pain. But my wife stood by my side throughout the whole experience. I wouldn't trade her for anyone else. Through all of this pain, it felt good to hear that my last PSA results were undetectable. I'm cancer-free!
- Get tested early, especially if your father or other family members have had prostate cancer
- Change eating habits
- Listen to your doctor
- A strong family support system is helpful
- Limit fried foods, processed foods, alcohol, smoking, and stressful conditions
- Take any cancer-screening test available. Don't wait until it's too late.