My name is Christopher Provan, and my prostate cancer story is becoming an all too familiar one. At the young age of 49, I discovered that my PSA was above normal during a routine medical checkup. A subsequent follow-up by a urologist included a prostate biopsy, which showed that I had one positive prostate core sample and a Gleason score of 6 (3+3), indicating I had low risk prostate cancer. Following discussions with the urologist, I was placed on active surveillance for one year with PSA checks every three months. Although my PSA never went above 6, a second biopsy performed at the end of that year identified a second positive core, increased aggressiveness of the first positive core, and a higher Gleason score of 7 (3+4). Because it seemed that my cancer had substantially increased in severity, I decided not to remain on active surveillance and underwent a robotic-assisted prostatectomy. The post-surgical pathology report confirmed my decision to seek treatment; the report indicated my prostate cancer was stage 3 with an estimated six months before it would have metastasized, and what appeared to be future bladder compromise (probable cancer). But as a result of my quick decision to undergo immediate surgery, I was cancer free and within only a few months, also free of the side effects from the surgery.
At first, given the personal nature of post-surgical complications, I did not publicly disclose my journey with the disease. However, a fateful interaction changed my mind. While having lunch at a local restaurant, I noticed a man sitting at a table with a look of despair on his face. In front of him was a book titled “you can survive prostate cancer.” I struck up a conversation with him and found out he had been just diagnosed that morning. Being the same age, I recommended he get a second opinion as soon as possible and encouraged him to talk to the surgeon who treated me. After this interaction, I decided to continue to “pay it forward” and spread the word on the importance of prostate cancer screening and treatment options.
As a Navy Veteran myself, my wife and I became involved with an organization called Veterans for Prostate Cancer Awareness (VPCA) to assist with their efforts to educate and support men and their families with treatment, education and advice. Our primary activities focus on the administration of VPCA activities, including veteran outreach and counseling prostate cancer patients. In addition, we became active with the Top Gun Fighter Foundation, a non-profit that helps to prevent veteran suicide. While this might seem unrelated to prostate cancer, veterans with prostate cancer are at greater risk of suicide given the depression and physical toll of the disease. We have also expanded our efforts in prostate cancer awareness by participating in conferences and legislative activities for the organization ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer.
It was through our involvement with ZERO that I was introduced to the DOD’s Prostate Cancer Research Program, and in 2020, I participated as a consumer reviewer on my first peer review panel. I found it incredibly satisfying to assist the experts with evaluating ideas that proposed potential therapies for prostate cancer patients. For example, one study had scientific and medical findings that the scientific reviewers felt were very compelling. However, the procedures a patient would have to undergo to be in the study were extremely daunting and probably beyond the comfort levels of most patients. It was my role as a consumer reviewer to see that parameter. As a patient, survivor, and now advocate for treatments, it is my duty to see the through the eyes of future patients and bring a bit of reality when the scientists and doctors are “dreaming big.” I am in awe of the incredible and astonishing level of knowledge, professionalism, and pure genius in the minds of our clinical experts. Participating as a PCRP consumer reviewer has shown me that the treatments on the horizon could only be described as pure miracles of science, reflecting new ways of understanding the human body and clinicians’ efforts to perfect the care of patients. From even the most realistic perspective, the future of prostate cancer research has never been brighter.
The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy, or decision.
Last updated Thursday, September 1, 2022