A hard lump somewhere in my intestines awakened me before dawn on August
25, 1997. It took me less than a millisecond to recognize it as my dread
about the biopsy for prostate cancer that was scheduled three hours later.
The biopsy was the most recent in a series of unwelcome medical events that
had begun three months earlier, with the discovery that my PSA (Prostatic
Specific Antigen) blood test had jumped from 2.5 the year before to 5.2, a
definite "early warning" sign that all was not well in ProstateLand. The
normal range for men of my age is 1.0 to 4.0. On the recommendation of my
primary physician, I consulted a urologist who gave me a digital rectal
exam (the procedure so feared by Dave Barry and several million other men)
and found a hard lump on my prostate that was not part of its normal
tissue. He subsequently recommended a biopsy to learn more about what was
The DRE almost seemed like fun next to the biopsy, in which an ultrasound
probe is inserted rectally to guide the biopsy needle to suspicious-looking
areas on the prostate gland. When the doctor has one of these in the
crosshairs, the patient hears a loud "click!" not unlike an unloaded Smith
and Wesson firing, and feels a sharp sting as the needle penetrates the
rectal wall, inspiring a small amount of prostate tissue. In my case,
this was done a total of six times, in various areas of the prostate.
Although it is performed without anesthetic, the procedure is not much more
uncomfortable than a thorough dental cleaning, and after a day at ease, I
returned to my normal activities.
When I received a call from the doctor a few days later inviting me and my
wife, Deborah, to go over the results of the biopsy in his office, I knew
the news must not be good. The urologist confirmed that one of the six
samples revealed a group of cancerous cells about 2 mm. in diameter.
Although he said they were in an early stage of development, they had been
assigned a Gleason Aggressiveness Score of 7, which meant moderately
aggressive. He then reviewed the standard options for treating prostate
cancer: prostatectomy, or surgical removal of the gland, which he
described as the "gold standard" of PC treatment (I didn't ask him whether
the gold standard was for the patient or the doctor); beam radiation of the
prostate and surrounding area; a relatively new procedure called
radioactive seed implant, and a short-term series of shots that would block
the production of testosterone and slow down the cancer's development until
I was ready to pursue one of the options above. He told me that at my
relatively "young" age (59), he did not recommend "watchful waiting" to see
what developed. The one piece of good news was that PC is relatively
slow-growing, which meant that I had some time to arrive at a decision.
Not only was I discouraged by the news that cancerous cells were nibbling
at my prostate; the remedies the doctor had described sounded like a choice
between the electric chair, the gas chamber, and the gallows. Not only
were they painful and disruptive in their own right, they sometimes carried
side effects including delightful experiences such as infection, impotence
and incontinence! After recovering from my initial shock and dismay, I
quickly arrived at some decisions that have affected my life to this day.
Almost immediately, I saw that I could choose to identify myself as a
"cancer patient" and mope around feeling sorry for myself; take the
doctor's advice and have surgery or radiation with the hope that I would
avoid the nastier side effects, or embark on my own program of self-healing
and information before I made any long-range decision about my health. This
last alternative looked distinctly preferable to the other two, so I began
my journey. Over the next three months, I pursued the following options:
- Herbal and natural remedies taken orally;
- Reiki and other energetic bodywork;
- Consultation with radiologists, oncologists, and holistic medical practitioners;
- Discussion with men who had tried various PC treatment options;
- Reading several thousand pages of documentation on medical, holistic and alternative approaches to PC from medical journals, texts on healing cancer and natural healing, information on the internet, and program descriptions of innovative and experimental approaches.
The results of this process were twofold. First, I learned that there
were many questions about the best approach to prostate cancer, and there
were many new approaches in addition to the medically approved "standard"
treatments. Each of these, of course, carried its own risks and
uncertainties. I became aware of the following facts, among others:
- 40% of American men over the age of 50 have cancerous cells in their
prostate glands, at least at microscopic levels. By the age of 70, the
percentage rises to 65%.
- Prostate cancer can be in the body for as long as 20 years before it
manifests as active disease.
- Less than 10% of Japanese men over 50, whose diet contains little meat or
dairy products, show evidence of prostate cancer.
- Not infrequently, men who have had prostatectomies or radiation therapy
have cancer reappear 6-10 years later; only men who have no recurrence of
symptoms for at least 15 years are considered "cured."
The second effect of my learning was a growing trust in myself to make the
choices that would best serve my health and lifestyle; while I might obtain
advice or suggestions from medical personnel and others, I was the one who
ultimately called the shots. Now that I knew I carried a potentially
lethal disease, my awareness and appreciation of life seemed to be
enhanced, and things that I had told myself I would "look into someday"
took on a closer focus. I spent a lot more time in my connection with
Spirit, meditating, praying, and asking for guidance not only toward a
"cure" of my condition, but for healing of whatever underlying conditions
might have led to its appearance.
Given these personal gains, the results of a PSA test I had done in late
November felt like a splash of cold water in my face. The figure had risen
from 5.7 at the time of the biopsy to 9.3 three months later, and the
urologist urged me to make a choice of treatment soon. Discouraged that in
spite of all my efforts, my condition seemed to be rapidly worsening, I was
unsure where to turn, and once again asked Spirit for guidance. It arrived
on swift, merciful wings.
A week after I recieved the PSA results, Max, a member of my Monday night
men's group, suggested that I call Marty, a friend of his in Los Angeles,
who had PC and was undergoing a relatively new but promising approach
called "triple androgen blockade." When I did, Marty told me about the
pioneering work of his oncologist, Bob Leibowitz, M.D. The treatment,
which was given in the form of a monthly injection and two daily oral
medications, continued for 13 months. Its purpose was to block the
production of testosterone, on which the prostate cancer cells feed, until
those cells literally died of starvation. Marty told me the temporary side
effects of the blockade included diminished sexual desire and performance,
hot flashes, some mild intestinal upset, and a few changes such as loss of
body hair and slight weight gain. To me, these sounded like minor
annoyances compared to permanent impotence or incontinence!
The next day, I called Dr. Leibowitz and spoke with one of his assistants,
who sent me copies of the doctor's papers on the treatment. They arrived
the day before my appointment with the urologist. I spent that night
devouring the information on Dr. Leibowitz' approach, and before I was
halfway through, the hair standing up on the back of my neck told me I was
witness to a major breakthrough in the treatment of prostate cancer.
Leibowitz began treating PC patients with his approach in 1990 or 1991, and
has numerous patients who have been off the treatment for several years
with normal PSA's and no evidence of cancer. Some of these men had come to
Leibowitz initially with PSA's of over 1,000 and metastatic bone cancer,
prepared to die within a few months. The doctor claims he has never had to
retreat any of the several hundred patients he has treated, and claims that
because the blockade is systemic rather than localized such as surgery or
radiation, cancer cells anywhere in the body, even at microscopic levels,
By the time I went to bed late that night, my path was clear. The next
morning, after offering heartfelt thanks to the Spirit that is always part
of me, I headed for Kinko's to make copies of Dr. Leibowitz' articles, then
to the urologist's office. Handing the copies to him for homework, I
declared unequivocally, "This is the treatment approach I want to pursue."
My urologist told me he had heard of the treatment but would read the
articles to get more information. He also, to my great relief, said he was
willing to pursue the triple androgen blockade on an experimental basis,
provided regular PSA tests indicated it was warranted. A week later, I
began the treatment, which for me consisted of a shot that lasted three
months, requiring only quarterly visits to the doctor, and the two daily
Over the next several months, I continued to feel very well. I did begin
to notice some subtle changes in my body, understood for the first time
what women often referred to as "hot flashes," and invested heavily in
anti-gas pills when my wife accused me of becoming more of an "old fart"
than ever! My most exciting moment came in March, three months after the
treatment had begun, when my urologist called to give me the results of my
PSA. It was unmeasureable!!! Not sure whether to cry or release whoops of
victory, I did both, sharing the news with everyone that would listen.
While I knew that this result didn't necessarily mean that the fight was
over, it was unmistakable evidence that the treatment was working exactly
as it was supposed to.
Similar PSA results in June and September reassured me that I hadn't just
been dreaming. Side effects continued to be mild for the most part, and I
felt healthy throughout the 13-month period, which drew to a close in
January, 1999. I have continued to read the latest writings by "Dr.
Bob" Leibowitz as he makes steady progress toward the goal of showing 100%
success with the treatment over a 15-year period (his first patient treated
with TAB has been off the treatment nearly 8 years and is still doing
well). He is also working on re-treatment approaches and approaches for
hormone refractory patients in case these are needed in the future.
For my part, I will keep a close watch on my PSA and testosterone levels
during the next year as they slowly begin to rise and, hopefully, level off
somewhere in the normal range. I continue to stay as close to a low-fat
diet as I can, including various PC fighters such as selenium and lycopene
as well as Vitamin E, Co-Enzyme Q10 and other anti-oxidants. My biggest
battle at this point is managing the stress in my life; there's been too
much of that over the last few months, and I know that's not healthy for
living things. I'm determined to do whatever I need to do to change that,
and to keep expressing gratitude on a daily basis for the many gifts in my
life, not the least of which is being guided to the right treatment at the
If this article is helpful to even one reader facing a similar situation,
it has been worthwhile. Anyone who wishes more information on my
experience with triple androgen blockade or prevention and treatment of
prostate cancer in general, is welcome to contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org. The office of Bob Leibowitz, M.D. may be reached
at (310) 229-3555. Good health and long life to all!