Steward Frazier

Prostate Cancer Survivor Looks Back on 20 Years of Survivorship

Summary: Steward Frazier was diagnosed with prostate cancer24 years ago, and was treated at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He recently shared his reflections on survivorship and what factors he found helpful in dealing with his illness.

steward frazier

I was diagnosed at age 53 with prostate cancer. That was in 1986, before there was such a thing as a PSA test. My only symptom had been an unusual change in my sleeping habits.

Following the preliminary diagnosis and biopsy, my oncologist told me there were two treatment options: radical prostatectomy or external beam radiation therapy. I decided to forgo surgery and instead chose to be treated by Dr. Pradip Amin, a radiation oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer at the University of Maryland. I received seven weeks of radiation therapy, and, following treatment, my PSA returned to normal.

For the next 13 years, I continued my work as a veterinarian medical officer for the Federal government, and also became a part-time seminary student, serving as a pastor at two different churches near my home.

In 1999, my life took an unexpected turn when I was informed that my PSA had risen above the normal level. My urologist suggested I receive androgen deprivation therapy, which was administered every four months for almost two years. This form of therapy turned out to be very problematic for me, and I developed some unpleasant side effects, not the least of which was severe depression, for which I sought treatment. Eventually my PSA returned to normal, and I was able to stop the therapy.

Although my treatments were rigorous and, at times, very tiring, I was fortunate to have several resources that helped me through this difficult period: a positive spiritual life that provided me with peace of mind, and medical providers -- oncologist, primary physician, cardiologist, psychiatrist -- who cared for me as a complete person. I remained active by walking and aerobic exercise, and learned how important it was for me to become my own advocate and learn all I could about my condition from other professional resources. My positive attitude never faltered, and neither did the gracious support I received from others.

Being a scientist myself, I have a keen interest in the field of prostate cancer research. I look forward to the discovery of what makes prostate cancer recur and what determines whether that recurrence will be aggressive or not.

In 2009, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and continue to work with my hematologist/oncologist to address this new challenge. However, my PSA remains normal, and I consider surviving prostate cancer for over 20 years to be one of the greatest achievements of my life. I feel blessed to be able to share my story of survivorship with others.