Miller’s journey through diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer
By AMANDA MORENO
Big Spring Herald Staff Writer
Having a positive attitude can move mountains and does wonders for dealing with any situation — especially the diagnosis of cancer.
For those who don’t believe a positive attitude can change things, just ask Big Spring resident and attorney Robert Miller.
Miller found out April 25, 2011, he had prostate cancer, a diagnosis he half-way expected.
“I have to say I wasn’t totally surprised. I half-way expected it,” Miller said. “It was harder on my wife.”
The diagnosis was a surprise in the fact, the symptoms weren’t there. The usual signs — blood in urine or semen, swelling in legs, discomfort in pelvic area, trouble urinating and decreased force in the stream of urine and bone pain — just hadn’t shown up.
“I always went for my routine PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, which are comparable to checks for breast cancer,” Miller said. “There hadn’t been anything abnormal.”
After going for his routine test, he showed elevated PSA numbers — which is anything above four — but still prostate cancer was not the first thought. According to Miller, the original thought was he had prostatitis due to the elevated numbers being able to drop back down. After undergoing a biopsy, the results showed four out of six on the right side were positive and that’s when they knew.
Of course, prostate cancer wasn’t anything new to Miller. He had been watching his brother battle prostate cancer and also, other family members had history of cancer.
“Once you find out, the next question is what do you do?” Miller said. “It is not an option to leave it alone, but what do you do.”
With all the advances in medical technology and medicine, the options Miller was presented with were wide ranging. There was the option of radiation, which could mess up digestive system; proton beams which would include a 40-day stay in Houston for the treatment; robotic surgery, which would allow him to heal faster, cryogenic treatment which has not been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Lastly, there is the option of plain old surgery, as Miller put it and the option of taking it out.
“It’s a personal choice. One you have to make on your own. It’s not something your doctor can choose for you,” Miller said. “My biggest recommendation is to talk to someone who has had it and gone through it and then make your own choice. Get recommendations from others as to why they chose their treatment.”
From the moment of diagnosis, Miller did his best to not worry considering it was a situation that couldn’t be altered much.
“There is no point in worrying about something I can’t control,” Miller said. “You worry about something you can control otherwise don’t worry about it. I couldn’t control it and I wasn’t going to worry about it.”
Each person takes the news differently, but for him, the news of the diagnosis was something he was going to approach with a positive attitude. Instead of choosing to succumb to the news, he continued on, did his research and did what needed to be done in order to push forward.
“I made my choice and that choice was to do the plain old fashion surgery,” Miller said. “There is the option of taking it out, which for some isn’t a choice just because you know it’s gone, but for me it was the choice I made. I knew once it was gone, it was gone and done.”
The surgery — and kept him in the hospital for five days — took place in Dallas for no reason other than that is where the referral took him. The doctor conducting the surgery had previously undergone the same surgery.
“The day after the surgery was the best day. I was up and talking and really couldn’t feel anything,” Miller said. “I was glad I was there five days though because each day I got worse. I had lots of soreness.”
As everyone knows, with any surgery there can be complications. For Miller, the complications weren’t major, but there were a few that occurred. The drainage tubes had a leak and needed to be fixed in order to not have urine leaking into his body cavity. Overall, recovery from the surgery is expected to take a year.
“It’s been six months since the surgery and I still feel pain at times. The first two months there was a major appetite change. It truly does call for the support of your family,” Miller said. “I don’t know how anyone does this alone. It is something that not only the husband goes through, but the wife as well. You go through this together.”
His wife added, “You have to be patient. You can’t let it get to you and you take it day by day.”
There are lots of things to worry about with any surgery and with this particular surgery there is the worry of nerve damage. There is the chance of permanent incontinence and lack of sexual ability.
“The thing about it is you don’t have what you had before, but you are alive,” Miller said. “It’s not the end of the world.”
After Miller’s surgery, his journey wasn’t quite over. It turns out the cancer hadn’t been contained and radiation would have to follow. Three months after the surgery, he went back to check his PSAs again, which showed no cancer markers and radiation was started the later part of October. Radiation is only needed to kill any cells which may still be lurking, a mop up.
“It will be a year long haul, but it truly is amazing what medicine can do for you,” Miller’s wife said. “They (the doctors) tell you what to expect and that everything is going to be okay, but sometimes it’s not okay. For us it has been , but sometimes it is not. I really don’t care about anything else. I am just glad he is here.”
Miller added, “People don’t have to assume that just because you get cancer you are dead. I am in good health, working full time and am just fine.”
Despite cancer — especially prostate cancer — being an issue most people don’t want to talk about it is a good thing for people to remember, talking about it helps.
“Nobody wants to talk about it and the few articles that do talk about it don’t talk about the person and if I can be a service to someone by talking about it then it is worth it.” Miller said.
This installment tells about Miller’s journey through diagnosis as well as treatment. The third and final installment will discuss a look back on radiation treatment and the overall journey.