Prostate Cancer Survivor Does His Homework

photo of Kent Lawrence

When Kent Lawrence, now 77, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004, he didn’t know much about it. He jokes that he didn’t even know how to spell it. But he and his wife quickly got up to speed by reading books, articles, and Web sites that described the many different options in prostate cancer treatment. When it was time to meet with a team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, they were prepared. The treatment recommended by the team matched what the Lawrences had already determined would probably be best. That helped make them feel confident in their decision.

No family history, lots of family support

Lawrence never expected to get cancer because it didn’t run in his family. (But the truth is, only about 5% to 10% of all cancer is inherited.) It was at the doctor’s suggestion that he began getting an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test in 1993. He’d been having the tests for 11 years when his PSA level jumped to 5 times what it had been the year before. Additional tests confirmed that he had an aggressive kind of prostate cancer. But there was also good news: it had probably not yet spread to other parts of his body.

When Lawrence found out he had prostate cancer, his family and friends rallied around him. His wife – they’ve now been married 54 years – gave up many activities to be with him at his medical appointments. Lawrence said, “It meant the world to me to have her by my side.”

Aggressive treatment for aggressive cancer

The Lawrences and the medical team agreed on an aggressive treatment to battle his fast-moving cancer and lower the risk that it would come back: a combination of radiation and hormone therapy. The treatment plan would take about 2 years.

The goal of hormone therapy is to reduce levels of the male hormone testosterone in an effort to shrink the cancer or slow its growth. Testosterone helps prostate cancer cells grow. Radiation therapy is like a very strong x-ray that’s focused right at the prostate gland region to kill the cancer cells. In Lawrence’s case, doctors hoped they could cure his cancer.

Unpleasant side effects can often accompany treatment for prostate cancer. The radiation made Lawrence feel tired and caused some bowel and bladder issues. The hormone injections gave him a half dozen or more hot flashes every day that were severe enough to wake him up at night. Reducing testosterone in men also shuts off libido and causes impotence. But as Lawrence said, “Oh well, the ultimate goal is to knock out the cancer and stay alive.”

‘A guy who’s walked the walk’

"My faith assures me that whatever the outcome of my journey, I've got nothing to fear. It's ultimately in God's hands, and all I can really ask for is the strength to get through this journey."

Kent Lawrence

Today, Lawrence has no signs or symptoms of cancer, and he continues to have regular tests to make sure it hasn’t come back. He volunteers with the American Cancer Society’s Man To Man program to counsel and mentor other men who are dealing with prostate cancer.

Lawrence said, “So many of them like to talk to a guy who’s walked the walk. I can tell them about my side effects and how the cancer affected me.”

A year ago, Lawrence gave the kickoff speech at his local Relay For Life event. Recently, the American Cancer Society recognized him with the Quality of Life Award for outstanding leadership and service, and for enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients and their families in the community.

He said, “I’ve been ever so fully supported by my faith, my family, and my friends. My faith assures me that whatever the outcome of my journey, I’ve got nothing to fear. It’s ultimately in God’s hands, and all I can really ask for is the strength to get through this journey. In this I’ve not been disappointed. In fact, right from day one I’ve never had one doubt or bit of remorse: God willing, we will get this under control.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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