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Weigh Your Options, Says Prostate Cancer Survivor

Article date: May 13, 2009

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Deciding what kind of treatment to get is a balancing act. Every person is different. Do whatever it takes to feel confident and comfortable with the treatment, the doctor, the team, the hospital, and yourself.

 

Beau Stubblefield-Tave, 52, is a Boston, Massachusetts-area consultant with a background in health care advocacy and the father of 2 teenage girls. And thanks to a reminder from his physician assistant, he’s also a prostate cancer survivor.

About 2 years ago, a diabetes diagnosis sent Stubblefield-Tave into his doctor’s office for regular blood sugar checks and by extension, regular check-ups.

He had had a high prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in the past, and while it had taken him almost a year to follow up on it, he eventually got another test, which came back higher than the first. His doctors arranged for a biopsy. It came back negative, but they put him on a regular follow-up schedule. He says he probably wouldn’t have gone back had his PA not urged him to follow up on it when he was getting his blood sugar tested.

“Cheryl Whitney, my PA, got me back into periodic prostate biopsies and PSA testing. Fun? Hell no! Did it save my life? Yes,” Stubblefield-Tave says.

Stubblefield-Tave has a family history of cancer (his father, Beau, Sr., is living with prostate cancer, and his sister, Barbi, struggled with breast cancer), and he also worked in health care for a number of years, so he knew about the importance of following up on suspicious results. However, he had gotten busy and just put it off.

The fourth round of tests, which were done late in 2008, came back positive. He had stage I prostate cancer. Stubblefield-Tave weighed his options.

"Because they found the cancer early, I had time to find the right surgeon, follow him to Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a small community hospital, and schedule the surgery for after New Year’s and before Inauguration Day,” Stubblefield-Tave recalls.

Making Sense of the Options

Stubblefield-Tave compared treatments (Surgery or radiation? If surgery, what type?) and sought advice of family, friends, and experts in the field. In the end, he chose to have robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, a surgical procedure in which the surgeon uses robotic arms to make several small incisions to remove the prostate.

"I was lucky to have good health coverage, have access to the wonderful research centers here in Boston, and because we caught this early enough and I'm a consultant with flexible hours, some choice in when and where I'd schedule my surgery," he says.

"Deciding what kind of treatment to get is a balancing act. Every person is different. I chose what made me most comfortable, and that’s my advice to other men: do whatever it takes to feel confident and comfortable with the treatment, the doctor, the team, the hospital, and yourself."

Stubblefield-Tave tolerated the surgery well and is on the road to recovery. He’s had some complaints – the catheter was a great source of discomfort – and he’s had to learn to be patient with himself.

"I’m able to exercise, and I was able to get back to my work pretty quickly, but I do take naps, and I’ve had to learn to take it slow." Stubblefield-Tave is co-founder of a management consulting group called the Cultural Imperative, which helps clients create productive multicultural workplaces and reduce disparity.

He’s found great strength in his family – he and his wife, Janice, have been married 19 years and have 2 daughters – and through two churches and a Zen mediation group. He also consults a behavioral health professional.

“There’s still this hesitancy about talking about cancer, especially in the black community. It's so important to talk to people," he says.