A Numbers Expert Shares His Experience with Prostate Cancer

"When he told me the biopsy showed cancer of the prostate, I was not surprised. Immediately, I thought, 'What do we do now?'"

Clement Ward
close up portrait of Clement Ward

When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2009, Clement Ward had been a professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University for 3 decades. Given his background, it was only natural that the economist would look closely at the test results and chart his own numbers.

Several years earlier, his family practice doctor had referred him to a urologist after noticing swelling in one testicle. While it was later determined to be nothing serious, Ward decided to get regular checkups, which included prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing.

Ward was vigilant about monitoring his PSA levels; high levels can be a sign of prostate cancer. Though his PSA numbers rose from 1999 to 2007, they were well below the level that would traditionally raise concern. From 2007 to 2009, his numbers continued to climb, and his urologist ordered a series of PSA-specific tests. His urologist recommended a biopsy and afterwards, Ward met with him to discuss the results.

"When he told me the biopsy showed cancer of the prostate, I was not surprised," he recalls. "Immediately, I thought, 'What do we do now?'"

Getting Educated About Prostate Cancer

Ward's urologist told him about his treatment options and pointed him to some resources to learn more about prostate cancer. The doctor also suggested talking to other men who had prostate cancer and assured him they were everywhere.

"He was correct," says Ward. "Most men who have prostate cancer may not announce it publicly, put a sticker on their car, or have a flag with 'I had prostate cancer!' at their house."

Ward found it extremely helpful to talk to others about their experience. He also consulted the American Cancer Society’s book, Complete Guide to Prostate Cancer.

After doing research and weighing his options, Ward chose surgery for 2 reasons: 1) he wanted to try to remove the cancer completely, and 2) should the cancer reappear later in life, radiation likely would still be an option for treatment.

Successful Surgery and the Phases of Recovery

About 6 weeks after his diagnosis, Ward had a radical retropubic prostatectomy. He stayed one night in the hospital and was ready to go home the next morning.

"The pain was not as bad as I feared," he says. "On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst, I don't recall my pain ever surpassing 4 or maybe 5 while in the hospital."

What’s more, all evidence suggested cancer had been confined to the prostate and was completely removed, which was great news.

Ward’s wife and family were very helpful during his recovery. It was important to have a second pair of hands around, he says, because everything took longer, from getting dressed to taking a shower.

And there were side effects to deal with. Ward knew incontinence was a likely consequence of surgery. "However, thinking you’re prepared for incontinence and experiencing it are NOT the same," he says. "It was frustrating at times."

He also suffered from erectile dysfunction, another common side effect of prostate cancer surgery.

Still, it wasn’t long before Ward began increasing his time at work, doing gradual exercise on the treadmill and resuming his yard work and household chores.

More than a year later, Ward is happy to report his PSA levels are low.

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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