Prostate Cancer Survivor Helps Others

Early diagnosis and treatment typically mean better outcomes

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

When receiving a cancer diagnosis, most people become bombarded with information—precisely at the time that they feel so shocked by the news that they have cancer. It can be hard to take it all in, to sort out the information and to make any kind of sensible decisions.

How will the disease progress? What symptoms are normal? What symptoms indicate the cancer is growing or spreading? Will I be healthy again? What treatments are the best? What side effects will they cause?

Can I care for my family through this? Will insurance cover the treatments?

The number of questions and incoming information can feel overwhelming.

That is one reason that prostate cancer survivor Mark Richardson of Pittsford became the leader of the Us TOO Rochester chapter. The organization provides peer support and information for men with prostate cancer.

Like his chapter members, Richardson never thought he would have prostate cancer. When he retired in August 2015 after his 41-year career at Kodak/Carestream, he learned he had prostate cancer.

“It was kind of devastating; I never expected prostate cancer,” he said. “I did not have any symptoms.”

He only learned he had prostate cancer because he had been receiving prostate specific antigen monitoring and routine digital rectal examinations while taking testosterone for erectile dysfunction. For a decade, his PSA level had been creeping up.

Only slight changes indicated something may be amiss: a little more urination, a bit of irritability. Richardson’s wife, Peggy, urged Richardson to see a urologist. Eventually, a biopsy showed cancer. Since it was a small, contained cancer, Richardson and his urologist Jean Joseph of UR Medicine selected robotic laparoscopic prostatectomy. Further testing showed stage three prostate cancer, meaning that the cancer had broken out of the prostate but had not spread to other areas of the body.

That meant more choices to ensure that the cancer would not metastasize.

Richardson and oncologist Jan Dombrowski, also from UR Medicine, decided that radiation would be in order.

For some cases, chemotherapy, high intensity focal ultrasound, hormone therapy or radiation seed therapy may be good choices, depending upon the man’s age, cancer grade, potential side effects and other medical conditions. For some, watchful waiting may be more sensible instead of aggressive treatment.

In addition to life-changing decisions, Richardson had to learn how to cope with the side effects such as urinary incontinence and fatigue, which lasted for months. He also had to learn about triggers and ways to support good health.

“I remain active, try to eat healthy and exercise regularly,” Richardson said.

He began exercising five days a week for 30 minutes on an elliptical machine.

While grateful to his medical team, he realized he could help other men with prostate cancer, especially when they are first diagnosed and undergoing treatment. Richardson and Peggy became the chapter leaders of Us TOO Rochester. He wants men and their spouses to feel they have the information they need to make the best decision for their situation. Plus, the camaraderie of talking with a survivor is very comforting and encouraging.

The group hosts monthly chapter meetings and provides educational speakers to help attendees better understand the disease, its treatments and its effects on their health. They learn coping mechanisms, how to support good health and ways to deal with the side effects of the disease and its treatments.

“I enjoy speaking with and helping other men who have prostate cancer,” Richardson said.

Support meeting are held the second Thursday of each month at Spiegel Community Center, 35 Lincoln Ave., Pittsford, from 4 to 6 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.

How to Contact

Contact Mark Richardson at Us TOO at ustoorochesterny@gmail.com or 585-478-0897.

For more information on prostate cancer go to zerocancer.org or sites.google.com/site/ustoorochesterny.

Us TOO International is a nonprofit established in 1990 in Alexandria, Virginia, to inform and encourage families affected by prostate cancer.