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Jim Slade wants the world to understand the importance of cancer screenings, especially for prostate and colon cancers. The underlying reason for his concern is that both screenings may have saved his life.
When he was in his early sixties, Jim had his first PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test, which revealed slightly elevated levels. Although his levels were not alarming for prostate cancer, Jim was asked to return 8 months later to be re-tested. "My PSA level climbed from 8 to 12 - that's a 50 percent increase in under a year," Jim recalled.
Jim's local doctor in New Jersey performed a biopsy, which revealed that he did have prostate cancer. His treatment recommendation was brachytherapy, which is implanting tiny radioactive seeds directly in the prostate that deliver a continuous dose of radiation. Although the treatment sounded like a good option, Jim decided to get a second opinion at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. His doctor agreed with his decision.
"Going to Fox Chase Cancer Center was one of the best decisions I've made."
"Going to Fox Chase Cancer Center was one of the best decisions I've made," shared Jim. Once there, he met with Eric Horwitz, MD, a radiation oncologist who specializes in prostate cancer treatment.
"Dr. Horwitz is an extremely talented and personable physician," Jim continued. Although prostate brachytherapy is a good option for some patients, this wasn't the case for Jim, when it turned out that his cancer was too big for a seed implant. Dr. Horwitz's treatment recommendation involved the use of high dose conformal external beam radiation with daily image guidance, which was a new technology at the time. This approach allowed for more precise and accurate targeting of the prostate and cancer while reducing side effects.
During Jim's treatment, he commented, "The nurses were absolutely terrific. If it weren't for them, the hospital wouldn't run so smoothly." Jim breezed through treatment and recovered nicely.
Not long after treatment, Jim resumed his normal life, as a chemical plant manager by day and a musician at night. As the guitar player in a country/blue grass/gospel band, Jim never missed a gig during his treatment. He was determined not to let the cancer bring him down, which he attributes to his "PMA, or positive mental attitude."
About to face his second battle against cancer.
Unfortunately, even the most positive attitude cannot stop cancer from returning. In 2004, just 4 years after prostate cancer treatment, Jim discovered blood in his stool. He returned to Fox Chase, where he met a gastroenterologist, David Weinberg, MD, who performed a high-quality colonoscopy. Jim was about to face his second battle against cancer. This time it was in his colon.
Surgeons at Fox Chase specialize in minimially invasive techniques to treat colon cancer and almost always avoid colostomies. Jim immediately made an appointment with James C. Watson, MD, a surgical oncologist specializing in cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
"Doc Watson," as Jim fondly refers to his surgeon, carefully removed 6 inches of his colon, along with several lymph nodes. Because Jim had cancer twice, he was strongly encouraged to have 12 chemotherapy treatments. "It was tough, but I took it alright," shared Jim. "Everyone in the infusion room was great."
"I know it's crazy to say, but I actually like going to Fox Chase."
"I know it's crazy to say, but I actually like going to Fox Chase," he revealed. In 2009, Jim reached the milestone of being cancer-free for 5 years. Jim returns to Fox Chase for check ups and says he feels good.
"The nurses know how important it is to manage pain."
"Fox Chase is wonderful. I never had any pain, even after the operation," Jim noted. "The nurses know how important it is to manage pain." He was comforted by the multi-specialty team approach at Fox Chase, knowing that several doctors and nurse practitioners were on his case.
Not only does Jim recommend Fox Chase to everyone he meets, but he offers to drive them from South Jersey for treatment. He believes everyone should have access to the world-renowned care at Fox Chase and not to let the distance stand in their way. Jim is also grateful to the many prayers from people of all religions, spreading from New Jersey to Florida. He thanks God for the power of healing.
With cancer behind him, Jim is about ready to retire. He plans to spend time with his wife, Sally, along with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. "Family is very important to me. Our entire gang gets together for spaghetti night every week. We've been doing it for 30 years and never let my cancer get in the way!"