Healthy YOU Podcast, Episode 16: Prostate Cancer: The Patient’s Perspective with Robert Friel

December 27, 2023

Podcast Episodes Cancer
Healthy You Episode 16

Title: Healthy YOU Podcast, Episode 17: Prostate Cancer: The Patient’s Perspective with Robert Friel 

Host: Frankye Myers, Chief Nursing Officer for Riverside Health System 

Expert Guest: Robert Friel, Prostate Cancer Survivor 

Frankye Myers: From Riverside Health System. This is the Healthy YOU Podcast where we talk about a range of health-related topics focused on improving your physical and mental health. We chat with our providers, team members, patients, and caregivers to learn more about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and improve overall physical and mental health. So, let's dive into learn more about becoming a healthier you.

Frankye Myers: Well, I am really, really excited today to have in the Healthy YOU Studio with me, Robert Friel. Robert is a prostate cancer survivor. And so, this episode we're going to be talking about the patient's perspective with Robert. Welcome. Robert.

Robert Friel: Thank you for having me.

Frankye Myers: My pleasure. My pleasure. Thank you so much for taking time out your busy schedule to join us today. So today is special and unique episode because this is coming from a patient's perspective. And Robert Friel, who is a prostate cancer survivor, Robert is a husband, a father, and a Riverside team member. Robert, again, welcome to the show. So, tell us a little bit about you and your family and, uh, what you do here at Riverside.

Robert Friel: Uh, again, my name is Rob Friel. I have been with Riverside for almost seven years now. I work for Supply Chain as a contract sourcing specialist. I am 55 years old, been married for 21 years to a wonderful woman, and I have three beautiful daughters.

Frankye Myers: Oh, that's nice, Robert. So, we're here to talk about your journey with prostate cancer. From your screening to where you are now, cancer free, that is really a reason to celebrate. Congratulations. I know it all started with your, my Healthy Lifestyle visit with your primary care provider, Sheila Fuller. Um, tell me about what the visit, how that went and what took place.

Robert Friel: It was almost two years ago to the day that I went in for my routine physical, uh, which always ends with a blood draw. And I knew that I was going to get back high cholesterol numbers and that Sheila Fuller was going to tell me to drop a few pounds, which is always the case used. Right

Frankye Myers: <laugh>.

Robert Friel: In this particular visit, when I looked at my lab results, um, I had seen a screening on there that I had never seen prior. It was a P S A screening and the line said, anything, four or below you are fine. And I was a 4.3. Okay. So being a male 0.3 really isn't going to move the needle for me. So, I didn't really pay a whole lot of attention to it. What, what I do remember from the physical is somebody when they were putting the information into my chart, hit an incorrect button and it labeled me as obese. And I thought, whoa, wait a minute.

Frankye Myers: I'm a member of that club as well, Robert. So, you…

Robert Friel: I think I was focusing more on the obese than I was on the P S A screening, but, um, so I, I really didn't pay any attention to it. Uh, again, 4.0 or lower, you're good. 4.3. I didn't think it was a big deal.

Frankye Myers: In your mind, were you thinking that your levels may go down over time or that you would wait and see, you know, what, what was going through? Or maybe you would see a urologist at that point?

Robert Friel: I, I, I was not going to go see a urologist at that point. I figured it was something I ate the night before, uh, whatever. But it's just, I, I go to the doctor one time a year.
<laugh>, and that is for my physical right. I'm not going to reach out to a urologist and schedule an appointment because I have a screening test that I had never seen before that showed me just a little bit over the line.

Frankye Myers: That makes perfect sense. I know that, um, not too long after this, you took a funny trip to Nashville and in the midst of C Ovid 19, one of your friends came down with covid and you had to go get a COVID test. I, so tell us about that and how your provider checked back with you regarding the referral to see you and the urologist. How did that go?

Robert Friel: So, health system policy, uh, if you are in contact with anybody that tested positive for covid, and I'm going back two years ago, you automatically had to quarantine for three days, right? So, when my manager sent me home, I was hot, but that's what ultimately got me back to the doctor. cause I had to take the COVID test, came back negative, everything was fine. And during that visit, uh, Sheila Fuller said, hey, did you ever follow up with the urologist? And I kind of giggled it off and said, no, I didn't. And she said, well, just to be on the safe side, let's do another blood draw and we'll see what the P s A level comes back then. And that's what we did. And then the number came back 4.89, so I'm going in the wrong direction. And it was at that time that she said, hey, let's get you an appointment with the urology specialist.

Robert Friel: And I think that happened in maybe January timeframe. Okay. Um, it was Dr. Dover that I saw, uh, super, super nice guy. Everybody in the office was dynamite. And I did the whole prostate exam and another blood draw. And even that P ss a screening came back high. So it was at that point that he said, look, it's probably nothing, but the only way to rule out anything bad is to do a biopsy. So, we did that. Um, I wanna say that was early March and, um, the biopsy was, uh, I thought gonna be kind of similar to a colonoscopy. Um, it wasn't, I can promise you that wasn't painful, but it was uncomfortable. Yes. And, uh, what

Frankye Myers: Necessary. Absolutely.

Robert Friel: Yeah. What, uh, what they do is they take 12 samples from the prostate. Again, not painful, just uncomfortable. And, uh, unfortunately, I came back with two samples that looked like there was some cancer brewing within the prostate.

Frankye Myers: Thank you so much for sharing. Um, that, Robert, I want to give a shout out to your provider, Sheila Fuller.

Robert Friel: Amen.

Frankye Myers: Will that follow up with you? That was critical to your success? So, I'm really excited and happy that, um, she, she provided that for you. So how did you feel when you heard that your P s A had jumped, uh, in just a couple of months?

Robert Friel: Uh, that, that scared me a little bit, uh, or at least gave me reason to think, hey, uh, it wasn't something I ate the night before, uh, <laugh> something might be going on. Right? So, after the, the biopsy, um, we were kind of waiting for the, the results and we didn't hear anything for almost a week. And, um, I thought, hmm, that maybe tells me that it's not great news that he needs to share. So, when it was discovered that I did have an issue going on, um, at that point it was, okay, uh, let's talk, uh, options. And I think it was, uh, two options, uh, A or B it was a radical prostatectomy, which ultimately entails them going in and pulling out the prostate altogether. Or I could have opted for radiation therapy. Uh, Dr. Doak was very adamant about me talking to the radiation folks, just so I had both sides of the coin. And I remember going to the oncology office, uh, it was probably late March, sat down with the doctor for no more than five minutes. And, uh, the reason it was such a brief visit is I told the doctor, look, I am 54 years old, probably on the young end of the spectrum with dealing with prostate cancer, and I've got a wife that loves me and three beautiful daughters. I'm not looking for 10 years. I need 30. What do I need to do? And the doctor immediately said, go ahead and have it removed.

Frankye Myers: Wow. That is a lot. Um, so Robert, tell me a little bit about, um, so you ended up with the biopsy, is that correct?
Robert Friel: Correct.

Frankye Myers: Um, walk us through that a little bit more. I think sometimes, um, there can be some misconceptions about that process and what that's like, and, uh, people can be avoidant and afraid. Right. And, and

Robert Friel: No, no reason to fear the biopsy. Um, I, I'll I'll tell you exactly what it feels like. Uh, if, if anyone out there has had a colonoscopy, it is much the same, but it, it does feel like something a little bit larger, uh, going into the, the back door. And when they take the samples, it almost feels like a, a very mild shock. Um, again, not painful, uh, but maybe a little bit alarming. Uh, and the doctor was great. Uh, every time he, he took a sample, it was 3, 2, 1 now. So, I was prepared for when it was gonna come. And again, I, I, I can't stress enough, there is nothing to fear, uh, with regards to having that procedure done.

Frankye Myers: So, after that's done, then you know, you're waiting on the results and that type of information. Am I correct with that? Mm -- -hmm. <affirmative>, there's a scoring associated with that. Would you talk a little bit? Yeah. 

Robert Friel: I'm not quite sure how all that plays out. It's called a Gleason score.
Okay. And apparently, uh, somehow the pathologist, uh, deems the, the core sample that has an issue, uh, with a three plus four equals seven, which is, hey, there's something to be concerned with here. Or it could be four plus three equals seven, which means, hey, this is a little more aggressive than what a three plus four is. Couldn't tell you how all that works out, Frankye, but I will tell you, uh, at least one of my samples was a four plus three. So undoubtedly, I had to pick one way or the other. I had to do something. You had to

Frankye Myers: Do something. So just for our listeners, Robert, you did a great job explaining that. I want to briefly explain what a, a Gleason score is. Okay. Um, prostate cancer is also given a, a grade called a Gleason score. And the score is based on how much the cancer looks like healthy tissue when viewed under a microscope. Less aggressive tumors generally look more like healthy tissue. And tumors that are more aggressive are likely to grow and spread to the other parts of the body, which we want to avoid. They look less like healthy tissue overall. The score of five or lower are, um, the, let me correct that. Overall, a score of five or lower are not used. The lowest score is a six, which is a low-grade cancer, and a score of seven is a medium grade cancer and a score of eight, nine, and 10 is a high-grade cancer. So, for Robert, your score of seven indicated that medium grade cancer, it's a lot of words and a lot of, but great information. 

Robert Friel: Indicated that I was lucky.

Frankye Myers: Exactly. I'm glad to hear that. How did you feel hearing about these results and what was the next step in your journey after getting those results?

Robert Friel: I, I, I will tell you, I, I didn't feel like I thought I would feel, um, usually when you hear cancer, it is, oh my gosh, doom and gloom. I, I never ever felt that way. Um, and I'm going to credit, uh, Dr. Dover for that, uh, to, to a large extent because I did catch it early. Uh, there was, uh, more than one option to, to choose from. And after I had an M R I and the bone scan and all of that, it was determined that the spot that I needed to worry about was only relegated to the, the prostate itself. So, to make the decision to have the gland just simply removed, um, I mean, that, that just seemed to be the, the best option for, for what I was dealing with, given my age and everything else that I had working for me.

Frankye Myers: Woo hoo <laugh>, uh, what great results and exciting. Um, and I know that, um, you felt relief and, uh, you had support along the way. I just wanna reiterate the importance of having those annual checkups, right? Absolutely. So instrumental, and even if we don't get it the first time, that relationship and that rapport and follow up with your primary, uh, care physician, um, can, uh, make sure you stay on the right path. That let's follow. Yep.

Robert Friel: So, well, if, if she didn't insist on that second blood draw when I had to go in for the COVID test, who knows where I would be right now?

Frankye Myers: Absolutely. And I know there's various treatment options. What was it? You know, obviously you talked about your family, so that was a, uh, in wanting to be here. And so, um, that played a huge role in the treatment option. You decided.

Robert Friel: That didn't play a role, that that determined <laugh> that Frankye. 

Myers: Was determining that.

Robert Friel: Treatment option. I got three girls that I fully intend to walk down the aisle when their day comes, and I don't wanna miss a single moment. Absolutely. So rather than treatment, I chose removal altogether. And, and I'm, I'm telling you Frankye, it wasn't that bad. I, at no point in time, even during or after the surgery did, I experience what I would consider pain. Um, it was just discomfort.

Frankye Myers: Any suggestions, uh, for any of our listeners? Um, you know, somebody may be newly diagnosed, um, trying to contemplate options. Um, is there anything that really sticks out to you, um, as we talk about this, this process, um, and, uh, that you think would be helpful for them?

Robert Friel: Age has a lot to do with it. Again, I'm probably on the younger end of the spectrum. Uh, if I was 75 and all of a sudden had a higher P ss a score, um, I don't know that my body at that age would have recovered as, as nicely as it did at age 54 when all this happened to me last year. Right. Um, you, you just gotta evaluate, uh, what, what your personal situation is, and then do what you think I i is best i radiation therapy for many is, is probably the, the option to go. But for me, um, it just, the, the removal made sense. Um, something down the road will take me outta here, there's no doubt. But it's not gonna be prostate cancer.

Frankye Myers: That's awesome. That's awesome. I love it. Um, and I love your passion and enthusiasm and, um, um, with sharing your story. Um, as we think about surgery, there's sometimes misconceptions about the post-op care, uh, related to a procedure of this nature, specifically having a catheter in place,

Robert Friel: <laugh>. And

Frankye Myers: So, um, I've experienced one in my lifetime, so it's, it's not pleasurable, but you wanna talk a little bit about the post-op treatment, um, and how you manage that. And 

Robert Friel: Post-op was exactly how Dr. Dover act described it would be. You'll wake up and you will feel like you have done a thousand crunches <laugh>. And that is exactly how I felt, uh, for about two or three days. Again, I wouldn't call it pain, but it was a little bit uncomfortable. Um, the catheter that wasn't painful. Um, you, you had to be mindful of making sure, uh, you had changed it out when you needed to. And I had to have it in there for a week, which again, uh, you know, the, I I think I was given three or four weeks to recover. So, a week of that, uh, dealing with the catheter, not a big deal. Um, felt good when that catheter came out. I, I'll, I'll tell you that, but, um, and I, I'll say this, that the day that I got my catheter out, I immediately, uh, went to Lowe's and bought a whole bunch of stuff to redo our back fence.

Robert Friel: Wow. And I was out there working, repairing the fence, uh, actually replacing the fence. So, when you talk about recovery time and how difficult it, it is, it's, it's not, um, I, I can't stress enough go get checked if the number is higher than what it should be. Like what I experienced. Do not fret. I'm a firm believer that attitude is everything. It is all, uh, a mindset, uh, to how you approach it. And do not be afraid. 'Cause this is one of those, I I was shocked. I I think it's like one in nine or one in 10 Yes. Will, will have to deal with prostate cancer. That, that number is huge. So, if, if a hundred people are watching this podcast right now, uh, is a good chance that 10 of them wow. I something to, to deal with when you just break down the numbers. So, uh, and prostate cancer was never, ever, ever something on my radar when I 

Frankye Myers: History, Robert, no family.

Robert Friel: No. I, um, it, it was funny when I, when I got the second reading and it was higher, I thought, okay, what have I done to cause myself to get prostate cancer? And I looked and I Googled, and you know what? I didn't do anything. It was just a random, hey, uh, the, the, the Wheel of Destiny chooses you Mr. Friel, uh, how are you gonna handle this? And luckily, we caught it very early. Uh, it's very treatable,

Frankye Myers: Uh, during this process. You know, I know from a time perspective on the podcast, we try to hit so much. But was there someone helping you navigate through this process? I know you had great relationship and rapport with, with both of your physicians, uh, but was there somebody helping you walk you through this next step?

Robert Friel: I, I had a young lady that reached out very early on. She said that she was my nurse navigator, and if I had any questions at any point in time, uh, I could reach out to her. Obviously, she's got other patients that she's dealt with, all of which went through the same thing that I did. Uh, there are support groups out there that, uh, shame on me. I haven't reached out to 'em 'cause it didn't feel like I had to. But I did tell my nurse navigator, Hey, it's not a big deal. If you want to share my name and number with anybody that feels like they're kind of standing on an edge or they're on an island all by themselves, I would love to have a chat with 'em and let 'em know that all is gonna be, well.

Frankye Myers: Wanna give a shout out to our nurse navigators who, um, are on the frontline just helping in many specialists, specialties, oncology, and other specialty areas, just navigating patients and families through the process. So, you are not alone. Uh, and their ex-expertise is so greatly needed. So, thank you for sharing that.

Robert Friel: She actually visited me in the hospital as well, um, which was super sweet of her. And while I'm talking about the hospital, Frankye, I had never been treated like such a king as I was at Riverside Regional Medical Center. Every nurse that walked through my door treated me like I was the most important person on the planet. And I, I would not trade that experience for anything in the world. I, again, it, it from A to z I, I felt so blessed with the folks that I had helping me through my journey. And, um, again, I get blood draws probably every four to six months now. And so far, knock on wood, when my p s A score comes up, it says undetectable.

Frankye Myers: Oh, I know. That felt wonderful. 

Robert Friel: Yep.

Frankye Myers: Congratulations. Well, Robert, as a man who's been through this prostate journey, um, and just so many great pearls that you've already shared, um, your words of encouragement and your advice and the importance of early detection, um, and screening is just so important, uh, for our viewers, um, in educating them. And so, I thank you for sharing, uh, and, and being honest and forthcoming.

Robert Friel: Absolutely. Go, go get screened. Anybody watching this right now, go get screened. It is harmless. And I'm telling you, I did not have any indication whatsoever that I might have an issue with the, the prostate. Everything that you Google talks about, are you, uh, going to the bathroom frequently? Are you having to get up in the middle of the night? Do you have a week stream, blah, blah, blah. I had none of that. It is just dumb luck that I can sit here with you today and share my story.

Frankye Myers: And I just want to acknowledge and thank you for sharing, um, the great experience you had at Riverside Regional Medical Center. Oh, providers, our nurses, and our allied health professionals. I'm glad you see, you had the experience of what we see each and every day and what we hear from our patients, whether it's a comment or a letter, uh, and that we live our mission to care for others as we would care for those we love.

Robert Friel: Absolutely. They were awesome.

Frankye Myers: Thank you again, Robert. And thank you to our listeners for joining us. Please be sure to check out the description for this episode where we will link the resources that provided, uh, were provided today in this episode on prostate cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and more. Thank you. Thanks,

Robert Friel: Thanks, Frankye.

Frankye Myers: Thank you for listening to this episode of Healthy YOU. We're so glad you were able to join us today and learn more about this topic. If you would like to explore more, go to riverside


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