Rabbi Ed Weinsberg:

My prostate cancer treatment journey and my mission

In January of 2007, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Years earlier, while earning my doctorate in gerontology, I had learned that most men will get this disease if they live long enough. Still, I hardly expected this would happen to me at the relatively young age of 62.

Like many other patients, I struggled to understand this illness and my prostate cancer treatment options. I was confused about which of many treatments to choose. First, I thought external beam radiation would be the least invasive and easiest to take. Then I wondered if brachytherapy, internal radioactive "seeding," might be more effective.

Initially, I ruled out standard open surgery (a radical prostatectomy) to remove my cancerous prostate, fearing the pain and health complications this might cause. I also decided against robotic surgery as a prostate cancer treatment option after my original urologist claimed that it was still experimental and wasn’t available in Sarasota where I live. Later, I learned he was wrong on both counts.

In addition, he prescribed an injection of Lupron, shrinking my prostate by suppressing my testosterone. Two weeks later, that led to biochemical castration accompanied by a period of intense hot flashes in a process I’ve dubbed "MANopause."

Soon after that, a sex therapist my wife and I visited referred us to another urologist. That doctor suggested I talk with robotics surgeon. My wife and I were impressed not only by his skill, but by his genuine caring nature.

The operation was an unqualified success, as the total removal of my prostate cured me of the cancer. I was elated that I got through prostate cancer treatment with a minimum of pain and stress. But, like many prostate cancer survivors, I now have to cope with erectile dysfunction (ED) accompanied by a low libido.

In my 30 years as a congregational rabbi, I often counseled people facing serious challenges like cancer. As I learned how to cope effectively with prostate cancer treatment and its side effects, I felt I had to share my experiences and insights with others. The result was my book, Conquer Prostate Cancer and its companion blog www.ConquerProstateCancer.com.

I also began to coach prostate cancer patients and speak to medical and lay audiences about what I went through. This has given me the chance to describe critical issues before and after treatment, convey ways to cope with stress and anxiety, and help others deal with prostate cancer treatment side effects, especially those related to sexual intimacy.

In my research after my successful prostate cancer treatment I learned that prostate cancer is the leading non-skin male cancer among men. Each year, nearly 200,000 Americans and 300,000 Europeans are diagnosed with this disease, and about 27,000 Americans die of this illness annually. This makes prostate cancer the leading cause of cancer death for men after lung cancer. Despite scientific advances, it continues to have an impact not only on men, but on those closest to them.

It has become my mission to educate others about the medical, social, and psychological implications of prostate cancer treatment and its aftermath, in an informative, upbeat style that laymen can easily understand and relate to. I also convey a variety of helpful ways to augment traditional medical care.

In sharing my experiences and views, my aim is to help you overcome your prostate cancer issues. Please let me know what’s on your mind so I can respond to whatever concerns you most.

Submitted by Rabbi Ed Weinsberg, Ed.D., D.D. on 2/1/10.

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