A few weeks ago, I heard the words no person wants to hear. You have cancer.
“Ed, it’s not the news I was hoping to give you. You have Gleason Level 7 (3+4) prostate cancer.” With that, Dr. Klein elaborated on the diagnosis and available treatment options. Simran and I meet him this week to finalize treatment decisions.
Early Exposure. My Mom died of ovarian cancer in 2004. A Holocaust survivor and mother of seven, she gave it one hell of a fight. It was terribly ugly. By the time she traded her earthly rags for robes of righteousness, we were thankful. My Dad, the Concentration Camp escapee, is still kicking with two decades worth of skin cancer fight behind him. Assisting in their journeys has been rewarding, insightful and darn-right frightening.
How I Got Here. My PSA score elevated 6 years ago around the time that I materially increased my time cycling. An Ironman Triathlete and TeamUSA Duathlete, I bike 100-plus miles per week. No other symptoms, my physicians attributed the PSA increase to time in the saddle, but carefully monitored for changes. My wife (and nurse) Simran would have no more of it. She teamed with my cardiologist colleague and made an appointment with the Chair of the Cleveland Clinic Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, the highest ranked urology institute in the U.S. Dr. Klein’s team recently developed a new test that better predicts likelihood of prostate cancer IsoPSA. The morning after I took the test, Dr. Klein was sitting in my office as I walked in quarter of seven. “Fifty percent chance of cancer”. At noon I was in his exam room, backside exposed. Biopsy. Confirmed. Cancer. I called Simran. My stoic and strong princess, she would later break down. I haven’t yet, but expect to.
Cancer Does Not Discriminate. Part of my pity party considered the irony. To honor my mom, I volunteer weekly at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, sitting with patients receiving chemo. I help raise funds for the American Cancer Society and participate in cancer crushing Velosano. My first Ironman was dedicated to the wife of my boss, who was dying of cancer. Ironman Boulder was dedicated to one of my team whose son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. I released Voices of Innovation this year whose proceeds go directly to cancer research. Now I am tagged. Okay, let’s move on and fight.
Cancer Disrespects Timing. Simran and I have lots of questions. Not just the irony above, but timing became the next pity party. We both live very clean lives. We eat right, we exercise. Simran wins fitness contests. I climb the world’s tallest peaks and race the hardest courses. Our children are much the same. Toward the end of the TeamUSA Duathlon National Championships last year, I am hit with the widow maker. I finish the race and thanks to super clinicians, digital medicine, data and Grace, I experience a miraculous recovery. At my annual check-up, my cardiologist removes half my medications with the plan to be med free end of year. That’s how well the recovery has been. From here we go ride in the sunset. So now we have to deal with cancer? Yep, accept it, move on, and fight.
Communicating. We called our children and I notified some family members. We shared the news with best friends directly. I told my work team, who I affectionately call brothers and sisters, via email. I called my direct reports. Lots of hugs. Lots of tears.
Acceptance. Simran and I and our kids started a list of all the good things to come out of a cancer diagnosis. I will share this list in a future post.
What’s Next. Simran and I meet with Dr. Klein in a couple of days to review options. We expect to make a decision and begin treatment next week. We will keep you posted on our journey weekly until we whip it. Whip it good. (When a problem comes along…)
- Professional and Personal Insights.
- In all things remain thankful, even when cancer
- Own your health
- Living a life of no-regrets is worth it
- Pessimism is a cop-out
This piece is the first in a blog series written by Ed Marx, CIO at The Cleveland Clinic, chronicling his recent cancer diagnosis. The next installment will focus on his approach to making treatment decisions.