There's something to be said for a casual conversation between friends.
It's how Rick Lyke committed to getting a PSA test, how it most likely saved him from advanced prostate cancer, and how he became an effective advocate for early detection of prostate cancer.
Lyke is a senior partner with a marketing firm in North Carolina and also writes about wine and beer for several national magazines.
Get A Physical Exam
After one of his partners at Eric Mower and Associates was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer, he had a conversation with Lyke – urging him to get a physical examination and a PSA test.
“I hadn't been to the doctor for a physical in three years. I figured as long as my blood pressure was okay and if nothing hurt, why bother with a checkup. I was no different from a lot of men my age,” Lyke said.
When he did go for the checkup, his doctor said he didn't need a PSA; his digital rectal exam was normal. He could wait a few years.
Know Your PSA
Lyke told his physician, “I can't go back to my friend without that number so along with the other blood tests, check the box for PSA.”
His score came back 11.1. A month of antibiotics didn't lower his PSA and a biopsy confirmed cancer in 2 out of 12 cores. He was 47 years old.
“I was scared out of my wits,” Lyke said.
More social conversations got Lyke to Dr. Catalona.
“My boss told me his doctor had been operated on for prostate cancer by Dr. Catalona. And after my first conversation with Dr. Catalona, I was already more confident about treatment possibilities.”
Lyke's post prostatectomy pathology report showed cancer in 5% of the gland but it was right at the edge of the prostate.
“Dr. Catalona said that within a year, the cancer would have most likely broken through the wall of the prostate and spread to other parts of my body.”
A Lucky Guy
Lyke considers himself a lucky guy all around. He's married to Sandy, whom he dated in high school and college.
“I can't imagine going through this treatment and recovery without a committed, long-term partner. We've learned a lot about each other in the process. She and my two daughters were there for me in the hospital and at home, ready and willing to provide needed physical and emotional support.”
Lyke said.his recovery was fairly smooth. After two weeks, he went back to work part-time.
“I wanted to show everyone I was okay. And just sitting around the house while I was still waiting for PSA follow-up results wasn't good.”
After getting the catheter out, walking as much as he could helped with bladder control.
“I was doing well and had continence under control in six weeks, but I was still using a pad as a security blanket. It took awhile to realize that I was really back to normal.”
Spreading the Word
Another realization came in the form of Lyke's attitude about prostate cancer awareness and testing.
“I started thinking about the fact that beer geeks know more about their IPA (India Pale Ale) than they know about their PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). I wanted to change that,” Lyke said.
He approached his agency to develop public service ads, and he asked beer and beverage magazines for donated space.
“My plan was to target readers with a light hearted approach, ‘Pints for Prostates.’ There are lots of sources for information about prostate cancer but unless men are looking and listening, those sources are ignored.
“The idea was to focus on men in their late 30s to early 50s and let them know if they thought prostate cancer was an old man's disease, they were wrong. They need to know about testing and being their own advocates,” Lyke said.
Lyke doesn't advocate for a particular treatment. But he does believe that the PSA – and its refinements such as free PSA and PSA velocity – is an available tool that saves lives.
“Maybe the PSA isn't perfect, but it's the best we've got so far. The idea that ‘ignore it or watch it and most likely, you'll die of something else’ feeds into the typical macho response of men. We take ‘Pints for Prostates’ to beer festivals with the goal of making men aware of the fact that prostate cancer is as common in men as breast cancer is in women. I tell them, ‘I hate to kill your beer buzz but you need to get a baseline PSA score at age 40.’”
Getting Back to Normal
Lyke's goal after his radical prostatectomy was to get back to his normal life as quickly as he could. Seeing ‘Pints for Prostates’ grow into a media success that has reached millions of men is icing on the cake.
The campaign was featured on CNN as part of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's “Vital Signs” program.
“I have a terrific family and a granddaughter whom I want to see grow up. I've been given a great gift. I believe every guy lucky enough to be diagnosed with prostate cancer early enough to be treated successfully has an obligation to talk to other men.
“We're using the universal language of beer to talk to other men, but one guy to one guy can save a life.”