There are always trade-offs in life.
It’s been one of Jay Morgan’s favorite sayings, but it resonates now more than ever.
He can’t do all the things he used to enjoy doing, like running a 5K at age 70 in under 30 minutes. He still runs 5Ks, it just takes him 45 minutes now. But he’s alive and well after a stage four, terminal cancer diagnosis last year – a trade-off he’s happy to have made.
What started as routine blood work for a renewal of a life insurance policy quickly turned into a series of events that forever changed his life.
PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, is a test used to determine the health of the prostate gland. Ten years ago, Jay had the test done and his numbers were around 4, Jay recalls. “Not bad for someone who was 61, I thought,” he said.
He’d been offered to have the test repeated at checkups over the years, but declined.
“Not because I was scared,” Jay said. “Pretty much just the opposite. I was pretty active, lifting weights, running 36 5Ks each year. My feeling was that I was sort of invincible and that I wouldn’t have to worry about something like prostate cancer.”
After a standard visit from a nurse from the insurance company to collect health results for his renewal policy, he received a report that said all his various functions were great, but his PSA numbers were off the chart.
“At first I was really irritated,” Jay remembers, after reading the letter that said the company only rejects about four percent of applicants. “I thought, show me someone who is 70 years old and in better shape than I am and I’ll get their autograph.”
Jay took action and scheduled an appointment with his family doctor where he was told his PSA results were “phenomenally high” and he was recommended to a urologist, Dr. Key at Dayton Physicians Network.
Dr. Key conducted more work and the results were the same – extremely high levels of PSA in his blood. In fact, he went from a reading of 4.16 to 437 – no decimal points – in just ten years.
At one point, before Jay knew his numbers, he had asked what PSA reading would be considered dangerous. That number was 20.
It didn’t take long for Jay, a career trained mathematician, to understand that his reading was more than 202 of the number considered serious.
“He looked at me like he was the grim reaper,” Jay recalls about his first appointment with Dr. Key.
Initially, Jay was told he had two years to live with such a serious diagnosis.
“That’s tough,” Jay said with a pause. “I was somewhat in shock about that and anxious – very, very anxious.”
At the same time as his diagnosis, pressure from his enlarged prostate was compressing his urethra making urination difficult before it became nearly impossible – a complication that is seen in some cases of prostate cancer.
It became so uncomfortable, he ended up in the ER where over 1500 cc of urine were removed from his body. The average bladder holds between 300-400 cc. He was told he was lucky his bladder didn’t burst and sent home with instructions to see his urologist ASAP.
So in addition to dealing with facing his mortality, Jay was forced to catheterize himself more than 300 times over the next four months.
With his bladder health restored, Jay began cancer treatment. Drugs to promote bone growth and halt testosterone production and four chemotherapy pills became part of his daily regimen.
And the results are staggering. His PSA has dropped every three months. His most recent reading: 0.31.
Besides an aspirin or two maybe once a year, Jay had never taken pharmaceuticals or prescription drugs for ailments. Now he’s on a cocktail of meds keeping him alive.
“I don’t like taking the drugs and I don’t like the side effects,” he said about hot flashes and a significant decrease in energy levels. “When I do exert myself I become very fatigued, and much more tired than I ever was before.”
“But it’s worth the price,” Jay said about the trade-off.
An outpouring of positive support from friends and family, the extraordinary care team at Dayton Physicians Network and a positive attitude are what Jay credits to his remarkable progress.
“The incredible love and support from my family and friends – it was simply overwhelming,” Jay commented.
“My wife was my guardian angel – I truly did not know she loved me that much,” he said, of Lynn, his wife of 38 years. “I don’t know how I would have gotten through this if it hadn’t been for her. She has been simply amazing.”
Today, Jay’s outlook is far better than it was 18 months ago when he received his diagnosis. But with no cure for stage four prostate cancer, he will live with this disease for the rest of his life.
“My fondest hope, although I’m not sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for it, is that cancer research does literally, truly cure it,” Jay said about prostate cancer. “I’m sure that will happen someday, whether I’m around at that point I don’t know.”
Cure or not, Jay has made an astonishing turnaround.
“I think it’s safe to say I’m the poster patient for Dr. Key,” Jay said. “His cancer treatment plan had incredible results.”
At a recent prostate cancer 5K, Jay had the opportunity to introduce his son, daughter and grandson to Dr. Key. “I introduced him as the person who saved my life,” Jay commented.