[Did you know?]

In an adult man, the prostate gland is about the size of a walnut.

I was 63 years old, feeling fine and without a care in the world. But last June, when I went into Sams Club [#4996] in Danville, Va., and saw that they offered a free prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, I thought, Why not? I have health insurance coverage now, but I didnt at the time, so getting a free screening seemed like a prudent thing to do.

A few weeks later, they called me and told me my PSA level was 8, which is not good. By the time I got in to see a doctor six or eight weeks later, my level was 15. Thats a huge jump. There are all sorts of reasons why a PSA level can be elevated, but in my case it turned out to be an aggressive prostate cancer.

I had surgery in January to remove my prostate and 24 lymph nodes. I was positive for cancer in five of the lymph nodes. Thats not a great result, but my doctors and I will do the best we can. The cancer isnt in my bones, and I dont have to plan for my funeral in the near future. My level of prostate cancer may not be curable, but it can be managed.

I wish Id caught the disease while it was still confined to my prostate, but Im still thankful that I got that screening. I was having no symptoms. A lot of cancers dont have symptoms until its too late. Ive always been healthy and felt good, and I never really liked going to doctors. Without Sams Club, I might have gone another year without a PSA test. By then, I might have been in serious trouble. That PSA screening may very well have saved my life, or at least prolonged it.

It wasnt a fairy-tale ending, but Im still confident that everything will turn out fine. If it doesnt, then I know I will have lived the best life I could. Im a man of faith, and I trust that whether I leave this earth in one year or 15, Ill be taken care of.

The Facts About Prostate Health

  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, is a natural consequence of male aging.
  • Half of men over age 50and 90 percent of men over age 80 will experience symptoms of an enlarged prostate.
  • BPH is not prostate cancer and does not appear to increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Gary L. Wackler is a minister at Draper Christian Church in Eden, N.C.