Rev. David W. Nuhfer’s Survivor Story
I am a cancer survivor. In February 1983, I was told something I had never imagined hearing. “You have testicular cancer,” the doctor said. “We need to operate and remove the tumor, then go from there.” I was 26, healthy and had no reason to believe my life was about to change. I had two surgeries and was told that it had not spread. No chemo. No radiation. Regular follow-up testing. Go home, get well and get your life moving again. That sounded good. It was – until April 1986. I was now married and had two children. My urologist said, “There is another tumor. We need to remove the other testicle. It is rare, but it happens. It isn’t a recurrence of the 1983 issue. It is a new tumor.” So, I had the surgery with a family on my mind this time. The tumor was removed. However, chemo was going to be the routine for four months just to be sure everything was caught. I experienced it all – hair loss – nausea – hospital stays – weakness – lack of appetite – the whole nine yards. But, my first five words describe it – “I am a cancer survivor.” I may have had cancer, but it never had me. There were tears and there were moments of anguish, but I learned that it is faith, family and friends that help us be victorious. I also learned one other thing, perhaps most important of all – that my wife, Paulette, is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. She has shown me a character of faith and hope that is a model and inspiration for me. Her love and presence held me up (sometimes literally) on many days. This has been a major part of my life and has helped make me who I am today. Now, fast forward 26 years and I understand even more why regular check-ups are important.
In 2012, I remember my urologist saying, “Your PSA went up again. It’s not high, but we should do a biopsy, just to be safe.” I looked at my wife, Paulette, and we knew it needed to be scheduled. For the previous three years, I had my PSA checked regularly since there was a history of prostate issues in my family and because I previously had testicular cancer. It would vary a little each time within the same range, so we always felt good about regular check-ups. The biopsy came back negative. We thanked God for that answer to our prayer and knew that we needed to remain proactive. When I was 52, I had my first PSA and prostate exam. Since then, it has become a regular part of my routine. It helps that I deeply respect and like my urologist, who is a partner in my health maintenance process.
That was important when the PSA climbed again earlier this year. Again, not a high number, but higher than the previous number from three years before. We had the option of waiting three months and testing again or having another biopsy done. It didn’t take long to decide that a biopsy was the best route. Again, normal results and a six month follow-up PSA in July showed the number had come down. We realized that this is simply part the aging process, but it also affirmed my belief that regular prostate testing and check-ups are important. Because prostate cancer can be detected and successfully treated early on, regular check-ups can make the difference between peace of mind through a proactive approach and the risk of a more aggressive disease and treatment requirements.
You may not want to take the time to be proactive. You may think that the news will not be good. You may think the odds are in your favor. Why take the risk? If the results show that there is an issue it is likely that you will have had it diagnosed in time for successful treatment and a healthy, fuller life. If the news is that everything is normal, it brings peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
I still go for my PSA every six months, followed by a visit to the urologist for a physical check-up. It does take some time, but every minute is worth it, because I know that this tips the odds of good prostate health in my favor. It is worth it because I have a wife that I love and want as many years as possible with her. It is worth it because I have two active granddaughters whom I want to see graduate from high school and college, get married and have children. It is worth it because God has given me the opportunity to be a pastor, the greatest work I know, and I want to be able to follow my pastoral calling as long as possible. It is worth it because the time of my life is a gift from God and I don’t want to risk wasting it. The investment of time in testing and check-ups can pay off in more time to experience the gift I have been given. I still pray before I go to the doctor, because I trust God. However, I also go to the doctor because God calls us to be both faithful and smart (after all, Luke, who wrote one of the gospels, was a doctor, so God must think highly of them!) He gave me my life. I want to be a good steward of it. PSAs and regular check-ups are part of that stewardship.
Anytime I discuss men’s health issues, I make it a habit to encourage every man age 50 and older to have regular prostate screenings. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the people you love. The time we have in this life is limited, but we can take steps to make it full and lasting.
Rev. David W. Nuhfer
Sawmill Baptist Church