Orvil is a 71-year-old prostate cancer survivor. He regularly had preventive exams, digital tests, and blood tests to screen for prostate cancer since age 50, and about ten years ago, tests revealed that his prostate was enlarged. Initially, the doctors advised that they would just keep an eye on it. Shortly after, his Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels began to increase, so the doctors did a biopsy. They found that Orvil had adenocarcinoma, which is an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
Orvil was a medical corpsman in the military and his wife, Nancy, was a nurse practitioner, so they understood the prognosis and possibilities that could occur. That’s why they realized what was needed and decided to move forward with the treatment. Orvil had surgery within about four weeks of the diagnosis.
Orvil acknowledges that it’s never easy to be told you have cancer and there is always a chance that complications can occur. He and Nancy have a very strong faith and he trusted in his faith to help him through his experience with prostate cancer. Additionally, he went to the Veterans Health Administration (VA) for his medical care and trusted in the medical staff there. The care he received was quick and the staff was decisive in what they told him and he felt confident in moving forward with the treatment.
Orvil remained in the hospital for two days following his surgery before going home. His recovery went relatively quickly. He had to deal with some slight incontinence for a few months, but nothing serious. Since recovering from his surgery, he has had a blood test annually.
There was history of cancer in Orvil’s family; he cared for his father in the last year of his life when he had liver cancer, and his grandfather also had cancer. Additionally, his younger brother is battling cancer. He believes that because he knew what to expect, it made facing this situation easier for him.
Having seen others close to him handle living with cancer helped Orvil learn how he wanted to deal with the same situation in his life.
Before his prostate cancer experience, Orvil had one of his legs amputated at the knee, due to an infection. He’d had several knee replacements, ultimately leading to the infection and the need for the amputation. Having already made it through that trying experience provided him with additional strength to deal with his cancer.
Orvil hasn’t known other prostate cancer survivors, but he has friends who provided great support, including neighbors and people from his church. He recommends that along with having a good support network, all cancer patients should read everything they can about their prognosis and all the available treatments because he believes a patient needs to inform himself so he can discuss things wisely with his doctor.
Orvil follows anything he sees in the media about prostate cancer and is thrilled whenever he sees more progress being made. What he would like to see in the future is more preventive medicine for prostate cancer as well as more non-surgical and non-radiation treatments.
The prostate cancer didn’t only affect Orvil’s physical health—it has also given him a sense of his own mortality. Not in a sense that he feels fatalistic about it, but more it gave him a sense of how human we all are and how we all have common problems we have to face. As a result, Orvil appreciates life and each individual day more.
Orvil has been living in a motor home for about ten years now with his wife. They bought a small camper about twenty years ago, and Nancy said she’d never live in one fulltime. But, once they got a taste, they didn’t go back. Their current motor home is 41 feet long, providing plenty of space, and it enables them to visit their three adult children and reside where they choose to each day.
Orvil believes that attitude is just as important to cancer recovery as any medical care you are getting. Because personal attitude is crucial to your outcome, he believes it’s important to make the most of life.