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Prostate Cancer: A Survivor's Story

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
BILL BLAIR: It was probably one of the biggest shocks in my life. I've had many other things happen to me. And they were nothing compared to this.

ANNOUNCER: Bill Blair is a six-year prostate cancer survivor. He is also a cancer researcher, who thought he knew his subject inside and out.

BILL BLAIR: I thought I knew, but, in the medical profession, you're taught to distance yourself from the problem so you can be objective. And since then, I've dealt with hundreds, and hundreds of people with cancer. And I understand what they're going through now. I didn't at the time. It's just not easy to describe the feeling you have, of fear and hopelessness, and that you have to deal with it.

ANNOUNCER: When Bill's cancer was discovered he was just looking forward to an active retirement BILL BLAIR: I thought my vision would be that I'd just repair old airplanes, and fly, and do nothing. And I'm not a do nothing person. So that was a downer.

ANNOUNCER: Bill, who'd been used to tackling medical problems head on, felt particularly helpless when his doctor said "cancer."

BILL BLAIR: And I said, "Well, when do I see you?" And he said, "Next Wednesday." I said, "This is Saturday. What do I do between Saturday and Wednesday?" And I had a few tears after that.

ANNOUNCER: Bill initially had surgery to treat his prostate cancer.

BILL BLAIR: I unfortunately didn't fall into that category, as so many men fall into the category, where they cannot be cured by surgery. But I did try. And I, my lymph nodes were positive. And that meant this tumor was somewhere else. So I had to change my tactics.

ANNOUNCER: For bill that meant androgen deprivation therapy.

BILL BLAIR: What you do is you try to stop testosterone from getting to the tumor. Because that feeds it. And then you shut down the process of making testosterone at the same time.

ANNOUNCER: What was difficult for Bill were the side effects of the therapy which included hot flashes, depression and complications that involved his bones.

BILL BLAIR: I had osteoporosis. I was told by my health care provider that it was incurable. I would probably have fractures. My spine might, would collapse. I would, if I fractured a hip, I was in serious trouble. And when you have osteoporosis, the one thing is it, is you're told by sometimes, and with good intention, by your health care providers, "Be very careful. Watch yourself when you're stepping off of steps. Don't fall." And there's a big don't list. And that's a downer.

ANNOUNCER: But Bill's doctors suggested a therapy using intravenous bisphosphonates to deal with the bone complications that came not only from his therapy but from the fact that the cancer had spread to his bones.

BILL BLAIR: What bisphosphonates do is they stop the breaking down of bone. And in that process, if you stop the breaking down of bone, or loss of bone, you can contain bone. And you do that with bisphosphonates, and Vitamin D, and some calcium. And I can tell you, when I mentor people with skeletal metastases, this is life saving. To take it late, when you're in pain, is not as effective. But it's very effective at relieving pain, and very effective at stopping osteoporosis as well. I would take bisphosphonates until I'm not here anymore. This is my penicillin. It's why I'm alive. That's my belief. There's much scientific evidence to support that. And until something better comes along, that's what I'm going to continue doing.

ANNOUNCER: Bill realized that finding a treatment that worked, helped his attitude as well. BILL BLAIR: If you have a drug you think can treat your condition, that's very much of an upper. I looked into all the aspects, and I thought these bisphosphonates were critical. And that changes your attitude to your problem. I have a picture from last year; I was up a 30 foot ladder. And I don't worry about fracturing bones. And, that's also very good. To go after this disease, not away from it. Don't retreat from it.

ANNOUNCER: Bill's belief in fighting back prompted him to become a patient advocate, keeping current on all aspects of the problem.

BILL BLAIR: The cancer has been a great opportunity for me. Because it allows me to go back and focus on that which I love to do. I go to the library once, once or twice a month. I read hundreds of papers every month. It's a great opportunity, really.

ANNOUNCER: And Bill's open to finding options besides traditional medicine. He routinely augments his therapies with vitamins and a solid routine of exercise. BILL BLAIR: Every day I do Tai Chi and Yoga. And I'm more flexible now than I was when I was 50. Yeah, I feel better. So, it's an up.

ANNOUNCER: Though still living with cancer, Bill is determined not to let it dictate how he lives his life.

BILL BLAIR: If you have skeletal metastases, and osteoporosis, and you buy the story that you cannot do things, I think you're limiting your life. For me that's not the way to go. I do more. I cross country ski; I'll climb ladders. Whatever I'm going to do, I'm going to do. And if I fracture a limb, then I fracture a limb. And it's interesting, I think my skeleton's gotten stronger, not weaker. And so I think the body is made to be used. And the skeleton is a living structure. And to disuse it, is the worst thing you can do in my opinion.

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