Managing Advanced Prostate Cancer: Craig’s Journey from Diagnosis to Treatment to Community Support
This Air Force veteran thought he’d seen it all – then a diagnosis with advanced prostate cancer turned his life upside down, and he learned to lean on others for support.
Craig learned many lessons and skills in his 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, but perhaps the most important was resilience. Throughout his 66 years of life, Craig has always strived to stay positive, even when facing adversity. Still, nothing could have prepared him for his greatest challenge yet: stage IV advanced prostate cancer.
Christmas Eve of 2020 began like many others – Craig was on call, working as a heating and cooling technician, when he began experiencing severe stomach pain. He did his best to ignore it, not wanting to interrupt his family’s holiday plans – not to mention, he had never been a fan of doctors – but over the next few days, the pain grew unbearable enough to warrant a visit to the emergency department, where he received scans and was referred to an oncologist. After a barrage of tests, his doctor shared the shocking diagnosis.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in American men, aside from skin cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death. Approximately one in eight men will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. In Craig’s case, the cancer was considered advanced because it had spread to his lymph nodes.
When Craig first heard the news, he was in shock. “My body went into a complete void; I shut down,” he recalls. “Every day was an emotional roller coaster.” His mind immediately jumped to the worst possible scenario: “I thought about my family and immediately started end-of-life planning, making sure my wife would be cared for.”
He initially retreated from the world, trying to protect his loved ones by pulling away from them, instead spending his time alone, researching the disease. However, he came to realize he now needed his family’s support more than ever – especially from Sonalea, his wife of 47 years. Although she couldn’t come with him to doctor’s appointments, due to COVID-19 restrictions, she was by his side as much as possible, joining medical appointments by speaker phone and helping care for Craig. Craig also found comfort in his dog, a springer spaniel named Sadie, who he describes as an emotional support animal.
Craig began making a weekly trek from his home in Delaware to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he received treatment. Though he was initially anxious about these visits, he soon found an unexpected source of comfort: the other patients in the waiting room. While they waited for their appointments, they got to know each other, swapping stories and advice, and even telling jokes. It was powerful to be able to connect with others who could relate to what he was going through, and they became like a brotherhood. Even when their appointments no longer synced up, the group stayed in touch. According to Craig, “The support we gave and received within that fraternity was invaluable; I will never forget it.”
Craig’s treatment plan included the use of androgen deprivation therapy, or ADT. ADT is prescribed to lower the levels of testosterone in the body, since most prostate cancers need testosterone to grow. Craig’s oncologist recommended that he try ORGOVYX® (relugolix), a prescription medicine for the treatment of adults with advanced prostate cancer, which is the only ADT that is a pill, not an injection. After discussing the product’s safety profile and potential benefits and risks with his doctor, Craig began treatment. He experienced side effects including weight gain, hot flushes, fatigue and digestive issues, which his doctor helped him manage, but he says, “Overall, my doctor and I have been pleased with my treatment experience. This is my experience with ORGOVYX, and someone else’s may be different.” Please see Important Safety Information about ORGOVYX below.
Craig’s journey with advanced prostate cancer has been one of the hardest times of his life, but he credits his perseverance to his faith and his family and encourages anyone who has been newly diagnosed to seek support and know that they’re not alone.
As for Craig, he remains optimistic. He enjoys traveling, spending quality time with his five grandchildren and his lifelong passion for painting. Always one to see the silver lining, he is proud to share that the challenges he has faced in the past few years have given him newfound inspiration.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION AND USE
Do not take ORGOVYX if you have had a severe allergic reaction to relugolix or any of the ingredients in ORGOVYX.
What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking ORGOVYX?
Tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:
- Have any heart problems, including a condition called long QT syndrome.
- Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. ORGOVYX can harm your unborn baby and cause loss of pregnancy (miscarriage).
- Have a partner who is pregnant or may become pregnant.
- Males who have female partners who are able to become pregnant should use effective birth control (contraception) during treatment with ORGOVYX and for 2 weeks after the last dose of ORGOVYX.
- Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if ORGOVYX passes into your breast milk.
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines or treatments you receive, including: prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Taking ORGOVYX with certain other medicines can affect how ORGOVYX works or may cause side effects.
You should not start or stop any medicine before you talk with your healthcare provider who prescribed ORGOVYX.
What are the possible side effects of ORGOVYX?
Serious side effects of ORGOVYX include:
Changes in the electrical activity of your heart (QT prolongation). Your healthcare provider may check your body salts (electrolytes) and the electrical activity of your heart during treatment with ORGOVYX. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get any signs or symptoms of QT prolongation, including:
- feeling that your heart is pounding or racing (palpitations)
- chest pain
Allergic reactions. Stop taking ORGOVYX and tell your healthcare provider or get emergency medical help right away if you get any signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction, including:
- swelling of your face, lips, tongue, throat, or trouble swallowing
- trouble breathing
- hives (raised bumps), rash, or redness all over your body
Most common side effects of ORGOVYX include:
- hot flushes
- increased blood sugar levels
- increased blood fat (triglyceride) levels
- muscle and joint pain
- decreased blood hemoglobin levels
- increased liver enzymes
ORGOVYX may cause other side effects including weight gain, decreased sex drive, and erectile function problems.
ORGOVYX may cause fertility problems in males, which may affect your ability to father children. Talk to your healthcare provider if this is a concern for you.
These are not all the possible side effects of ORGOVYX. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects or if you have a side effect that bothers you or does not go away.
You may report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
What is ORGOVYX® (relugolix)?
ORGOVYX is a prescription medicine used in adults for the treatment of advanced prostate cancer.
It is not known if ORGOVYX is safe or effective in females or children.
Everyday Health does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.