Milestones in the Making

Prostate Cancer Survivor Shares His Cancer Journey

Richard Satterwhite doesn’t have any trouble remembering dates. Among those that will stay with him: Sept. 6, Oct. 24 and Dec. 14. These are the dates that Richard associates with milestones in his experience with prostate cancer.

Eight years ago, on Sept. 6, Richard received the news that he had prostate cancer. Although the diagnosis was unexpected, he did have one sign that something was amiss. It was a television infomercial for a prostate medication, which relieved symptoms of an enlarged prostate — such as difficulty with urination — that made Richard, then 44, think of his own recent urination problems, and sent him to make an appointment with his doctor.

Richards’s examination with his doctor included collecting a small blood sample to check levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in his blood, which can indicate cancer may be present. His PSA level was highly elevated and he was referred to an urologist. Another PSA test ordered by the urologist confirmed elevated PSA levels and he underwent a biopsy. Cancer was found in his prostate.

“There’s an expression, ‘having the wind sucked out of your sails,’ which was exactly how I felt upon receiving the news that cancer had been found in my body,” says Richard. “I still remember walking out of the doctor’s office to tell my wife the news and seeing the look of helplessness that flashed across her face. I thought about talking to our kids and my mother. I remembered my father, who passed away some 15 years before from ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I thought about how my life changed in an instant. I think I experienced every emotion my body could muster that day, and I kept most of them to myself in an attempt to be strong for my family.”

Two of those emotions were anger and then determination to not let this ‘cancer thing’ beat him. After consulting with the experts at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Richard decided that in his case, and at his age, having his prostate removed, an operation called radical prostatectomy, would be the best option for him.

“As cliché as it may sound, if Sept. 6, 2007 was the ‘day my life changed forever,’ then Oct. 24, 2007 was the ‘first day of the rest of my life,’” Richard says about the day of his operation. “In my opinion, I made the right decision for my cancer treatment based on all the information provided to me. I would advise any man who may find themselves in the same circumstances as me, to take control of your life, learn the facts, talk to your doctor, and don’t give up.”

Which brings up that last date: Dec. 14, 2007. That’s the day Satterwhite was told he was cancer free. “Here we are more than seven years later and I’m still cancer free,” he says, and proactive in the cancer community.

About Richard Satterwhite

Richard Satterwhite is a patient navigator for Roswell Park’s Urology Department, helping guide patients diagnosed with prostate cancer through the treatment process. He was elected President of Men Allied for the Need to Understand Prostate Cancer (MANUP) Buffalo, a volunteer organization that was formed in Buffalo in 2008 and is comprised of a diverse group of men, including many prostate cancer survivors. MANUP Buffalo provides men with educational resources to help them make informed decisions about their prostate health, and issues related to prostate cancer screening and early detection, treatment options and survivorship.