By Josh Hart

When I was first told I had prostate cancer, the first thing I did was swear. Just once. Then I asked myself what am I going to do about it? I can’t whine about it. I’ve got it. Let’s get rid of it.

Josh Hart
Josh Hart

The story of my cancer survival began in my thirties, when my mother recommended I start getting screened for prostate cancer. She had battled cancer and also worked in a healthcare-related field. So I took her advice to heart and began getting my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels checked regularly.

My PSA levels started creeping up a bit when I hit my forties. But I can’t say I really made any changes. Even though I work in the food service industry, I have never had a healthy diet. I think I was the creator of my own poison. My son is a vegan and my daughter ate strictly vegetarian for a long time so I knew how to eat better. I had high cholesterol and my wife and I decided we were going to stop eating red meat just before I found out about the cancer.

The cancer was actually discovered when I was getting checked for a hernia. My doctor, John Silkensen, suggested I do my routine PSA test while I was having a visit, because it had been close to ten months. When the tests came back, he called me and told me that maybe I should leave the hernia for now and see a prostate specialist.

Dr. Craig Rinder did the preliminary tests and biopsy and discovered that my prostate was pretty well saturated with cancer. He spent a lot of time going over all the options with me and gave me some reading materials to take home. I did more research online and talked out all the possibilities with my wife. We decided that, at age 62, surgery was the best choice for me rather than risk having it come back again.

My experience at BMH was amazing. I met the anesthesiologist in pre-op and he explained everything that was going to happen. The next thing I knew I was in the recovery room and starting my four-day stay on the second floor. It was great that I could have the procedure taken care of right here in town. My wife and daughter were able to come visit me during their lunch breaks or after work. The nurses on all three shifts were professional and compassionate and made sure all my needs were met to a tee.

During the operation they discovered that the cancer had spread onto my bladder as well. That was kind of a bummer emotionally, but they probably wouldn’t have noticed it had I not gone the surgery route. Once again, Dr. Rinder explained all the options to me thoroughly, and I chose to undergo radiation treatments, which I am pleased to say that I am finally finished with. The cancer seems to be gone. I’ve been coming to BMH every three months for my lab work and to see Dr. Rinder. As time passes I will have to visit him less frequently. I even finally had my hernia taken care of at the end of March.

My advice to all the men out there is don’t be afraid of what the doctor will find; get checked for prostate cancer during yearly check-ups. Also, remember the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Watch your intake of saturated fats and cholesterol. My wife and I still eat chicken and fish, but we can sit down and have a completely vegetarian dinner without thinking twice about it.

On Saturday, April 21, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital will hold its annual Giving from the Heart Gala and Showers to Flowers Auction. The proceeds from these events support the hospital’s Oncology Department. As one of the many cancer survivors who have benefited from the exceptional care BMH provides the community, I thank all of you who have attended in the past and will do so again this year.

Josh Hart is a resident of Dummerston and the food service supervisor for Holton Home in Brattleboro.