Tue | Apr 24, 2018

Prostate pains - Former principal in 10-year battle with dreaded illness

Published:Sunday | December 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
The new radiotherapy machine at the National Cancer Treatment Centre at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

After decades in the classroom fighting a fulfilling battle to shape the lives of hundreds of Jamaicans, former principal Samuel Reid is now facing the biggest battle of his life, prostate cancer.

Samuels started his teaching career at what was then Cambridge Junior Secondary School before moving to Salter's Hill All-Age as principal, and then to Farm Primary and Junior High, where he retired as principal after 27 years.

That set the stage for planned trips to exotic locations with the occasional return to a warm and homely oasis, and in a dream world that is what Reid would be doing.

But today, the trips are on hold as Reid is being treated at the National Cancer Treatment Centre at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

The 68-year-old has been battling with prostate cancer for more than 10 years, and at numerous points he has been so low that he has accepted that he 'lost the good fight'.

According to Reid, knowing that his family has a history of prostate cancer, he was keen on doing his regular screening tests as advised by his physician, and started when he was 50 years old.

At age 56, his prostate specific antigen (PSA) test showed an abnormal level. His doctor then advised him to do a prostate biopsy.

The result from the biopsy was not confirmatory and he was treated for inflammation of the prostate gland. Still concerned about the elevated reading, he continued doing the PSA test. The next result was even higher and another biopsy was immediately advised.

This time, the result showed him being positive for prostate cancer with a Gleason score of 7. Gleason scores range from 2 to 10 and indicate how likely it is that a tumour will spread.




To attempt to 'nip it in the bud', he did a surgical removal of all the prostate glands.

With the surgery out of the way, he had expected to return to his 'normal' retired life. However, that was not going to happen as his PSA, which initially declined, started to climb again.

"I checked another urologist and he asked me what my PSA reading was and I told him four. He said, 'You're not supposed to have such a high PSA reading because you don't have any prostate'," said Reid.

He went back to his urologist to seek advice about his elevated PSA readings and was placed on hormone treatment. However, after an initial response, his PSA continued to rise. With the hormone treatment not working, he was now pointed to radiotherapy.

This he did in 2015 on then available Cobalt machine at Cornwall Regional Hospital. He had a very good response following radiotherapy and the PSA readings went back down to .01.

He was kept under close watch with PSA test being done every three to four months, but after a while, the warning signs came again.

He was immediately placed on hormonal therapy but that was unable to suppress the PSA levels.

According to Reid, he then checked with his urologist about the possible next step and was told that by removing his testicles he might be able to control the growth of prostate cancer by lowering the level of testosterone in his blood.

"My wife and I went on the Internet and looked up the literature, which agreed with the doctor's suggestion, so we said all right. I'm an old man now, ready to do anything to rid myself of the cancer," said Reid.

About six months after the removal of a testicle, he went back to his urologist to check his PSA and was shocked to find it was even higher.

Reid said in distress, he asked his urologist what's next, as he indicated that he was prepared to meet his Maker. The urologist added further hormone treatments but things continued to get worse.

During this time, he hurt his back, which led to him having pain in his thigh muscles. Reid was told that it was possible that he had hurt his lumbar vertebrae and he started receiving treatment for that. But nothing worked.

He was then recommended to do a bone scan and was again referred to the radiation oncologist at Cornwall Regional Hospital. The result of the bone scan showed that the cancer had spread all over his spine and that was causing the pain in his legs.

"I went to Dr Praveen Sharma, radiation oncologist at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, and I said, 'What now? This looks like it. I've fought a good fight. I've been fighting it for 10 years, many of my friends are dead and rotting in their graves but I'm still here, so I give God thanks for the extra time that I got'," said Reid.




According to Reid, Dr Sharma responded, "No man, you will live ... there's hope. We have a new radiotherapy machine which can help to keep it in control."

The machine was available at the recently opened National Cancer Treatment Centre at the hospital and allowed the medical team to shift from Cobalt Radiation Therapy to Linear Accelerators.

It was acquired at a cost of US$14.5 million with funding from the National Health Fund, the CHASE Fund, the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the Vincent Hosang Foundation, and the Jamaica Association of American Professionals.

"The good Lord just made the machine available at this particular time so that I could be helped. Treatment started last week and I'm even feeling less pain in my legs. I am one of the first to have benefited from this machine and I'm so grateful," said Reid.

"The doctor said he has never seen another prostate cancer like mine ... but this machine came at the right time," added Reid.