Prostate Cancer Survivor Shares His Journey

Milestone 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 Satterwhite  associates with milestones in his experience with prostate cancer. 

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

Satterwhite’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 Satterwhite 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 Satterwhite. “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 Cancer Institute (RPCI), Satterwhite 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,’” Satterwhite 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. 

Satterwhite is a patient navigator for Roswell Park’s Urology Department, helping guide patients diagnosed with prostate cancer through the treatment process. He helps patients identify and overcome any process in their cancer journey. Satterwhite 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.

For the past four years, MANUP Buffalo has partnered with RPCI to host the annual Cruisin’ for a Cure Buffalo Car Show and Prostate Cancer Screening event. “The event uses the love of classic cars as the ‘hook’ for men to come here, receive prostate cancer education and a free screening,” explains Satterwhite. “We have screened more than 300 at-risk men since our first show in 2011. We have proven that this event does indeed save men’s lives.”

We ask that you remember this date: Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. This year’s Cruisin’ for a Cure Buffalo Car Show and Prostate Cancer Screening event will be held 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the Roswell Park campus at Elm & Carlton Streets in Buffalo, rain or shine. Men ages 40 and up, who are interested in a free prostate cancer screening are encouraged to pre-register. 

For more information, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724), or visit www.roswellpark.org.