‘‘5 years later, I’m thriving!’’
By the time doctors found Allan Beall’s prostate cancer back in 2009, it had already spread to the lymph nodes and the spine, ribs, shoulders and skull. His PSA? A whopping 3,728! “Doctors who first saw me thought I would not make it beyond 2010.”
“Now it’s five-and-a-half years [since diagnosis],” the retired Army officer reports. “At the moment, I’m feeling pretty darn good.” So good, in fact, that he’s packing for a two-week hiking trip in the Alps with his wife, Elfriede (Elfie). It’s his favorite place to hike—although Colorado and Montana are also top stomping grounds. “Anywhere in the Rockies above the tree line—it’s spectacular!”
“New drugs are keeping me healthier”
Not that Allan has had to resort to mountain terrain for challenges. “I have been on a number of cancer medicines for the last year and a half,” he explains. That includes a medication for men whose prostate cancer has spread to other parts of the body despite using therapy to lower testosterone, a hormone that fuels prostate cancer growth. “Just two weeks ago my ‘cancer treatment quarterback’ added medication that will help me keep healthier bones and also make it very difficult for new bone metastases to take hold.”
“Knock wood, I have excellent care. And my outlook is good, given the circumstances.” He sees a urologist near his Knoxville home—the same doctor who drove to Allan’s office in 2009 to tell him face-to-face that he had metastatic prostate cancer. (“The first thing I did was go through the shock. But you get a grip on it.”) And he travels out of state to consult with a physician specializing in prostate cancer—that’s the doc he calls his cancer treatment quarterback.
“My wife and I have chosen to follow his play calls,” he says. “My treatment is not simple, but I am still here.”
“I encourage others, too”
One thing that’s helped Allan stay upbeat over the last five-and-a-half years is connecting with newly diagnosed men and their spouses. “I’ve never spoken to a person with a diagnosis worse than mine,” he says. “When I start telling them about all the treatments that are available—there’s so much more available today than just five years ago and, hopefully, the number of therapies will continue to grow—they get motivated. When they hear what my numbers were, the frown goes. Their whole attitude changes. They realize, ‘My God, I do have hope!’”
Despite having Stage IV prostate cancer, Allan remains active, strong and hopeful. Here, the habits that help him stay that way:
Hoofing it! “I walk 5 kilometers [about 3.1 miles] every evening. Research shows that those who exercise have better outcomes. And daily walks and regular hikes help strengthen my bones, offsetting the bone loss that can result from hormone therapy.”
Learning all you can. “I got very involved in my own circumstances by studying, studying, studying. I became my own advocate in fighting this cancer. I make it a point to understand as much as possible about each medication I take. But I’ve seen some guys—they won’t know their Gleason score. Or how many biopsy samples were taken. They won’t know how many came back with cancer. In my mind, this is scary. If you get involved in your own health, you’ll probably be more motivated. And the decisions you make about your health are probably going to be better because they’re more informed.”
Paying your knowledge forward. “Talking to other men with prostate cancer is therapeutic. There’s no need for anyone else to suffer and take all the time I’ve taken learning what I’ve learned. I find it so gratifying to help somebody—and that helps me!”
Thank you, Allan!
Allan retired after 25 years of service (1968-1993) in the US Army with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Four and was awarded the Legion of Merit, given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. He ran a communications group for NATO in Bosnia and Croatia before moving to Tennessee in 1998.
Photograph by JOPHOTO