“I feel good!”
That means something is working right for Marshall Mullins, who’s been facing down stage IV prostate cancer for more than two years.
Marshall Mullins is beginning to see what his oncologist means. “He tells me, ‘If the cancer is doing anything bad, you’ll feel it and you’ll feel it bad. But if you feel good, and you’re getting around and are pain-free, no matter what else is going on, something’s working right!’”
So when Marshall’s PSA started rising recently—and bone metastases took hold in new places—“I was shook up,” he admits. “But I’ve come to the realization that my doctor’s right. If I feel good, I can do what I want to do.”
And today, thankfully, Marshall—who lives with his wife, Marilyn, in Westcliff, CO, on a mountainside that’s also home to black bears, mountain lions and “all kinds of deer”—feels good. In fact, later on, he and Marilyn may go grab breakfast in town. Maybe he’ll even take out his Harley trike. “If I don’t do anything but ride around town, I enjoy it.”
The Vietnam vet has been fighting stage IV prostate cancer since March 2012, when a chest X-ray “showed spots on my ribs. Then they did a full-body bone scan. [The cancer] was all through my skeleton,” he says.
Marshall has used hormone therapy and, for the last 15 months, a medication that had been effective at keeping the tumors under control until the recent spread. To get around, he often uses a wheelchair or a power chair.
The trike? That was Marilyn’s idea. She insisted he buy it not long after his diagnosis. And it’s a showstopper. Marshall had it custom painted—on the front, which resembles the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, are names of the men in Marshall’s squadron who lost their lives. Faintly visible behind the names, a likeness of Marshall, with a tear trickling down his face.
“We went to a Harley rally a couple of weeks ago in Snowmass,” Marshall says. “We came back with two of the ‘best’ awards—first place, trike division, and best in show.” But when Marilyn couldn’t push Marshall up a rocky area to get to the stage for the awards ceremony, “Two big ol’ biker boys came over,” says Marshall. “ ‘You having trouble with that wheelchair?’ They picked me up, chair and all!”
But more than he talks about his Harley, Marshall talks about his wife. “Marilyn is my caregiver, my best friend and my wife. I can’t brag on her enough,” he says.
Despite the difficulties, the couple makes sure they get out and enjoy life. On the horizon, a trip to Albuquerque for a reunion of his squadron survivors and a seven-day float trip down the Danube. “We’ve got the best stateroom, up front. You can sit on the boat and see everything.”
Here, Marshall offers a few strategies that have helped him enjoy life while managing his cancer treatment:
Enjoy the world around you.
In winter, Marshall and Marilyn can get three feet of snow on the mountain. “We stock up on food and sit here and watch it melt,” says Marshall. “It is so beautifully white. We have nothing but pine trees around us. At the end of each limb, it’s like a snowball.”
Be open with your doctor. “We go in [to our doctor’s office] with research. We’ve heard about this treatment. Is that something for me down the road? After he’s done with me, my doctor will look at Marilyn and say, ‘You got your list?’ We go over everything.”
Keep laughing. “My sense of humor keeps me going. I laugh about anything.” Even when the local wildlife act up. “We’re in the path the bears take,” Marshall explains. “If they come too close to the house, I’ll holler at them!”
Get outside of yourself. On the last Friday of the month, Marilyn and Marshall visit a food bank in southern Colorado called Care and Share, where they donate pet food. They also go to fundraising events for local rescue shelters. At home, they have four rescue pets—two ailing dogs, Marlee (a sheltie) and Coco (a dachshund), plus two cats, Okie and, their newest, Jerry.