“You Have the Power Over Your Future!”

I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled, says Joel Nowak, who’s fighting Stage IV prostate cancer—and helping others do the same.

Lindsay Bosslett
Prostate Cancer, patient story

Joel Nowak, MA, MSW, is a bit of an expert when it comes to taking a cancer diagnosis in stride.

“Since 1998 I’ve been diagnosed with four different cancers—thyroid first, which I beat, then prostate, then the kidney and skin cancer, both of which I also beat,” the 62-year-old Brooklyn, NY, resident recounts. “I’ve definitely had my fair share of treatment!”

You might expect to find such a man feeling defeated or possibly angry. But there’s not a hint of bitterness when you ask him about his health.

“I made the conscious decision to choose happiness,” Joel says.

Joel’s original prostate cancer diagnosis came in 2001, after a routine PSA test.

Joel opted for laparoscopic surgery to remove the prostate. The procedure and recovery went smoothly, and all seemed fine until Joel’s PSA numbers took another jump in 2005.

After some scans, the bad news: The prostate cancer was back, and this time it was Stage IV—metastatic. He researched his options, and with the advice of his doctor decided to start with hormone treatments before doing chemotherapy. He is now on a new type of hormone therapy and it is still effectively keeping his cancer under control.

And he’s using his many cancer diagnoses to inspire him! After retiring from his job in commercial real estate two years ago, Joel has devoted all his time to cancer advocacy.

In addition to providing medical testimony at government hearings, running online and in-person support groups, speaking at conferences, running health fairs and writing about his condition, Joel heads up a program for Malecare, a nationwide organization that helps men dealing with advanced prostate cancer.

“I’m out every day walking my dog, Charlie,” Joel says. “I’m traveling to places like Iceland and Alaska with family, and constantly adding new things to my bucket list. There’s no telling what the future holds!”

Take charge of your cancer
Despite advanced prostate cancer, Joel stays positive. Here, the tips that help him stay strong and hopeful:

Work closely with your doctor. “Ask questions, then ask some more,” Joel says. “Remember, your doctor is there to help you. You need to arm yourself against cancer with information that can help you and your doctor pick the best treatment available. That means knowing about new options and being honest about what treatments and side effects you can and cannot handle.

June 2014