By JIM LANGHAM • Feature Writer
When Elaine Sierer asked her husband, Roger, to take advantage of a spouse’s blood test in March of 2010, his first response was, “Absolutely not, I don’t need it, I am in good health.”
“Every March the school has a blood screening for employees and their spouses,” explained Sierer. “Elaine kept asking me if I wanted one. I kept saying that I didn’t need it.”
Ten days after the screening, Sierer went with Elaine to an appointment in the office of their family physician, Dr. Wendell Spangler.
“As always, her results were good,” said Sierer. “Then I asked him about mine. He looked through it and seemed pretty satisfied until he got to the bottom of the sheet. He had a startled tone in his voice and said, ‘Your PSA numbers are up. These numbers are really high.’
“I asked him what he was referring to. I didn’t even know what PSA meant. He told me that it referred to the prostate. He said that normal is 4.0 or less and mine was over 11.0. He told me that I needed to get it checked out.
“He directed me to a urologist that comes out to the hospital on Wednesdays,” continued Sierer. “That morning before I went out there, I saw on television where doctors have a tendency to over-diagnose sometimes on prostate cancer. I asked the doctor if he minded if I had another test.”
The next week, the number was up even more, 13.0. The physician was emphatic to the local businessman that he needed to get things taken care of. A series of biopsies confirmed the cancer diagnosis.
“The doctor told me that I needed to have surgery to have it (prostate) taken out,” said Sierer. “He also told me that I had a slow kind of cancer. I asked him how long I had if I didn’t have surgery and he told me 10-14 years. I said, ‘Well, I would be 80 by then.”
Once again Sierer asked for a reference for another doctor to check out possible noninvasive treatment. He was given the name of Dr. Satish Velagapadi, a urologist at Parkview North in Fort Wayne. He explained other alternatives to Sierer, including radiation treatment, which he selected.
After several weeks of treatments, he was given a hormone therapy and informed that he could have hormone problems. He was then referred to Dr. John Crawford, a radiologist at Parkview North, to fine tune the final portion of treatments.
In addition, his body was matched up with a special treatment plan where he would receive 48 radiation treatments.
“Each treatment lasted about seven minutes. It had no after effects,” said Sierer. “They told me that (lack of aftereffects) was because I was in such good health otherwise that I was able to tolerate the treatments.”
Several months after the disease was originally discovered, Sierer finished his final treatment on Nov. 9, 2010.
“At first I took blood tests every three months for the first year, then every six months. Now I am down to once a year,” said Sierer.
Following radiation treatments, Sierer’s PSA number had dropped to .03, one of the lowest that the attending physician had ever seen.
But then Sierer’s struggle with cancer had emerged in a different place. He had been diagnosed with a type of melanoma on his face.
For that, through a close family friend, Doreen Vance, who worked for Summit Plastic Surgery, he was referred to Dr. Albert Morrison, who observed and treated the melanoma.
Ironically, when skin was grafted to treat the melanoma, it corrected a hearing problem he had experienced in his right ear.
These days, Sierer can’t thank enough his wife, Vance and physicians who assisted with his treatment.
“I was such a macho; I thought, ‘This will never happen to me,’” said Sierer. “Now, I’m so glad I got in there and got it done. I am thankful to be in the position of a survivor for the Relay; I am honored and I want to tell everyone that if they love their wives, their kids and their grandkids, get in there and get it done.
“I’m living one day at a time; I’m not looking ahead. I’m just living each day the best that I can,” Sierer said. “Sure, I’ve always kept myself busy, but I had to take the time out to get this taken care of. I’m glad that I did.
“I kept insisting that he get the treatments; I’m glad that I didn’t give up. He’s a good husband and a good father,” said Elaine.
“She saved my life; I’m glad that I listened to her, and to everyone who helped and encouraged me along the way,” Sierer said.