In His Own Voice: His 15-Year Journey with Advanced Prostate Cancer - Steve Poggi

June 9, 2020

Steve Poggi shares his personal journey with prostate cancer that started in 2005. Having lived with the metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer for the past 15 years, he shares insight into his journey, confidence in his medical team, and how a positive attitude is the key to living a happy life with prostate cancer.


Steve Poggi, Prostate Cancer Patient 

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Steve Poggi: Hi, my name is Steve. I'm from California, and I was diagnosed on June 23rd of 2005. I had a high Gleason count PSA of 37.5. And here I am, I'm still vertical. The treatments that I've been going through are keeping me alive, and I thank the Lord that he directed me to the right people to take care of my disease.

Well, when I was first diagnosed I was shocked, depressed. They put me on Casodex® immediately, and my oncologist at home told me to ... he got me set up to go down to UCSF in San Francisco. And I was teamed up with some really, really fantastic doctors. And they had a plan for me because at that time there wasn't a lot of options. There was radiation, chemo, immunotherapy, hormonal therapy. And the team that I had, the radiation specialist, the oncologist specialist, they put up a program that I felt very, very comfortable with. And I was very happy to see that, obviously, they knew exactly what they were doing. And there was some question if it went into my lymph nodes, and that's why surgery was not an option. But the treatments that I did have, it definitely worked. That definitely came out with a positive response.

Yeah, back then there wasn't too much. Now, yeah I mean, the list is just endless. And basically, I've been on programs. I've been on Phase I trials. I've been on this, I've been on that. And it's kind of like they just go right down the list. And so, if they see they want to put me on something new, they look at my past history, and they go, "No, you can't do that because of this, but you can do this." And so, one thing that the doctors have instilled in me is, we all are concerned about our PSA number. It's a mental thing. It's just, it freaks everybody out. In my situation, my doctors have calmed me down about PSA counts and said that the critical criteria are bone scans and CT scans, which I have every 90 days. My PSA has gone up and down the ladder. I mean, it's gone from zero to 500. It's got down to three, and now it's, I think, at 140. But my doctor says PSA is fine, but it's slow-growing. I have a slow-growing cancer. It's metastasized to the bones. All the treatments that I've been on, are specifically for that type of cancer. And so, I'm very happy with the treatments I get.

The Phase I trials are, how can I say? Testy, time-consuming. You have to do everything precisely at the same time, the same day. But if it's going to help somebody in the future, I'm all for it. And that's why I think that I'm in the best hands I could be anywhere, and I've never opted out of not doing a Phase I trial. They've all worked for me. Some meds counteracted with some other meds, and my doctors immediately changed. I remember one day that my doctor put me on a med, and it gave me a rapid heartbeat and I called him, and I left a message with him, and he called me back. And I was in a movie theater, and he said, "Stay off it. Get off it, right now." So as far as the treatment, the follow-up, it's second to none. It's the best in the West, best ever. I feel very confident with who I'm with and what they're doing with me.

Yeah, I regret that when I had a physical, my primary care doctor said, "We want you to go get a PSA count," because when he did the bend over, blah, blah, blah, he said it was enlarged. So I talked to my wife, Carolyn, and I put a little sticky note on my computer monitor, and it sat there for a year. I regret that I didn't do it right then and there, maybe my PSA would have been lower. Maybe it would have been different treatment, but at that point, I don't know. But it is what it is. I waited a year, and when I got the news that, "This is what you have," it was devastating.

My wife also has cancer. We had it at the same time, so it was like a buddy system, and she's in total remission. I'm still kicking. It's not going to go away, but I'm on Xofigo® right now. I just started it. It'll be my second treatment coming up in a couple of weeks, and they just go down the list and say, "Well, okay, let's try this." So, one session of chemo, two sessions of radiation, and one session of high-dose radiation, which was kind of cool. I mean, they wired me up, and I stayed overnight. But I wouldn't have done anything differently, but I'm certainly glad, and I tell my doctor up in my hometown, I see him in the hospital all the time, "Thank you for getting me down to UCSF with the right people."

Well, as hard as it may seem, you have to keep a positive attitude. You have to research. If you're close to a facility like we have here in San Francisco, I mean, that's where you want to go. You want to try to get the best, and the most knowledgeable doctors and programs that are available for this disease. I wasn't aware too much about prostate cancer at all, except for the fact that you hear about it every day with men, and they have November with the mustache for Prostate Cancer Month. I would say, research, get the best treatment possible, and if that means you have to fly somewhere, or you have to go somewhere, do it because it's lifesaving. That's about it.

I'm happy I'm vertical 15 years, going on ... I hope for another 15 years. But I'm very, very pleased with my treatments. I keep the PSA way in the back of my head, and I look at the bone scan, and the CT scan, because my doctors have really honed in on that because I think the PSA thing is a mental thing. And even going through Phase I trials and trials, the PSA number can fluctuate, and they have no answer for it. So you have to trust your doctor and put your faith in him that they're doing the right thing. And just because your numbers are going up and down, for me, the bone scan and the CT scan is the main, main criteria, and it's been pretty much level for, I don't know, four, or five, six years, something like that, I don't know.

But I'm still on the same drugs. I'm on Lupron®. I'll be on Lupron® the rest of my life. Other than that, go workout, keep my strength up. But a lot of it is mental. You have to be mentally tough to go through this stuff because if you don't, it'll just tear you down. It'll be worse than having the disease. I mean, they told me that I'll probably pass away from something else other than prostate cancer. So that's a good thing to hear.

For the person who can't get a second opinion, and they cannot get to a facility outside of their hometown, my suggestion is to go on some websites that specifically hone in on prostate cancer, and get some information, and jot it down, print it out on your computer, and take it to your doctor so that he can go over it with you. He might not be aware of some of the new trials and drugs that are available to you. You go to a research and development hospital, they have all the tools right there. You might not have that in your hometown, so my suggestion is, go on a website like this, find out some information, talk to your doctor about it, and then take the next step.