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As a FEMA emergency planner, Paul Price is used to taking charge of all manners of disasters. But when his own personal health disaster was unfolding, being heard and paid attention to was much more of a challenge.
Paul is one of the rare cases whose PSA numbers did not reveal the true state of his prostate health. PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, levels can be one warning sign for prostate cancer. The retired deputy fire chief turned first responder started having urinary problems in 2007 at the age of 54. “It continued for a year while my urologist treated me with medication. Eventually they had to catheterize me,” he recalled. “The problem was misdiagnosis. Nobody believed I had cancer.”
By April 2009, because of a build-up of scar tissue hampering his urinary function, Paul’s doctor opted to perform surgery and obtain a biopsy of Paul’s urethra. The removed tissue was sent to a pathologist who diagnosed Paul with advanced stage prostate cancer. “For two years I’d been told there was no way I had cancer,” he recalled. “In the face of the diagnosis, my doctor was not very hopeful or supportive. Let’s just say the message was not well delivered. At that point my wife and I just left the office and weren't sure where to turn.”
"Dr. Chen was extremely honest and took a lot of time with us."
At the urging of a friend and nursing professor who had taught at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Paul made an appointment to see David Chen, MD, a urologic surgeon.. “We brought all of my records so that Dr. Chen and his team could review everything," shared Paul, who listened attentively as Dr. Chen explained what they were facing. "Dr. Chen was extremely honest and took a lot of time with us."
In August 2009, Paul opted to to undergo a prostatectomy with Dr. Chen. “I'll be honest - it was major surgery,” he admitted. “I am not back to 100 percent. But the good news is that there is no sign of cancer. And Dr. Chen continues to monitor me closely.”
Although Paul returned to work and living a normal life within one year of surgery, he faced two challenges. The first was urine leakage and the second was pain in his pelvic floor. By early 2013, Paul’s pain was profound and would come on suddenly. “It was completely disabling,” he recalled. “Although I had muscle relaxants to treat the pain, by the time they’d kick in, the episode would be over. If it happened in the field when I was working, it was really a problem,” said the New Jersey native, who has returned to his work with FEMA.
Paul was extremely pleased with Fox Chase's physical therapists for teaching exercises to manage his symptoms.
Paul was recommended to return to Fox Chase for pelvic floor rehabilitation training in June 2013, to address and improve on these issues. He worked with physical therapist, Jeannie Kozempel PT, DPT, MS, who Paul described as “a tough cookie if there ever was one!” He began an eight-week physical therapy course centered on exercises aimed at controlling the pelvic floor muscles. “No other hospitals are offering this therapy,” he said. “For me, the results were just incredible.”
Not only did the exercises stop the pelvic pain, the regime gave Paul back control over the leakage problem. “I was never one to exercise much,” he said. “But I am committed to doing these exercises. I have great respect for what Jeannie taught me,” he said. “My experience with Fox Chase was just amazing. Everyone is completely focused on the patient, on customer service. Everybody in the hospital, even the lady mopping the floor, would ask me how I was doing, how was my pain that day. I wasn’t ready for them all to care so much about me.”