Shaw Cancer Center’s prostate patients benefit beyond medical aspects of treatment. Through programs developed with your help, these men are offered care, compassion and camaraderie.
Prostate cancer affects roughly one in every nine men. It can be a brutal affair — emotionally, physically and socially. But when you’ve got the kind of support, multidisciplinary expertise and high-caliber care of Shaw Cancer Center’s prostate program, the journey is a much more hopeful one.
That’s exactly how “Captain” Kirk Floyd, an Eagle resident who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, describes his experience at Shaw. He calls the team of experts his “family,” and says that despite being emotionally jangled by his prostate cancer diagnosis, he never gave up his optimistic outlook. He knew he was getting some of the best care he could ever ask for.
“When I went to the Shaw clinic I was never down. It was always a positive experience,” says Kirk. “I never got depressed through my entire journey because I knew that they were there to save my life.”
Kirk was diagnosed with prostate cancer just seven days after Christmas in 2018, and by January of 2019 he was already embarking on a journey with Shaw that would change his life and mindset forever.
“I just think of that place like a country club,” explains Kirk. “And I thought, ‘That country club is going to put my life back on the right track again.’”
Comprehensive Cancer Care
Kirk benefited from Shaw Cancer Center’s integrated prostate program, which is as comprehensive as it is progressive. Each patient’s care is managed by knowledgeable and compassionate cancer specialists, physicians and technicians working together as a team to provide the best possible treatment for each patient’s unique needs.
“We call it our cancer conference,” explains Kim Sharkey, Shaw’s cancer services manager. “We modeled it after our breast cancer program’s multidisciplinary clinic. We have a lot of success around it and it’s been really beneficial for our patients.”
Once a month, this multidisciplinary A-team of prostate cancer specialists convenes to examine each patient’s case and decide on the best course of treatment, together. Patients can meet with all of their specialists and physicians that same day, allowing them to consult with everyone in one convenient location: Shaw. On hand to discuss anything from recent diagnostics to symptoms or concerns are Shaw’s Medical Director of Radiation Oncology Dr. Patricia Hardenbergh, Shaw’s Medical Oncologist Dr. Michael Glode, Colorado Mountain Medical Urologist Dr. Connie Wolf, Diagnostic Radiologist Dr. Wayne Wenzel and Shaw’s Dr. Alexander Urquhart, who specializes in hematology and medical oncology.
“I think it is so great because in a city or somewhere else, these patients might be driving all over, to three or four different places for doctors appointments,” says Sharkey. At Shaw, prostate cancer patients have access to everything and everyone they need, and they don’t have to go far from home for their care.
Shaw Cancer Center’s prostate program goes beyond the medical aspects of treatment, though. It also provides immense social and emotional support through the Spirit of Survival program and groups like the Boys of Shaw.
“Boys of Shaw started out as an informal support group of men that were getting together over lunch on their own,” Sharkey explains. Those men found it valuable to connect with a network of other men going through a similar experience, and decided to take it a step further. “They came to us shortly after they started informally meeting and said they’d like a little more structure around it.”
So, Shaw started to facilitate lunches and built the Boys of Shaw into a bona-fide aspect of its prostate program.
Quarterly, this group of prostate cancer patients meets up for a “lunch-and-learn.” Sometimes there will be a speaker, such as Dr. Glode, who might talk about specific concerns; a Howard Head Sports Medicine physical therapist to teach pelvic floor strengthening exercises; or a medical specialist to talk about sexual health. There’s a question-and-answer session, and a lot of discussion.
But really, it’s the companionship that makes the Boys of Shaw such a valuable group. It’s a fraternity, a family of men sharing in a common experience and healing — together.
“I think the camaraderie and peer-to-peer engagement is really powerful for them to know they are not in this alone,” says Erin Perejda, a social worker and the survivorship program coordinator at Shaw.
Often, during stressful times, it can be difficult for people to express their feelings or divulge their fears — neither of which are healthy to bottle up when you’re fighting cancer. The Boys of Shaw offers male patients a chance to do exactly that in a safe, comfortable place, around people who understand their struggles.
“We bring in a variety of specialists to help with both the physical and psychosocial aspects of cancer, and we continually see our patients form a community of their own, seeking support and wanting to heal and be healthy together,” explains Sharkey.
Part of what makes the program so special is its unending development. Shaw periodically hosts focus groups of men with cancer to determine how they can better address the unique challenges that men face in dealing with the disease.
Addressing some of the challenges prostate patients experience can be awkward: The treatment can result in painful and frequent urination, bowel irregularities, erectile dysfunction and a host of other uncomfortable side-effects that have emotional implications. Patients often have questions about their sexual health, their relationships and other deeply personal issues. It can be a journey of vulnerability, both physically and emotionally.
The support Shaw offers to navigate these challenges is extremely important to help patients not just survive, but also thrive. It’s why prostate patients like Captain Kirk are so hopeful, positive and happy to have been a part of Shaw’s prostate program. “I really had the best experience,” Kirk says of his time and treatment at Shaw. “They have the top-notch people, they’re friendly and they’re positive… it’s really a special place.”
“It was always a positive experience. I never got depressed through my entire journey because I knew that they were there to save my life.”Captain Kirk