The Prostate Papers—Chapter 5: The Club

In The Club episode of The Prostate Paper, Gary discovers new friends with a shared experience dealing with prostate cancer.

Gary Ebersole here, back with another chapter of The Prostate Papers. When I closed the last episode, I said I’d discuss the challenges of choosing the optimal diagnostic path. I had recorded and edited the episode and was about to publish it. It was at that point I decided I was feeling drained after my intense research on prostate cancer. At the same time, I was dealing with my challenges in trying to gain access to the medical system. I have a good Medicare Advantage PPO plan, yet two of the top cancer centers in the country (I’ll name names—MD Anderson and the Mayo Clinic) refused to take my insurance, which would require me to go out of network and pay out-of-pocket for charges not covered by my plan. To add to my frustration, I discovered my geographic location had a significant impact on my choices for diagnosing and treating prostate cancer.

So, I went looking for something positive from this prostate cancer experience and didn’t have to go far. I have been overwhelmed by how open men who are dealing with prostate cancer have been. Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t expect guys to talk openly and candidly about sexual dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and even bowel problems. When all is well, we may joke about these topics but don’t talk seriously about them. That all changes when a man receives a prostate cancer diagnosis and mentions it to someone else who is dealing with the same thing. The sharing begins.

My Club

It’s a club with a singular and obvious membership requirement—being treated for prostate cancer. Some men may be among the lucky who are diagnosed with indolent, slow-growing cancer and avoid treatment for now. However, even with active surveillance as the treatment, you’re still in the club. It’s a lifetime membership.

As a result of this podcast series, my Camp Codger chapter of the club already had a couple of members. The first guys in, Ron and Jimmy, were incredibly open about sharing what they had learned during their diagnosis and treatment. Several other guys among friends, acquaintances, and family had listened to the first Podcast Papers episode and surprised me by welcoming me to their club. Thanks to Kevin, Jack, Mike, Dan, and Owen for reaching out. It’s not a club I was interested in joining, but it has a great roster of members. We had some terrific conversations and email exchanges.

I also had the good fortune to meet Robert and Charlie through introductions from my friends Stewart and Peter. And Doug, a visitor to our Airbnb guest house, was a surprise club member. Over a glass of wine one afternoon, Doug mentioned that he had prostate cancer, which triggered an extended discussion about what I could expect.

Community Matters

I’ve really discovered the importance of community. The dialogues have been heartwarming and, at times, intense as we discussed the challenges of dealing with prostate cancer and its diagnosis and treatment. Talking about it makes a difference. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the members of my club. I am forever grateful for your support and friendship.

If you’re joining the prostate cancer club, my advice is to be open to talking with other guys. The first conversations may be a little awkward, but you’ll learn a lot, and you may make some new friends. I’m not typically a joiner, but in this case, I stepped out of my usual pattern. I’m really glad I did. Btw, ask your urologist to point you to local prostate cancer support groups. For some men, it’s an excellent way to connect with this community.

We get back on track with the next chapter of The Prostate Papers when I return to the topic of the biopsy dilemma.

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3 comments on “The Prostate Papers—Chapter 5: The Club

  1. Charles Koenig says:

    Hello Gary,
    Trying to get caught up on Codgers…..
    Effective 4-1-24, I moved Stella and me from what I also thought was a good advantage plan, Humana PPO, for various reasons, to straight medicare plan G (recommended by my Dr. John Caskey a few years ago) with an extra monthly payment that covers the 20% not covered by straight medicare. I covered this 20% gap with AARP Medicare Supplement from United Healthcare with plan G.
    Some of the reasons I changed?
    o Dr recommended, probably so as to not have an advantage bureaucrat between and/or approving his script and any eventual scans/procedures, if necessary. This as an abundance of caution as we are both currently physically healthy, tho Stella has cognitive impairment with little that can be done currently without rather horrendous side effects.
    o Advantage plans are well-known to overcharge the govt by billions annually. Not good!
    o Advantage plans are also known to increase their pricing above inflation levels.
    I chose to buy the flexibility to take our straight medicare plans to any medicare provider in the U.S.
    Questions, comments, concerns, my broker’s contact info? Let me know.
    CK 505-466-4353

    1. Gary Ebersole says:

      All good points, Charlie. Folks should be aware of the differences, but it’s really specific to your plan and your situation. The programs have become so complex it takes an expert unwind them. I have been with my plan for well over a decade and this is the first time I have been refused coverage. My issue has more to do with the nature of the “cancer-medical-industrial-complex” which picks and select wealthy cash payers and normal seniors relying on Medicare. I think both of these clinics would have refused straight Medicare. Cancer treatment is a HUGE business. They go where the money is.

      1. You don’t need to go to MD Anderson or Mayo for good treatment. However, you may need to go to larger urban centers for better treatment options. I found an excellent urologist in Denver who uses state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment protocols. And his practice takes my Medicare Advantage plans. It’s worth the seven-hour drive to Denver for this quality of care.

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