For Nick, it began with a regular visit to his primary care physician in January 2015. He was experiencing an urgent and frequent need to urinate, and was treated for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostate gland enlargement. At 56 years old, Nick was not concerned since BPH is common among men as they age.
But a few months later in October 2015, Nick's symptoms returned and it was much worse than before. He went back to his primary care physician and was immediately referred to an urologist who ordered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
"My PSA reading was 76, and for most people, it's usually a four or less," said Nick.
The doctor thought Nick might have had prostatitis, a painful condition that causes inflammation of the prostate gland, but when Nick returned for a follow-up appointment, his PSA went up to 96. Nick's urologist ordered a biopsy, blood work, bone and body scans, and by the holidays, Nick received his diagnosis – stage four prostate cancer.
"When the results came back, I immediately called my wife, Michelle, who was driving somewhere, she turned around and I told her the news when she got home," said Nick. "We were both devastated, and were just recently married at the time."
The first few days were hard for Nick and Michelle, but they quickly turned their focus toward getting help. Michelle found a support group for prostate cancer survivors that met at El Camino Health's Mountain View Campus, and they attended their first meeting that same night.
"At this point, the cancer was in my lymph nodes, my back, and my bones, I had six different areas where it was fully involved," said Nick. "The support group immediately began making calls to the best doctors that could help me fight this."
After Nick and Michelle left the support group that night, they had appointments with six top doctors within three days. Among those doctors was Dr. Shane Dormady, medical director the El Camino Health Cancer Centers in Mountain View and Los Gatos.
"Dr. Dormady was actually on vacation, and came back to the office to meet with Nick because his cancer was so advanced," said Michelle. "Before we saw Dr. Dormady, there were other providers who told us Nick had six months to two years to live, but Dr. Dormady said, 'we're not going by that.'"
Dr. Dormady developed an aggressive treatment plan for Nick.
"Nick was only 56 when he came to see me, and while the cancer was aggressive, he was relatively young and lived a healthy lifestyle," said Dr. Dormady. "He needed anti-testosterone therapy and chemotherapy simultaneously, so we started that right away."
Nick responded extremely well to the treatment. The anti-testosterone therapy helped stop testosterone from fueling prostate cancer cells, while chemotherapy helped kill the fast-growing cancer cells in Nick's body.
"All the disease disappeared, so then I told Nick, 'now we have to take out the mothership,'" said Dr. Dormady.
That's when Nick began radiation with Dr. Robert Sinha, a radiation oncologist with El Camino Health. Dr. Sinha did radiation to Nick's pelvic lymph nodes and inserted radiation seeds to Nick's prostate glands.
"This is a process known as brachytherapy, the radiation seeds kill off cancer cells while nearby healthy tissue receives less exposure to radiation," said Dr. Sinha.
Within nine months, Nick goes into remission with an undetectable PSA and clear scans.
"Dr. Dormady told us from the start, 'no matter how things look in the beginning, you can still win,' and throughout this whole journey, he's been not only my oncologist, but my coach, and reminds me that a positive mental attitude is so important and having faith that you can beat this thing," said Nick.
Nearly eight years later, Nick is still in remission with no evidence of disease. He currently lives in Florida, but still gets his care from Dr. Dormady. He is also an ambassador for Xtandi, the medication he was prescribed after chemo that still keeps him healthy today.