On my father's 70th birthday, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Dad was a rough & tough career Army man who served in 2 wars, mentored hundreds of soldiers and wasn't going to let something like prostate cancer take him down. Although we were concerned, we knew that prostate cancer has a high rate of success when detected early. What we didn't know was that something else was lurking. A much more hostile enemy.
Dad served in Vietnam. He was a decorated veteran who took showers in the Agent Orange (AO) that was dropped from the U.S. planes into the jungle in order to clear the way for his reconnaissance platoon. His commanding officer told them AO was safe. Dad said he loved the smell, they all did, as they eagerly awaited the drop and their shower.
We now know AO is a chemical substance that hurts humans. How does this relate to prostate cancer?
AO is a radioactive agent that can lay dormant in your system for years. Which it did with Dad...until the doctors introduced radiation into his system to treat his cancer, which activated the AO.
This caused his prostate to dissolve and introduced symptoms which mimic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), aka Lou Gehrig's disease; a disease in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. It is a slow and agonizing death that eventually leads to a tracheotomy to enable a last breath and communication only capable with eye movement.
Dad died a few minutes passed my 49th birthday on November 21, 2009. It was truly a gift to see his suffering end but is more than painful to try to make sense of it.
I'm riding in hopes that this information will be shared with physicians to create an awareness that Vietnam veterans (possibly other soldiers) who contract cancer should NOT be treated with radiation or chemicals that may ignite the AO. I'm not a doctor; far from it. The ones who treated Dad were awesome. If you know a Vietnam Vet who contracts prostate cancer ask them to consider other options, such as removing the prostate. Let them know they have a higher chance of death if they activate the AO in their system.
We are all still learning about how to DEFEAT CANCER. This is just one more facet in that learning process. (Thanks for reading our story!)