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From the Spring 2019 Quest
David Taylor, a prostate cancer survivor, currently serves as assistant concert master with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ©David Taylor
Nearly 10 years ago, David Taylor was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. His family and friends supported his journey to confront - and beat - the disease. Today, he is thankful for his life in Chicago and fulfilling career with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

David Taylor has a family history of prostate cancer. Sadly, his dad lost a battle with the disease after it metastasized into his bones. Because of this, David was always aware of his risk for prostate cancer and monitored his PSA accordingly. In 2010, David's doctor found a nodule on his prostate during a routine physical. David immediately underwent a biopsy, which revealed evidence of Gleason 9 prostate cancer. He was 60 years old.

The first urologist David saw advised against surgery because his biopsy indicated aggressive disease. David was uncertain that radiation and hormone therapy was the best approach. He reached out to his good friend Dr. William Sloan, a urologist who lives in California. His friend said that Dr. Catalona was "the best of the best," especially concerning experience in prostate surgeries. Shortly afterward, David met Dr. Catalona to discuss his options. Dr. Catalona felt that surgery was an appropriate first step in tackling David's disease. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Catalona performed David's radical prostatectomy.

David felt good about the surgery. His disease was downgraded to Gleason 8, and the condition of the prostate was not bad. "I consider myself extremely fortunate to have known about Dr. Catalona and to have been able to work with him," he said. "It's really critical that men have the best possible doctors wherever they are living to treat the disease, because it's critical that it be done right."

A few months after his surgery, David's PSA began to rise again, indicating the cancer had spread out of the prostate. Dr. Catalona recommended radiation treatment, and David agreed it would be best to address the spread of the cancer sooner rather than later.

David happily reports that since that time, his PSA has been at 0. "Dr. Catalona was very encouraging and a delight to work with, and so the results showed. Here I am apparently cancer-free 10 years later and very appreciative, to say the least," David said.

David and his wife, Michelle Wynton, are both violinists.

Grateful for the outcomes

David considers himself lucky in many ways. First, he is thankful that he and his doctor were routinely checking for prostate cancer, which enabled the disease to be caught before it spread further. He hopes that other men will consider undergoing PSA testing for the early detection of prostate cancer, despite recent publicity suggesting it may be unnecessary. David said, "It's a dangerous disease and the PSA test is so easy to take. There's no reason for men who are of appropriate age to not be taking this test regularly."

He is also grateful for his wife, friends, and Dr. Catalona, all of whom supported him through his cancer treatment. With their help, he was able to maintain a positive attitude throughout his diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. He encourages other men with prostate cancer to be hopeful, even though it's a scary experience. "I think a positive attitude on the part of the patient is really critical. There's no doubt it helps you through it," he said. "We're fortunate that there have been real advancements in terms of treating the disease. You can rest assured that a lot of people will be cured of the disease, and a lot of people will be able to control it."

A vibrant life of music and travel

David travels all over the world with the symphony and always brings his camera. Included here are his photos of gondola boats in Venice, Italy (above) and a scene in Tokyo, Japan (below left). ©David Taylor

David has been a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1979. He currently serves as assistant concert master, which means he is a first violinist, an important position within the symphony. He is delighted to be part of one of the best-known orchestras in the country. "It can be very exciting," he said. "And even after over 45 years of being in the business, it's still very satisfying to be in this profession."

David is also an avid photographer, and while traveling around the world with the symphony he brings his camera to document the trips. Several of his photographs have been featured in previous issues of QUEST. "Traveling and performing with such a group of talented people and seeing the world as a photographer and as a musician is a great extra bonus. It's just great that I'm going all over the world to take photos and make music," he said cheerfully. "How does it get better than that?"

©David Taylor

He is also a collector of Italian violins from the 17th and 18th centuries and French bows from the 19th century. "As a string player, one inevitably becomes involved with the subject of great violins and bows," he said. "Using those has been a rare pleasure."

His wife, Michelle Wynton, is also a violinist in Chicago. They've been married for 20 years. They live in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood and love having easy access to Lake Michigan and all the culture that Chicago offers. Lately, they've been trying a new restaurant on Sunday evenings. They often travel together, sometimes with the symphony. They are considering taking a trip to celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, possibly to Italy - one of their favorite places to visit. "The whole nation of Italy is pretty small, yet every region is different," he said. "And the food's not bad either."

One his David's hobbies is photography. He took this photo at Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park, a view first made famous by renowned photographer Ansel Adams. ©David Taylor

Lately he's been focused on health and wellness and joined a gym. "I'm trying to do things to prolong my career - and life in general. You have to expend energy to get energy. Once you get to the gym, you're always glad you're there," he said. "There's no point where you can lay back and not do anything," he said of efforts to stay healthy. Michelle is also taking cooking classes and they are being more careful in their diet.

Additionally, he takes a PSA test twice a year to make sure the cancer doesn't come back. "It's always a cause of jubilation each time they tell you it's still 0," he said of getting his PSA results.

In all matters, David is grateful for the life he has 10 years after cancer. "When you face your mortality with a disease that's potentially fatal, you look at things differently. You tend to think about the things that really matter," David said. "It's not how long you live; it's how well you live."