After Diagnosis:

from Emotional to Analytical and Back

Categories: Winter 2012
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Wheeler Chapman, his wife, Laurianne, and his daughters: Kit, Lane, and Jessica.

Wheeler Chapman is a numbers man with an analytical background.

He’s the founder, president and chief investment officer of Integrated Financial Management, an investment management firm. And he has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering.

But it was an emotional response that kicked in when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The PSA Test

“I had just turned 50 and my family doctor suggested I have my PSA tested – it came back 5.7. He sent me to see a urologist,” Chapman said.

The urologist re-tested the PSA, confirmed the number, and immediately suggested a biopsy and likely surgery. What surprised Chapman was the reaction of the doctor.

“When I asked for a second opinion, he basically fired me as a patient because I asked,” Chapman said.

That’s when the analytical component kicked in. He needed more information and he needed to find a new doctor.

After visiting a urologist recommended by a friend, the PSA was re-confirmed and a biopsy followed.

The Biopsy

The biopsy result came back with cancer in eight of the 10 core samples with a Gleason Score of 3 + 4.

“I tend to use humor to deal with the emotional, so the day my results came in, I said to everyone, ‘That’s it; I’m toast.’ But I didn’t believe it.”

The initial biopsy result seemed manageable to him.

“I wasn’t surprised at the recommendation for surgery because of my age. Still, even though I felt like a million bucks and was in the best shape I’d been in for or years, the emotional part of me had this picture of getting filleted like a fish.”

He recalls being obsessed about finding information for two or three weeks.

Before the Surgery

“I did the research. I read books and research journals, went to Internet forums, talked with other men. You name it and I had looked through it.”

He went to hospital websites. And his emotional reaction came into play again.

“Although I did think about going outside Chicago, I decided I wanted to be home.”

Chapman was open to all procedures and thought about robotic surgery until he met with Dr. Catalona.

“Dr. Catalona explained how important it is to have the tactile feel of the nerves during the operation. Listening to him and knowing his reputation, I felt like I was with Sully on the Hudson or with Jordan in a basketball playoff. I made the decision to have the radical prostatectomy right then.”

Preparing for Surgery

Chapman took the first PSA test in early March of 2011. He had his operation in July.

Once the date was set, the surgeon picked, and the procedure decided; the emotional component came to the forefront again.

After the operation, he would unplug totally from the office for a week. He didn’t want any work stress.

“I told my team at the office that they would drive the boat for awhile, and I had complete confidence that they could.”

He gathered his family and friends’ support, with his wife setting up phone chains.

“As nonchalant as I tried to be, Laurianne knew I needed her. And I knew I could lean on her. Once I was diagnosed, she was at every doctor’s appointment with me and stayed in the hospital room with me the night after the surgery. And my three daughters came to be with me too.”

After Surgery

He was in the hospital two nights and went home with no pain.

“The one hospital memory I left with is a picture of a parade of men walking around with IV stands trailing after them. Walk and walk was the message for a good recovery.”

The analytical side of Chapman had wanted answers to all of his questions before surgery, including the odds of regaining potency and continence.

“I did get some reassurance in the answers but I didn’t understand on an emotional level what the physical recovery would be until I went through it,” Chapman said. “The physical pace is a process.”

While not normally one always to do as he is told, Chapman followed the post-operative instructions to a “T”.

“I did what I was supposed to, just as prescribed. And I learned to trust my body. Being in such good shape had to help as well.”

After the first week of no phone calls, he introduced some brief connections in week two. Week three, Chapman went back to work part time. And by week four, he had increased his hours to pretty much normal.

What Changed

Some things did change.

“As young as I was, turning 50 had sounded old – until I got diagnosed and then mortality, rather than old age, crossed my mind more than once.’

Chapman spends his professional life protecting his clients from unexpected events.

“I advise my clients to prepare for curve balls that life throws at them. When the curve ball came my way, it made it all personal.”

Chapman did change some behavior.

“I always did fun things, but now I am working less and making sure I do even more fun things.”

In January, he and his wife are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in celebration of their 25th anniversary. They’re training and working out together.

“It sounds like a cliché but I look at my family and the people around me, and now I know the support I have. Those relationships, along with good health, are my blessings.”

The emotional returns at follow up test time.

“Every six months, I get a little anxious for a couple of days around follow up time. But I know how important those post treatment PSA tests are.”

Sharing Advice

Chapman never thought he’d be giving advice about prostate cancer, but now he has strong feelings to share.

“It’s insane to tell men not to take a PSA test. It’s only a blood test. Men should empower themselves: learn, research, and ask good questions. And then make intelligent, informed decisions.”

Good attitude is important too.

“Medical people are poking around in your private places. You have to make light of it but you shouldn’t avoid it.”

Chapman knows that there are differences of opinion.

“Very educated and well intended people have differences of opinion. I want to know about them and then make my decision. What’s important is that a man have the pertinent information and is willing to take it in and make decisions based upon his situation.”

All of the post-operative PSA tests have come back clean and Wheeler and Laurianne are looking forward to spending January 26, 2013 at 19,340 feet– the rooftop of Africa.

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