Many Arkansans will recall the havoc wreaked by the icy winter of 2000. Herman Davenport of Little Rock could deal with power outages and slippery streets, but when the second storm of the season delayed the results of his prostate cancer biopsy, he struggled to keep his cool.
“I will never forget it,” Herman said. “We were blanketed with ice and snow, and I had to wait several weeks. That was agonizing.”
Herman, now 60, had decided in 1996 to get an annual prostate exam, primarily because he noticed that his wife, Bobette, was diligent about her own preventative health care, and he felt he owed it to her to do the same.
His PSA (prostate-specific antigen) score rose each year. In 2000, his doctor referred him to a local urologist, who performed a biopsy, and after Herman’s excruciating wait, told him he had prostate cancer.
That wasn’t the end of the bad news.
Herman and his wife met with his urologist who told them that the removal of his prostate would be severe. He could expect to be incontinent and impotent, and he could become paralyzed in his left leg, he was told.
“It was really a heavy session; we were just trying to absorb the weight of his words,” he said.
He went back for a second visit, and the urologist was emphatic. “He said, ‘You will have these side effects. We are concerned about saving your life, and we don’t do surgeries that minimize these side effects.'”
“But what I got was optimism and hope. That meant a lot to me.”
The urologist also encouraged him to seek a second opinion, which led Herman to Graham Greene, M.D., a fellowship-trained surgeon who came to the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute in 1997 and established a urologic oncology section.
“The diagnosis didn’t change, but the differences in the two consultations were amazing to me,” Herman said. “Dr. Greene said there are no guarantees; he was clear about that. But what I got was optimism and hope. That meant a lot to me.”
Like the first urologist, Greene recommended a radical prostatectomy. He also assured Herman and his wife that, given Herman’s age, good health and early detection, the condition was treatable. And, while he could expect some incontinence and impotence, the conditions would be temporary, said Dr. Greene, who has developed nerve-sparing surgical techniques at UAMS related to sexual function.
“Dr. Greene was right in terms of side effects,” Davenport said. He had surgery on April 4, 2001, and rebounded quickly, so much so that he was able to help his daughter move to Little Rock from Emory University in Atlanta the following month.
The predicted incontinence was gone in three or four months, and the sexual side effects were nearly gone in about two months, Herman said.
Today, Herman, a former Levi Strauss executive, enjoys traveling with his wife and running his community development consulting business. There’s no need for additional treatment, although he does have regular checkups at UAMS.
“Life is pretty much back to normal,” he said.
Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute
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