Peter Kendall: 10 Years of ‘Watchful Waiting’ For Prostate Cancer

“I’m glad to not have an unnecessary medical procedure, and it’s a great comfort to know that it’s not something I need to worry about.”
‐Peter Kendall

It all started 10 years ago, when I was 66 years old. I went for my annual physical, and when my doctor got the test results back, she told me my urine had microscopic drops of blood in it. She wanted me to see a urologist, so she set me up with someone at my local hospital. It was just supposed to be a consult.

Unbeknownst to me, and without consulting my primary care physician, this urologist did a biopsy of my prostate when he examined me. I didn’t know what he was doing, I only knew it was very uncomfortable.

A few days later, on Friday of Memorial Day weekend, the doctor called me and said, in a very dramatic voice, “I’m sorry to tell you, your test came back positive and you have prostate cancer.”

Shock and Pressure

I was shocked.

The doctor wanted me to come in right away. When I told him I couldn’t come until after the weekend, he started pressuring me. He got very heated and told me, “Are you not hearing me? You have cancer! This is serious!”

But something about this didn’t sit right with me. It felt off. I was thinking, what’s the big rush to come in right now? Nothing’s going to get done over the weekend. Why all this pressure? Is this guy just trying to drum up business?

Active Surveillance

My brother’s a doctor, so I gave him a call, and he was absolutely outraged. He said the urologist’s conduct was totally inappropriate, and he told me to get a second opinion. So we called Fox Chase Cancer Center.

We got an appointment with Dr. David Chen, a surgical oncologist and urologic oncologist, who was the complete opposite of the previous doctor. As dramatic and upsetting as the other guy was, Dr. Chen was calm, comforting, and compassionate. He was a complete professional. He did another biopsy. When the results came back, he explained it all to me and laid out my options in a very clear and reasonable way.

He said it was actually questionable whether I had prostate cancer. He said my case was borderline. He recommended we follow a strategy of watchful waiting, also known as active surveillance. Basically, we would just monitor it to see if it got worse. If it did, then we would deal with it.

I looked into the different options and learned that having surgery to remove the prostate isn’t without risks. There can be potential side effects. I figured I didn’t want to undergo that procedure if I didn’t have to, so I agreed with Dr. Chen to go ahead with surveillance and defer any treatment until it seemed necessary.

Reassuring Check-Ups

Peter Kendall with one of the miniature houses he made.
Peter Kendall with one of the miniature houses he made.

Active surveillance is pretty straightforward. Once a year I go in for an appointment. I may get a physical exam or a PSA test, a blood test that measures something called prostate specific antigen in the blood. Dr. Chen explained that PSA isn’t always determinative of prostate cancer, but it can be one indicator to check.

The good news is that for the last 10 years there have been no changes—everything has been normal. Dr. Chen told me that if there’s no sign of a problem we didn’t need to do anything else. I said, “Whatever you say, Doc. You’re the expert.” I trust his judgment.

My brother told me that as soon as some men hear the words “prostate cancer,” they immediately want the prostate taken out. I understand that. Some people just can’t stand the idea of a cancer inside them and they just want it gone. But I’m happy with the choice that I made.

Now that I have one less thing to worry about, in my free time I enjoy making miniature houses, one-inch-scale versions of historic American rooms. I’m a lawyer, and I know a lot of lawyers who do nothing but work, so I always knew I needed a hobby.

Also, I love spending time with my family—my wife and I have one son and now we have a five-year-old granddaughter who is a joy.

So, 10 years after being told I had prostate cancer, I’m very satisfied with the care that I received from Dr. Chen at Fox Chase. I’m glad to not have an unnecessary medical procedure, and it’s a great comfort to know that it’s not something I need to worry about. I can just get on with my life.

Learn more about treatment for prostate cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center.