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Knowledge is power Prostate cancer survivor shares experiences with support groups

"Plan for the worst and hope for the best."

Frank Mattucci of Des Plaines, pictured with wife Patricia
Prostate cancer survivor Frank Mattucci of Des Plaines, pictured with wife Patricia, shares his experience throughout the country with men facing a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Those words of wisdom have served Frank Mattucci well for all 76 of his years. They are also heartfelt words of advice he shares when talking with others facing a prostate cancer diagnosis.

It was only a decade ago that Mattucci had a radical prostatectomy and began his own cancer journey.

"I've always tried my best to do the right thing, and that certainly was true when facing cancer," the Des Plaines resident recalls. "I'd been vigilant about having an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test since having a baseline done in 1988. But in Dec. 1997, while living in Ocala Palms, Fla., my doctor noticed a distinct and sudden change in my PSA numbers."

Further evaluation, including a biopsy, confirmed his prostate cancer diagnosis. Choosing a treatment option was challenging, according to the father of three and grandfather of four.

"I learned all about radiation, seeding and surgery," he says. "But when you get right down to it, cancer is a crapshoot and decision-making both stressful and weighty. Psychologically, I chose surgery to get the cancer out."

Mattucci spent four days in the hospital following his radical prostatectomy on April 2, 1998, and was thrilled to learn later that all lymph nodes and seminal vesicles were clear - indicating no spread.

"I was home only about a week when severe back pain brought me back to the emergency room for an infection," recalls the former Navy Aircorp member and Korean War veteran. "Additional IV antibiotics helped clear the problem, and recovery progressed smoothly."

Like most cancer survivors, Mattucci says the fear of recurrence is always at the back of his mind. After 10 years, he continues to follow up on a regular basis with his urologist. Just a few years ago, he received special hormonal therapy when his PSA numbers again became elevated.

"Some guys may say I study too much," says Mattucci, whose family has a history of cardiovascular disease. "But the truth is, I'm outgoing and extremely forthcoming. Knowledge is power and the options are out there. Thanks to the Internet and literature available, it's easy to educate yourself."

Mattucci - who is registered with the American Cancer Society on the national level and shares his experience with men throughout the country facing a prostate cancer diagnosis - says the one thing he has learned is that while there may be similarities, no two cases are alike.

Retired after 40 years in the advertising business, he and his wife, Patricia, returned to the Northwest suburbs just over four years ago. At that time, he became an active member of a Palatine-based American Cancer Society steering committee and another support group at Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago.

"I try to keep up on the latest developments in treatment and medicine, and enjoy sharing," he says. "Everyone reacts differently to their own personal situation. We rely on doctors for their medical expertise, but sometimes it's nice to have a shoulder to lean on."

In addition to following his doctors' recommendations, Mattucci says he walks for an hour and a half each morning, is vigilant about eating healthy and maintains his weight. In his spare time, the former creative art director says he enjoys painting, is a frequent participant in the veterans group at the Mount Prospect Frisbee Senior Center and enjoys political activism.

"Be vigilant, have the PSA screening test and know your numbers," Mattucci says. "Take care of yourself, and by all means, get screened. It's your life."


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