I first heard about Dr. Lederman on radio in New York. His name came to the fore only after unsatisfactory visits to several other physicians for advice about my slowly rising PSA. Since my score had moved past the “safe” limit of 4, I suggested to my Doctor # 2 or #3 or both, that I have a biopsy done. I was advised that my concern was likely premature, that though the number was now passing 5 and possibly on its way to 6, we ought to wait a while to see what would happen. The medical term is “watchful waiting.” That came across to me like settling back and watching a grenade without a pin in the hope it won’t go off. In another office, I opened my scribbled list of questions, the answers to which might give me a better grounding on what might lie ahead for me, but the doc in that instance, whose name I shall charitably forget, was impatient. As he eyed my lengthy list of concerns, his backside kept coming off the chair in an obvious attempt to get away.
Weeks later, I insisted on a biopsy. When I appeared for my appointment, a nurse sat me down to talk about my sex life. I forget the first question she posed but whatever it was it was loud enough and apparently of sufficient saucy interest to have everyone else in the waiting room put their magazines aside. Eventually I was ushered into a treatment room. It was a mess. The table intended for me to lean on had blood on it. An embarrassed assistant cleaned it up and told me to place my clothes on a radiator next to a half open window. No hooks, no shelves, no closet. The idea that my duds might go sailing into the street and having to hide behind my wife to get home gave me something besides the procedure to concentrate on.
I was informed the following week I had prostate cancer. A bombshell.
What to do? Surgical removal of the prostate gland? What would that mean? Would I make it out of the O.R.? Impotence? Incontinence? Chance of Success? Hormones? Was radiation a choice? Seeds? Beams? What kind? Was this life threatening? Not thrilled with thus far having received what I deemed shrug-of-the-shoulder information, I decided to try to get advice somewhere else.
That’s when Dr. Lederman’s name came to mind. I called him up. Within 45 minutes he called me back. I couldn’t believe it. No physician ever called me back that quickly. (I discovered later he was known for calling needy patients back virtually immediately even when far off in Europe no matter the time of day.) During that call I received more usable, helpful information than I’d ever received from all the previous docs combined. Dr. Lederman was patient, courteous, wanting to be sure that my frantic concerns had been laid to rest. Did I want to see him? he asked almost as an afterthought. “There’s no immediate necessity,” he added. “You think it over.” “Wait! Yes, of course. Could I see you within a week?” I hoped. “How about tomorrow afternoon?” he suggested. Once more, I was dumbfounded, then worried. Maybe he doesn’t have any patients. “Meanwhile, I’ll send you some material you can look at. You should get it by ten in the morning.” It arrived by Federal Express before ten. There were the answers in print I’d been looking for.
Twenty five minutes after arriving at his office, we met. He was in scrubs and took us to an immaculately clean treatment room. In a word, the man was kindly. He listened; he suggested various options that might be mine pending his own examination and a reading of all the test results. He provided details of his own experience in treating prostate cancer and the success and accumulated failure rates of various treatment modalities and how they compared to procedures conducted by the best physicians and institutions elsewhere in the country. For the first time since the start of what can only be described as a shocking ordeal, my wife and I felt safe. I felt that whatever would have to be done, would be done as well as it could be done in Dr. Lederman’s care.
I checked with prostate cancer patients treated by Dr. Lederman. All assured me of his ability and thoroughness and of his unique human quality of being easy to relate to.
I was treated by Dr. Lederman four years ago. I was initially checked every three months post precise radiation therapy, then every six months and will be checked every six months forever. My PSA has dropped from 5.8 to 0.4. I am considered cancer free, not cured. As much as we would all like to hear him say “cured,” Dr. Lederman will tell you he doesn’t use that word. It’s a promise, he says, he cannot make. As he told me and he’ll probably tell you, “I’m not God.” But “cancer free” sounds just phenomenal to me. I have since discovered that this doctor works around the clock. It’s the only way he can get through his crowded waiting room.
If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, whatever you do, don’t panic. There’s no need to do that. But don’t go into denial either. Viable treatment options exist. Look into them. Do your research. Don’t be afraid to review your situation with several doctors. They’re not robots and don’t always think alike. If a physician won’t give you the time you need to make a decision that’s right for you, go elsewhere. If someone tries to stampede you into one procedure without presenting a fair review of all options, move on.
Through further research I found Dr. Gil Lederman to be the best radiation oncologist for my situation and I went with him. You can find him at Cabrini Medical Center in New York. He’s a knowledgeable physician and a warm, caring human being. If, through my experience, I can be of help to you, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael J. Laurence