I knew I was a target but are you ever ready for the reality of it?

Survivor Story: Byron Sparkman

Share this post!

The coming of a new year is always exciting , worrying, anxious, new beginnings, etc… Even numbered years always seem to be more promising for some reason. 

My name is Byron Sparkman, born 1954, grew up in Memphis TN. Married a special girl from Monette, AR that I met in church there.

Moved to Atlanta with one 2 month old girl (did not make grandparents happy with that) and left Atlanta after 8 years with another girl and boy. 

We moved to Monette in 1992 and currently it has been 28 years.  And yes, everyone knows what you’re doing in a small town of 1500 people.

I have been aware of prostate cancer ever since my dad had it around 1974. I was in my early 20s and really do not remember a lot about the details. I was too involved in ‘Life’… dating etc… ha. He did have Radiation treatments with Gold medicines treatments and some urinary problems and follow up surgeries. He lived to be 82 years old.

My mother had breast cancer all in her 80s years with removal. However, it later resulted in Melanoma cancer in her brain.  She survived til 90 years old. Her brother also passed in his 90s with melanoma cancer.

So…. At this point it is becoming more of a personal concern with both parents dealing with cancer. I started noticing more public concern with getting more awareness of early signs of potential problems. 

There are some really good groups to talk with and advise around today.

I have always been a willing blood donor and willing to have the platelets taken or whatever was needed. Not being able to help with this for a while was really a disappointing result.

I started having my PSA checked each year at my birth month and have done so for probably 10 years, along with the regular things they check.  You know the LDL, HDL, heart etc…

A great thing are the public health fairs around.  Seems they have added the Men’s fairs more often also.  Went to several where they have the actual exams and not any problems. But the knowledge of my family history was always there making me go to these.

Last year I went to a local Methodist Hospital Men’s fair and of course got a PSA sample tested. The State Prostate Cancer Foundation sponsored the testing. A few days later I received a letter showing the PSA level and advised me to see my family physician. Yea I knew I was a target but are you ever ready for the reality of it? Family doctor took another reading and yes it was still elevated.  Not bad but he suggested I see a Urologist for more detailed examinations. After all, I’m 65 years old.

If I were to do a video of this I would open up standing in a Cemetery. Looking around and seeing all those past people and beginning to understand how our past in important to understand.

After all, we are all a small part of what our past was.

Now… flash to my understanding of the past and the affect on now and I would be standing in a desert and NOTHING.

2020 begins with a ‘not knowing’ attitude. I scheduled the Urology appointment in early January.

I contacted the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation and explained my interest in what information they might have. The lady Cara was most helpful and advised her of my upcoming appointment and she volunteered to drop off information at the doctor I was seeing the next day.  Also, she was able to get me in touch with someone who had just gone through a radical removal with my doctor.

He was very helpful but he had the attitude of just take it out even thought we were about the same testing levels.

I’m not there yet!!!!

As this goes along, I’m realizing this is more than just “Remove it and go on.” This is a life changing decision, physically and emotionally given the potentials.

I am fortunate to live in a small community where you pretty well know who has what problems.  One of our friends had the removal and follow up radiation and talking with experienced people is important for information and support. One of the best things he added were to realize that I was fortunate to have a supportive wife through whatever is next.

The appointment is here… My wife and 2 daughters go with me  (my wife is a RN, daughter is a radiologist and other daughter is a cheerleader) and a whole lot of friends and prayer warriors. I cant tell you how important the prayer support of so many is.

We had the talk and the doctor advised that we schedule a biopsy and that I needed to go home and learn as much as I could about options and treatment potentials and the outcomes. I appreciated that.

The biopsy was quick… just a bit uncomfortable sitting at the restaurant that afternoon. Ha!

Three days later I get the call. He did not hesitate. “You have prostate cancer” and set up an appointment to discuss results further.

Well…. This is a bit unsettling for me. So many thoughts crossed my mind…

                When am I going to die

                How much longer

                 Is this going to hurt

                Oh and few more ……..

Reading over all the options they really came out to the same end result: incontinence, sexual performance, etc.

The doctor opinion is important but the decision is mine to make and I did not have enough information to decide yet…

After all, what do I know!!??  Yes, I read all the reports, procedures etc… but this is me and our life. It is really at this time the doctor mentioned the possibility of some genetic testings since the cancer had been in my immediate family and I qualified for the some of the testing.  The Polaris scoring would provide information on how aggressive the cancer is at this point.   Another test would have given a broad genetic result but did not qualify.  The testing/scoring by Myriad labs was going to be an important part of the puzzle.

My lab Gleason score came back as a 7, however the level was just close to the 6. The Polaris came back as low aggressiveness.

I have been talking with people who had aggressive removals and another who had a level 5 cancer and who treated himself with ‘ dog wormer.’ Oh, you will hear it all….

These test and reports are an important part of being informed and comfortable in my decisions.

Not knowing the options and meaning are not an option for me. How many times has a doctor asked  “well what do you want to do?”

I spoke with a friend of mine a few weeks ago and he had his taken out about 2 weeks earlier and we had a long talk.  I asked him what were his levels or how did he decided to have the total removal done. 

He had not heard of any Gleason scoring, Polaris levels,….   I suddenly realized how I feel fortunate to have the information to decide.  How can you make such decisions on quality of life without information?

I have 3 kids that will be potentially facing health decisions in the future and I hope what I discover will aid in their lives. By knowing the the genetics possibilities would certainly be a warning sign to … as you always hear ‘catch it early.’

Because of the lab tests, I can make the decisions that affect my and my family’s personal lives .

As I said these are as much a mental decisions and they are physical. I can live with be actively watching and checking.  This may go on for 10 to 20 years. And I’m good with that.

No Shave Club 2023

Grow A Beard For A Great Cause This November!

Now Extended to December 15th!

All funds raised will directly benefit APCF’s initiatives, including free awareness and educational programs, prostate cancer screenings, and patient assistance. Every dollar raised will stay in Arkansas, making a lasting impact on the local community.

Bourbon Beards & Blue Ribbons 2023
Limited Time Offer

$50 Off

Save and Celebrate

Monday & Tuesday
Enter “Save50” at Checkout