Jesse's Story

“Knowing Your Bone Health Is Important”

Jesse Penn was diagnosed with prostate cancer nearly 18 years ago. He discovered the disease in a routine physical from his primary care physician. Jesse is a member of the PHEN Network.

Jesse had his regular physicals for 14 years with a PSA of 2. At this exam, his PSA registered 4. The doctor then advised him to get a biopsy. However, he refused because he thought that he was well inside the acceptable range. The doctor explained that this should be further examined. He asked Jesse to return in three months for a  follow up test. The result was 3. He proudly said, "See, I told you that I was in an acceptable range."

His doctor stated that he was more convinced now that something was going on because of the instability. He gave Penn some information on the high incidents of prostate cancer in African Americans. He then agreed to the biopsy.              

The biopsy showed that he had cancer at a Gleason 6 level. After review with his doctor, family, and medical director at his employment, he received radioactive seed implants (brachytherapy) at Memorial Sloan Kettering. The procedure was very successful as measured by the drop in PSA and stability of evaluations at every three months. He stayed on this path, but at ten years, his PSA went to 6. A biopsy showed no cancer, however, a scan about a year later showed possible cancer in the lymph nodes in the groin area. He then had a procedure that removed 26 nodes, two had cancer cells. He was stable after this.

In late 2017, Jesse had a bone scan that was clear of cancer. In the early second quarter of 2018, he started experiencing severe back spasms that totally immobilized him. He went to pain doctors and orthopedic doctors looking for an answer. During one of these events he fell and fractured his femur. His femur was repaired and he spent three weeks in rehab to learn to walk again and build up muscle. However, his pain continued, and after a scan it revealed metastatic cancer in his bones; primarily in his back.

In September, his Oncologist put him on two drugs - Zytiga and Xgeva to help his bones. He responded quite well with a PSA of 0.01 within two months. Around November, he started an exercise program and gained 15 of the 25 pounds that he lost.  He can now walk 5 miles with no problem, play two rounds of golf a week, and in general, have a good quality of life. He sees the doctor monthly and so far, all is good.

Jesse is supporting PHEN efforts to raise awareness about the importance of prostate cancer patients knowing their bone health.

Jesse Penn is 75 years old, married for 51 years and blessed with three kids, and six grandkids. He also has two brothers and two sisters. One brother has also had prostate cancer, and after checking they believed that it came from his father’s family. He did not have it, but one brother and several of his first cousins have also been diagnosed with the disease.


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