WINCHESTER – In an effort to engage men in a topic of utmost importance, four members of the Black Walnuts, a local group of prostate cancer survivors have agreed to share their personal journey with the Winchester Press in conjunction with the Dare to Flash a Stache campaign.

Doug Nugent’s story is one that is all too familiar for men today. He believed he was a normal, healthy 50-something male and there was no need to visit a doctor for a regular check-up.

Nugent was one of the fortunate few who had extensive medical testing, including bloodwork, on a regular basis while he was employed at DuPont and a member of the emergency response team. But eventually cutbacks came rolling through and that medical testing went by the wayside.

Doug Nugent and his wife, Kathy, had to navigate the life changes a prostate cancer diagnosis and ensuing surgery ultimately demand, including a new outlook on relationship intimacy. Schoch Photo

It was only after several years had gone by with no regular check-ups that Nugent’s wife, Kathy, spoke up.

She said to me, ‘if you don’t make an appointment with your family doctor just for a physical, I’m going to make it for you,’” said Nugent.

Approximately two weeks after his September appointment, Nugent received a phone call saying his PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) levels were high. When a follow up test a month later confirmed the findings, he was referred to a urologist where a digital exam discovered a lump on his prostate. The ensuing biopsy in December confirmed that it was indeed cancer.

“I was healthy. No symptoms at all. I was in denial right up until I got the biopsy report and I was devastated,” said Nugent.

He credits an honest conversation with his urologist that began the process of dealing with his diagnosis and charting out a new path to his recovery.

“He really broke it down with where I was and what he thought the level of cancer was. Basically the only two options I had were radiation and surgery. I picked surgery. I was 58 years old. If I hadn’t had that PSA test, who knows?” said Nugent.

It was at this point that Nugent decided it was better to open up than to try to take on the healing process on his own. The support he received made a huge difference.

“Right after that I talked. That was a Tuesday. I worked shift work so I went in to work on Friday night and I told my crew right after that. And I said, ‘I’m not telling you this to feel sorry for me. I’m telling you this because I want you guys to go and get tested.’ My crew rallied around me. Management at DuPont rallied around me and I started telling my friends. I think that’s what did it. I started getting support,” he said.

Nugent then immersed himself in research on prostate cancer and the possible side effects of surgery, which include erectile dysfunction (ED) and incontinence. Unavoidable nerve damage often happens during surgery to remove cancer from the prostate and it was a major concern for Nugent.

“To tell you the truth I was probably more worried about the ED part of it than the cancer part of it. My wife was 53 I was 58. That really bothered me. It really bothered me and thinking about Kathy… you don’t know coming out of that surgery,” he said. “I have to be on Cialis the rest of my life. I can get erections, but it has be under the perfect conditions. But because of the skill of Doctor Morash I didn’t have any incontinence.”

The ensuing surgery and recovery went well for Nugent and the life changes, including the relationship and intimacy with his wife, have been very positive.

“She was so supportive right from the get go. We’re probably closer. There was never an issue,” said Nugent.

Looking back, he offered some advice to those who may be staring down the barrel of a diagnosis or major changes in intimate relationships.

“I think we’re living proof, it’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, it’s cancer, but if it’s caught early, it’s not all doom and gloom. The key is do what your doctor says and you’ve got to follow up and use your friends,” said Nugent.