Brien showed a rapid decline in his health months after his initial appointment. Brien was getting out of bed seven or eight times to use the bathroom during the night. He had to put a lot of pressure on his bladder just to drain half a cup of urine. By the next month, only drops were coming out when he used the bathroom. The lower left side of Brien’s back began hurting so badly that his wife took him to the emergency room.
In the emergency room, a catheter was inserted to relieve his bladder of 2,000 cubic centimeters, or 8 1/2 cups, of urine. He received intravenous fluids for dehydration, along with bloodwork. His prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA, was at a level of 337. Normal PSA levels for men in their late 40s like Brien are 0 to 2.5. Thinking this was an error, they gave him another PSA test, and when the level came back the same, Brien was sent to a local hospital for further evaluation. Brien learned he most likely had prostate cancer that had possibly metastasized, spreading to other parts of his body.
Brien left the hospital in March 2021, discouraged because his follow-up appointment to get a biopsy of his prostate wasn’t for another four weeks. He and his wife turned to a family friend who referred them to K.C. Balaji, MD, a urologic oncologist at UF Health Urology – Jacksonville.
Within a week, Brien was seen for a biopsy and bone scan. He met with Balaji, who discussed his biopsy results and PSA levels in detail. Balaji told Brien that although he had an aggressive cancer that had spread from his prostate to bones in other parts of his body, there were several treatment options available to help people in his situation live longer through proper cancer management.
“I walked into Dr. Balaji’s office a broken man, thinking I only had a couple years to live,” Brien said. “When Dr. Balaji said, ‘Don’t worry, this is what I do. We’ve got this,’ I left his office hopeful and encouraged.”
Balaji started Brien on several medications to manage the symptoms of the disease. Within a short time, Brien’s PSA level went from 337 to 25, prompting a celebration from Balaji’s staff. By August 2021, Brien’s PSA level was 1.4.