Susan and Bob Bruce
"I don't even remember exactly when I had it," says Bob Bruce, and believe it or not, this is the best possible news for us here at the Brady Urological Institute. "This is what we hope will happen," says surgeon Alan W. Partin, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Brady. "Ideally, prostate cancer will be a very finite incident in a man's life, something that we diagnose, we treat, we cure, and then the man moves on and lives the rest of his life."
This is what has happened to Bob. It was early spring six years ago: Bob was 60 and his PSA was slightly elevated. It was still very low, but it had gone up from 1.9 to 2.2, and his local urologist in Virginia recommended that he get a biopsy. "It came back that some of the samples were cancerous," Bob says. The urologist advised him to have surgery. "I said, ‘Let me get another opinion,'" and Bob came to Hopkins. He met with Partin – still not certain whether he would have surgery and, if he did have it, where he should have it done.
"After I talked to him, it was very apparent to me that I was going to have my prostate taken out, and for my peace of mind, I was going to have it done at Johns Hopkins." Bob scheduled the operation for August, after he and his wife, Susan, took a vacation. The day after the procedure, Partin told Bob that everything looked great, and that he could go home. The pathology results came back with good news: "It's gone. The cancer is gone. I haven't looked back since." When he started talking about his experience, Bob was surprised to find out how many of his friends had gone through their own bout with this disease. "Nobody ever talks about it," he says, until someone joins the "reluctant brotherhood" – the ranks of men with prostate cancer. One of his friends was diagnosed when cancer had already escaped the prostate, and the cancer proved fatal.
" After I talked to him, it was very
apparent to me that I was going to
have my prostate taken out, and
for my peace of mind, I was going
to have it done at Johns Hopkins."
Bob is thankful for his early diagnosis.
"There's a controversy over PSA testing, but
I credit me still being here to PSA testing."
Bob, now 66, has been a generous supporter of work at the Brady Urological Institute to improve diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, and to further understanding of the genetic factors that can cause the disease to run in families. Bob has two sons, ages 30 and 34, and knows that "they're certainly at risk – because they're my sons," he says. Bob has recommended the Brady to his friends, and one reason is that the Brady treats so many men with prostate cancer that "if you're unlucky and something goes wrong, chances are that they've seen it before, and dealt with it before. I just had a positive experience all the way around."
Bob's many gifts over the years since his surgery "have made it possible for us to evaluate and assist on Food and Drug Administration approval of three new tests for the early detection of prostate cancer," says Partin, who has been at the forefront of investigating and developing new biomarkers that can be more cancer-specific and do a better job of prediction than the PSA test. "The Brady Urological Institute was begun nearly a hundred years ago with the philanthropy of ‘Diamond Jim' Brady," Partin adds. "He was a kind and generous man who felt very fortunate that he had come to Johns Hopkins. He had many complicated health problems, and no other institution in the world had been able to cure his benign prostatic enlargement. So he decided to return the favor. When people like James Brady and Bob Bruce give back, they are enabling us to do more than we otherwise could to find new treatments for our patients."