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Local Man Fights Dual Cancer Battle and Wins With Help From Siteman

Charles_Watkins
Charles Watkins was diagnosed with both bladder and prostate cancer in 2010.

By Dustin Horn

April 18, 2013 – From an early age, Charles Watkins has been an advocate for his own health. So when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2010, he played a crucial role in deciding his treatment.

"I'm a business major, you know - marketing
and economics. Research is something I'm very familiar with," he says. "So I researched all
this."

Watkins, 65, is a businessman. Much of his professional success has come from his strong decision-making skills. He says when it comes
to his health, his mother taught him to be vigilant.

"I go to the doctor like clockwork," he says. "I have no problem going to the doctor when something bothers me."

During a regular checkup in October 2010, Watkins' primary care physician discovered that his prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, had jumped two points. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, despite having no symptoms of the disease.

While considering where to receive his treatment, Watkins asked his primary care doctor which physician he would recommend. The answer was Siteman Cancer Center urologist Arnold Bullock, MD.

"All men over 50 should take time to have a prostate exam, and I can think of no better facility than Siteman Medical Center - South."
- Charles Watkins

Bullock discovered that Watkins not only had advanced prostate cancer but also bladder cancer.

Watkins says after seeing the pathology reports, Bullock was concerned about the aggressiveness of the prostate cancer and recommended surgery to remove the entire prostate gland. But Watkins wasn't sold on surgery.

"I told him I heard so many bad stories about surgery. He assured me he could perform the surgery with minimal side effects," Watkins says. "But I didn't want to have mine removed."

So Bullock sent Watkins to Siteman medical oncologist Bruce Roth, MD – who specializes in prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular cancer – to develop a treatment plan. Roth says the decision was made to treat the prostate cancer with hormone therapy and attack the bladder cancer with chemotherapy.

Watkins received his first chemotherapy treatment in December 2010. Already fighting two cancers, he developed life-threatening sepsis and multiorgan failure.

In the coming weeks Watkins would fight for his life.

"They moved me immediately into intensive care, where I stayed for six weeks. Thank God I survived that," Watkins says. "To me it was due to the good care of the folks in the intensive-care unit. "

With chemotherapy no longer an option, Watkins' doctors decided to treat his bladder cancer with radiation therapy and control his prostate cancer with hormone therapy. 

The treatments have been successful. While Watkins has had recurrences of bladder cancer, he has received immune system therapy and other measures to address those.

With his cancer at bay, Watkins now focuses on his watch business and visits Siteman Cancer Center-South County – Siteman's newest facility in south St. Louis County – for monitoring and treatment to maintain the integrity of his bones, which can be weakened by hormone therapy. 

Roth says he is doing remarkably well.

"My hope is that science will catch up with me and hopefully pass me," Watkins says. "Every year something more effective comes along to treat the kinds of cancers I'm dealing with. So that keeps me positive."