At age 66, George Ladner of Davidson, NC, is a nationally ranked triathlete. He pushes his body to its limits, running, biking, and swimming distances up to 100 miles. But in 2012, he faced a physical challenge he didn’t sign up for.
Ladner was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer after his primary care doctor recognized a steady increase in his PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels and ordered a biopsy. “It wasn’t a situation where I could just wait and see,” says Ladner. “I had to do something.”
There was no training regimen, breathing technique, or pacing method for him to turn to this time. Ladner had to put his trust in his surgeon. He chose Judd Moul, MD, a urologic oncologist at Duke who has performed more than 2,000 radical prostatectomies, the complete removal of the prostate gland and surrounding tissue. Dr. Moul specializes in a nerve-sparing approach to prostatectomy that minimizes the risk of sexual side effects.
“I had a choice between an open radical prostatectomy with Dr. Moul and laparoscopic surgery with another provider. I preferred Dr. Moul’s approach,” says Ladner. “He is methodical and explained what was involved. I liked that he would be closer to the disease itself, and could take out more if need be. It just made the most sense for me.”
Days before the procedure, Ladner was out training for his next race. Afterward, however, he had no choice but to take it slow. “Surgery knocks you back pretty good,” he says. “I am in good shape, but after surgery I would walk four steps and be finished.”
Within three months, his PSA levels were at undetectable levels. Urinary incontinence, a common side effect of the procedure, subsided in a few weeks. “Three months after surgery, I did a triathlon,” says Ladner. “I attribute my success to a good procedure and being in good shape.”