Retired Social Worker Goes Against Doctors’ Orders and Finds Personal Advocacy Through Prostate Cancer

A retired psychotherapist and social worker published a memoir detailing his experiences with disease and navigating the health care space, as well as “all the things that people think about (but) they don't necessarily talk about or even talk to their doctors about.”

When Ira Schulte, a retired psychotherapist and social worker for the chronically disabled, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, his doctors responded with an aggressive treatment plan.

However, while taking his prescribed hormone injections (a common treatment for prostate cancer), he discovered prolonged usage was associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease, making him reconsider the plan.

As the head of social work at a specialized cerebral palsy center, he said he felt confident managing physical symptoms of disease and the challenges associated with navigating a world catered to the able-bodied, but that he was completely unwilling to risk any level of mental impairment.

“I can live with many physical illnesses, because I've seen a lot of people do that,” Schulte said in an interview with CURE®. “I don't want to be here and be mentally impaired. So, at that point, I made a decision that was contrary to the doctors and contrary to even my wife — who's (a registered nurse) — and basically decided that I was going to take these hormonal shots intermittently as opposed to regularly.”

Schulte has now self-published a memoir that delves into his personal prostate cancer story and the ways he navigated being a patient. His book addresses several topics he says he wishes doctors would have brought up to him, as well as discussing his decision to deviate from his prescribed treatment plan.

“I don't find doctors to be empathetic. I don't find them to deal with feelings, I don't find them to deal with money, I don't find them to deal with sex, (they) don't deal with sensitive issues; they only deal with their specialty. So to them, I was a prostate, when I had heart issues I was a heart, and it's like, ‘no, I'm a human being. And I have my own value system.’”

Though his doctors urged him to focus solely on eradicating the disease he currently had instead of worrying about a future side effect, Schulte was adamant that quality of life as a survivor was more important to him than simply surviving at all.

Schulte emphasized he still trusts the expert opinions of his professional care team and is “90 to 95% compliant” with their treatment decisions, but ultimately felt as though his doctors struggled to connect with him as a person rather than a patient.

Schulte published his memoir in hopes of inspiring other patients to advocate for themselves to their care teams and give them the more personal advice he missed from his specialists. His book, “Everything I Learned About Prostate Cancer Began at Sixty-Five,” is currently available on Amazon.

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