Bob Bustance enjoys life in his hometown of Hastings, Michigan.
Depending on the season, he tends to his vegetable garden, hunts deer or goes snowmobiling.
But in September of 2017, as he harvested the last of his crops, he seemingly lost control of his bladder.
“I had to urinate frequently,” said Bustance, 58. “I had no control. It came out of nowhere.”
Bustance made an appointment with his family doctor. Her concern led to a referral to Christopher Brede, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group urologist.
“He went ahead and did his testing,” Bustance said. “Three days later, he called and told me I had prostate cancer. I was astonished.”
Dr. Brede said the routine screening showed Bustance had a rising PSA level, leading to a biopsy.
“The cancer was found to be localized at diagnosis,” Dr. Brede said.
After considering options presented by Dr. Brede, Bustance chose to have the cancer surgically removed. Dr. Brede performed a robotic prostatectomy.
But that wasn’t the end of Bustance’s cancer story.
Doctors discovered cancer lurking in his thyroid during a total body scan.
“It all hit at one time,” he said. “They took my prostate. Six weeks later they went in and took my thyroid.”
Bustance sensed the cancer double whammy could only mean one thing. His time was up. He visited a local funeral home and planned for what he thought to be his future.
“I thought I was going to die,” Bustance said. “I went ahead and made my funeral arrangements and bought a cemetery plot. It was like a tidal wave hitting you.”
Dr. Brede said he doesn’t think the two cancers were related.
“Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer solid tumor in men, so it would not be that rare for an individual to have prostate cancer with another cancer,” he said. “His happened to be discovered concurrently. They ended up not being related.”
Bustance said a Spectrum Health nurse navigator helped answer questions and schedule appointments throughout the ordeal.
“He called me every week,” Bustance said. “He was a positive person. Everyone was so positive… Without those people at Spectrum, I would have never made it.”
In June, Bustance was able to return to his position as a supervisor for a metal stamping company.
“The company I work for has been awesome,” he said. “There’s no company in the world that will hold a man’s job for 10 months to make sure I had health insurance. A lot of people stepped up. It’s just amazing.”
Bustance continued to see Dr. Brede weekly after his surgery, then every three months and now, every six months. His PSA tests have been normal.
“I am so ecstatically happy,” he said at the time.
He and his partner of 35 years, Betty Negus, are resuming life.
“Robotic surgery is one of the most awesome experiences you could ever have,” he said. “They didn’t do an incision at all—just little holes with a couple of stitches. The recovery time to me was just remarkable. I got it done, went home and laid around for three or four days. The soreness just went away. By the time I went to see him a couple of weeks later, everything was healed up. No red marks. No nothing.”
Bustance said he’s still not 100 percent energy wise, but he can only imagine how he would feel if he had large incisions to contend with.
“Of all the surgeries a man could have, that’s the way to go because of the recovery time and not being split wide open,” he said. “Dr. Brede gave me options (treatment or removal). Cancer has been in my family for years. Being as young as I was, I looked at him and said, ‘I want it gone.’ Betty and I talked about it. I pretty much made up my mind I wanted it out.”
“It was very trying,” he said. “I had to stay positive. I had to surround myself with positive people. I live each day trying to be better than I was yesterday and it works. My eating habits have changed. Everything has changed.”
Bustance said he’s happy with his decision to have the prostate and thyroid cancer removed.
“I think I made a wise choice,” he said. “It’s a good feeling. I wake up every day very thankful. I wasn’t a religious person, but it really makes you think. It really does. It all came out for the best for me.”