Bob's Battle: A long road to victory

Published: Feb. 15, 2013 at 2:22 AM CST|Updated: May. 20, 2013 at 11:54 PM CDT
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Almost every day, Bob Breck makes the life-saving walk through the doors of East Jefferson's Yenni Pavilion for radiation treatments.  He will make 43 trips in all. He has a little more than 20 to go.

The experience is not what he expected.

"After one week I was starting to have some minor issues and it got me concerned after a couple of weeks that maybe something else was going to happen," Bob said.

Radiation has taken its toll.

"I was having trouble urinating because I was told when the radiation starts it swells the prostate a little bit. That makes it hard to pee.  That was fixed with a drug called Flomax," he said.

Bob went on to explain other side effects.  He said, "I was having more bowel movements in the day. Most people have two or three at the most -- I was having 10!  I'm not kidding."

Bob's public journey has brought a wave of support from calls and emails to Facebook posts. People who have trusted Bob's forecasts over the years listen to his message of early detection. Some say it's made the sensitive issue of prostate cancer easier to talk about.

"I was proud of him as a person to tell people you need to get checked out. That's why we're having the conversation today," said Bob Fresneda.

The president of the U.S. division of an invoice processing company called ReadSoft says Bob's story was the talk of his office.  Fresneda says he was just 45 years old when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"I was healthy, fit and enjoying life. I had three kids, 15 to 11, and I didn't think I was a person with cancer," Fresneda said.

He had no warning signs when urologist Dr. Neil Baum noticed elevated levels in a routing blood test four years ago.

"My father has prostate cancer and colon cancer," Fresneda said.

Dr. Baum stresses that men who have a relative with prostate cancer need to start getting tested earlier in life.

When Bob's father, Bernie Zabrecky, was diagnosed and had his prostate removed in the 80's, he had complications during surgery and problems with incontinence. When Fresneda had surgery in 2009, it was considered his best option.

Tulane urologist Dr. Raju Thomas was his surgeon.  "By far the younger you are, we recommend surgery. The reason is you have so much longer to live, you want to make sure you are cancer-free," Thomas said.

"You look at it and you say the prostate has a lot to do with your ability to have a relationship with a woman. There are concerns about that," Fresneda said. "For three nights I didn't sleep. Your wife is going to tell you everything is fine but she was worried about it behind the scenes."

Dr. Thomas used robotic surgery to remove Fresneda's prostate. That technology was not available when Bob Breck's father had the procedure.

"He said, 'I can make this where there's no impact on your life. I believed him.'" Fresneda said.

In such a procedure, robotic arms are used. The doctor guides surgical instruments through small incisions in the abdomen and manipulates them using a controller and a video monitor that magnifies the delicate area.

Fresneda said it's like kids playing a video game. He was out of the hospital 24 hours later.

Bob Breck took his age and lifestyle into account when he chose the option of radiation instead of surgery.  Dr. Thomas says Bob Breck will not be a candidate for surgery, now that radiation has been performed.

Bob continues to take us on his journey, the good and the bad.  "They tell me I may get some fatigue, but I hope may attitude can compensate for that."