David Stevens is CEO of Mountain Lake Consulting, Inc. Prior to this role David served as CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association in Washington DC. David also served as the US Assistant Secretary of Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner for President Obama. David lives in southern Virginia with his wife Mary and they together have four children and two grandchildren.
This year, David and his wife Mary are continuing their fundraising efforts with the #StevensStrong campaign, in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Learn more and donate today to help fund innovative, important cancer research: #StevensStrong Campaign
How was your cancer diagnosis discovered?
One thing I have learned about a cancer diagnosis is: this is the first place where mistakes might happen. In early 2015, I went in for my regular annual physical, a six hour process where literally everything is examined. Blood work, treadmill, lungs, heart, eyes, and more. This was at a highly regarded medical facility. The day after when I saw my results, the one thing missing was my PSA. When I called to find out what that was, I was told that they “forgot” to take that but I could schedule a time to come in. My overall feedback aside from that was that I was extremely healthy. An active runner and regular gym visitor, I recall the cardiologist saying to me, “whatever you are doing, keep doing it”. So as a busy executive I decided, “heck, I’m healthy as can be. I’ll check it next year." That was my big mistake.
When I went back in early 2016, the PSA was elevated. Typically, men will find that after discovery, they like you to wait 3 months for another test. The insurance companies typically have this as their accepted protocol. So, I waited three months, but by that time it was too late. I had always been diligent about my health and physicals. But this was where the cancer could have been caught earlier.
What is the biggest piece of advice that you have for new diagnosed patients?
The rush of fear, regret, and more that rolls through you and your family is intense. It’s a huge emotional shock and frankly, most of your friends and family might not be able to help or even understand (if they have not been there themselves.) But my most important advice is to research and try to find the best expert in the field for your type of cancer. I was diagnosed at a well known hospital in Washington DC. But their suggested protocol for me seemed almost hopeless.
The afternoon of my diagnosis, my wife Mary and I immediately began researching and found a very aggressive oncologist who happened to be the head of research for the urological center at a highly regarded medical facility. I emailed him and within minutes I got a call asking me to send records and come up to Baltimore the very next morning. The result was a totally different quality of care and treatment protocol that has extended my life far longer than otherwise would have happened. So, the biggest piece of advice is: don’t take the feedback from your first diagnosis and treatment plan simply because it’s near to your home or convenient. Research and get a second opinion even if you have to fly across the country. This is your life.
What is the most important thing you learned from your cancer experience?
This is one of the reasons I am so excited by One Village. There is no place to turn to when you get diagnosed that you can simply trust on face value. The internet may help, but it also can give back terribly inaccurate information.
What are my options, are there any experimental treatments I should try, will I die, how long will I live, what’s the treatment plan? Even when you agree on the plan, there is very little done to explain what chemo will really be like, what the radiation process will be like, how it may impact your ability to work or live as close to a normal life. So, the lack of great resources for information was a big void for me.
Of course I watched the video before chemo that they showed me at the hospital, but they had me in a room with men and women with all types of cancer. And as we know, outcomes vary dramatically between cancer types.
What was the most difficult aspect of organizing your care/community?
For me, I decided to be very open and public about this. I had a job that exposed me to thousands of people in my industry on stages across the country. So I used my first speech to go at cancer directly and tell a large audience about my diagnosis from stage. That one act resulted in a massive response from so many cancer survivors and fighters who reached out. It was cathartic for me to be public about it. Not everyone has that opportunity or even wants to be public about it. But for me, being public and open about it was important to build a support community and to educate friends, family, and co-workers about this disease.
Cancer scares people and most have no understanding of what it is like unless they have personally experienced it. So I say, share your experiences along the way. You will be surprised who comes forward to share theirs or to offer support.
What couldn't you have lived without during your experience:
Dr. Ken Pienta at Johns Hopkins is the head of research for Brady Urological Center. He is cutting edge and for men with Prostate Cancer, I suggest him. For men with metastatic cancer I strongly suggest looking at treatments not yet approved or being tested at less effective levels that are available in Germany. Dr. Prof. Richard Baum discovered a remarkable way to attack cancer cells for men with metastatic prostate cancer. For prostate cancer, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, and USF are the three best for cutting edge treatment options.
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