A name like Laurens Pierce III comes with history. One ancestor signed the Declaration of Independence. Others trace leadership in the Montgomery, Alabama community back to pre-Civil War years. In spring of 2006, Laurens was looking forward to continued, active presence in Montgomery’s business community and a long future enjoying family and friends. Then, a series of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening tests showed rising PSA levels. And, fearing prostate cancer, Laurens asked for a biopsy. Laurens was shocked when he received the results. “They took 17 tissue samples and all 17 were malignant,” recalls Laurens. A Gleason score was calculated, giving a grade or level to the extent of the cancer found in the prostate. Laurens’s oncologist agreed. “Mr. Pierce presented with high-risk prostate cancer. It was fast-growing and aggressive,” says University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology Dr. John B. Fiveash. “This was serious,” Laurens says, “For the first 10 days I was in mortal shock. I couldn't stop thinking, I have cancer."
Laurens, who describes himself as “medically proactive,” wanted information. His son-in-law, a regional manager for the oncology division of an international company and a son in the medical equipment profession gathered information from colleagues and clients. Laurens knew his situation was high risk and wanted the best options for treatment. “The name TomoTherapy and Dr. John Fiveash kept coming up,” Laurens says. Immediately, he made an appointment with Dr. Fiveash at the Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham, 85 miles up I-65 from Montgomery.
“Dr. Fiveash gave it to me straight,” Laurens says. “Radiation treatment was my only option…They’d do adjuvant [hormone] therapy to shrink the tumor. Then radiation….I was told to expect chemotherapy afterward because of the tumor size and the way the cancer had spread….I felt like a guy who’d been in a car wreck…but I knew I had to be positive.” Also, Laurens was determined to learn as much as possible about the disease so he could make informed, confident decisions about his own care.