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The Survivor Monologues

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VINCENT SANTILLO, 38
Five years ago, Santillo, a private-equity banker, had just married his male partner of ten years and was talking about adoption when a routine exam turned up a prostate tumor. Recovering gave him a new calling: He’s now studying to be a urologist.

It’s fortuitous that I even got checked. I went to a new internist, and he looked at my family history—an uncle, my father and grandfather, all had prostate cancer. When a urologist told me I needed a biopsy, I walked out of there hysterical. A week later he called me. I was in a meeting in my office. My co-workers knew it was “the call.” I had actually told everyone about it. I know that might seem really stupid, because you don’t want it to affect you careerwise, but I can’t be that way. So he told me it was positive, and I knew right away I’d need the full-on, radical prostatectomy, because at my age, radiation is not an option. You just have to get it out. I told the surgeon, “This is the luckiest day of my life.” I knew that in five years I would have come in complaining of trouble peeing, and it would have been too late. A guy whose wife I met on WebMD—we were diagnosed at the same time, at the same age—he died last summer.

When they first pulled the catheter out, they told me to bring a diaper. And they were right—I felt a leak the first step I took. It can be very isolating, very embarrassing. Ejaculation is never going to happen again. They turn off a switch. And not only do you not “work,” but you’re with someone who does “work.” Any cracks you have in your relationship, the cancer gets in there. But you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. My marriage is so much stronger now.

I was sitting at home after the surgery watching TV, and it just hit me—I should have been a doctor. I made the wrong choice. My job was, and will still be, risk analysis: Here’s the information, but you make the decision. I can’t wait to do this with patients.


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