Rik Savering, 61, of Tidewater, remembers the morning he was scheduled for robotic‑assisted surgery at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis.
It was March of 2020 and Savering had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, a disease that affects 1 in 8 men in the U.S. Removing the prostate entirely would give Savering the best chance for survival.
Savering often uses humor to deal with the stress and pressure he’s feeling. But with this diagnosis, underneath the facade, he became consumed by what ifs:
“What if they couldn’t remove all the cancer? What I become incontinent? What if I lose erectile function? I was scared to death,” Savering said.
Surgeon Layron Long, MD, of Samaritan Urology, has performed hundreds of prostate surgeries. While this case may have been routine for Dr. Long, there is nothing mundane about a patient’s fears.
A part of healing goes beyond surgery or medicine. That’s why Dr. Long makes a point of getting to know each patient beyond the diagnosis.
During a preoperative meeting, Dr. Long learned that Savering was a keyboardist who had performed extensively on the East Coast in the 1980s and even opened for musical acts like R.E.M., The Kinks and Cyndi Lauper. The two soon discovered that during his fellowship, Dr. Long had seen Savering’s band in concert in Washington, D.C.
“Connecting with people on another frequency solidifies our understanding,” Dr. Long said. “I use these points of levity when we’re talking about something serious.”
And in their case, sometimes people just vibe. Savering was comforted when he learned that Dr. Long is also a musician.
“You know, we don’t have to do this (surgery) today,” Dr. Long told Savering.
When Dr. Long put the decision in his patient’s hands, it gave Savering a sense of control. He thought of his three children and his partner.
“I’ve gotta be there for them,” he decided. “I have to stay alive.”
After a successful surgery, both Savering and Dr. Long agreed, the outcome could not have been better. The cancer was successfully removed and, after recovering from surgery, he has regained full continence and erectile function.
His cancer was detected early through routine screening. Because there are no early symptoms of prostate cancer, the disease was first suspected when Savering had elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen (or PSA). Then, the cancer was confirmed through an ultrasound-guided biopsy.
Because Savering is relatively young and in good health, Dr. Long recommended surgery to remove the prostate and the cancer. While there are risks with surgery, more than 93% of men regain continence control within a year and erectile function for most men returns within two years.
Now a cancer survivor, Savering is once again composing and recording music in his garage studio. It’s a step back from the stages he once rocked when his band Not Shakespeare opened for some of the top rock acts of the 1980s.
“That was an exciting time,” Savering recalled. “But I’m not 25 years old anymore.”
Savering was able to easily maintain follow up visits close to home with Dr. Long at the urology clinic in Newport – helping ensure he was on the path to a successful recovery. Now, two years after his surgery, Savering is a source of confidence for others who face a prostate cancer diagnosis.
He said he is sharing his story because he remembers what it was like for him.
“It was like being on a roller coaster,” he said. “I went from not knowing and being scared, to being optimistic then fatalistic.”
Recovery has taught him to slow down, not to get frustrated and to appreciate life.
“I have an overall sense of gratitude,” he said. “I’m just so thankful I got through it.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, affecting roughly 15 percent in the U.S. At highest risk are men over the age 65, African American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer. Early detection can result in a 90 to 95 percent cure rate.
The Man to Man cancer support group provides a space for men to discuss the physical and emotional aspects of this disease. Join at any time, no matter where you are in your treatment. The group offers support, guest speakers, information sharing and coping strategies.