Paul Ecke expresses himself through his art. One of this painter and sculptor’s many gifts is the ability to find the beauty in everything — even a devastating cancer diagnosis.
“My most recent project, 'Warriors with Messengers,' really represents cancer’s impact on our lives. In it, I highlight 10 cancer patients that have been close to me over the years, including my mother. They all became my warriors, and each one of them has a different virtue, like love, passion and hope,” Ecke explained.
“If you can take your mind somewhere else, focus on your goals and always look toward the future, it can give you a sense of peace. Art does that for me. I don’t like to dwell on the cancer. Of course, there's not a day that goes by that you don't think about it, but you have to think about it, then let it go.”
An Unusual Diagnosis
Ecke was first diagnosed with prostate cancer
when he was 53 years old. He was in Miami for vacation when a urinary tract infection (UTI) sent him to an urgent care center.
“The doctor who examined me said that it was very unusual for men to get UTIs and he suggested that I go back to my primary physician when I got home. So, of course, I did. And they started testing, which went on for a year,” Ecke recalled. “They watched my PSA [level] and it kept rising. And so I finally got a biopsy and they did find a little amount of cancer. I went to actually two or three urologists to get everybody's opinion and pretty much they all said we should just wait and watch. I just couldn't accept that. I thought that since there was cancer in my body, I wanted it out.”
After researching different treatments, Ecke opted for radiation and was found to be cancer-free after having many lymph nodes removed. But his happiness over beating prostate cancer was short-lived.
“Life was good for a year or two, and then my numbers started to rise again. I had scans of my prostate done, but biopsies showed that there was no cancer in my prostate. The cancer had actually metastasized,” Ecke recalled.
He went on to have many lymph nodes removed, five of which were cancerous. Again, Ecke thought he was cancer-free, but a year later, his PSA levels started rising again.
Frustrated, Ecke decided to change course with his treatment, and sought out the services of Tanya Dorff, M.D.
, who put him on hormone therapy. Since the two started working together almost 10 years ago, Ecke has been on a variety of hormone therapies that have been effective in controlling his disease and helping him maintain a good quality of life.
“I've always been a believer. You know, I've been battling this for 10, 12 years. But I always say that you should believe the diagnosis, but you don’t have to buy into the prognosis,” Ecke said.
“And I can tell you this without a doubt, I would not be alive today if it wasn't for Dr. Dorff. She's that good. She’s so compassionate and supportive; she has never poo-pooed any of my thoughts or ideas. She is always positive and always listens to me.”
Unexpected Side Effects
While his treatment plan, prescribed by Dorff, has been successful, Ecke has still had some challenges with treatment side effects.
“The sexual part was huge. And I feel a lot of men don't like to talk about it because you can become nonsexual. And at the young age I was diagnosed at, that was huge. I mean huge. If anything, that was my biggest hurdle to get over,” Ecke admitted.
“So I started developing other interests. I do my art and have exhibitions all over the world. So I'm working a lot because I'm not thinking about sex.”
That work includes a new endeavor, writing.
“I have this book, 'Boy Dreamer,
' coming out. It's gonna expose everything, my life and the cancer. And I am also speaking and lecturing about my 'Warriors with Messengers' exhibition,” Ecke said.
“Art, to me, is like breathing. Dr. Dorff always reminds me to let her take care of me while I just focus on my art. I may have Stage 4 cancer, but I've been Stage 4 for quite some time, about eight years. I’m not done yet.”
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