Catherine Loikits loves the unpredictable nature of her job organizing the innovative classes and events at the Baker Institute and its Lehigh Silicon Valley program. “It’s always different, we have programs coming in and going out,” she said. “We’re constantly doing everything on the fly.”
Being flexible and resilient has been an asset to her personally as well this year, as she and her husband Dan Loikits have been going through something life hands you that you don’t ask for. In January, Dan was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Both Catherine and Dan wanted to share their story with the Lehigh community so others might benefit from their experience.
“We would have never suspected.”
Catherine and Dan married two years ago. As is befitting of their active lifestyle, they chose a quiet wedding in Florence, Italy, preceded by a week of bicycling through Tuscany.
Catherine has faithfully attended HealthSCAN during her 13 years at Lehigh, taking advantage of the free annual blood test to track and monitor her health.
A triathelete, Dan has likewise always been conscientious about his health. He has seen a urologist annually. Once Catherine and Dan were married, he started joining her for the screening as well. They paid the additional fee for extra tests, including the PSA test for Dan, which is a prostate cancer indicator. Over the years, Dan hadn’t ever had a PSA test that indicated any cause for concern.
“He is the person who never gets sick and who always goes to the doctor,” Catherine says. “And he’s only 60, which is young for prostate cancer. We would have never suspected. It just went so quickly.”
In September 2016, Dan’s PSA test at HealthSCAN was slightly higher than the one he had at his doctor’s office the previous December (2015). But it was still below four (4), the level that is considered the threshold for further investigation.
“We knew that cycling can increase the PSA test number,” Catherine said. “So, we easily negated the seriousness and thought, well it must be because of the long bike rides he had been doing all summer.”
When he returned to his urologist for his annual check up in December, however, it was higher again.
“We began to see a pattern that even though he had eased off the biking it was still higher. It was still under four, but the fact that we had previous tests and had seen it gradually go higher, it led his doctor to ask him to stay off the bike completely for a week and then repeat the test.”
By January 2017, when Dan repeated the test, his PSA level had doubled. Now it was higher than four. A biopsy confirmed their fears. It was cancer and it was very aggressive.
Dan had surgery to remove his prostate in March. The surgery was difficult, and the pathology report indicated that the margins of the tumor were not clear after it was removed. So for now, they watch and wait. His first PSA test following the surgery was good, but there is a chance it can recur.
Catherine believes having the HealthSCAN PSA test was critical to catching Dan’s aggressive cancer in time.
“It gave us that interim test that showed that the increase in his PSA level wasn’t a random incident, that it was actually part of an upward trend,” she said. “If we had waited another six months for another test, if we hadn’t had the HealthSCAN test in the middle, it would have been too late.”
“We’re optimistic. And we don’t have any regrets.”
Catherine is holding up well. She says it helps that Dan is a great patient.
Dan continues to recover from the surgery, a 12-18 month process. Since he’s been diagnosed, he asks every man he meets if he has had a PSA test. “They see him coming at the Y and they run,” Catherine said smiling. “But he tells them his story and urges them to get tested, and most of them do.”
She wants to encourage Lehigh employees to attend HealthSCAN, and to bring their spouses along with them. “It’s $10 for the extra test. Ten dollars could have meant life or death for my husband. We don’t know where we’ll end up, but we certainly have a better prognosis than we would have without that test.”
Dan misses cycling and looks forward to getting back in the saddle this fall, per doctor’s instructions. “His competition bike is in the dining room, it stayed there even during Easter when I had a house full of family,” Catherine said. “I haven’t moved it because that would be like saying he might never compete again. But we’re optimistic. And we don’t have any regrets.”
For more information about prostate cancer, visit the American Cancer Society’s website or speak to your doctor.
HealthSCAN will return in September. Look for registration information later this summer.