Prostate cancer survivor Darlo Austin, of Sac City, an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, attended a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in late July 2016. The trip and game were gifts, courtesy of the East Sac County High School baseball coaches and players following his retirement as a coach.
Prostate cancer survivor Darlo Austin, of Sac City, an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, attended a game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in late July 2016. The trip and game were gifts, courtesy of the East Sac County High School baseball coaches and players following his retirement as a coach.

June 16, 2017

Darlo Austin and his wife of 40 years, Janet, have spent their entire married life in Sac City. In fact, the couple live just two blocks down from the house where Darlo grew up.

Together, they raised their two children, Jill (Austin) Lowe and Joel Austin, in the community they call home. Today, Darlo continues his work as a 28-year veteran of the Sac City Water Treatment Plant and recently retired from 25 years of service at the Lake View Post Office. He also spent 32 years coaching and assisting baseball, beginning with his son’s tee-ball team and serving 21 years with the Sac City and East Sac County High School baseball programs. Janet works in the business office at Loring Hospital in Sac City.

A prostate cancer survivor, Austin is thankful for each birthday, holiday, and this Sunday, Father’s Day, that he has the opportunity to spend with family.

An exercise enthusiast, Austin leads an active lifestyle and takes pride in his health. He made sure to see his primary-care physician, Dr. Zoltan Pek, UnityPoint Health, every year for his annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, a simple blood test that measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. While in for an unrelated health issue, Pek suggested Austin complete his regular PSA exam.

“My PSA levels had slowly been going up over the years,” Austin said. “But they spiked at my appointment in 2011. I always thought prostate cancer was an old man’s disease, not something that would impact me this early in life.”

Pek referred Austin to Siouxland Urology for a biopsy, where eight of the 12 tests came back cancerous. Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in March 2011.

“I was floored when I heard the news,” he said. “My wife said she could have knocked me over with a feather. I couldn’t believe it.”

After another consultation, Austin was sent to the Mayo Clinic, which utilized da Vinci robotic surgery to remove the prostate.

Austin experienced minimal pain and within a couple weeks, was back to feeling normal.

He continued PSA exams every three months to keep an eye on his levels, which were negligible until 2014. He returned to Mayo Clinic where a second biopsy was conducted, and discovered cancer developing again in a pocket of the prostate. This time, treatment included radiation. Austin met with an oncologist at Mayo Clinic who recommended 40 days of treatment.

“I knew St. Anthony (Regional Hospital in Carroll) offered radiation treatment, and that’s where I wanted to receive care,” Austin said. “It was comforting to know I would only be 30 minutes from home, not stranded in Minnesota.”

Austin met with Dr. John Ling at St. Anthony for a consultation and then completed 40 radiation treatments at the hospital between July 29, 2015, and Sept. 22, 2015.

“The medical staff members at St. Anthony were thorough, kind and caring,” Austin said. “Plus, because I was able to receive radiation treatment so close to home, I could work six hours a day, drive to Carroll for treatment, and go exercise at the Rec Center all in the same day. Radiation made me tired, but it didn’t keep me from my normal routine.”

At the end of his 40 treatments, Austin’s PSA levels remained elevated, but have continued to drop significantly over the past two years as a result of radiation treatment. He continues routine exams with Dr. Randal Hess, St. Anthony Radiation/Oncology.

“The radiation department at St. Anthony is top-notch,” Austin said. “They have to work in tough conditions and see people that have challenging diagnoses. They do a great job in providing comfort to all.” Over the years, St. Anthony has expanded its specialty services in men’s health with the addition of urologist Dr. Richard Sazama in May 2014 and investing in its own da Vinci robot in the fall of 2014. By adding specialty services close to home, the hospital is able to perform cutting-edge procedures and treatments for patients like Austin locally in Carroll.  

This Father’s Day, Austin feels lucky to have caught the prostate cancer at an early stage, and acknowledges that he’s thankful every day. He encourages men of all ages to take the time to consult with their primary-care physician and get an annual PSA exam.

“I personally believe the PSA exam is what saved my life,” Austin said. “I was going through life thinking I was healthy, when in fact, I had cancer starting to grow. I hate to think of what could have been the outcome if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body — I would have been in trouble. The PSA test is a simple test that could save your life.”