THE POWER OF POSITIVITY: Chris Seelye refused to let his diagnosis stand in his way. “I knew that keeping a good attitude was paramount to successful treatment,” he said.

Every year, an estimated 13,000 veterans are diagnosed with prostate cancer. At just 59 years old, nature and wildlife photographer and U.S. Navy veteran Chris Seelye never imagined he would be one of them. Then, in 2014, he was diagnosed with metastatic, castrate-resistant prostate cancer. The news that he was facing terminal prostate cancer was devastating.

After extensive consultations with urologists, Seelye was referred to an oncologist, Dr. Bruce Montgomery M.D., who had been working on a clinical study funded by a partnership between the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The study involved big data and precision medicine, which uses a person’s unique DNA to identify the best treatment options for that particular patient. When deep genetic sequencing revealed that Seelye had a very specific genetic mutation, Dr. Montgomery immediately knew he was an ideal candidate for the trial.

Positivity and successful treatment

“Without this study, I wouldn’t have the options that I have today... I’d either be dead already or very near it.”

Always a big believer in the power of positive thinking, Seelye dug in his heels. “I knew that keeping a good attitude was paramount to successful treatment, so I refused to let myself get depressed.”

Dr. Montgomery, on the other hand, was a big believer in the recent advances in precision medicine, but neither man could have foreseen the results to come.

 Participants in the study received a new chemotherapy combination that had shown great promise and used gene-targeted therapy. But great promise is never a guarantee, so Dr. Montgomery was amazed when Seelye became what is known as an “exceptional responder.” His prostate-specific antigen levels dropped so dramatically that his cancer had essentially gone into complete remission. Suddenly, he was a survivor.

With cancer no remission is permanent, but it was still extraordinary. The results of the treatment had changed the face of Seelye’s future completely — a future he thought he had already lost.

Seelye is happy to be back behind the camera, exploring the landscapes and wildlife he loves. He recently photographed a rookery of great blue herons raising their chicks. “Without this study, I wouldn’t have the options that I have today,” he says. “I’d either be dead already or very near it.”

To anyone diagnosed with or battling any form of cancer, Seelye points out that new treatments and advances are emerging every day, and clinical trials are yielding extraordinary results.