Troy Nokes


Still strong after two battles with cancer

One diagnosis of cancer is hard for anyone to face. Troy Nokes of Tyler has faced cancer twice. And he has come out stronger.

Nokes was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. He underwent radiation therapy and, after 45 treatments, was given a clean bill of health. “After I had it all done, my PSA was 0, and it stayed that way for several years.”

But one hallmark of the ETMC Cancer Institute is continued follow-up of all patients, and the news Nokes received was worrisome.

“Then it (PSA) began to go up a little. At first it was a little less than 1 and then it got a little higher. When it got to about 6, they were getting concerned, but they hadn’t found anything.”

After the retirement of his urologist, Nokes began seeing Dr. J. Leonard DeCarlo of Urology Tyler, and in 2014 Dr. DeCarlo ordered a PSA test. The result was 13. According to the American Cancer Society, most healthy men have PSA levels below 4. The risk of prostate cancer goes up as PSA levels rise, although issues other than prostate cancer can affect PSA levels.

“I knew then there was something wrong. I’d already suspected it,” Nokes said. “They ordered a bone scan and a CT scan. When I went to see Dr. DeCarlo, he showed me the results. He said, ‘Troy, you see that little black spot there? That’s cancer. See those around your rib cage? That’s cancer.’ I was fortunate that I got there when I did. It was in my bones too.”

Referral to oncologist

Dr. DeCarlo referred Nokes to Marc Usrey, MD, an oncologist with Hope Cancer Center of East Texas. “I liked him the first day I went in,” Nokes said. “I could just tell he was for me. I could tell he knew what he was talking about. He impressed me tremendously.”

Dr. Usrey prescribed a course of six chemotherapy treatments, which Nokes completed at the ETMC Cancer Institute. “After two treatments, we did another bone and CT scan,” Nokes said. “Dr. Usrey said, ‘It’s still there, but they’re not doing anything. They’re inactive.’ So I kept on and completed the six treatments.”

Nokes said he suffered few side effects during his treatment. “The only problem I ever had was that metallic taste in my mouth. Plus I’m older, so I don’t quite have the vim and vigor I used to have. It does sap your strength, but Dr. Usrey told me that’d come back. And my hair would come back. It has a little bit, but not much. He says I have time.”

Today, with his treatments finished, Nokes is doing well. He recently had a follow-up visit and received a good report. Nokes said he appreciated the love and support he’s received from his daughter, Connie Taylor, and son, John Nokes.

Grateful for ETMC team

He also is thankful for the team at the ETMC Cancer Institute. “These are the nicest people. They just do everything to make you relax and feel good. In other words, they’re for the patients. The ones I’ve talked to really do like working there, and I can see why — it’s a family too.”

Nokes also credited his faith in God for his good outcome. “Dr. Usrey and I talked about it, and he thought a lot of it was my attitude and the way I accepted it. I believe God has a reason for me to hang around a little longer. And there were so many people praying for me. You just can’t imagine how many people were praying for me. It helps to be strong in your faith.”

This second battle with cancer does not appear to have slowed down the 85-year-old Nokes.

“I like to live,” he said. “I’m a fighter. I’m not giving up. I’ve got some things to do in the next few years. I just want to help others.”

That’s exactly what he’s doing. He volunteers at ETMC Tyler’s admitting department and is an active member of First Baptist Church in Tyler, where he helps out at the Family Assistance Center.

He also wants to encourage others facing a cancer diagnosis.

“There is life after cancer. It’s not the end; it’s the beginning. I think they are learning, learning, learning all the time about cancer and how to treat it. You’ve got a chance, because they can do things I never dreamed of — just like they’ve done for me.”

Go to the ETMC Cancer Institute page.