I debated as to whether I should tackle this particular topic in this rather intimate space. But I have tried to be an open book here, with my honest feelings, opinions, while also passing along the events and adventures that have gone on in my life, both good and bad.
So, yeah, it’s time to talk about a little bad.
Now, before I pass along the breaking news, this is not a plea for pity. I’ve known several people to go down this road and while we touched the surface of their experience, I’m finding out there’s a lot more when they move you to the front lines. It’s not going to be the only thing I talk about from now on, but there will probably a week or two where I share something that could be beneficial to know for someone fighting prostate cancer.
Up until my diagnosis 10 days ago or so, to me, prostate cancer was that, “Oh, it’s no big deal” cancer.
- Sure, these days, they cure it all the time.
- Yeah, a couple of rounds of radiation and it’ll all be behind you.
- I know lots of people who have had it and they’re now cancer-free!
And so on….
It’s a bit more complicated than that, because no two diagnosis, patients, treatments and results are alike.
We’ve (that referring to me and my personal physician) have been keeping an eye on my situation because of my rising PSA numbers over the past 5 or so years. Since we’re making this an educational class and you may put in for college credit, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in a sample of your blood. They use the numbers as a measurement that may indicate if there is cancer present. If your doctor notices your number has exceeded X, he sends you to a urologist who tells you that an increased number is natural for men as they get older. That happens a couple of times, the PSA continues to go up, so then they do a prostate biopsy. Yes, the fun-filled task of taking a dozen plugs out of various parts of your prostate, to see if they can strike cancer. In recent years, I’ve had two of those with no cancer to be found.
But in my most recent blood work, I must have hit a magic number, which trigged getting an MRI and undergoing an “Artemis Biopsy”, which includes the traditional 12 plugs plus 3 bonus plugs that are taken out of the area where the MRI showed as suspicious. Once again, the 12 were fine, but the bonus plugs put me in that fast-growing club nobody wants to belong to.
The really good news: the cancer appeared to be confined to the prostate and I somehow managed to get the slowest growing cancer available. If you were going to have cancer, this is the one to get.
What’s next? Homework. My urologist ran through all of the treatment possibilities and instructed me to set up consults with two different doctors–one, in case I wanted to go the surgery route and the other, for radiation. Those are in the works.
An almost-relative and retired Seattle urologist graciously offered to look at my lab results and come to our home (yeah, a doctor making an actual house call), taking my wife and I through each possible procedure, the pro’s and con’s of each and answered all of our questions. I’m sure there will be more.
I also wanted to talk to people I knew who had been down this road before. I have a high school buddy that I’ve stayed in touch with, as well as another friend, all of us the same age, both who had to deal with this challenge. They each were diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer but, after Proton treatments, they appeared to have beaten it. Or, so I thought. After having lunch today with my high school buddy, even though he was zapped 6 years ago and considered cured, the cancer came back with a vengeance. Once again, he’s fighting stage 4.
I don’t need to go into details on what happens with the surgery or the radiation treatments, but as one friend said, “Things just aren’t going to be the same again.” The first couple of days after finding out I actually had it, I went from sad, to angry, to depressed, to overwhelmed. There are a lot of decisions to come over the next couple of weeks and then, whatever happens with treatment. Again, with having the slowest-growing variety, I don’t have to rush my decision. But when you’re hearing about the after-effects of which ever direction I go and hear things like “incontinence” and “impotence” and other i-words, frankly, it rattles your world.
My dad had prostate cancer very late in life. So late, the doctor said that he would die of something else before the prostate cancer took him and they were right. He was diagnosed in his late 80s, I’m in my late 60s. I don’t understand why my prostate was in such a hurry.
At this point, I’m going to do everything in my power to continue doing all the things I do and then deal with this in my spare time. It’s therapeutic to dive into my comedy-writing, advertising, video production and all the things I love to do because I actually forget this is even going on. Until I notice that piece of paper to my left which reminds me of the appointments I still need to set up.
I’ve still got a Julebord to emcee this Friday, an annual Christmas CD to put together and I’m working on another holiday parody song with Alana Baxter, plus getting out the annual Christmas letter, the Christmas cards, gotta grab a tree and do some shopping. There’s a lot of really good, fun, positive stuff coming and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.
While also dealing with the elephant in my prostate.
Well, here we go!