I’ve been debating for a while whether I should write this blog or not. To tell the truth I’m still not convinced that I’ll push the magic button and publish it. I’ve always tended to internalize things..to be somewhat of a loner a lot of the time. It’s not my intention to elicit pity or sadness with this information. Rather, if my experiences can help even one of my male friends who might be in the same situation then I’ll be a happy guy. So let’s toss some stuff against the wall and see what sticks.
In March, 2011 I was diagnosed with low grade low volume prostate cancer. The diagnosis was a direct result of my annual physical in February. Blood tests conducted at that time showed a high (about 5.1) level of PSA which is a possible indicator of prostate cancer. I’d popped a number over the baseline of 4.0 a few years before and had another blood test to confirm the number which was much lower the second time around so nothing more was done. This time the second blood test showed an even higher number than the first one so I was referred to a Urologist for further tests. Biopsy results concluded that yes, I did have prostate cancer. I was briefed on what it means and what my options were for next steps.
That’s the background, now here’s the timeline:
March-After an initial consultation with the Urologist an appointment was set up for a biopsy and off we went. He described the biopsy process as “..imagine someone tying a rubber band around your prostate then running across the room and letting it snap back.” Not a great visual but pretty accurate. Quite possibly one of the worst things I’ve encountered in my adult life. But a necessary evil. I’d like to say avoid this if you can but, frankly, if you pop a high PSA you MUST get this done.
April-The results are in! Low grade, low volume prostate cancer. I was told that this level of cancer would not kill me. I wouldn’t die OF prostate cancer but I might die WITH prostate cancer. We had a discussion to cover my options and I was sent away to think through what I would decide on how to move forward. So I did what any normal photographer would do…I went on a photo trip to the desert.
May-After spending time online learning as much as I could and reading all the materials I was provided I took off for Moab, UT on a photo trip I’d been planning for several months. What better place to think and make life altering decisions than out in the big lonely? I pretty much knew before heading to Utah that I was going to choose the radioactive “seeds” for my treatment but it took a few days and a lot of deep thought to come to that resolution. Back in Denver I told the Urologist what I’d decided and was referred to a Radiation Oncologist.
June-Here’s where it gets a little complicated. My Daughter planned her wedding for September in Arizona and the way the schedule was playing out it looked as if I would be just a week or two past the seed implants when I had to walk my girl down the aisle in Sedona, AZ. More consultations with the Oncologist and Urologist and it was decided I should have a shot of Lupron which would “freeze” things for 3 months, then have the implant when I returned from AZ. The Oncologist said that was okay since my prostate was way too large for the implant procedure and the Lupron would shrink it.
July, August, September-One thing about Lupron…it causes hot flashes similar to what women experience in menopause. I started having hot flashes 5 or 6 times every day. They only last for a few minutes but caused some discomfort and sweating. Next time your wife/girlfriend/mother complains of hot flashes…SHUT UP. The wedding went off with no issues and we headed back to Denver to wait for the procedure.
October-Another visit to the Oncologist for more tests and good news! My prostate has shrunk to a manageable level and we could move forward. The implant is scheduled for November 1 and I arranged for some time off from work. Hopefully I won’t need the whole week but I’ve never had this done so I have no frame of reference. Time will tell.
I’ve been told that for a time I’ll need to avoid pregnant women and small children sitting on my lap. To tell the truth, I can’t remember the last time I had a pregnant woman sit on my lap and I’m 900 miles away from my granddaughter so that’s not a problem. The good news is the I’ll probably be able to pop microwave popcorn without using a microwave…if only I liked popcorn.
So what have I learned from this? For one thing, I’ve learned in my research that while not everyone is autopsied when they die, it’s estimated that 90% of all men have some degree of prostate cancer when they die. You can’t run and you can’t hide. 5 or 6 years ago my doctor told me that if everyone was as healthy as I was he would be out of business. Guess I showed him!
So all you guys out there, no matter how healthy you feel or think you are, have an annual checkup and insist on blood work to check cholesterol and PSA. Honestly, if I had been going on how I feel I would never have known this was happening to me. I don’t feel badly at all.