It’s late in the afternoon. The sun is shining and it’s unseasonably warm in our little town. I am early so I decide to kill some time by walking my new trusted companion around the block. Partly I didn’t want Willow to be in the warm truck too long and I didn’t want to sit in the waiting room thumbing through several year old MacLean’s and Home and Gardening magazines.
Ten minutes to go, it’s time to put her back in the truck and go in.
My mind is surprising clear and I take a deep breath and walk in. The receptitionist was surprisingly cold in her greeting but I brush this off as another misread perception of mine.
I take a seat and reflect.
Six weeks ago I was recommended to see a specialist due to an elevated PSA and increasing symptoms. The ones that my Dad complained about at 80…Slow urine stream; hesitancy; increased frequency not only at night but now during the day; and the sudden strong urges, only to stand there and wait; and of course the digital examine had the Dr remark that it felt concerning. (What does concerning feel like?)
A week later I am in the waiting room of the local hospital X-ray area and preparing for a biopsy. Lying on my side facing the wall, the Dr explained that it will feel uncomfortable and that I will hear a snapping noise while he penetrates the barrier to the prostate to take the samples. He is going to take 8. As he numbs the area with the gel and inverts the probe, I prepare the best I could for the first snap and take a deep breath and slowly let it out.
It sounded like the sound that one of my cap guns made when I was a kid. There was no pain, but I felt it and I am almost certain I smelled smoke!
And then with each snap, it became more and more uncomfortable. Breath and relax…the anticipation and hesitation from ‘ok, going to take another one…now’ was probably causing me the most problem.
Breath and relax – Snap!
“All done, that wasn’t too bad?”
No not at all, even though it still felt like he left the probe you know where. Before I got dressed, he explained that over the next week there will be blood in the urine and it should go away. Also, hang around for 30 minutes and try to go to the bathroom before I leave. If I can’t seem to pee, then see him right away. What the heck did he do down there?
The results will be ready in time for my follow up in two weeks.
More waiting and reading. At least there was a local paper that was only 2 weeks old. Since I don’t get the paper, it was all new news to me.
The first pee is disturbing. It looked like I ate a whole quart jar of my Mom’s canned beets! After the week, things were back to normal.
The specialist walked out and greeted me cordially, “Richard, how are you today?”
“I think I am here for you to tell me,” I replied acting as calm and cool as I could. Humour has always been my best defence.
We sit down and he opens my file. I was surprised how many pages were contained in the yellow folder as he flipped and fanned through the stack, periodically stopping on one sheet before starting the ritual again.
Although prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in North America and also knowing that there is a 90% survival rate if caught early, hearing those words still had an unsettling effect.
It’s was one of those bad news – good news scenerios. Yes, I have prostate cancer and yes we got it early.
The Dr explained the numbers – Stage 1C and a Gleason Scale of 6 and followed up explaining the treatment options. But before we make any choices, he wanted me to buy the Goldenberg book (The Intelligent Patient Guide to Prostate Cancer), read it and come back in two weeks with my questions.
I shake his hand, thank him, leave and get in my car. As I reach for my cell phone – shit – I should have asked him what do I tell my wife, my kids? Dialing home I take a deep breath…it’s ‘only’ prostate cancer, all is going to be ok.
All was good until my wife asks if I am angry? I thought it was a strange question (reflecting later, it made sense) and told her, yes…I have prostate cancer…and that I will be home in twenty and will tell her all about it then.
I hang up and cry.
Buying the book before heading home was the best thing I could have done. It provided many answers and good discussion points that evening. But one question remained unanswered until the next day was whether I tell others. Prostate cancer is easily hide able and I could just wait until the treatments are over and just carry on without anyone knowing any different.
But there was something in the book that provoked me to speak and even write about it now. The chapter, “How common is prostate cancer and what causes it” was an eye opener. There is a new case diagnosed every 2 minutes and one man dies of it every 14 minutes – 103 in a day! If caught early it will usually not lead to death and with some lifestyle changes there are things that will reduce the risk of it coming back. Why do so many still die?
I think of all my friends and family who have died from cancer and those that are currently battling far worse cancers and many with far less options then I.
I also don’t want to under play this either given the rate of prostate cancer in this country, nor do I want to over play it to respect those that will and are suffering. If by sharing this experience, it urges or influences one man to start his regular prostate check up or even change their lifestyle to help reduce the risk, then being vulnerable and sharing this will be worth it.
So the following day, I started to phone my kids and family members to share the news. Each one had a different reaction and I urged them to read as much as they could, so that it was not just me saying that all will be alright – that it is beatable.
Some took up the reading, spending 2 hours to all day researching. Some shared that they had family discussions about it. One thing for sure, by sharing the diagnoses, it has opened dialog and interest to learn more.
There were hugs, tears, laughs and questions. All and all they were going to be there supporting me on this journey.
So I continue to read “the book” in my usual fashion of random chapters going up and down the table of contents to any description that catches my attention. I am surprised how quickly I am absorbing the 300 pages of information, facts and illustrations.
Oh and thanks Mr. Goldenberg and company for having a picture of the probe. No wonder they kept it hidden on me!
In less than two weeks I will be choosing a treatment plan. I’ll keep you posted…