I learned recently that I have cancer. I went for a second PSA test at the encouragement of my family doctor. The next test wasn’t good, so I had a biopsy, and that confirmed my cancer of the prostate. In the family I grew up in, I am one of four; all have had cancer, and my sister passed from it in 2009. So, we are four for four. Not a great record but one I have to live with. My plan now is to be cured, then join the line of people whose goal it is to live a long life after cancer. I am 57.
I have learned a lot recently about a disease I often ignored. My family aside, I assumed it would never happen to me. This is easily confirmed as I have few symptoms and the ones I had could have been related to some other non-threatening disease. The chances of cure for me are high and that’s great, but there are no guarantees. And reoccurrence?
I feel it’s my life to live and my cancer to live with until it can be cured. I am finding days with the disease are lonely. I decided right away that I wasn’t going to hide my diagnosis from anybody, so we told our sons and people close to us. The reactions range from a hug to looks of sorrow and one where there might have been fear I was contagious. I thought putting it out there just might spark a conversation that would lead me to new information I need to win this fight. It has helped, with the most notable advice coming from a man who works at my local deli. It is its own experience discussing prostate cancer while someone makes your lunch. It is here, though, where I found some useful information about my doctor and treatment . . .
What is important to know is that you are in control with cancer, whether you want to be or not. You have to manage it. This starts with the doctors. The medical profession is, at best, a mess. Navigating your treatment options and understanding them is needle-in-a-haystack stuff. Like parenting, there is no book on how to deal with cancer. For my disease it is up to me to decide the course of treatment. This ranges from radiation to surgery with several related options. No doctor is going to tell me what I should do. They will lay out their specialty and support it with their statistics and let me decide. That made it harder for me.
I was looking for firm guidance to help with the most important decision of my life. I want someone to tell me what I should do. I am strong enough to disagree. That is not going to happen. So, I am in a crash course in becoming educated enough to make a lifesaving decision to treat myself with someone else’s hands. I sure hope she is having a good day when I am on the table.
My journey will continue, and while cancer is so strong it may end your life, it has a real quality to help you focus on how you spend your time. During the research phase prior to treatment, I came to meet many doctors, hospitals and specialists. Each of these has its own web portal, a place to access your online records and test results on your computer. Sounds great, though I have found it little more than frustrating. I have six more web addresses, user names, and passwords to remember. I gave up on them and call the office for what I need. I am a technology executive, so go figure. The solution is to have one destination for my records and have the medical profession connect with me to see them. I am told it is a data ownership issue but refuse to accept that and offer to work for free for the company that figures it out.
In short, prostate cancer is curable. The American Cancer Society reports 2.9 million men have it now. Almost 30 thousand will die from it this year and 165,000 will be diagnosed. A PSA test is a blood test. It takes minutes and doesn’t hurt. If you are squeamish, look at your opposite hand and imagine an ice cream cone, beer, or something else you like in it for the seconds it takes to complete. It’s simple and just may save your life.
If you want to discuss my experience with cancer reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.