I always thought that I took really good care of myself. I would always touch base with my doctor when I felt it necessary to do so, always scheduled my yearly physical and then made sure I went in on the set date, and just tried to do everything I thought a man of my age should do to keep healthy. Three years ago, my doctor mentioned that my prostate felt a little large. Nothing to worry about, he said, we’d just keep an eye on it. Last year, although the size of the prostate still didn’t feel overly worrisome to him, my doctor noted that my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) level had jumped a little more than one point in the past twelve months. Although the level itself, 4.3, which had been very slowly rising for the past several years, was not horrible cause for concern, my doctor thought the significant jump did call for a trip to the urologist. The urologist ordered a biopsy, and he gave me the results the day I returned from a wonderful late April weekend at my wife’s 50th high school reunion: each of the twelve cells he had taken from the four quadrants of my prostate had come back positive: I had cancer.
My initial reaction was probably the same as most folks who have just been diagnosed with cancer: I’m gonna die, and it will be soon. For a week or a week and a half I was like a dead man walking. All I could think about was cancer. There was literally not a waking moment of any day during that time that I was not thinking of my fate. I conjured up all the appropriate demons I associated with the disease…chemotherapy, pain, not being able to see my beautiful puppy reach adulthood, dying a horribly painful death. That phase lasted until all the preliminary tests suggested that the cancer had not progressed enough to preclude treatment that may be able to save my life. Now, the real work would begin: we needed to plot a course of treatment. Eventually, I consulted with all the different doctors and professionals I thought I needed to speak with in order to come to a decision as to how I would treat my cancer. I found that nobody wants to tell you what to do with your life when you’re facing cancer, so rather than tell you what to do they would give you information that would hopefully help lead you to make as informed a decision as you could. I could treat it without surgery or with surgery. I could be treated with hormone injections, I could be treated with different forms of radiation. I was told, however, that even with the surgery the amount of cancer in my prostate might create a situation where I would have to undergo radiation afterward anyway. Eventually, after doing all of our homework, my wife and I decided the best thing was to do hormone therapy immediately followed by radiation treatment.
Even though some of the potential side effects of the lupron (the hormone drug suggested by the doctors), e.g., hot flashes, mood swings, loss of muscle mass and tone, and loss of libido, were daunting, my urologist suggested that in my specific case he thought if I were to maintain my regimen of working out and taking care of myself, these side effects may be at least minimized. Now, going on ten months after my diagnosis, I am still undergoing the hormone therapy (we decided on two years of it), I completed forty-four sessions of radiation treatment in October, and the most significant side effect I am dealing with (other the the loss of libido, which is said to be a given for everyone), is an increase in having to urinate.
As such, my journey thus far has been good. I have learned that once you are diagnosed, cancer is something you live with and you never know what’s going to happen next. The initial realization that I had cancer was a real punch in the gut for my wife and I, but as we began to wend our way through the journey, we believed we had a good shot to become cancer survivors. The treatments were on the money. I realize that I have the chance to be “as good as before” and I will be able to live as a complete human being. My advice would be not to be afraid and to go in with a proactive, positive attitude. Do things you like doing and be with people you enjoy. Use the Cancer Resource Center and their support groups because they are a wealth of support and information. Long life was not a guarantee when I first spoke with the doctors and made my choices; it’s still not, but I stuck it out and now I am allowed to be me again one day at a time.