Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When "C" Doesn't Stand For Color, It Stands For Cancer

I have always wondered how I would react to the "C" word. Those of you with or have survived cancer know exactly what I mean. I have lost many friends and family to cancer. We tend to remember those we've lost more than survivors though to be fair, I know few survivors.

Several weeks before my 68th birthday, I went to a urologist because my PSA had climbed a bit over 4.0, the trigger point for further examination. My GP that morning and the urologist that afternoon were not alarmed but since I was there he said "let's take a look." Or rather he poked around a little with my prostrate.

I felt him stiffen and after an intake breath say, "I feel a lump." I was speechless. He added, "You should get a second opinion."  Leaning against the exam table, my pants gathered around my ankles, and slick with lube, I couldn't move. He then said there was another urologist in the office. Would it be ok to have him check me again? Sure. Why not. I was already prepped and ready to go. 

He came in, introduced himself and latex gloved checked me again.  He said he felt a lump too.

I was told I needed a biopsy to check the type and see if it was cancer. A referral was written and I left. Driving home I called my GP and she was as surprised as me. There was no evidence of it 9 months before. Then I cried the rest of the way home. 

The biopsy was a bit over a week later. Because of clotting problems, I have to be carefully monitored. The day and time came but it went smoothly. No bleeding thanks to blood that always wants to clot. The tech noted that I was "an efficient clotter." The results were 10 days away but on my birthday a week later I found out the results through another doctor appointment. It showed three of six samples were positive. Meeting with the urologist a few days later he told me I was a stage T2b meaning the cancer was on one side of the prostrate and had a Gleason score of 8. Gleason scores measure the degree of cancer aggressiveness. Mine was aggressive. It was this, not my blood that made my doctors say radiation. 

For a month now I have been in a fog.  In quiet moments, even busy ones, I will think, it's there. In me.  It's growing and all I can do is wait. For referrals, test results, doctor appointments. Then comes the final decision of action. Ultimately it's my decision. Am I ready? I can't help but think of that country music song where the singer croons, "We all want to go to heaven...only just not right now."

No final decision has been made but conferring today with my hematologist, whom I respect for carefully monitoring my blood condition and has helped save my life, also recommended radiation. Because I feel the urgency to do something, and am so frustrated by the slow pace of events, he agreed, after conferring with the radiation oncologist, to start the hormone treatment. It will shrink the prostrate and cancer requiring a smaller target and less damage during radiation.

Another adventure begins. Now to triumph yet again. As many before have learned, it is not an easy journey. I've been on similar journeys before with two pulmonary embolisms and did triumph. I have my art, love of books and photography, family and friends. That will hopefully be my refuge during the bad times in the days ahead. 

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