I was always a little surprised to grow old. But I’d had survived many of the risks that a reckless young man can find; brawls, motorcycle and car accidents, and catastrophic illnesses.
Then when my colonoscopy turned up clean at age 67, and a prostate test showed stellar readings, I thought I was home free for 20 years until some other body parts wore out, probably the heart.
So I was surprised, while sitting in the doctor’s office, when the Doctor’s voice seemed to come from far away.
“The biopsy came back positive. You’ve got prostate cancer and it’s spread to your bladder and bones.”
Of course I was sure he was mistaken. Almost every man gets prostate cancer sooner or later, but this diagnosis was 20 years too soon, by my reckoning.
I knew I was ill. The last few months, I had urinary problems. Four different doctors tested me for prostate cancer. They’d retested my (PSA) protein readings. High PSA (over 4 and rising) is bad, and low PSA (less than 4 and falling) is good. But my PSA actually fell from 2 to 1.5 the whole time the cancer was spreading. Usually an active prostate cancer will balloon the PSA readings up, from 2 to 20 or more. My PSA went the other way.
The doctors apologized, explaining that the ultra low PSA numbers had misled them, and the four digital exams had missed the pimple-sized cancer. The PSA test is 85-95% effective in detecting prostate cancer, but I was one of the 5%. My cancer was sneaky.
I’m writing this after reading Leslie Salzillo’s diary about her own cancer. She wrote it a few weeks ago. I thought she showed lots of guts and class to write about it, and also to keep writing for Daily Kos all the time she is ill.
Jen Hayden also wrote recently about her cancer, and reminded me that the personal is political, and when you have the emperor of pre-existing conditions, your life depends on progressive health care legislation.
Ms. Salzillo was getting hormones among her treatments. I’m getting hormones too, different hormones of course. I felt better to read her diary and about her treatment; I felt just a little less alone.
So I write now, because among Daily Kos’ considerable codger readership, there could be guys who might feel a little better themselves, after reading my account.
I feel fine at the moment, between hot and cold flashes. I was down low just a couple of months ago, before getting diagnosed and treated. Prostate cancer feeds on testosterone, so now I am taking hormones to stop my body’s own production of testosterone, and “starve” the cancer. This process has the charming name of chemical castration, and I am getting the hot and cold flashes of menopause as a side effect.
My cancerous prostate had swollen, choking my body’s tubes that would transport urine. I have a small tube installed from my kidney to my bladder, and now the hormones have shrunken the prostate somewhat. My PSA readings are down to .01 from 1.5. My testosterone is practically zero also, but I still can’t sing any high notes.
I get my blood tested bi-weekly, and they’ve run several body scans to monitor for results and for side effects. The cancer’s being starved until it’s hard to even detect it, but it’s still there.
I feel good right now. So I live in each moment. If a hawk flies overhead I watch it until it’s out of sight, but not while I’m driving. I take lots of edible marijuana. I continue to make my yard and garden prettier and prettier. I’m determined to live long enough to vote for the Harris-Warren re-election in 2024.
I also abruptly realized the importance of my own family. I’d always figured to them, I was just the human ATM that also took out the garbage and shopped for groceries. But after I took ill, my son flew home and is staying with me, and my wife took leave from her job too. They provide strength to me that I never knew anyone possessed.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll continue my hard-hitting investigative reporting on cheerier topics for the Daily Bucket feature here at DKOS.