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The Precipice

So….I guess I need to tell you that I am scared; OK, well maybe not scared, but certainly rattled. It appears that I simply cannot accept that I am now a few mere days from a biopsy to see if I have cancer. Me – cancer. That was never supposed to happen, not to me. Things like that happen to other unfortunate folks, but not to me. Not that is has yet…..

Yes, I am jumping the gun a bit here. I haven’t even had the biopsy yet and I’ve already fast-forwarded to the big “C’ diagnosis. But truth be told, I’ve had two blood tests return a PSA value above 10 and that, statistically, is the cutoff point between “possibly” and “likely” having cancer. Now cancer is a big deal, but prostate cancer is a bit less than a big deal. It is typically slow moving and easily corrected. There are some forms that are aggressive and that is part of what the biopsy is for; it will detect cancer if it is there but it will also help determine how aggressive it is, and that helps determine the treatment. In the cancer realm, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (after skin cancer).

I know my odds of having it are somewhat greater than not at this point, given my PSA values. And that worries me, bothers me, annoys me. Because it can be a one-two punch: you find out have it and that it is aggressive (and may have actually already begun to spread). And yes – think positive and maybe I’ll hear you don’t have it, but while I am an optimist, I am also a realist – statistics and data have already helped tint and color part of this ugly puzzle and the shades are not bright and cheery.

But to be clear, I am not preparing to roll over and die; I will die someday for sure, but not from this stupid walnut-sized gland in my abdomen – of that you can be sure. I will absolutely get through this, I’ve no doubt of that. But at what cost? Surgery aside, there is possibility of a litany of “fun” factoids to digest: catheterization, loss of urinary control, inability to achieve an erection, infection, and dry ejaculation. None are definite, but all are possible; and may or may not, be temporary, with time periods ranging from weeks to years for a return to normalcy. C’mon here! Enough!!

I went for a twelve-mile hike the other day; my plantar fasciitis had eased up sufficiently to give me the confidence to do more than eight-miles. Ultimately I overdid it and have been somewhat hobbled once again in the right heel. But it was worth it – the peace and self-reflection – and an unsuccessful attempt to come to grips with all this. I don’t want a probe with a gazillion long sharp needles shoved up my butt and then launched into my prostate… multiple times. I don’t want to have to wait a week to find out the results, but at the same time I don’t want to hear the results. I don’t want any of this.

But who does, right? We never get the chance to pick and choose what will befall us at any random point in our lives, be that medical, financial, emotional, or whatever it may be. I didn’t get a vote in whether my mom would die when I was four – it just happened. And I didn’t get a vote on whether my prostate would go rogue on my or not – it just happened; well, is happening. And perhaps that is the burr in my saddle, it is happening and hasn’t happened. I think my biggest angst, right now, is the waiting and the anticipation. It hangs over me and I can find no release or peace from that.

So I have typed, deleted, typed, and repeated multiple times over the last week, and as a result, still have next to nothing. This blog is intended to be interesting, entertaining, informative, and a collection of shared experiences – a place to smile and to facilitate learning. And going through this issue with my PSA and my biopsy is a golden opportunity to share and to help the next guy know what to expect and to know his feelings are normal, whether next week or a year from now.

But to do so involves risk. The risk of exposing your innermost feelings and fears is one we all face, but I suspect even more so to a man. Call it machismo, macho, testosterone, there is a drive – a need – in men to appear tough and unfazed by anything. Not that we are mind you – but we wish to appear to be so. And that is where I am right now: the need to appear as though this is nothing but a momentary inconvenience and that I am not bothered in the least by it, countered by the need to help someone else understand their feelings and their fears when their time comes.

I’ve clearly chosen full disclosure, but I am faced with an unconscious almost incessant desire to type about one honest emotion and then immediately deny or minimize it in the next sentence. The contradiction of being male I suppose.

Despite my struggles, here we are at B-day; now just a few hours away. And this isn’t the hard part, really. It is uncomfortable (on several levels including modesty and dignity) but only momentarily, and then it is over – pants back on, thank you every much, see you in a week. And that will begin the next phase of this timed torture – the wait for the results. And that then brings up a whole different set of complications…

So if the test is deemed “positive”, it opens up a series of actions that will help determine the ultimate treatment, none of which are simple, pleasant, or quick. Whether surgery or radiation, there is a cost – a price to pay in my time, my discomfort, and my plans. It has been a long year of loss with the pandemic with a list of hundreds of things missed out on because of the virus. Now fully vaccinated and about to re-emerge from the sheltering, I face weeks (months?) of the repercussions of this small gland.

I began hiking early and my legs and lungs are already in great shape; the only fly in the ointment is my right heel, which I will get through eventually. My point is that while spring has just barely arrived, I am poised to hit the trails hard this year. But this may change all of that.

On the other hand, the test may be deemed negative. In the short term, that would be great news. But then the nagging questions begin: did they miss the cancerous cells in the biopsy? Just not hit them with the core samples? Is it still there, undetected? I mean, something drove my PSA level up in the last six months, if not cancer, what is going on? Does a negative result mean I face a biopsy every year or even six months? It seems regardless of the result, there is no “one and done” with this.

As I said, we all have our issues our challenges, to face in life; after all the lesson of life is that life is the lesson – right? It’s how we learn and I believe, it is why we are here. To expect a clean and carefree smooth ride through life without cares or concerns is a fool’s folly; there will be bumps – there has to be. So this, today, is mine. Not my first and certainly not my last, but c’mon here – I retired and less than a year into it we get hit with a pandemic, lock downs, sheltering, and all that mess. And now this? Sigh… each get what is needed for the lesson, I guess.

I leave in about three hours and still have “prep” work to get done, so I will stop here – not sure if this is worth posting or not right now, I guess I need to step away and come back to evaluate it. Either way, I will definitely be back once I am home with an update on how the procedure went and – I am sure – about the ignominy of it all! Actually I joke, he is a good doctor and I already know he will make the whole thing as least uncomfortable for me as possible. More to come!

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