Prostate Cancer – 2

In the winter of 2006, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The rough indicator of this is called PSA, a measure of a Prostate Specific Antigen in your blood. Mine was elevated and going up—not a great sign. So I had a biopsy (look here for a description of how much fun that is). Biopsy showed cancer, so what to do. This is not an easy decision, but, for a variety of reasons I chose surgery. That isn’t fun, either, and has nasty side effects, but they are better than the alternative.

After recovery, your annual ritual is a blood draw and a visit to your doc. For me, this has now been going on for 8 years. Fortunately, the doc is a nice guy, and I occasionally run races with his wife, so I see him around. (he is always easy to recognize because of his scrubs). But, this year was the end of the ritual. My PSA has been 0 all these years,  and there is no longer a need to go see him. WooHoo. Cancer docs never use the word “cure,” but he used it. He didn’t say it applied to me, but he did say that if he was inclined to use the word, I would be one that it would apply to. Not a definitive statement, but one that makes me happy none the less.

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Prostate Cancer

ColdHandBoyack posted a Public Service Announcement (pun) about his elevated PSA and prostate cancer biopsy. Fortunately, he did not have prostate cancer—congratulations to him.

Been there. Done that. Results not as good. As you pointed out, I had no concept of modesty left after the biopsy. The nurse did the ultrasound, the doc the biopsy. When the ultrasound was done, the doc was busy with something else, so I had to wait with the probe in place until he finished his coffee and danish. Of course, the nurse waited with me—she wouldn’t have wanted me to pull the damn thing out.

If you have cancer, the next step is figuring out what to do about it. There are 3 main treatments: surgery, radiation, and seeds. The problem is that the treatment outcomes don’t diverge until after 10 years. In practical terms, that means there is no objective way to choose. I had the good fortune (for me) to know a man who had had prostate cancer 10 years earlier and had chosen radiation. Then 10 years later, it had returned. Because the radiation causes collateral damage in the vicinity of the prostate, he could no longer have surgery. There was nothing to be done for him, and he died. I chose surgery. That was almost 8 years ago, and I am still here, and my PSA is still 0.0—woohoo.

I’m convinced that prostate cancer is something that every male who lives long enough will get. It’s a matter of when, not if. If you are over 50 or so, get a PSA along with your other blood work. All you have to do is ask for it. If the biopsy shows cancer find someone else in the club to talk to while you are deciding what to do. Despite the intimate nature of the problem, I have found others who have been through prostate cancer surprisingly willing to talk.

Entertaining Stories

I’m going to invite everyone to re-blog, tweet, and otherwise share this post today. We all wish our posts got that much love, but this one is important. If you are a man, love a man, or maybe both, this post is important.

I debated long and hard about sharing this at all. It involves personal information, and I like to keep a bit of privacy. I had to weigh the fact that my mother reads this blog, along with at least two co-workers, against the possibility of helping someone else. Someone else won.

Popular rumor holds that a man should have certain things checked medically once he turns 50. In typical male fashion, I waited until I was 53 and 8 months to schedule my colonoscopy. This is a degrading procedure that involves shoving a camera into places that aren’t visible by design. I thought it was degrading, but…

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