“Go ahead, Doc, make my day.”
“Well, I’m afraid it’s not good news.”
So that’s how I learned that I have prostate cancer.
My urologist went through a pretty detailed description of what I needed to know. He took twenty samples during the biopsy the week before, and was surprised by how many returned with cancerous cells. Most of the cancer was found on the right side of the prostate where the mass was, but some was found in the left side.
With a Gleason score of 6 and a PSA of 5, he classified the cancer as slow growing and thought that it was confined to the prostate for now. I questioned the Gleason score of 6, considering that 10 is the max on the scale, indicating the most aggressive cancers. He said that the scale isn’t linear, and anything below a 7 is still less aggressive.
He was pretty confident that the cancer was contained within my prostate and had not spread, yet when I told him about some discomfort in my hip (one of the reasons for having the physical in the first place), he ordered a bone scan to ensure that the cancer hasn’t spread outside of the prostate.
His recommendation for someone of my age (52) in my situation is to have a robotic radical prostatectomy. He offered up several physicians in the Cincinnati area who do “hundreds” of these procedures each year for my consideration. I have time to make the decision. We also talked about the possible side effects of such a surgery.
I had an inkling that this would be the outcome. I’m not sure why. I just did. So I’ve had a month to wrap my head around the possibility. Still, it’s not the same as when the doctor says, “You have cancer.” My sister wasn’t expecting that answer and was quite shaken by the news.
As we left, the doctor handed me a book, “100 Questions and Answers about Prostate Cancer”–a $16.95 value (unless it shows up on my Anthem claim statement). He did comment on how thorough my online research had been. “Knowledge is power,” he said. And scary, too.
After leaving the doctor’s office, we came back to my house to discuss the meeting and review my sister’s notes (she was the extra set of ears and recorder–something I appreciated). After half an hour or so, they decided it was time for them to head back to Chicago, and I was okay with that.
It was around 10:00 AM when they left, and I waffled on whether or not I should go back to work. Within 15 minutes, I was in my car heading to the office. I needed to let some close friends and coworkers know the outcome–they had been waiting anxiously for the results. Besides, moping around the house wasn’t going to do me any good, either.
I had let a handful of people know what I was going through but asked them to keep it quiet for the time being. I let those folks know the results first, and each was stunned. I told my boss that I’d been debating whether to make a public announcement to our team about it. I live and work in Small Town USA where the gossip mill is alive and well, and I wanted to control how the message was delivered, especially to those I work with on a daily basis.
My boss was understanding and allowed me a few minutes at the end of our staff meeting. I opened by saying that a few of them had approached me about being distracted or on edge the last few weeks, and that I had a reason for that. I would also probably be distracted and on edge for the next few weeks as well. All were shocked speechless at the news (or, perhaps, at the fact that I was sharing it in such an open way).
By the end of the day, I was physically and emotionally spent. I had barely slept the night before (thanks to a neighbor’s barking dog–or perhaps a coyote), and was in my bed, lights out by 10 PM.