It’s the day after my appointment with the urologist, and I’ve come to learn how truly amazing is our capacity to experience the full spectrum of emotions simultaneously. Specifically, I felt a strong sense of being at peace today while still being mad at the world.
I know the doctor never explicitly stated that the cancer is coming back, but her concern and her actions tell me that I’ve taken my first steps down that path. Sure, it may take six months, a year, or even longer of traveling to that magical 0.2 ng/ml biochemical recurrence destination, but in my mind, once you start down that path, there’s little you can do to get off it.
Salvage radiation or androgen deprivation therapies may slow the rate at which I progress down the path, but, in my mind, the ultimate destination will be the same. The question is whether it will allow me enough time to die with prostate cancer and not from prostate cancer.
Am I getting ahead of myself? I don’t think so. Something in my gut tells me that this is really happening. And, no, that’s not giving up—it’s just accepting reality. Having a healthy outlook on death and dying came from my mom who, coincidentally, died—or, to use her word, “croaked”—ten years ago tomorrow. (She left my sister and I a note with instructions that started, “When I croak…”)
The sense of peace that I’m feeling comes from having much of the ambiguity removed. Sure, there are plenty of tests ahead that will either confirm that I’m on the path or add doubt as to whether and how fast I’m progressing down the path. And there’s plenty that even the experts can’t agree on concerning the therapies, and that will be maddening. But now I feel as though I have a sense of purpose—something to focus on—and that’s where the peace comes from.
Do I want to be on this path? Hell no. I’m mad as hell that I’m in this situation. But the anger will subside, and then I’ll focus on two things: 1) Living and 2) figuring out the best course of action to slow or stop the progress of this monster.
And if 4, 8, or 12 months from now, I’m proven to be a complete idiot because there was no recurrence, then I’ll take that, too. It certainly won’t be the first time nor will it be the last.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have four months of getting really, really smart about salvage therapies, their effectiveness, their risks, and their side effects.