Month 91 – Random Meetings and Thoughts

It was bound to happen. The other day I ran into my radiation oncologist in the little convenience store in the hospital where both of us work. It was kind of funny. There was his initial reaction when he saw me and recalled who I was, “Hey, howyadoin’?” he asked, followed quickly by a slight tinge of panic wondering if I was going to assault him with a battery of follow-up questions right next to the granola bars and packaged nuts. I didn’t. “Hi, Doc! How are you?” is all I replied, much to his relief, I’m sure.

A few days later, I was back in the convenience store standing in line behind a bearded 30-something guy in black scrubs. I commented, “Black scrubs? I don’t know that I’d want you coming into my room if I were a patient here. It would look like the Grim Reaper is coming to pay a visit.” (For being a terminal introvert, I can be good at striking up conversations with complete strangers.) He laughed and we chatted some more. “Where do you work?” I asked. “Radiation Oncology, so I suppose the black scrubs take on added meaning there.” He was one of their radiation technicians, and I didn’t bother to tell him that he may be zapping me someday soon.

All of that has highlighted me to resolve another internal debate that I’ve been having with myself: Whether or not to inform my coworkers of my recurrence.

I work for a small nonprofit that has a staff of 22 employees, plus, more and more staff members at the hospital know me because of the reach that our organization has there. In essence, we’re family. If I do choose to get zapped 75 steps away from my office, the chances of someone I work with seeing me entering or leaving Radiation Oncology are pretty good. “Surprise!”

Beyond that, I questioned why I want to share this with my work family. To have more shoulders to lean on? To let them know why I’m so distracted and distant some days? If I’m perfectly honest with myself, it’s a little bit of all of that. But I also know from experience that, when I shared my story with my coworkers shortly after being initially diagnosed, a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. “A burden shared is a burden halved,” someone once said, and there’s truth in that.

I was all set to share my story until tragedy struck when one of our staff members passed away unexpectedly. That put my little plan on pause, appropriately so.

Part of me is thankful for the pause. On reflection, I may be putting additional indirect pressure on the decision-making. If I’ve got 44 eyeballs looking at this introvert in anticipation of a decision, that could be nerve-wracking. Perhaps it’s best to wait to share my story until after I make the decision, that way there won’t be the second-guessing that comes when people question your choice, if not overtly, at least by that puzzled glance.

Speaking of the decision, I don’t know that I’m any closer to it. I continue to research for a few hours each week, reading articles and journals, and I’m coming to the conclusion that I probably have enough information on the treatment and its side effects to make the call. I’m not going to find that magical “a-ha” paper that swings the decision one way or the other.

One of the hang-ups that I have though, is the lack of ability to determine where the cancer is at my current PSA levels. I really would like to know with a high degree of confidence that we’re zapping in the right place. Yet, one article sticks in my mind where the author wrote, “That would be a self-fulfilling prophecy: by waiting for the cancer to put out more PSA [so the imaging could detect it], one is virtually ensuring that the cancer will grow, spread, and possibly metastasize.” Food for thought.

In my head, I’m thinking we wait for the August PSA results and go from there. Perhaps take a nice autumn vacation and, if I choose to get zapped, do so not long after I return. Or not. (Definitely the vacation part, though. I need that!)

9 thoughts on “Month 91 – Random Meetings and Thoughts

  1. Sean Kilkenny

    Thanks for the post, Dan. I’m going to see my oncologist the 19th. He will be reading my psa. I’m hoping for undetectable! We shall see. You give me hope as I read about your situation, that no matter what there are always options. Be good my friend.

    Sean from Long Island

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  2. That article you mentioned does have a powerful quote. The research you’ve done puts you squarely on the fence. That’s better than having a PSA 10x what you have now, even if you did know where it was. I hope the August number will give you the answer you seek.

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    1. Hi Jim,

      Thanks. I pretty much expect that the August number will continue the upward trend at about the same rate, thereby adding pressure to make a decision sooner rather than later to take advantage of that open window.

      BTW, I never did respond to your comment about a visit to San Diego. I know your current situation is complicating travel, but if you do make it out here, we definitely would need to connect.

      Dan

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ken G.

    Dan, I have thought this thing through to death, as you have. I’m pretty convinced that I’m looking for a definitive black and white answer where none exists. What I do know, is if my trend , like yours, continues, and I wait long enough, to know where exactly the cancer is. Then there’s a good chance that any window of curability that MIGHT be open right now, will likely be closed.
    So we are left adrift at sea, to our own devices, with nothing to do but play the odds and make a decision based on how lucky we feel.
    I’m seeing the vampire next Tuesday, followed by an appointment on the 19th with the RO that would treat me assuming I get to that. I fully expect another jump in my PSA from the last .06, to .075 or .08. We shall see. Not feeling real lucky.
    Keep the faith.
    Ken.

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    1. Hi Ken,

      No problem on the editing. Cleaned it up for you.

      Yep. Neither of us will get that definitive answer at this point. Good luck on your PSA test next week. Here’s hoping for a steady number or a very slow rate of increase. It will be interesting to compare R.O. recommendations, but I suspect they will be similar.

      All the best,

      Dan

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  4. Ken G.

    Ugh, I should proofread, I meant, “I have thought this thing to death. If you have the bility to edit, feel free to do so.

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