Saturday, August 29, 2009
A Good Morning . . .
Well, at least that's what I was praying for.
At 8:15am on August 28th, 2009, with my wife seated beside me, I got the news. I have prostate cancer - and it's pretty advanced. I'm 47 years young.
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At the tail end of a two-week long family vacation at the beginning of August with our 3 sons - 19, 15 and 12, and the celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary, I went to my doctor for a scheduled routine physical.
Nothing surprising - I'm overweight, my cholesterol is a bit high, I work far too many long days, don't get enough sleep and have too much stress in my job. Not much out if the ordinary for someone living in the northeastern United States. The only other health concern in the previous four weeks (heck, even the previous 20 years) was a first-time diagnosis of diverticulitis. Again, nothing of major concern - and no noticeable symptoms.
The blood test results from my physical showed a PSA level of 62. A "tad" elevated over what should be something around a reading no higher than a three. The ball got rolling from there.
(note: I was told by my Urologist that there is a current thinking among many physicians that too many other causes for a high PSA level leaves this test a poor marker for prostate concerns. Some countries, including many in Europe as well as Australia, have moved away almost completely from routinely using this test. Of course, if it wasn't for my high PSA level as a first marker, I probably wouldn't have directed to following up and finding the cancer until it was too late.)
I met with my newly anointed Urologist for the first time one week later. I went through the initial prostate exam, and scheduled an appointment for a biopsy that took place on Aug. 24th.
Yesterday, we got the news. We spoke with the Doc in his office as he laid out what needs to happen next. The next step is to find out whether the cancer has already spread to the lymph system or pelvic bones. Those tests (an MRI and full-body scan) are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 2nd.
Last night, my wife and I went out for a nice dinner to a local restaurant we hadn't been to before. We enjoyed a great meal and wonderful bottle of wine. I promised my wife that I'm not going to let this diagnosis stop us from living our lives. I can't.
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24 hours post diagnosis; here I am on Saturday morning. I didn't sleep very much last night. Tomorrow, we bring our oldest son back to college for his sophomore year, but today I face the daunting task of gathering all my strength to tell my 3 boys that I have cancer. I have no idea how I can face them to break this news.
They need to know, but I would almost prefer to wait until the results of the of Wednesday's tests come back and that there is a treatment plan in place so I can answer all the questions, try to calm the fears and tears that are ultimately going to come. No time is good, but they are all about to start a new school year. This is going to be hard on them.
One thing I can say that will ring true for them, "Boys, your job is to do your school work, help out around the house, and be kids - just like you always have. My job as Dad, is to fight this and get better - and be Dad just like always."
The next step will be in finding more strength to tell my parents. They lost one son, my only brother David, in an accident 30 years ago this coming December. This is going to be harder than telling my sons.
My Dad has had his health issues in the last 7 years - a cancer scare that he's survived, and a quad heart by-pass about 4 years ago. My Mom has mild to moderate Alzheimer's - something that frustrates my Mom, and is proving to be a strain on my Dad. I'm very concerned about what affect this news is going to have on them. This discussion is going to wait until I know more. . . . and then I decide how much to tell them.
And so my battle, and this blog, begin. I hope that the words and experiences I'll share here will be of some comfort to my family and friends, and perhaps serve as a source of information and solace to those who may also face prostate cancer.