“Rich, your PSA came back very high. Make an appointment with a urologist.” That was the call from my doctor after the lab work came back from my annual physical.
See a urologist?
Nope. Got to do something much more important first! Become an instant doctor and self-diagnose myself……….
Google the phrase “High PSA”
Panic! Plan the funeral!
Three weeks later, that was early July 2017, after a couple of initial blood tests, I was pretty much preparing myself for the news I (probably) had prostate cancer. A few weeks later the biopsy confirmed it.
From the beginning I decided I was not going to broadcast this on social media and share every single minute of this bump in the road. I’m not criticizing those who do, I just decided to share it with a couple of tens of people; not 1000+ people. I didn’t want thoughts and prayers and all the other platitudes. And frankly I hate reading the minute by minute sickness journeys of people (sorry if I just hurt anyone’s feelings). Updates are one thing. I also assume I’m not alone in that thought.
So I shared the diagnosis with people who were going to be immediately impacted – my family of course; and clients who would either need to book another speaker or be flexible with dates we had scheduled for RECESSitations. And then about 15 – 20 others.
Now, even though I mentioned I wasn’t sharing the news with many people, some who I told did not interpret that as let’s keep this between us. That’s okay, I expected it would happen. And let’s face it, if you really want to keep something secret or private…..TELL NO ONE! NO ONE! But it was amusing when I ran into a few people who typically would just say hi and were now asking how I was doing with concerned facial expressions. I know you know. I know who told you. But you ain’t getting any info.
So here’s what happened….for the most part I picked the right people to tell. They checked in from time to time and I let them know what was happening as I moved through the process. They listened to what I shared and asked questions; and great questions. That’s what you need……people who ask great questions! A few never followed up or checked in. Yeah, a little surprised, but we all get busy and have stuff going on.
Patience is not something I have ever had or ever will have. When I called a urologist to make an appointment I was told it would be 4 weeks before an appointment was available. A second told me 3 weeks. Yeah, that ain’t happening – you know, that patience thing. Two hours later I was on a plane to CT. A hospital exec friend of mine got me an appointment the next morning. As much as I hate being pushed to the front of the line or pulling strings, I needed to get this moving for my own sanity. Love you KL!
And so the fun began…….
It took four months from the date of the biopsy results to interrogate doctors, get violated (yeah, what you think), get violated again, transfer my care back to Florida (oh yeah, we were in contract to sell the house in CT in the middle of all this), board up a house before a hurricane, run from said hurricane, get violated again, choose a treatment approach, get violated by a doc, a resident, and a urologist all in the same day, and get preliminary labs and other stuff done. Truthfully, I lost track of how many times I was violated. Finally on November 29, 2017 it was time for treatment. Yep, almost six months from day of panic to beginning of treatment. Luckily Prostate Cancer is VERY slow growing.
During this experience I learned there were some people I should NOT have told (I guess I need to hone my stupidity assessment abilities)…….
Yes, prostate cancer is very treatable and the success rate is high, very high, when treated early. Which was my case. But telling me about your spouse or family member who suffered and died from any cancer is really not what I wanted to hear at that moment. Yes, brain and stomach cancers are much worse, but at the moment when I’m dealing with my diagnosis I’m not interested in a game of who had/has a worse cancer. I’m also not interested in hearing about the experience of you or your friend with any illness. Jeez, I’m sharing something….does it always have to fucking be about you?
I’m sorry I didn’t lose my hair like you were expecting. Or should I say the few remaining hairs I had left anyway. I had radiation. And only 5 treatments. Got no time for that 40 or 26 treatment thing when it can be successfully obliterated quickly – except apparently in the ass backwards State of CT. I did not have chemo. I told you that early on. I told you it again on the second time you mentioned the hair loss thing and the third time as well. Pay attention!!!! Ah, don’t bother paying attention. Clearly you’re off the list of people I will ever share future important health stuff with.
“You look great. You don’t look sick.” Huh?? Now I get where that was coming from. But you should have just stopped at I look great. Because YOU now look like a moron.
Which leads me to the next thought…….
My treatment approach…….
It was my decision. Asking me if I needed a referral is one thing. Telling me where I need to go for treatment and how I need to approach this was something I had to figure out. I get it, people want to be helpful. Maybe ask how you can be helpful. Again, the GREAT question thing!
My cousin, who I call the Cancer Cat – I lost track how many times she’s been dealt a cancer blow – and is surviving, gave me the best advice ever……”Richie, you need to pick the treatment, doctor and facility that works best for you. It’s got to be your decision.” Love you too SR! Fortunately I live in an area with excellent options and when narrowed down to two choices both of those doctors were complimentary of their “competition” for zapping the shit out of my man-part. Oh, and contrary to what some people think, New York is not the only place on earth with good doctors. As a matter of fact I know two people who were told to be gone from that big place in upper Manhattan. Their cancer was too routine, so they were sent back to their local physicians. I guess that place only wants the cases they can brag about?
WTF were you thinking with the sad face and tear face emojis? I’m not sad. Why the hell are you. I’m not crying. Why the hell are you? I’m optimistic and looking at this as a bump in the road. My doc is confident. Me telling you that should be thumbs up…..if you must use an emoji. Otherwise take your emoji and give it to someone else. Or stick it up YOUR prostrate.
Man this feels good writing this.
Anyway, one year later I wanted to share this as an education/reminder for some. I don’t want or need likes, comments, or whatever’s after you have read this. I’m doing fine. My PSA is where it should be which typically means radiation success. So just process this. Please. Process it for that time someone chooses you as part of their inner circle. Or…..perhaps when you find out somebody close to you did not include you in their inner circle you now may know why. Listening and asking questions is the best way to approach this…………….until you’re asked for opinions, advice and examples of people who lived and died.
Oh and the shirt……Yeah, I designed the shirt especially for my treatment. I wore it to all five treatments. I refused to put on a hospital gown. I don’t do hospital gowns. I bring t-shirts and shorts with no metal. It was kinda fun when I wore the shirt on the first treatment day. On the way to the zapper room the tech paraded me around to a few staff. And when I came out of that 1st zapping I think half the radiation oncology staff was waiting. News had spread. They had heard about the shirt in the short 12 minutes I was in the room and wanted to see it. Honestly folks, you gotta know I would only approach this with fun and humor.
And one more thing………………….not one doctor blamed it on the bike!