When the firehouse burns down that is not good news. When you’ve won the lottery but lost your ticket that is not good news. So when you’ve convinced yourself that you’ve licked prostate cancer and you’re mistaken, well, that is hardly good news. Full disclosure, that has happened to me! And I am the guy who’s been touting the progress made thus far in controlling prostate cancer.
But despite the fact that after more than a decade of being cancer-free and the sudden recurrence of the disease I am happy to report that I am quite alive and remain a survivor! In other words, I am living with prostate cancer, am fully functional and leading an active and full life. How can this be? you ask. And how do you carry on, knowing you are living in a kind of shadow of survivability?
When I first learned that my PSA had suddenly re-appeared three years ago and had gone from more than a decade at zero to seven I confess to be somewhat but not overly concerned. Several months later it advanced to 30 and remained there. But when it abruptly jumped to nearly 500 and kept advancing it was truly as Secretary John Kerry suggested in his foreword to our book “a real kick in the stomach.” No doubt about that.
During the rise in PSA, I remained asymptomatic. But as the PSA surpassed 500 I began to experience severe stomach cramps and intestinal problems. Consultation with my oncologist at Johns Hopkins led to a course of hormone injections, the first of which I have recently had. The intestinal issues continued for two weeks following the hormone injection but have significantly lessened. Whether the intestinal incidents have been a result of the cancer or the hormone therapy is still an open question. But I have been fortunate in that I have not experienced any other symptoms other than some but not serious fatigue.
I will say that the initial experience has done a job on my psyche. The first several weeks following the knowledge that the PSA had taken a giant leap plus the hormone treatment I felt suddenly vulnerable and tentative. I suppose that is the result of one’s coming face to face with the idea of our mortality. And then there is the good news: Once you face that ghostly eventuality, you can pull yourself together, as I did, and feel a resurgence of energy. And when you tell yourself you are still a survivor, I can tell you it is a mighty good and salubrious. The Odyssey continues.