Holy Cow, What Do I Do Now?
Just four days ago I was told by my urologist that I had prostate cancer. The results from my biopsy were in showing an aggressive adenocarcinoma in around 5% of three biopsy samples. This was a diagnosis I was expecting but, nevertheless, I was stunned by the news. I was taken back to my parents, both of whom were diagnosed with various cancers, my father lung cancer and later prostate cancer as well while my mother died from ovarian cancer after an eighteen month battle. Even more ironic is that my diagnosis comes at precisely the age my mother was when she learned of her ovarian cancer. I am a mere 69 years old as I write this.
I met with my urologist yesterday and in a brief meeting he outlined potential courses of treatment, each one dependent on whether or not the disease has metastasized into the bone or lymph nodes. This determination is made after a bone scan and ct scan are completed and read by a radiologist. The scans are scheduled for Monday meaning I will remain in suspense until at the very earliest Wednesday for the complete results to be revealed.
I think the worst of this at this very moment is the waiting; the limbo that comes with partial information and the inability to make any meaningful decisions about treatment or the future. So I wait…
Of course, it is not only treatment that depends on the localization or metastasis of the tumor that is called into question. So is the ten-year survival statistics which, depending on the scans range from 45% to 85%, from a coin toss that I’ll live an additional ten years to a pretty good bet that I’ll survive this whole ordeal. What I must remember, however, is that since those numbers represent the mean or the average, that from 15% to 55% of those with prostate cancer will die before ten years. It is a good thing I am in individual and not an average. The average smooths out the data reducing the data set to a universal number. That is good for a benchmark but is not applicable to the individual patient. So I plan to treat this disease in the most aggressive manner possible; for that I take full responsibility. What I have no control over is the effectiveness of any aggressive treatment so I am resigned to let the chips fall where they may.
One last thought for today. Men, it seems, are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime than women are likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer yet breast cancer awareness is ubiquitous. NFL players, coaches and referees trot around wearing hot pink to call attention to breast cancer awareness throughout October. Isn’t it time that prostate cancer get the same kind of recognition? I don’t wish to diminish breast cancer awareness, that would be foolish and counter-productive. The fact is that this is not an either/or proposition, rather, it is a YES / AND proposal. I believe that working with existing cancer groups, a national prostate cancer awareness month can and should be a priority helping men become aware of screening and treatment options. Won’t you join me in this effort?