Surviving In This Very Moment…

My Personal Battle with Prostate Cancer … And Life!

Archive for the tag “Gleason Score”



Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan Brenn BE BACK on 10th OCT)

These days I find myself facing unexpected challenges. The apprehension accompanying a diagnosis of cancer is, to say the very least, something I am unaccustomed to. The biggest challenge I face with regard to the waiting for surgery is one of waiting, of sitting quietly and simply listening to the silence. I find that my mind wanders away from the clarity of focus, from the silence of the universe that I am more or less accustomed to.

In addition, there are challenges that accompany my almost daily dealing with my medical team and the sense that one hand doesn’t actually know what the other is doing. Contradictory directions, pharmacy rules and the overall apprehension that accompanies the run-up to surgery interferes with my otherwise calm, rational demeanor.

I’ve written this before but I think it stands repetition; I am no stranger to surgery! I have two titanium hips, a titanium back and now a titanium left knee. In each of these cases, however, I was in desperate pain prior to surgery creating a condition in which surgery was actually anticipated. I expected a “cure” from the pain that was a constant reminder that I had no cartilage in my hips and knee and a spinal column that was shrinking due to calcium deposits causing a severe stenosis. After the first hip surgery, I could anticipate a recovery that would leave me pain free.

Not so with this surgical procedure. I have absolutely no pain, no symptoms at all. I will enter the hospital feeling just fine and will wake up with some degree of discomfort, how much pain I have no way of anticipating. There are also two potential side effects of this procedure that I must admit scare me. While robotic surgery is less invasive than other potential procedures, it still comes with risks of erectile dysfunction and incontinence. But with a Gleason score of 4+4, a PSA of 23 and no metastasis I have little choice but to get holes poked in my belly and get the cancer removed.  But I’ll go into the hospital feeling fine and wake up in pain.

My solution to these and other challenges is to do what I know how to do. I meditate for longer periods of time, just sitting quietly and listening to the silence of the universe. I have taken to measuring my blood pressure before and after meditation and I record a ten point dip in pressures post meditation. I am not surprised. Sitting quietly helps clear my mind of the hamsters running through my head that want me to expect the worst possible outcome. After 45 minutes to an hour my mind is clear and I am better able to face the real challenges of the day. Just doing the next right thing, that which is right before me at this very moment, that which must be done right now. I am also better prepared to understand and, thereby, separate that which is urgent and that which is not.

At this very moment I am headed to the gym in my basement to strengthen my knee, ride the stationary bike and see if I can’t drop around 12 to 20 pounds.

Under the Circumstances…The Best I Could Hope For!

I am relieved to learn that my prostate cancer is contained in the prostate.  Both the CAT Scan and the Bone Scan were negative for metastasis.  But a contained tumor with a Gleason Score of 4+4 (8) indicates a very aggressive tumor calling for surgical removal.  The surgery is scheduled for late November, after Thanksgiving and is to be done by a DiVinci Robotic system.  This seems to be the best option available and may even lead to a “cure.”  It may also lead to significant side effects; one worse than the other.  So once again I enter the state Levinas calls proximity.  In Postmodern Ethics, Zygmunt Bauman writes of proximity as follows:

Proximity is ‘beyond intentionality’.  Intention already presupposes a measured space, a distance.  For intention to be, there had first to be separation, time to reflect and ponder, to ‘make up one’s mind’, to proclaim and announce.  Proximity is the ground of all intention, without being itself intentional. (p. 87)

Understanding that proximity issues from my responsibility for the other, in a face-to-face dyadic encounter, a dyadic intimacy if you will, the encounter with the other serves as a simulacrum for my responsibility for the absolute Other, the unknown and unknowable infinity that bookends existential being.

Two states come immediately to mind when thinking about proximity that issues from this ethical responsibility: waiting and acting.  In either case, proximity depends on the Levinasian fundamental ethical obligation, that of commanding the other to command.  It begins with a silent (sometimes vocalized) announcement, a presentation of the self to the other; Here I Am! made without reservation or expectation which commands the other to command.  Perhaps the other will ignore the presentation or perhaps the other will issue a command; either way, the self relinquishes control when the Here I Am is made without reservation or expectation.  Once made, the only thing left to do is wait.  If the other issues a command, as commanded, then the only ethical choice is to act.  While the ethical presentation of Here I Am creates the state of proximity, the command of the other violently rips at the very fabric of proximity in order that the self may act.

Once one finds oneself in proximity, once one finds oneself simply waiting, there is no reason to reflect or ponder what might be or should be or what one wishes to be.  There is either a command to be commanded issued which simply requires waiting for the command and nothing more, or there is not.  If the fundamental ethical obligation was entered into without reservation then there is nothing to be gained through projection.  Waiting only occurs at this very moment, a moment which fades into the past as soon as it is existentially experienced.  Until the command comes from the other, there is little to do but wait.  Yet, once (if) it comes, there is but one thing to do…Act!

Proximity comes when one encounters an existential other, but it also comes when one hears the words of the absolute Other.  In a dramatic sense, when one hears the words, “You have cancer,” it is a stunning encounter with the infinity that is yet to arrive.  While the dyad is no longer human being to human being, it is, nonetheless, an ethical dyad established by the very fact that my response to these words was to simply present myself to the absolute Other; Here I Am! Made without reservation or expectation, I am required to wait as the absolute Other speaks through doctors and laboratories, through testing and results.  Not until I am presented with test results can I act.  It follows, that there is no room for pondering or thinking about or even wishing for a desired result.  It simply requires waiting until the professionals have had their way with me.

Now that results are in, I once again make an ethical presentation, Here I Am, making me responsible for the responsibility of the Other.  I can do nothing more than await the command of the other, unknown until surgery is completed.  Along the way, I’ll be commanded to present myself for pre-operative testing, get medical clearances and generally follow some pretty simple instructions, all minor commands that respond to my commanding the Other to command.  So, once again, I present myself without reservation or expectation to the absolute Other…Here I Am!  And now I wait…

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