The Cancer Diaries, Part 13

Emotional roller coasterIt’s been an emotional, roller-coaster week for me (if you’ll pardon the cliché…). Back and forth to Barrie for consultations, scans, and tests, more blood work, phone consultations with doctors and hospital social services staff, schedules set, schedules changed, confusion over medication, appointments upset. All in all a rather trying time.

Prior to my next stage of treatment — radiation — the oncologist told me I needed another blood test (for PSA levels: even without a prostate the cancer cells produce the prostate serum, remaining an indicator of their activity), as well as another bone density scan and CT scan. Plus I had to go into the hospital to get set up for a radiation planning scan, and back to Barrie to see my urologist.

The oncologist also prescribed hormones, calcium, and vitamin D3. The later two are to help combat any bone loss that might result from radiation treatment. The hormones are to reduce my testosterone, which will help limit the cancer’s growth. There was a bit of confusion about when I was supposed to start taking them. Normally you start a week to two weeks before radiation, but when I got the prescriptions filled, the start date had not been set. I asked nurses when I was at RVH, and called the radiation department, but got conflicting answers. One nurse said wait, another said start now, so I did that even without a date for treatment.

Then I got a call saying my treatment would start Nov. 11, just over a week away. I was glad I had started the hormones. But what about the injection? I’d find out later.

The Monday morning planning session was at the oncology department. I had not been in that wing before. There’s a certain finality about going into the oncology wing. Everything else was medicine: this was cancer. It’s sobering to sit there, waiting to be called, knowing that you and everyone around you in the waiting area is there for cancer. I realized it deeply, sitting there, in a way it didn’t reach me when I went through the surgery and other processes.

If ever there was a moment to realize your mortality, waiting in the oncology department is it.

Continue reading “The Cancer Diaries, Part 13”

The Cancer Diaries Part 1

I should have started this a while ago. Perhaps when I received the first news something as wrong. But it took a while to really sink in. And then it was upon me. Although this is personal, I wanted to share it, in the hope others might find it useful.

There’s a psychological process called the Kübler-Ross model, or the Five Stages of Grief, which is often applied to cancer and other diseases, but at least for me, it didn’t work that way. Her stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. But for me, the first thing was a sense of betrayal.

Yes, betrayal: how can my body let me down like this? I have treated it well for all these decades – okay, not I haven’t been worshipful, but reasonably respectful. I haven’t smoked or eaten mammals for almost 50 years, and I watch what I eat and drink (little junk or processed foods). I don’t drink alcohol to excess, don’t drink liquid sugar (aka soda pop), don’t do drugs. I walk a lot – several kilometers a day usually – and keep my mind active. I keep my teeth in good condition and get a checkup annually. Surely all that should have counted for something.

But the tests don’t lie. My PSA was elevated. Frighteningly so. My body, or at least on part of it, betrayed me.

Not that I really should have been surprised. My father and his father both had prostate cancer. I am third generation and the likelihood of me getting it has always been very high if not a certainty. In hindsight, I wish I could have spoken to my father about it, sought his wisdom, but by the time I learned of it, he was already dying of another cancer.

I had a warning about it several years back when I had non-cancerous prostate problems and minor corrective surgery. I didn’t go through denial after that, or any of the stages as I recall, just hoped it had cured the problem. After all, modern medicine cures so much else.

Apparently not everything.

After betrayal came resignation. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Continue reading “The Cancer Diaries Part 1”