The Cancer Diaries, Part 9


Good news/bad newsWell, I suppose it’s a good news/bad news story for this post, although I dearly wish it was better. Would that I could have put it all behind me, finished my recovery, and moved on. Not to be: I receive comfort like cold porridge (to quote from The Tempest). Still, I came away from my consultation with at least some sense of relief: after all, it might have been much worse. The anxiety of waiting for the results was far more stressful than actually hearing them.

My recent PSA blood test showed a greatly-reduced number (less than 1, which is very low, considering it was over 8 before my surgery), which is a relief, but it’s still higher than the doctor says I should have returned two months later. So I have another blood test booked for the end of the month. If it goes up, it probably means the cancer is still gnawing away at me.

Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen.
Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act 3, Sc. 4

The doctor reiterated that the cancer had been very aggressive, and the surgery difficult, and had already spread outside the prostate before my surgery, hence his “going wide” to remove my diseased organ (and taking with it some nerves that had once helped me rise to the occasion of sexual performance). On the positive side, the pathology for my lymph nodes after surgery came back positive (no cancer, which was a relief; lymphoma is a particularly nasty cancer).

Plus, while I am emptying my bladder, I do so too slowly; slower even than some weeks back. The stream is too weak for my stage of recovery, so the urinary tract may be thickening or be suffering some blockage (was I too enthusiastic in doing my Kegel exercises?).  And for that he wants to stick a camera into my penis and snake it down to my bladder to see what’s happening. What he can do about any problem he encounters, I don’t know.

I’ve had the procedure before, and while it wasn’t particularly painful, it sure wasn’t any fun. Not the least of all because it was done with a local anæsthetic, so I could see everyone looking at my tackle (are they smirking?) while the doctor threaded the scope through my urinary tract. And I could look down and see what seemed to be a golf ball on a tube being inserted into my penis. Had I wished to entertain myself, there was a small screen showing the view as it travelled within me. Netflix it wasn’t. 

Not that I have much dignity or self-respect about my private parts being on display at this point. Inhibition is an early victim of this cancer. And after the surgery, well, it’s not like it’s worthy of proud display any more. But still…

And, regardless of what the procedure shows, he says I’ll need radiation treatment later this fall or perhaps early winter. It seems it will be little less intensive that I had first expected, but it will still require daily treatments for a month. Which means a drive to the oncology centre every day; 60 kms each way, and probably in the snow season. Not looking forward to either the drive or the procedure. I understand radiation can be quite debilitating, and cause hair loss and other problems.

I have to admit I’m of two minds (and not in a Julian Jaynes-bicameral sort of way) about radiation. Is the reduction in the quality of life worth what I get back in time (will I be granted enough time to read all the books I put aside for my retirement? If not, what’s the point?)? I don’t know. I need to weigh my options, yet I do so without having anyone to consult with about it. Susan and I will have to talk it over when we know more. I suspect it will be more than a one-glass-of-wine discussion.

I recall all too clearly my grandfather, my father, and my friend Bill dying of cancer. Treatment may extend the life, but equally extend the misery. I’d choose euthanasia over weeks or months of suffering. I’m nowhere near as anxious about death as I am of suffering.  I can only again reiterate how fortunate I am to live in Canada and have my treatment, tests, surgery, and consultations paid for by our universal healthcare system. If this were the USA, it would be a death sentence regardless of the choices.

I’m not out of the woods, yet and still face ongoing treatment, although to what end I cannot say. Nor am I sure what to expect next beyond the next tests aide from scheduling the radiation therapy. Again, I reiterate the need for a local support group to share experiences and emotions. 

O God! that one might read the book of fate,
And see the revolution of the times…
Shakespeare: King Henry IV part 2, Act 3 Sc. 1

Next post in this series will likely follow my upcoming tests and scope, just over a month from now, unless something post-worthy occurs in between.

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