You hear the words. It takes a moment to sink in.
My doctor is not the kind of guy to mince words or give false hope. “I can tell you, even before the biopsy, that you have cancer.” he said. A quick body blow, and then you get up and get to work.
It is prostate cancer. But there’s good news with prostate cancer. It’s highly curable. It grows and spreads slower than other cancers. It tends not, until the final stages, to spread to other places. I’ve read the studies. I know the numbers. It should be fine. I should be fine.
Still, they said after the biopsy, it’s aggressive. No time to waste. “You are young.” the doc said. “You are in good shape. You want this taken care of so you can go on with life.”
I am fortunate. I have health insurance. I have a doctor who is not a waster of words trying to make me feel good. He’s a truth-teller. He’s young himself and pushes things through. Part of the reason we chose him, though he is a few hours away, is that he could make the biopsy happen fast. He got back to us fast. He’s making the surgery happen literally as fast as possible. (You have to wait a few weeks for the biopsy to heal.). The next few weeks will be a flurry of scans, tests, rehab sessions and pre-op tests.
He’s a truth-teller. Unapologetic, whether the news is good or bad. I respect that. I trust people who deliver bad news without apology, because I feel I can then trust the good news.
The good news is that there is no evidence anything has spread beyond the prostate itself. We have to do scans to make certain, but he feels comfortable enough that is not an issue to tell me so. And because of the matter of fact brutalness of his delivery of bad news, I trust that.
Still, it’s cancer. I get that. I know what that word does to our spirit.
I can remember a fight I was in when I was in high school. The other guy was bigger than me, a lot bigger than me. He got in a solid punch right in the gut. Knocked me flat. Knocked the air right out of me.
Somehow I got up. By the time the fight was finished, he was the loser. The skinny guy picked him apart.
I’m used to being underestimated. I’m used to winning against the odds. This will be no different. So far at least, after the body blow of bad news after body blow of bad news, of hearing and learning more about the cancer than I ever wanted to know, I have just gotten up.
It’s become a logistics problem for me. How to fit in all the appointments and deal with a couple of post-op weeks when I can’t do squat, while keeping all life’s balls in the air, or at least as many as I can. How to still live life to the fullest knowing there’s this thing in me, this cancer.
It takes me time to process things. Regular readers know this. I write about it often. When it comes to emotions, I am a bit slow. It’s one of my faults. But for this, it’s likely something of a blessing. I’ve never gotten down over it. I’ve had time to let the facts percolate as my feelings emerged.
“It’s cancer. It’s fatal. Cancer is always fatal.” That’s what your emotions think.
“Only it’s not. In fact this kind of cancer is hardly ever fatal.” That’s what my mind knows. By now it knows all the facts and figures and statistics. Trust me, I could bore you to death with them.
But I won’t.
I am fine. That’s what you need to know. I feel great. I have no symptoms. Had it not been for a regular checkup, I’d never have any idea this was going on. (So go get a checkup already!). I trust the doctors. I have people around me who love me and pray for me and I believe in the power of love and prayer just as much as I believe in the abilities of medical science.
I’m not spending much time worrying. Some people around me think I should worry more.
I feel great. People see me and ask with trepidation “How do you feel?”. I feel great. I will feel great until October 14th, when they do the surgery. Then I will feel lousy for a couple of weeks, and not so great for about six weeks. Maybe a little less because according to the doc, I am young (relative to the age of most people who get this) and vigorous. (The doc says that counts.)
Then, I will feel great again.
It’s been humbling. You don’t know how much people care about you till something like this happens. I have only begun telling people and the notes and calls and emails and such are flocking in. For an introvert like me, it’s an astonishing thing to know you matter to so many. Yeah, I feel humble. That love will carry me through those few rough weeks, trust me. I am grateful.
It’s been a test of faith. I have discovered I am not much of a “Why me?” kind of guy. I’ve discovered that my faith has muscles. I feel, not weak, but strong because I can lean on the love of a God and love of his people. Because of that, I don’t have to BE strong. I can just be.
It’s cancer. I know that. I know the possibilities. But I know the odds. I know my body. I know the power of love and prayer. I know the medical science (They are doing robotic surgery. How cool is that?).
So bear with me. I may disappear a few days here and there. I may dwell on thoughts brought on by all this. It’s kind of on my mind.
And if you are the praying kind, keep those cards and prayers coming. They matter.
I’ve been through some rough things in the past. I’ve come close to dying in the past, closer than this cancer will take me. One of the things about going through those things is that they leave you with a sense of “I got through that. I’ll get through this.” I no longer need to know just how I will get through it to know I will get through it.
And unlike the times in the past, I’ve finally learned not to let what might be take away my joy of what I have. Nothing, not even cancer, gets to steal my joy of the now. I am blessed with the woman I love, my second chance at love and marriage. I am blessed with great kids. Two entertaining cats. Good food and coffee. Rewarding and fascinating work. Evenings on the front porch, and so much more. I will not let the prognosis or that word, cancer, rob me of those joys.
A few weeks of misery after the surgery is bad enough. I won’t be miserable for the whole time before and after. There’s life to lead and be grateful for and I’m not wasting any of it.
I have cancer. And I’ll have it till I don’t. And then I won’t.
Life goes on. I’m one of the lucky ones, because it’s a good life. It was before and it will be after.
Be well. Travel wisely,