Prostate Cancer Journal: The Waiting is the Hardest Part

universal-no-symbolThis will be an intensely personal post. If you came to this blog expecting something else, you might want to take a break from reading this now, head over to the archives, and wait until the more characteristic posts make a comeback.

This week I have been doing a lot of waiting. I no longer know what to do with myself.

Carly Simon’s lyrics are so overdone that they have become trite (except for Heinz, I guess), but they are running around in my head abreast with Psalm 130:

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway….

Anticipation, anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting.

Anticipation, Carly Simon

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.

Psalm 130


I'm a Cubs fan. I know about waiting.

In Spring 2002 suddenly appearing “liver spots” (actually petechiae bruising) had been met with curiosity on Thursday. I rarely show bruises, much to my wife’s dismay as she seems to share a genetic link with bananas when it comes to bruising; so I didn’t make much of them. Dad had liver spots, so probably would I. On Saturday a couple bruises, startling purple and red explosions, appeared over a very short period of time. I called my GP’s exchange. Interrupting his golf game, he likely saved my life. Instead of saying “come and see me on Monday,” instead he said “hang up the phone and go to the emergency room. Now.” He said he would meet me there. That didn’t sink in.

When I got to the emergency room they were expecting me. That didn’t sink in either. After exchanging my clothes for theirs, a blood sample was taken, and a physical exam was conducted. I became a bit of a curiosity as seemingly random medical personnel would knock on the door and ask if they could examine me. By now I knew the “liver spots” were actually petechiae, that is pinpoint bruises, and they were showing up everywhere. If you are old enough to remember the water-color books for children that had the pictures filled with dots—a child paints with a dampened brush that releases the color in each dot—well, that is what I had come to resemble, especially on my arms and legs. But they didn’t hurt. No one said any different. And it didn’t really sink in. Continue reading


Prostate Cancer Journal: You’re Going to Do What?

universal-no-symbolThis will be an intensely personal post. There is no delicate way to describe what took place during the prostate biopsy. If you came to this blog expecting something else, you might want to take a break from reading this now, head over to the archives, and wait until the more characteristic posts make a comeback.

A Bit More Waiting

waiting-roomYou can read a lot about the procedure that is technically known as transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy on WebMD and the many good sites that have written about men’s health and prostate cancer. Most of them will say that it “doesn’t hurt much,” that it’s “not so bad.” But, “doesn’t hurt much” and “not so bad” only seemed to mock me. Despite the vast amount of information I had accumulated over the previous ten days, I am wading deep into the unknown, nearly drowning in a mix of fear and anxiety. As I drove the thirty minutes to the office I’m thinking about the needles. Upon checking in I am shown into a standard exam room by an efficient but very kind nurse who checks my vital signs and goes over a list of questions about my medical history. Then she explains everything that is going to happen from that point forward. Her calm, deliberate, two-minute speech drains away some of the fear that has been washing over me in waves. The nurse leaves, and following her directions I get naked. I put on a hospital gown so it opens in the back and have a seat on the exam table as I wait for the doctor. I’ve been told it will be about ten minutes. This exam room has two carts set up with monitors and keyboards. The nurse has one powered up and sitting next to the exam table. I recognize the image on the screen as the pie-wedge that will display an ultrasound image. But it is the wand clipped in readiness on the side of of the cart that gets my attention. The business end is about eight inches long and about the diameter of a roll of nickles. The doctor is obviously an advocate of safe sex as the wand is sheathed in a form-fitting condom. From my reading, and the nurses’ explanation, the wand will be used to get an ultrasound image of my prostate gland and map where the doctor will take his biopsy. That’s okay. What sets off alarms is the very slim metal tube that runs down the length of the wand. I start to go into meltdown as my forced-calm exterior gives way to the anxiety within. The metal tube indicates the ultrasound wand’s second use: to guide the placement of the biopsy needles. One at a time, a dozen needles will be shot down that metal tube by a spring-loaded biopsy gun, through the wall of my rectum to snatch and bits of tissue I wasn’t all so sure I wanted to surrender. Continue reading

Prostate Cancer Journal: Today I take the test

Or maybe it is more accurate to say that today the test takes me.

universal-no-symbolThis will be an intensely personal post. If you came to this blog expecting something else, you might want to take a break from reading this now, head over to the archives, and wait until the more characteristic posts make a comeback.

This afternoon I will be heading over to my doctor’s office, a urological specialist, and have a transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy. This test will be used to determine whether my elevated PSA blood test results are indicative of prostate cancer or infection or something else altogether.

picture-3Since getting the report of my PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels ten days ago, I have only talked about this with my wife, pastor, and three trusted friends. Those who know me may be surprised that I told that many others about the impending biopsy. When it comes to such personal details, I tend to be intensely uncommunicative, a New Englandish “It’s my business, and only my business” attitude–although I have never lived in New England. I have decided to leave my comfort zone and journal about this experience for two main reasons. First, as a coping mechanism to help give the swirl of emotions some expression and a place to “live” besides in my gut. And second, the majority of my male friends are in their forties and fifties (the women are never older than twenty nine), and if the sharing of my journey–wherever it may lead–gets even one of them into the doctor to begin getting an annual PSA, than this breech in my personal space will be very much worth it. Well, maybe a third reason: wives and mothers get your forty-year-old husband or son to the doctor annually–the years of health and life you will give them is worth the nagging! Continue reading