I want to tell my cancer story.
It starts in mid 2004 at the local blood bank where I am an over 16 Gal. donor. We are doing the initial workup and the nurse says "Jim, I don't like the way your heart sounds today so here is a permission slip for your Dr. to sign after you see him." "But I don't have a Dr." "Why not?" "I never been sick."
It's raining outside which is why I went to give blood after lunch. I just need a Dr. to sign this stupid form, should be no big deal, right? Boy am I a novice.
I first go to our major hospital with over 50 Heart Specialists on staff and say "Hey I need someone to check my heart." Wrong thing to say there. Man people start running and everybody gathers around, "Are you all right, just lay down on the carpet while we get a wheelchair or a gerney." "No, No I'm fine but I need somebody to check my heart now and sign my slip so I can give blood this afternoon." "Things don't work that around here Sir." All of a sudden it was cooler in that place. "We could make an appoinment for next week Sir." "Naw, forget it, I'll just get it done somewhere else, Goodby."
I then go to a Heart Association, which is a collection of heart Dr's. They say appointments are being made for next month. "Bye."
Man, I'm halfway mad but I go home and get a cup of coffee and cool down.
Hummm, maybe that Dr. who's job I finished last month can sign this so I call his office around 4:30 PM and he answers the phone. "What do you need Jim?" "Someone to listen to my heart Sir." "Can you be here at 7:30m AM tomorrow?" "Yes Sir." "See you then."
He listens for about 2 minutes hooks up a ECG machine reads the printout and says, "Where's the paper? I'll sign, Oh and almost as an after thought, by the way, when was the last time you had a physical?" " My Army discharge in 1969." " But Jim it's 2004." "I know but I've never been sick Doc." " I gotta an idea Jim. Go to my friend around the corner who is building his practice and get a complete physical ON ME." "Really Doc, OK."
I go give blood and only lose about 3 hrs. But I'm self employed so who cares. But Fate steps in where wisdom never resided.
Next day I get a call from the Dr. to pick up a prescription for a full blood panel workup and an appoinment card. Blood test and appointment in 1 week. Thats the way to do medicine. You just have to push a little. Well, we will see.
He gives me a through going over and ends with the surprise. "Jim, you have an elevated PSA of 13.8. Now this does not mean you have cancer but with your permission I will give you a referal to the same Urologist I gave my Father and for the same reason. (Note: This will come up again later.)
The following week he gives me the famous DRE and orders biopsy and bone scan for the following week.
Results appoinment with the request for my wifes attendance. "Jim , you have prostate cancer graded T2c Gleasons grade 3+4. Somewhere around that time the appointment was over for me. He kept talking but I did not hear.
My wife continued to collect and harvest taking notes and asking questions. To this day I have absolutely no memory of what happened.
He did tell for us to go home and later we were to see him in a couple of weeks to talk some more. At that next appointment he spent over an hour filling us in on the many choices for treatment. He dicussed each in detail and she took notes again but I heard better also and we were able to talk about it some more privately after that second consult.
I spoke to my GP Dr. again and he assured me this guy was "A" grade so we returned and said cut it out.
Well we had bad weather and some schedule conflicts with my work which delayed the surgery into deep winter. I finally get a call the operating room is free on 14 Feb 2005. "How about it Mr. Jim was the question?" Ironic right. "Ya considering what your getting ready to do to me WHY NOT. Schedule it."
So Fate steps in again.
They roll me in to the Operating room wide awake and leave me off to the side while they quickly get things ready. In 3-5 minutes the surgeon steps over to the gerney and starts to roll me over to the well lite area of the room. I ask them both to pause for a moment and think about what they were getting ready to do to me on what day they were doing it. They both smiled big and I asked them to be on their "A" game and do the best they could. I believe they did just that.
Surgery starts around 3;30 PM done at 5:30 PM back in my room and awake by 9 PM one hurt'en puppy. Wife asks if she can go home and smiles. I'm hurt but alive and she can rest now. Discharged around 5 PM the next day and home to the couch with two new bags, large and small. I think 250 ml and 1000 ml. A daily traveler and an over night bag. Next day I'm up and in the car for a brief talk with neighbors on the next block.
Man my butt hurts. How be I get you one of those cheap donut floaties for pools at the Dollar Store. Ya, lets try that. Man I'm in heaven with this thing, thanks.
That second night I get up to drain my big bag and walk into the bathroom around 2 AM and suddenly I get a sharp pain in my bladder and a little blood pushes out the tip of my penis past the rubber tube and makes a mess on the tile floor. Probably a teaspoon full but it looked like more and scared us both. I call the Dr. who answers quickly and asks if it stopped. "YES." "Sounds like a bladder spasm. We don't know why that happens but we think the bladder get mad because we cut it. Most times they only happen once but if you continue to bleed call us right away and we will meet you in ER immediately. Oh, and by the way, I'm real glad to hear you are drinking enough to fill the big bag at night. You need to keep up your intake to flush the bladder and start the healing process move forward as quick as possible."
"Your rectum will take a while longer to wake up and that can be a mess when its time, so just use the bath tub as toilet paper. Yes 5-6 times a day in the tub with antibiotic cream on the tip of your penis and rub it in real well. Can't hurt, might help. Either way it feels good to be clean. Infection is our mutual enemy."
The following day I have company. My granddaughter and her DOG. The danged DOG bit my floaty and pisssss it goes down. I almost cried. As soon as she left I started to speak and my wife says "Yes, I know and I will be right back."
After a few days I find draining the bag is painful inside my body. Hummm, but if I lift the bag so it is almost the same elevation as my bladder it drains slower but less painful. I can live with less pain.
Appetite is coming back and 15 Days later I'm in to the Urologist office to get the catheter out. Back to a patient room after "weigh in" and here comes a cute "new to me" nurse. "Good morning sir, I'm here to remove your tube, jump up on the table please and open your gown for me." She inserts a syringe tip into that small second tube on the hose, withdraws the sterile water and pulls it out in 3 seconds. No pain, no drama and no name and walks out of the room after having me take a leak and handing me a pad, "The Dr. will be here in a moment."
Who was that masked bandit?
Later as we leave I see the same nurse in the hall. I walk over and introduce myself. "You look familiar Sir, where have we met." It was at that moment I was again reminded that cancer peels away the layers we use to protect our personal selves. It reintroduces a healthy measure of "humility" back into our lives.
In the car my wife says "Way were you hitting on that cute nurse?" "Because she hit on me first was my answer?" Well if looks could kill, I guess you know where I would be by now but I dodged another bullit and here I thought cancer was my only enemy.
It's been over 5 years and the events stick fresh in my mind as part a road I never chose to take. Yours will be different but no less important to you.
I wish you well on your journey and try to notice the flowers along the path your life will take now. You are changed forever but still worthwhile and so is your life.
Cancer changes us all and it is always scary.
I will talk more about other effects to us soon but one the biggest differences in me now is that I cry more easily.