I’ve been writing and rewriting my thoughts on “memory” after coming across a song called “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield, recorded in the early 1960s. I hit the (writing) wall…until today.
I recently posted on Facebook a note that I have been Cancer FREE for five years. The responses to that post have had my mind spinning like a top all day.
My thoughts have run through memories of losing two of my siblings to cancer, Robert Lynn Coons in 1994 at age 47 and Michael Edward Coons in 2012 at age 56, as well as uncles, aunts, cousins and other friends. In the case of my brothers, their cancers were widespread when they were diagnosed. We don’t know if it included prostate cancer. It even hurts to see that in print. Virtually everyone I know, and certainly most of the people who “liked” or commented on that post, have family, near and far, and friends, whom they also lost to cancer. Seeing that I have survived*, I had to hurt those whose family and friends did not. I never take that survival for granted. Never.* Whatever caused the cancer to invade my body could cause it again, just not in the same way. Now I’m more aware, but as George Carlin would say: “Just because the monkey got rid of you doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
I ask you; I beg you to be more aware than I was. The diagnosis of existing prostate cancer came to me through one of those serendipitous events that arose from what I thought was a different physical problem. I had annual physicals and then realized that my PSA had been rising for the past three years. I had seen it but did not process the information.
On the morning of January 2, 2010, Louisa, Seven, and I were walking in Washington Park. It was very cold and there was snow on the ground, like today; nothing unusual about that. Louisa stopped to talk about dogs with a man who was also walking her dog. At some point I realized that I was unstable. I felt that if I tried to move, I would fall. When they finished visiting, Louisa started walking and stopped, asking me what was going on. I said I didn’t think I could move without falling. She walked me to a bench and sat with me. She said that she did not have signs typically associated with a stroke. After a few minutes, maybe five, I got up and walked around with her a bit. I felt fine, but was shocked enough to make an appointment with a doctor. The visit and subsequent trip began on January 5, 2010.
Dr. Katherin Compton examined me, drew my blood, and suggested that I see a neurologist, which I did. She also said that she should visit a urologist, since my PSA was high, at 9 at the time. For the next four weeks I underwent brain scans, MRI, MRE, eeg, ekg and I don’t remember what else without looking at the records. The neurologist confirmed that she had not had a TIA, but that she most likely had low blood sugar at the park event.
I saw the urologist, Dr. Reuven Rosen, who suggested a biopsy based on the pattern of the PSA increase. The biopsy showed prostate cancer; caught at an early stage. After considering several treatment options, including natural and chemotherapy, and due to the history of cancer in my family, I opted to have robotic surgery to remove it. I have and I thank God for his guidance, putting me in care and the skills of Dr. Jeremy Weiss, his staff, his nurse, doctors and technicians. I say cancer free because, since that surgery on January 4, 2011, my PSA is still “undetectable,” which really means “not enough to measure.”
My friend, the late Charles Burrell* introduced me to the Hamilton Rademacher Men’s Cancer Community (HRMCC), two weeks after my surgery. I continue to participate in the support group and encourage you to contact me in person, through Facebook Private Messenger or by phone, if you know of a man who you think could benefit from our conversations. In general, men do not want to participate or talk about prostate cancer or any disease. The HRMCC provides an atmosphere where men really do that. In fact. *Not to be confused with the well-known Denver musician of the same name.
Prostate cancer continues to be researched and supported by local groups like the Prostate Conditions Education Council (PCEC) and through events like Mac’s Run for PCEC and the Denver Blue Shoe 5k, organized by The Urology Clinic of Colo. (TUCC). I have run in every one of those races, wearing a BIB that has a number and the word SURVIVOR on it. I am a five year survivor of prostate cancer. I am careful about what I eat and drink and stay alert for any changes that might indicate a change in that state.
There is not a lot of ‘data’ about prostate cancer. Due to the prostate, it is a male disease, which is sometimes detected from the age of 40, and more often from the age of 50. For reasons unknown to date, it is found more often in African-American men. I asked a guest speaker at an HRMCC meeting, a retired urologist, why that is. He said, ‘we just don’t know’. It is an important part of the investigation, but so far, without conclusive results.
Thank you for your response to my Facebook.com post and for reading this ezine article. I would appreciate it even more if you would visit the men in your lives about it. If you’re reading this and you’re a man over 40, talk to a urologist about his prostate condition.