Posted September 23, 2011 by jimhigley
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. It’s also National Preparedness Month, Vegan Month, and College Savings Month. But, I’ll stick with something I know – prostate cancer.
I’ve been living with it for six years now.
So, in the spirit of awareness, here’s my short story.
At the age of 44, I was feeling as healthy as I ever had in my life. In fact, I was training for my first triathlon at the time. Heading into the doctor for an annual physical was low on my list. But I went, as I have always done annually. The doctor proclaimed me in perfect health, ordered some routine blood work and sent me on my way.
A couple days later my doctor called me to go over my tests. All was good except for an elevated PSA level which, ironically, the lab ran by mistake. He didn’t order it.
“I’m sure it’s just a big lab mix-up,” he said to me. “But let’s run it again.”
He did. And so began a life-changing journey for me. I had cancer. I had no symptoms. Nada. Zilch. Zipo. But I had cancer. Big, bad, aggressive cancer. After it was removed, they were even more surprised that over half of my prostate was loaded with the big “C.”
“This thing was a bomb,” my oncologist later told me. “You would have been dead within a couple years and wouldn’t have had any symptoms until it was too late.”
All of this caught by a simple, easy (and by mistake, no less!) blood test.
I still likely have dormant cancer cells hanging out in my body. That’s what my team of doctors tell me. So I listen to them. I seek their input. And, I’ve worked with them to develop a proactive plan to manage my cancer. Every day. I religiously gag down 33 prescription pills and supplements daily. I follow a diet that is logical. Except for all the Oreos I sneak after my son goes to sleep. And, I methodically get checked out every three months with my oncologist as he looks for any early markers of cancer cell activity. It’s not fun. I live three months at a time. But it certainly beats what would have been my alternative.
“How long do we need to do this, doc?” I asked him a couple years ago.
“Until you die,” he answered.
Some of you may have heard that prostate cancer is the disease all men eventually get. And, sure, there’s some truth in that. But don’t take this disease lightly. It comes in all shapes and sizes. More specifically, some prostate cancers are slow-growing while others grow at speed that would make NASA technicians gasp. Please, never dismiss the seriousness of prostate cancer.
So now what? Well, I tell all of my friends that if you’re over 40, know your PSA. And, for goodness sakes, if you have a history of prostate cancer in your family, know your PSA at a much earlier age. See a doctor. Check it out. Guys, I know many of you don’t even have a doctor and it’s been years since you had a physical. If that’s you, ask a buddy for a reference. If that doesn’t work, call your insurance carrier and find out the name of an in-network doctor near you.
Show the love to your prostate, friends. And, because I’m walking around without one now, I’m passing my love on to yours.