Over the winter Thomas had his yearly exam which included blood work. The blood work showed his PSA levels were elevated. He had a follow-up in March that showed they were even more elevated, and his prostate was enlarged.
So, C is for Cancer, specifically Prostate Cancer.
He had a biopsy of the prostate on March 9 -- not a pleasant procedure. Then on the 21st we went in for the results and found they were positive. We were neither of us surprised, but it does still hit, doesn't it? Even when the prognosis is good, and you feel as positive about it as you reasonably can feel, the diagnosis still hits you as a solid blow, doesn't it?
The urologist was very good. He listened and took his time explaining everything. Out of 12 biopsy sticks, 10 showed cancer. None of the locations had very high numbers. Thomas' age and the lower numbers (T-numbers?) would put him at the low risk level, but because it is throughout the prostate and the fact that his PSA numbers had increased so rapidly between the two blood tests, raised him to the intermediate risk level.
Three options were put before him -- surgery to remove the prostate, radiotherapy, and a different, new, very expensive surgery that doesn't remove the entire prostate and that most insurances won't cover. Each was explained and later we did our own research as well. The urologist explained that, in his opinion, each option would be as effective as the other, with the main difference being the side effects.
Thomas decided on the radiation. We met with the doctor at the radiotherapy clinic for a consult on March 28, and he explained what would happen over the next several months. One other optional thing was explained -- a shot that would stop the production of testosterone, which would slow down the cancer cell growth. This would make the radiotherapy more effective, although it would postpone when he will begin receiving the radiation. It isn't "putting off" the treatment, though, because the shot is part of the treatment.
Now, not to give TMI, but my husband has a very healthy sex drive, so, aside from the whole "deadly cancer" thing, I have to admit, my other main worry was how he would deal with the possibility of any part of the treatment affecting our love life. He never hesitated. He said it made sense to him to get the shot, and that if there was a noticeable diminution (well, that was MY word, not his) in his ability to perform, there are things that can be done to help that situation. So, Monday, April 3, he met again with the urologist, and he got the shot.
On Wednesday, April 5, we went to the urologist to have three gold markers placed in his prostate for the imaging that will be done next month. That was a procedure very similar to the biopsy, although it didn't take as long and the discomfort was a bit less. We joked about whether they would take the gold out after his treatment or if they'd be part of my inheritance if I outlive him. He will have to remember that they are there any time he has to have x-rays or go through a metal detector.
On May 19 he goes in to have the CT scan, to determine what path the radiation will take to hit the prostate. Approximately two weeks after that he will begin the radiotherapy. That will be every day, five days a week, for nine weeks. They can do late appointments, so he won't even have to take time off from work. The most common side effect from the radiation is fatigue, but most men, according to both doctors, continue working their regular jobs with no problem.
The day we got the results, Andrew dropped by just as we were getting home, so we told him and Eler Beth at the same time. Andrew's fiancee and her mother, all of my family, and two other good friends are the only ones we've told. Thomas does not want it going around among our circle of friends or his workmates in general, and he does not want his family to know until after the treatments are finished. His sister who lives near us is quite a drama queen, and he'd probably be ready to strangle her if he had to listen to her going on and on about it every time he saw her. Also, his brother's wife died only a few months ago, and his sister died even more recently, so we figured there was no reason to have them worrying or simply thinking about it at all. So I'm not posting in general on Facebook, but I have no problem writing about it in my blog. I knew it would probably make me feel better, and I know my J-Land friends -- any who still read this blog -- will be supportive but not oppressive.
The prognosis is very good, but I have to admit that once in a while I get a bit nervous when it comes to mind. Then I feel silly for that because it is a very curable cancer, and we've caught it early. And for that I have our GP to thank. Before he renewed a prescription for one of Thomas' maintenance medications, he insisted that Thomas come in and have his yearly tests done because he was overdue. It was the blood test and that alone that could have shown evidence of this cancer. At this stage there are no other symptoms. If he'd continued putting it off, and if the cancer growth was as rapid as it appeared to be, this whole story could be totally different. So don't put off getting an annual physical, gentlemen. This is my birth month, and I plan to get all of my yearly things done this month as well.
Thank you for letting me write about this.
Now, Mary said she hoped that C could be for "Caracal," and I think that's a wonderful idea. The Caracal is that African cat with the long, tufted ears, if I'm not mistaken -- a wonderful, beautiful bit of creation to write about! As a matter of fact, I'll close this post with a Google image of one.
Until next time ~~