Celebrating 9 years Prostate Cancer free during this holiday season. It has been quite a journey but it is one that I will never forget. Below is my journey as I recorded it in 2012
Prostate Cancer Me???
Buzz, buzz goes the pager to give another patient an EKG, but at the same time my bladder is calling me again for an immediate trip to the restroom. It has been less than five minutes since I’ve been to the restroom. This has become a frequently frightening problem for me, at times paralyzing me in fear of peeing on myself. There have been some close calls, but thank God I manage to spare me embarrassment by a fraction of second. This is the spring time of the year and I enjoy the outdoors and I was not going let this keep me from enjoying it. I recall reading about frequent urination may be a sign of Prostate Cancer but I brushed it off, besides being age 56 in good fitness health and teaching several fitness classes a week that could not be happening to me. However, in the back of my mind I could hear a voice saying go see a doctor. It is now late summer and I just cannot bear it anymore. I let down my manhood and decided to go see a doctor. On my way to the doctor’s office I knew in the back of my head that there is a high chance of me having Prostate Cancer, because previous physicals I had kept pointing to a rising PSA score between 3.9 and 4.1, but my doctors told me that it may become an issue, but I was never told it was related to Prostate Cancer! African American men tend to be diagnosed at younger ages and with faster-growing prostate cancer than men of other races. 1 in 5 black men will come down with prostate cancer and 5 out 100 will die from it. I am one of the 1 in 5. The PSA test came back at 6.2. I was not surprised at all giving the urination problems. I was referred to an Urologist for further testing.
What does all this mean? How much impact would this have on my life? What was God telling me? These thoughts and more flooded my mind. For some time this scripture from 2nd Corinthians 4:16 came to my mind, “Do not lose heart, thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day”. As a Christian I know that my body is not meant to last forever, so could this be the realty for me of the wasting away of my body? Could this be the groaning of my spirit to be clothe with glorious body and to be present with Christ that is promised in Romans 8:23 and 2nd Corinthians 5:1 – 8? I never thought for one moment that I was going to die soon, but pointing to what lies ahead, be it next week, month, year or years.
The day has arrived for my visit to the urologist, the PSA score and the frequent urination was pointing to Prostate Cancer and to verify that I was given a Digital Rectum Exam to test for any hardness of the prostate. This is a simple procedure but most guys hate it, having some probe a finger up your rectum just crashes with their manhood, but in truth to permit it to happen for the sake of the determination of your life is a correct reflection of manhood. The test reviewed some hardness and the urologist ordered for me to have a biopsy done. I had the biopsy done and the test came back showing prostate cancer with a Gleason Score of 3 + 3 or 6. This is not a high number but it points that there is the presence of cancer. The next series test I took were Bone Scan, MRI and CT Scan to see if the cancer had gone beyond the prostate. The blessing for me is that it had not. So I had localized Prostate Cancer in Stage 1.
I never thought that God was judging me or that Satan had inflict this on me, but I looked at it as a reality of life, living in an imperfect world where sickness, disease and death are a apart of life. I myself work in a hospital and each day I am in the Intensive Care and Trauma Units and see the reality of life wasting away. Some patients are thankful how they lived their lives and look joyful into entering the next with the Lord. I believe that God open a door for me to work in a hospital for this very reason. I have spent the past 25 years Fitness Instructor teaching and inspiring people to live healthy lives and I discovered that no matter how fit a person gets, it cannot stop the natural wasting away of the body. It can help it be less painful.
It is estimated that about 250,000 men will be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, 25,000 will die this year. If you are African American 1 out 5 will be get Prostate Cancer and 5 out 100 will die from it. Have you been tested?
The Urologist presented me with several options of treatment which was based on my age, Gleason Score, Stage, my symptoms and my over general health. At the time was I 56 years old, Gleason score of 6, Stage 1, symptoms of frequent urination and good overall health. The options presented to me were:
Active Surveillance: I would visit the urologist every 3 months to see if the cancer may be growing or changing. I would have to take the PSA, Digital Rectum Exam and biopsies. This method did not sit well with my emotional makeup. Just knowing that I had cancer in my body was enough for me to deal with it now.
This type of treatment uses high doses of radiation energy to treat cancer. I would have to treatment once a day, 5 days a week, 8 weeks. I rule this out because my work schedule was already heavy and I did not have time or energy to make trip those many trips with increasingly getting tired as the sessions went on.
Open prostatectomy Surgery. In this surgery, my prostate would be removed through a single long cut made in my abdomen from a point below my navel to just above the pubic bone. There is also a check to nearby lymph nodes for cancer. There would also be attempt to not harm the nerves (Nerve-sparing) near my prostate. These important nerves control erections and normal bladder function. I choose this method because it required me a hospital stay of 3 days.
My choice of Open Prostatectomy Surgery meant dealing with the following side effects:
Bladder Control: for a while, so I would have to wear a Cather at home for 2 weeks to capture urine.
Incontinence: I would have to wear depends or pads until I regain control of the bladder. There will be some leakage as coughing, sneezing and laughing.
It may take between 1 and 2 years to get an erection. This is based on how much nerves that control erection are spared, my age and overall health.
I would only be able to experience dry organism and not have the ability to produce children, because the prostate plays a role in producing semen and since it would be remove that process would be eliminated.
The surgery would not be performed for 30 days so I had time to reflect. As a Christian man one scripture came to my mind trust in the Lord and not in Man. Even though my doctor was an expert at this, my trust was directed in the Lord no matter the outcome. The fact of not having any more children did not bother me, because I already had been blessed by the Lord to produce two and did not want anymore. But have to confess I was concern about the future of my sex life. Was it over now? Is God now calling the rest of my life to celibacy? If so, I do not feel the remainder of my life would be cheated out of sex because I have had my share and enjoyed it but now a new opportunity to discovery so much deeper…intimacy.
The surgery went great. The doctor told me they got it and did not see anything more. However I had to stay in the hospital an extra 4 days. The day I was supposed to leave the catheter clogged up and then exploded on me. The problem was corrected but then I got a fever. The day finally came for me to go home.
That was the most painful and frightening time every in my life, lying in uncontrollable urine flow and pain when the meds worn off. At that moment I did not pray for God to take the pain away but I thanked him that he was with me and I listen to some meditations on God’s word on my iPod. God responded giving me rest for my soul and sleep in between pain medicine sessions.
It has now been 6 months since the surgery and the latest post cancer test has come back showing zero detection of cancer in my body, Praise God. I no longer wear depends or pads and have regain control of my bladder and every now and then experience a little leakage when I cough. The Ed (erectile Dysfunction) is still present. I use to really beat myself up over it, but I don’t any more. I accepted it and put my time and energy into other things. But my doctor wants suggested for me to try Cialis to see if it would work. At first I said no to myself, but then I said for medical reason I will give it a try. It did not work. So I put that on the shelf.
I am back to working out 5 days a week doing 30 minute cardio workouts and 2 days of strength training, and getting back on track to eating a healthy diet. It feels so great to be back as myself, but with a new vision to be all I was design to be for what days remain.
I have accepted to call to live a celibate life. The call to a celibate life does not mean without companionship or friendships, it means the opportunity to experience them on a deeper intimate level.
I hope my story encourages at least one man to man up and take a Prostate Cancer exam for his sake, Love thy self.
Prostate Cancer Support Groups
Prostate Cancer Foundation – www.pcf.org
The Prostate Net – www.prostatenet.org
Male Care – www.malecare.org
Black Doctor – www.blackdoctor.org