Cancer. It's not a pretty word. It is not a pretty disease, either. It has no respect for creed nor color nor station in life, and we all have been affected by its malevolence. We have battled cancer or watched a friend or loved one battle cancer. We have celebrated with the victors and mourned with those who have succumbed and we have prayed for those who have contracted cancer and pledged our resources to help doctors and researchers find cures and preventions for the various types.
We have worn ribbons of every hue and run road races and gathered in parking lots and on fairgrounds and sponsored festivals and walked and slept outside and done everything short of dancing naked under a full moon to try to raise money to help continue to wage the war that we are determined to win.
And if the truth be known, each of us has probably feared the day when we, ourselves, might be diagnosed. We have probably wondered how we would react and whether we were up to the task of fighting back. I know I have.
Two months ago, while undergoing pre-op at a local hospital for an upcoming surgery, I got a call on my cellphone from my primary care physician. He gave me some news that took my mind right off my approaching hernia repair and gall bladder extraction. He told me that my PSA -- which has something to do with the three test tubes of blood his nurse had taken from my veins during my semi-annual physical the previous week -- had gone from 0 to 6 in about six months. He told me that there was a really good chance that I had prostate cancer and that I needed to contact a urologist and schedule a biopsy.
Biopsy. There's another not so pretty word. I was familiar with that process, having waited out a few of those in the past -- for myself and other loved ones. I wasn't prepared for how uncomfortable this one would be, however.
They bring you into a room and put you in the most uncomfortable and embarrassing position you can imagine and insert an instrument into part of your body not designed to receive instruments and start firing needles into an inner organ -- grabbing bits of tissue with every thrust. After I reacted quite negatively to the first such intrusion, the physician presiding over my biopsy told me not to worry, because he only had to do it 12 or 13 more times.
I left the doctor's office, bloody and bruised and resigned to the fact that I most likely had prostate cancer. But I wasn't overly concerned because I had heard all the comments everybody makes about that particular disease. You've heard them, too.
"Every man, if he lives long enough, will get prostate cancer."
"A lot more men die with prostate cancer than from it."
"If you have to have cancer, prostate cancer is the kind to have."
None of these comments came from men who had actually had prostate cancer. There is no good kind of cancer.
I went away for a week in New Mexico assuming that I would come home and begin the seed radiation therapy that a lot of men are having these days. I knew that the process would require me to be in the same place at the same time for seven straight weeks and was really irritated that any disease would have the nerve to inconvenience me so drastically. "Doesn't prostate cancer know how busy I am?" I asked myself.
When we returned from the Land of Enchantment, my lovely wife, Lisa, and I went to get the results of the biopsy. I was stunned to learn that my cancer was at a relatively advanced stage and that the radiation therapy was not really a good option for me. The bottom line was that I needed a radical prostatectomy -- a quite intricate procedure that would involve a lot more inconvenience than being in the same place for 35 straight days.
The second opinion we sought was the same as the first, and the third was the same as the second. I couldn't get anybody to tell me that I didn't need to endure the operation.
And I told you all of that to tell you this. Wednesday morning I will be taking the first step in my battle against cancer, and I am not ashamed to admit that while I have all the confidence in the world in a positive outcome, I would appreciate the prayers of everyone who reads these words.
Men, go get your PSA tested. Women, make your men go get their PSA tested. See y'all next week.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.