Posts Tagged ‘Prostate cancer’

GONG DAY–PART TWO

Last August, I celebrated my 45th—and final—radiation treatment for prostate cancer with Gong Day—ringing a large brass gong in the cancer center’s office. But another treatment continued.

Two days ago, I received the last of six quarterly shots of Lupron, which suppresses testosterone, the environment in which prostate cancer cells form and multiply. My urologist’s office lacks a gong, so I rang one internally. My PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) score again was undetectable. When this last shot wears off, my PSA should rise to about 1.0. That’s way below any level of concern.

I write this to pass on the good news and tell men that watching out for prostate cancer shouldn’t be considered an option—or an embarrassment. I reference a puzzling comics panel in the San Francisco Chronicle (12-8-17): “The Fusco Brothers” by J.C. Duffy. One brother appears in a urologist’s office wearing a t-shirt declaring #1 PROSTATE. Doctor: “As a urologist, I’m naturally curious about your t-shirt, Mr. Fusco.” Fusco: “It’s just my way of saying, ‘Nothing to see here!’”

Help me out. Has the doctor notseen Fusco’s PSA results (by no means conclusive), examined his urine or given him a rectal exam? Or is he about to? Fusco is visiting a urologist, which leads me to believe his primary-care physician sent him. Did the primary believe Fusco had a different problem. Bladder, perhaps?

Now to Fusco’s statement. Does “Nothing to see here” mean he anticipates a clean prostate exam? Or, having kept his appointment, is he trying to back out?

Fusco’s smile—or smirk—suggests that his prostate has been given a clean bill of health; he wore the t-short anticipating this and to inform readers that men should follow his example. Get checked. Or maybe, following the sardonic tone of the strip, he’s a doofus, mortified by the exam process.

If you’ve got a good read on this, let me know. But I can state without reservation that blood tests for PSA don’t hurt (and they offer juice), any man can pee into a plastic cup (the bathroom’s private) and a rectal exam (while imperfect) can provide a urologist with useful information.

I’m glad my urologist followed up for several years, used some advanced technology and caught my cancer. Has treatment been a thrill? No. Difficult? Also no. The cancer center with the radiation machine I call “The Beast” has a TV and pool table—which I used. Coffee, too. I experienced some fatigue and went to the bathroom a lot. But after radiation ended, the bathroom bit slowed way down. Energy returned.

The Lupron shots produce hot flashes, but lighter clothes get me through the day and a cool bedroom helps me sleep. Critically, hormone shots offer great odds that I’ll avoid a recurrence of cancer for a long time—hopefully forever. (Although at some advanced age, it won’t matter.)

This year, 29,000 American men will die because they ignored their prostate. Forget the awkwardness of a cartoon character and take it from a real flesh-and-blood guy who’s been there. A #1 prostate is one that gets checked regularly. And if needed, undergoes a relatively short period of treatment that can produce long years of health, activity and joy.

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GONG DAY

On June 9, I wrote “Glowing in the Dark” about my treatment for prostate cancer, highlighted by 45 radiation sessions over nine weeks. Two days ago, my final zapping took place. To celebrate, I banged the gong at the cancer center. I’m glowing brighter than ever.

During radiation treatments, I never experienced pain or discomfort. But every weekday, I drove to the Golden Gate Cancer Center on Townsend Street near AT&T Park. A 10:20 am time slot assured relatively light traffic. Free valet parking saved time. Leaving home to returning totaled 90 minutes.

I experienced some fatigue and “suffered” dietary restrictions. But I continued to walk four to seven miles a day, work on my new novel and marvel at the bizarre White House.

As the magic moment neared, “the Beast”—the radiation machine—swung its final 360-degree arc around my body, destroying cancer cells’ ability to reproduce. My PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level has plummeted from 10-plus prior to treatment to 0.2. Since I still have a prostate, it can’t be zero.

As to the gong: When a patient completes his treatments, he gets to bang a gong near the patient lounge, which includes a large-screen TV and pool table. I took advantage of both, though I’m not sure I now shoot pool any better. (I shot a lot of pool as an undergraduate—badly; that’s another story.)

Six weeks ago, I watched a patient bang the gong. At seventy-three—I celebrated my birthday in July—I’ve learned patience. I took each zapping one at a time while creating milestones to enhance my sense of progress.

Then came my turn. The gong rang true, its tone rich and encouraging. Life is finite, but medical science offers many ways to extend it so that, with some luck, our elder years can be full and rewarding. Mine continue to be just that. If you’re a man middle-aged or older, I paraphrase the Scots poet John Donne: “Never send to know for whom the gong rings. It rings for me—and thee.”

Gong Day included more. Carolyn came down to the center. Our oldest son Seth flew in from Baton Rouge to join us.  In a few weeks, he begins a graduate program in digital arts at Louisiana State University. We have two children—Yosi being the other—living in the South. Perlsteins can’t seem to stay put. We also had dinner with Aaron and our son-in-law Jeremy.

The center’s physicians, technicians and admins were great. In thanks, I brought them pastries from the House of Bagels on Geary Boulevard and a card from Trader Joe’s. Carolyn insists that TJ’s offers the best cards for all occasions. This one worked well.

Concluding Gong Day, Carolyn, Seth and I enjoyed brunch at Town’s End Restaurant & Bakery, 2 Townsend at the Embarcadero—great food and great value. (Yes, this is a well-deserved plug for our friends David and Mary Sperber.) Then Yosi called.

What’s next? Four more testosterone-eliminating hormone shots. After the first two, I find myself doing a good deal of laundry, bed making and kitchen cleanup. Of course, without treatment and over time, I’d be incapable of doing those or any other things. So, I enjoy every moment. And I still hear that gong.

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GLOWING IN THE DARK

In my April 7 post, “What I Have and What I Don’t,” I wrote that I have prostate cancer. My urologist provided several options. To minimize side effects, I chose hormone therapy and radiation—45 precision zappings over nine weeks. I’ve begun both. Interesting changes are taking place.

In April, I took the first of six quarterly shots of Lupron to suppress my testosterone. Ordinary men may quake, but as everyone knows, I had so much testosterone that even eliminating it will not make me any less of a sex symbol than I am in my own mind. My exploits are legend. Which Carolyn translates as fantasy. But a boy can dream. Which Carolyn translates as hallucinate.

Fortunately, the decrease in testosterone has barely impacted my life. Yes, I’ve taken up needlepoint, but my mother did that, so it’s probably genetic. Besides, the (truly) legendary New York football Giants lineman Roosevelt Grier did needlepoint. He also became a successful actor. I might start knitting.

Admittedly, I experience hot flashes throughout the day. And night. It’s a great way to keep warm in winter. Is it winter yet? It is in Australia and Argentina, but it doesn’t get particularly cold there. In fact, San Francisco winters don’t get all that cold. Maybe Carolyn and I will go to New York in January if temperatures approach zero.

My radiation treatments are simple. I lie down and a huge machine revolves around me and pinpoints radiation at my tumors. The day before a treatment, I can’t eat gas-inducing foods. No spicy stuff. No beans. No raw vegetables. Carolyn helped me work out a diet for the next two months. Still, I continue to release gas at interesting moments. The technical word rhymes with fart. Wait! That is the word.

On the bright side, I glow in the dark. The other night, I got up to go to the bathroom and didn’t have to stumble around the bed. In fact, Carolyn called out that I should turn off the damn light. The bedroom was pitch dark.

The only problem with glowing is, I can’t choose a color to match, say, a shirt I’m wearing. I’ve taken up biofeedback, hoping that when the mood strikes, I can change purple to green or orange to blue. Not easy. Oh, and when I’m out at night, I attract moths.

Still, life goes on. I can work on my next novel. It may take three or four years to complete. I also can promote my new novel, The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht. I’m doing that in this post. Are you ready to buy a copy? I hope so. Not that I’m trying to guilt-trip anyone, although my friends will disagree. It’s just that I have copies left which I’d love to sell and sign. Or have Amazon sell, so I can receive a royalty on each that won’t buy coffee at Starbucks.

Look, I’m only human and therefore self-interested. So, if half the people who say, “Oh, how exciting that you have a new novel out” buy a copy, I’ll probably be featured in The New York Times. Or maybe in my synagogue’s newsletter. Either achievement would be as using my radioactive brain to glow the blue of Adonis’ eyes.

Unashamed reminder: You can purchase THE ODD PLIGHT OF ADONIS LICHT directly from me or at Amazon. If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

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WHAT I HAVE AND WHAT I DON’T

I have prostate cancer. I also have much to be thankful for. My urologist caught it early. The cancer is confined to my prostate. It’s completely curable.

I have an attentive primary-care physician and an attentive urologist. My primary, at my annual physicals, evaluated a steady rise in my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) scores. A few years ago, he referred me to my urologist. Two biopsies proved negative, but my PSA kept rising. My urologist suggested a new blood screening—the 4K test. It led to an MRI, which revealed several small growths. A guided biopsy proved positive. Radiation and hormone therapy will kill the cancer and prevent new malignancies from developing.

What I don’t have is an attitude of “Why me?” Most men develop prostate cancer if they live long enough. Most die with it, not of it. Many who do die of prostate cancer may not have had regular checkups. Their undetected cancer spread to their bones and/or organs.

What I don’t have, as well, is a loss of spirit. I’d probably feel differently if I’d been diagnosed with brain cancer, pancreatic cancer or leukemia. I’ve had family and friends who died from all the above at an early age. They suffered. I have no symptoms.

What I also don’t have is a sense of lost invincibility. Both my urologist and radiation oncologist mentioned that even with a prognosis of full recovery, many men with prostate cancer are rocked on their heels. They discover their own mortality. I’ve never thought I wouldn’t die. My grandparents died. My parents and all but one of their generation died. A cousin died of leukemia at 12. A friend was killed when the Medevac helicopter he piloted in Vietnam was shot down. A client died at 27 many years ago in a car crash on the Golden Gate Bridge. There were others.

The biblical story of Adam and Eve reminds us that death is inevitable. Denied the fruit of the Tree of Life, no one enjoys immortality. The story of their sons Cain and Abel alerts us that death may come before its time—and at our own hands.

Unfortunately, here’s something else I don’t have: faith in our government as presently constituted to help millions of Americans obtain and/or maintain the healthcare they need—the healthcare I fortunately have. Further, I don’t have faith in a president who only discovered in his first weeks in office that the issue of healthcare is complex.

Added to that, I don’t have faith in many members of Congress, who approach healthcare in purely ideological terms, eschewing compassion and compromise in the name of politics. For that matter, I don’t have faith in pharmaceutical companies who develop life-saving drugs but make it difficult or impossible for many Americans to afford them.

I won’t be updating you on my medical story, such as it is. I’ll be fine. The story that is on my mind is a new novel that will take three or four years to complete. I’ll have the time. I wish I could say the same for potentially millions of Americans whose health and very lives may be forfeit because Washington would prevent them from obtaining the healthcare coverage and medical assistance they need and deserve.

I also have a desire to be read. Check out the first two chapters of my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website. I’ll host a celebration on Sunday, April 30, selling and autographing softcover books. Can’t be there? Go to Amazon for a copy in softcover or digital format.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

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