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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