As I may have mentioned earlier, I have a case of advanced prostate cancer. I’ve two of my three bites at the apple and now it’s time for the third — my urologist dispatched me to an oncologist for further treatment.
The cancer center is on the third floor in a shiny new building, built for this purpose. It’s a nice place.
In visiting my urology guy these past sixteen years, I could sit in the waiting room, check out all the other waiting patients and imagine what brought them to this place. Ah, the woman in pink, bet she has a bladder infection. Over there, that man with the pained expression has stone. The young man next to me might have gonorrhea or possibly syphilis. Ah, the old dude; bet he has cancer too. It was a nice little game to play while awaiting my turn.
But the Cancer Center is different, and I knew it the moment I walked in the door. It was in the air: An earnest and somewhat anxious solicitude on everyone’s part. They gushed kindness. Peace be upon you, my son.
When we got on the elevator, we encountered an emaciated woman in a wheelchair accompanied by a man her age and a younger woman. Probably her husband and daughter. She looked like hell: Veins showing through a darkened, blotchy thin skin and a face ravaged by wrinkles. When the door opened Jo and I stood aside; Oh, please – after you madam. Was she here for chemo? X-rays? Maybe some of the new medicines that seem to actually stymie, if not cure, cancer.
The registration desk was set in a quiet area (everything there was quiet) with a room full of large comfortable looking chairs. Most of the chairs were already occupied. It was a somber tableau, for everyone I saw had failed the standard treatments and now here they were, ready to take the last and final stab at averting death. Me included. No bladder stones or syphilis here, everyone within eye-shot had terminal cancer. Everyone. It was a strange feeling, and not a good one, let me tell you. This was the City of the Walking Dead.
My oncologist is a nice young fellow from Ceylon or India or someplace in that part of the world. I’d checked him out on the internet and the clinic’s website and he looked to be an OK doc. Of course I brought Jo with me. She’s good at remembering details and would absorb far more of them than would I, for I was primarily busy asking question after question after question.
I’m seventy-four so I know I’ll kick the bucket in the next 10-12 years. Now Jo, and buddy Dale and friend Debbie, all know they are going to die too, but they don’t know where, when or, most importantly, from what. Not me, I know that absent an intervening heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, maybe even a car wreck, I will definitely die of cancer and, as everyone in the doleful group sitting around me knows, it ain’t gonna be pretty.
After a forty-five-minute consultation, Jo, the doctor and I arrived at a plan of action — a plan that should keep me going until one of the aforesaid maladies takes me out. The plan is this:
In November, I get another PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test to gauge how fast the tumor is growing.
Based on its growth rate, I can opt for a treatment called Provenge TM, which goes for about $100,000 and if not that, then a different, less costly treatment that gives equivalent results. I also insisted on an experimental treatment, should one come in over the transom between now and November. Doc said he’d keep his eyes open and call if one comes in. Doc said the labs are hot with new medicines and that new treatments are coming in almost daily.
Doc says he believes in the cutting edge. So do I.
My tumor, or tumors, are small. Maybe 3-4 cubic millimeters altogether. and Doc says the earlier I start on some new protocol, the better my chances for a long-term remission. My timing, Doc said, is propitious. Outside of insurance coverage, the determination of which to use first will depend on the PSA test.
I also told Doc I won’t go for any of that chemotherapy stuff. I don’t want to be shot full of a sub-lethal doses of various poisons. I don’t want to spending a week puking out my guts, shitting blood, losing all my hair, bloating like a dead fish and getting messed up by chemo brain. This last is when the poisons will have damaged my brain such that I’ll spend the rest of my life sitting in a corner, twiddling my hair, not knowing whither to shit or blind.
Well, patient reader,that’s about it I just wanted to share.