A Rep Deals (Gracefully) With Cancer
Thursday, July 15, 2010Now that I have the shock and awe out of the way, I wanted to relate a medical condition that I have been dealing with over the past 20 years.
I have been vacillating over the past eight weeks regarding how and in what detail I should inform my manufacturers, key customers, fellow business associates, friends and neighbors on my current situation. I have decided the best course of action is to be fairly transparent. Two reasons: I have no wish to have 1,000 one-hour conversations with the entire world relating the blow by blow of my recent medical history and future prognosis. Secondly, it might be somewhat helpful to folks that may have or could have issues with respect to the walnut-sized organ known as the prostate.
First, a little primer on the prostate is in order. Basically, there are three major medical issues that guys can have with the prostate. They are as follows:
- *Prostatitis - This is an infection of
the prostate. It can come in two forms, acute and chronic. The acute form can
come on suddenly for no apparent reason and can be treated with antibiotics for
several weeks. This is a once-and-done type of medical event. The chronic form
of this infection reoccurs and is very difficult to treat. Since about age 35,
I have been plagued with the chronic variety about every 12 to 18 months. The
treatment for chronic prostatitis is long-term antibiotic therapy. In my case,
I have been taking Ciprofloxacin (this is the stuff that they give you for
anthrax poisoning) for anywhere from one month to as much as six months with
some very nasty side effects that I will not go into.
- *Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia/BPH - This is a
non-cancerous slow growth of the prostate. Because the prostate sits below the
bladder and surrounds the urethra, it tends to affect urination over time as
the prostate grows and slowly compresses the urethra. This is a very common
ailment in older men. It is the reason why some of us get up continually in the
middle of the night for trips to the bathroom. Most middle aged men have a
prostate size of about 40 grams. My prostate is a "keeper" at 80
- *Prostate Cancer - No need for explanation here. Cancer is cancer. Everyone knows the deal.
From what I have been told by my urologists, there is no medical evidence anywhere that the above three conditions are related in any way. That being said, because I am a winner in both Door #1(infections) and Door #2 (BPH), I have been watched very carefully over the past several years. This has included the standard DRE (digital rectal exam) and PSA/PCA-3 Blood Marker Exams. The unfortunate thing about PSA blood testing is that it is not a direct indication of cancer. Prostate infections and Benign Prostate Hyperplasia can and does mimic the same blood test results as cancer.
As a result, I have been introduced over the past several years to the delightful experience of a Trans-Rectal Ultrasound Guided Prostate Biopsy on multiple occasions. (I highly recommend this "experience" to my progressive/liberal friends on a weekly basis.) There is no better way to spend an afternoon than getting intimate with a pneumatic nail gun taking cores out of your body via your rectum. Literally, a pain in the ass!
With respect to my specific situation, they have been digging around in me for years with the multiple biopsies (12 cores at a time, once a year) with no findings of any cancer. On my last "adventure" they did come back with a single core of about 1cm of cancer. They test this sample for the type of cancer on a scale to determine how aggressive it is. Fortunately, in my case what they found was not the aggressive variety. I have spent the last eight weeks looking at my options, including surgery, radiation, freeze therapy, bead implants and - believe it or not - watchful waiting.
Because of the reality that I have everything wrong with this organ that one can have, I have decided that I am going to part ways with my prostate via robotic laparoscopic surgery this coming Monday at the Lahey Clinic outside of Boston. I have been told that my statistical prognosis - due to my PSA testing, the size of the cancer, how many negative cores were taken with no cancer and the aggressiveness of the cancer - is that I have a 95% probability of being cancer-free in 15 years. This appears to be a once-and-done treatment with no radiation and/or chemo needed.
I am going to get on my soapbox here a little bit. From what my urologists tell me, prostate cancer and thyroid cancer are the two completely curable cancers if caught early. The operative word is "early," as in before the cancer can exit the prostate into the lymph nodes or bone. One interesting fact: According to the American Cancer Society, up to 8% of 20-year-old males who have been autopsied after an auto accident or as a war casualty have cancer in their prostates. On the other side of the coin, up to 80% of 80-year-old males have this disease. The moral of the story is, do not avoid your PSA testing. Make sure that your doctors are ordering these tests during routine physicals.
Do not spend much time being concerned with Karl Grabowski. I may be out of the game recovering for several weeks, but be advised, I am not going anywhere. I have way too many scores to settle!
Friday, July 30, 2010I am happy to report that I am still here!
This has certainly been an eventful last 10 days. One thing that I discovered in recovery at home is how much I detest watching TV. I have concluded that it is undermining our entire civilization.
As to my medical update, from everything that they are telling me, my blood work, my post-op prostate pathology and the reports from my surgeons have all come back completely and totally clean. It appears that I will need no further treatment.
As to my recovery, I expect to be off the board for several weeks. I will have to live with the catheter for another week and will graduate to my Captain Commander Adult Sporty Underpants for several weeks after that. I will have access to email. They have hidden my car keys from me. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to have an additional set made that no one knows about, so I can sneak into the office from time to time.
If my tale of woe can be helpful in creating awareness of the need for testing, I am all for it.