Today is MY Blue Ribbon Day

Today is a significant anniversary for me – one year ago today, on 16 January 2012, I began treatment for prostate cancer.

I was very private about my cancer diagnosis/treatment and began my journey through “external beam radiation therapy” one year ago today. Monday through Friday, for forty-four consecutive days, I traveled at 6:30 AM to the UH Seidman Cancer Center for a daily blast of radiation, with the ultimate goal of eradicating my cancer and maintaining complete “erectile function.”

It is estimated that one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. I posses, unfortunately,  the “perfect profile” as my father has also had prostate cancer. I am coming out today as a prostate cancer survivor in the hope that, by sharing my story and experience, others will be tested for prostate cancer and maybe I can help save someone’s life. The same article that stated the 1 in 6 figure above also shared that every 18 minutes someone dies as a result of untreated/undiagnosed prostate cancer. I hope I can help change that…

ImageI had been on unrelated testosterone replacement therapy for fatigue for probably two years when my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) number went a bit “wonky.” (Frequent PSA testing is a standard part of testosterone replacement therapy). The PSA test is generally considered the litmus test for the presence of cancerous cells in a man’s prostate. When your PSA numbers cross a certain numeric threshold, there is cause for concern. A biopsy of tissue collected from my prostate confirmed the presence of irregular, cancerous cells. After a year of “watchful waiting,” I decided to proceed with treatment in the hopes of achieving the best possible results.

Many doctor visits followed, gathering second/third opinions and lots and lots of additional testing. After weighing the treatment options available, I decided upon external beam radiation therapy as the treatment. That treatment allowed my life to continue with little interruption and seemed to have the lowest percentage of negative side effects. I was accepted into a clinical trial that will follow my recovery for three years. A few more tests, assignment to my treatment team, a dry run with the staff/machinery and I was good to go. The treatments began one year ago today.

For almost nine weeks, I rose every day at 5:30 AM to be on dark roads by 6:30 so I could be “in the treatment room” at 7AM. The four members of my treatment team are caring, healing individuals and made the procedure and process as painless and easy as possible. After the second week, we joked and talked every session about things like work, the color of my underwear, what we planned on doing over the weekend…

At the time I entered treatment, I made the decision NOT to share my situation with the world at large. I passed though the treatment supported by my baker’s dozen – my beloved partner Martin (who was as loving, caring and nurturing/supportive a caregiver and partner as I could have ever wished for) and a dozen of my closest friends and family members. You might ask why I chose to be so private about my condition; I guess I felt it better for my business to keep my cancer treatment on the down-low. I also had trouble dealing with what I had come to call “Cancer Face.”

Cancer Face is the look you see come over people’s faces when you share with them that you have been diagnosed with cancer. It is a look that combines fear, sadness, pity and love, and it was hard enough for me to see it appear on the faces of the people I loved, let alone from people I only knew socially or professionally. The C-word (cancer) scares people – it scared me. So, armed with my baker’s dozen of allies, I moved through treatment.

I won’t lie. Sometimes I wondered if it was all worth it…

Fatigue. Unfamiliar body cues. Uncontrollable urinary urges. A complete loss of libido. A total feeling of general “un-sexiness.” Fear of being more than three minutes from a bathroom. Radiation sunburn on my bottom that made me feel and look like a red ass baboon (Google it).  But forty-four sessions passed and I was done. Now the real work began.

Hoping…

Hoping I had made the right decision.

Hoping the radiation had “gotten it all.”

Hoping that my willy would still work after treatment (so far, so good!) And,

Hoping that prostate cancer will be the only cancer I have to face in my life…

I feel very blessed. I feel pretty good so far. My life has returned to near normal; in fact, I think it may be even better than before treatment. I have begun to take better care of myself. I value the friendships I have. I thank The Universe every day for my wonderful partner Martin, and all the love we share. And most importantly, I realize what a gift every single day is for me…

The symbol for prostate cancer awareness is a blue ribbon. Its blue, I’m sure, because blue is a manly color, and it serves as a compliment to the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. But I like to think that ribbon is blue because it symbolizes my victory (hopefully) over cancer. Winners are always awarded a blue ribbon, right?

Prostate-Cancer

8 responses to “Today is MY Blue Ribbon Day

    • Thanks, Nathan! Technically, I have to be “cancer-free” for five years before I can really be dubbed a survivor but I am pretty impatient about things like that, LOL!. Hope your father is doing well and you watch your health, too!

  1. Cousin Tim,
    Congratulations on being cancer free. I could totally relate to the “Cancer Face” statement you made – it actually made me chuckle as I remember telling family, friends, and co-workers about my thyroid cancer and getting the “Cancer Face” look from them! It started to become a bit funny to me. But, I guess that when we’re dealing with something like the “C-word”, we need to find humor in things. From one cancer survivor to another, my very best wishes for a lifetime of excellent health for you! :o)

  2. Tim,

    Welcome to the club!! It’s been 5 1/2 years for me and I know all to well of what your went through and are still going through. I have my annual visit coming up in a few weeks and I dread that day every time until my Dr. comes in and gives me the thumbs up!! To make matters worse the Insurance Gods…or so they think they are….have denied any more scans so we have to go off of blood work guessing. I still have chemo brain, I still stutter at times and I can still look at someone I’ve known for many many many years and forget their name but, all in all I am thankful that I’m still here to watch my kids become young adults and to share every moment with Robin who has been there for me all along.
    Huge hugs and keep up the good work because some days it can be work!!! I just say…I’m still here because you can’t kill evil and I still have a huge list of people to piss off before I go anywhere!!!

    Love you!!!

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