16 March – My Own Personal Holiday

For the second year in a row, 16 March is a significant day for me. Going forward, I think I am going to informally consider today’s date as my personal “New Beginning Day” day.

Last year, 16 March 2012 was my first day “post-treatment” for prostate cancer. My radiation treatment for prostate cancer was over – I had endured forty-four (44) consecutive sessions of external beam radiation therapy and by this date a year ago I was “done” (the treatment side effects lingered for a while but more on that another time).

external_beam

On this day last year, I was filled with hope and optimism about the future and resolved I would make my life the way I had always envisioned it to be, or at least as close as possible. It was my first day of wellness and I was excited…

Fast-forward to 16 March 2013 – one year later. After a particularly challenging year at work, my business partner and I have decided to close our store at its current location and re-open it in a different area of Cleveland. It was a long-discussed, agonizing decision that caused us both many sleepless nights and endless days of worry.

we-are-moving-box

In the end, we decided we had no choice but to make the move and I am quite excited about it. I worked my last day in our existing store yesterday so, again, 16 March is another new beginning for me. It is the first day on my new journey to greater business success.

I shared this story with a friend and he just shook his head. “Wow, that’s a lot happening in twelve months – cancer treatment, closing a business. I know you must be sad and tired.” 

head in hands

Tired?  Sure. Sad?  Not so much. More like – Grateful. Excited. Happy. All in all, I actually consider myself to be pretty lucky…

I mean, so far, I am a “Cancer Survivor.”  All my numbers look good, the side effects have all but vanished, my overall general health is great so I am lucky.group fingers

I will be celebrating five years this August with the most wonderful partner ever, my beloved Martin. I thank The Universe every day that he came into my life and I cannot even fathom my future without him. He’s the best!!!

finer couple

I am lucky to be in business with another great guy, Scott, who is the perfect complement to my craziness. This may sound weird, but we are a great team and balance one another well. Our skill sets “mesh” and that is amazing.yin

I know my store is “closing” but we are only re-locating, not closing forever. Every successful business has to re-adjust and re-define itself periodically to continue to be successful and grow. So, I am lucky in that respect, too.

I guess it is somehow oddly symbolic that my personal “New Beginning Day” should fall on 16 March 2013. I mean, it is the eve of St. Patrick’s Day and the symbol I always associate with St. Paddy’s Day is a Lucky Four Leaf Clover.

four-leaf-clover

I guess I AM a pretty lucky guy. “Happy New Beginning Day” to you!

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