I Wonder

This year, I will be fifty-six years old. Five. Six. And – as it turns out – I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning at 8:20AM. (I try to be fairly pro-active regarding my health, especially since my treatment for prostate cancer a couple of years ago). I like to think I am a reasonably healthy guy, probably due in no small part to the fact that I have been bombarded daily with “things-that-are-bad-for-you” warnings my entire life – smoking is hazardous to your health, excess weight is terrible, too much fat, too much caffeine, too much salt – it’s all, really, just been too much, period. But it has me thinking lately: Can too much weather change be hazardous to my health? I plan on asking my doc tomorrow.

four seasonsFor those unfamiliar, I live in The United States – in Cleveland, Ohio. This week, weather-wise, my city/state will virtually experience all four seasons within a five day period. I mean, it was almost sixty degrees (60!) on Tuesday afternoon; a little more than 24 hours later, we were experiencing a ridiculous winter snow squall with temps fifty degrees – 50 degrees! – less than the day before. (Trust me, it sucked. Flip flops one day, snow shoes the next!) And it made me wonder – no matter what the weather actually IS, can too MUCH weather be bad for your general health? I definitely think it is bad for my MENTAL health…

I mean, here’s a personal timeline: Too much candy is bad for me (age 6). Thinking too much about sex is bad for me (age 13). Smoking/drinking is bad for me (age 18). School is too stressful (age 28). Drinking too much is bad for me (age 30). I work too many hours (age 40). Drinking too much is bad for me (again at age 42). Starting my own business is too taxing (age 46). Too many calories are bad for me (my whole fricken’ life!) So is too much snow, temperature/humidity variations and climate change bad for me, too? (age 55).

warningI guess we’ll all find out at the end of this winter (if it EVER ends). I am already speaking with my therapist about addressing the American Psychiatric Association to announce a NEW mental “condition” to add to my list of disorders – P3T2SD (Prolonged, Personal, Post-Traumatic Seasonal Stress Disorder). Kinda’ catchy, huh? It’s yet to be recognized by mental healthcare professionals but I am working hard to get it added to treatment schedules. I am also hoping that it can be treated not only through therapy but with a new category of yet-to-be-FDA-approved mood stabilizers/enhancers. If my wish comes true, the new drug of choice will be named “Nomosnowzium.” Available by prescription only – ask your doctor…

Tim vs. The Cold Sore; score – Tim 0, Cold Sore 1

I have been pretty healthy my whole life. (OK, the whole prostate cancer “thing” last year maybe challenges that notion, but…) I have been lucky, so lucky in fact that I am really kinda’ stupid about what to do when I am faced with an illness. This week is a perfect example.

I have never had a cold sore or fever blister in my entire fifty-four plus years of life – UNTIL this week. Triggered (I think) by work-related stress, on Monday my lip felt sore and a little itchy, and I thought I saw a “bump” starting there. So, I freaked out, vain creature that I am, and began “Abreva-ing” the hell outta’ my lip. Like hella’ medicating. I mean, I applied Abreva to my suspected “site” probably every hour on the hour; in fact, I woke up twice during the night to re-apply the cream.

AbrevaAnyway, as a result of three days of overzealous Abreva application, I still have a bump on my lip but I think it is the result of aggressively attacking my suspected cold sore. I mean, I think it is like a chemical burn or something. This is what my lip looks like today (warning Рthe following image is NOT for the squeamish):

photoSo, as you can see, in spite of my most focused and best treatment efforts, I STILL have a big, red bump on my bottom lip. STILL. Sadly, the photo also shows that I could use a shave and beard trim, LOL!

I know that spot/bump will go away and I know that, even though I think it looks like an irritated tangerine has taken up residence on my lip, it is really not even all that noticeable. That said, every time I passed a mirror today I checked it out and tried to convince myself it was A). smaller, and B). less red and irritated-looking. Sigh…

Maybe next time I’ll just ride it out – if there even IS a next time. OMG, what am I saying? I am so stressed out now about how it looks I anticipate another “outbreak” very soon. Please, help me. Someone. Please? ¬†ūüėČ

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 Рone 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