Skip to main content

The Call

Being diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease is one of the cornerstones of the American psyche. We are raised on movies about it. It's the plot point of many television series. We fantasize about what it would be like to tell the world "I'm dying". Those of us who grew up during the Cold War fantasized about being consumed in a nuclear war. We'd have maybe 30 minutes to do whatever and then poof! It's kind of the same thing. It's something that happens to you that you can't prevent, so you have this opportunity to make your last living statement in a fixed time frame, after which it's out of your hands. What would you do? Would you be the same person you always were, only more so? Would you just keep going the same as always? Would you try to make amends for your failures? Would you go all Mr Hyde, living it up, doing and saying all the things you wanted to in life, but didn't out of some moral obligation that's been rendered null and void by a terminal disease? Let's face it: it's fun to try on all the alternatives and visualize how you would look.

Up to Thursday afternoon around 4pm, I had been having a grand time trying on the idea that I had cancer. I practiced what I'd say when the doctor told me in sonorous tones: "You have cancer". I'd settled on either "Oh Heck!" delivered in a British accent or David Sedaris' priceless observation after he sneezed a cough drop into the crotch of the woman sleeping next to him on a plane - "OH FUUCCKK! NOW WHAT?" I did all of this, of course, secure in the knowledge that I didn't have cancer. I'm too young for prostate cancer. I have no symptoms. I'm in the best shape of my life! I'm way too busy killing myself with alcohol to have something else go wrong. I would say I'm preparing myself for whatever results come back, but deep inside, I knew I wasn't sick.

And then there's the call. Two of the tissue samples had malignant cells. I had Prostate Cancer. I had joined 16% of American men who have this disease. To make matters worse, the doctor didn't pause after telling me. He just kept right on going, talking over my lines. Totally ruined the moment. Every doctor should take an acting course and put some effort on their timing.

He had called me on my cell and I was scrambling to get out of the office to get some privacy. My staff knew about the biopsy but I wanted to tell them the outcome, not have them deduce it from my side of a phone conversation. I got to the hallway but couldn't hold the phone and swipe my id card to get out so I ended up sitting on the floor talking to him. He didn't want to go into details on the biopsy until he could see me in person. He told me his office was going to schedule me for a bone density scan to see if the cancer had spread outside the prostate. He also encouraged me not to do much research on the web about treatment options or outcomes. An odd request considering my profession. He sounded sorry to give me the news. I think he was. It must be hard to make that call to patients over and over again.

I took a walk around outside for a few minutes. I took a call from the doctor's office telling me I'd been scheduled for the bone scan tomorrow. I went back to the office and told Miko and Sean the news. Then I called Carolyn and left her a message. Then I went back to work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hawaii Part I

This is a year of great portent for Carolyn and me. All kinds of things lined up. It's our 30th anniversary! Actually, it's the 30th anniversary of our first date which turned into a sleepover which turned into nightly sleepovers which turned into moving in together which turned into buying a house together which turned into buying another house together and breaking out in cats, which is pretty much where we are now. Exactly in the middle of those 30 years we got married. It was sometime in July, we have it written down somewhere. That's not to say we take the marriage lightly. It means a great deal to us, though for some reason, we aren't getting the spouse's discount on rental cars that I thought came with the package. Anyway, 15 years of being bound in matrimony this year too. It's also Carolyn's 65th birthday, which is maybe the biggest deal. Oh, and there's a solar eclipse in August. If you're big on numerology and signs from the Heavens, this…

After this Winter - Some thoughts on losing my way

Last weekend I dug my bibs out of the closet, suited up and did the Mudslinger mountain bike race again. Some confusion after the race got me thinking about paths, wayfinding, and getting lost. It also got me thinking about politics.

This was the 30th annual Mudslinger which means we share an anniversary! A couple actually. Carolyn and I have been together 30 years and I started racing mountain bikes 30 years ago. My race prep this year consisted mainly of gassing up the car the day before driving down to the race. I think I've ridden outside four times since Christmas. Still, I wasn't going to miss this one. I did the second Mudslinger in 1988 and quite a few after that until I stopped racing in 1996. I've done it at least six more times since I started racing again in 2008.

I finished pretty far back in the field but ahead of a few dozen racers. I wasn't the only one having trouble getting the base miles in. More importantly, I had fun. It was a beautiful sunn…

Some thoughts on the road's end

I didn't get many Christmas cards out this year. Didn't do a letter either. I'm sorry about that. Here's what happened.

Less than a week before Christmas, my in-laws reached a crisis point that signaled the end of their independent lives and the beginning of ongoing nursing care. I want to recount the journey to that crisis point. I apologize for the length of this. I need to get it out of my head. I need to document this because my in-laws are wonderful people who have reached the end of their independent lives and I want you to know what it was like.

The crisis had been building for some time. We knew something was going to happen to push this forward. Indeed, Merle and Catherine are where we wanted them to be but their journey there was so abrupt and terrible sounding, it actually made people laugh when I recounted it. We tried to get ahead of what was coming but the desire to let Merle and Catherine continue to live at home combined with their determination to stay…