I'm going to invite everyone to re-blog, tweet, and otherwise share this post today. We all wish our posts got that much love, but this one is important. If you are a man, love a man, or maybe both, this post is important.
I debated long and hard about sharing this at all. It involves personal information, and I like to keep a bit of privacy. I had to weigh the fact that my mother reads this blog, along with at least two co-workers, against the possibility of helping someone else. Someone else won.
Popular rumor holds that a man should have certain things checked medically once he turns 50. In typical male fashion, I waited until I was 53 and 8 months to schedule my colonoscopy. This is a degrading procedure that involves shoving a camera into places that aren't visible by design. I thought it was degrading, but at least they have the courtesy to knock you out before taking their selfies and such.
The good news is there was nothing wrong. Well, almost nothing. They said my blood pressure was high, and I should get it checked out.
My wife is a phlebotomist, and told me to get it checked and to order some blood work while I was there. Apparently, they can learn all about me by testing my blood. They ran tests about diabetes, thyroid, metachlorians, and whatever else they could think up. They also started me on blood pressure medication.
It turns out I have a thyroid, some other glands, and even a heart. (Contrary to popular opinion.) I will also never become a Sith Master. However, “Mr. Boyack, your PSA is a little bit high.”
Yeah, the name of this post is a word joke. It's the only way I can remember what the issue is. I quizzed the doctor for a while. Turns out this is some chemical produced my prostate gland. I'm higher than normal. Score! Turns out that's a bad thing. This was doctor #2, who sent me to see a urologist, doctor #3.
A urologist can't be that bad, right? Even walking into something called the Tumor Institute puts a weight on your soul. Turns out where doctor #3 decided to stick his fingers had nothing to do with my winkie. (I'm all for keeping things in order, but it would be poetic if he was doctor #2. Just saying.) “Mr. Boyack, your prostate is enlarged, but I don't detect any lumps or tumors.” We decided to repeat the PSA test when I got my blood pressure checked again at doctor #2.
Months roll by, and at 54 years old I got my PSA checked again. It was even higher than before, and #2 insisted I return to #3 to have a biopsy taken. He insisted pretty strongly.
At this point, a funk came over me. It really has made a difference at my workplace, in my writing, and my blogging. Some of you will remember me taking a mulligan on one of my regular posting days. I made the appointment and took some leave from work.
Last week they did the procedure. Cute nurse A took me to a room and collected all my vitals. I was relieved when she left the room, but that wouldn't last. They made an attempt to cover the probe with a paper towel, but it wasn't hard to see. This thing is about the size and shape of my wife's curling iron. It was a wonderful Hitchcockian few moments seeing the probe, knowing where they were going to shove it, and waiting for it to be over. (Thank God it wasn't the size of my daughter's curling iron.)
Cute nurse B came into the room and told me to undress from the waist down. She told me I could leave my socks on. (Gosh thanks.) She stayed to make sure I was completely humiliated, and had me assume the fetal position on the bed. Then she squirted some kind of pain killer up my backside. (Didn't even kiss me first.)
Turns out the probe is kind of a high tech device. It's an ultrasound, but can also inject even more anesthetic, and collect the biopsy samples. #3 took his sweet time about it; maybe he wanted to savor the moment. He twisted toward my tailbone, then my front, left, right, deep, shallow. All the while, his probe made loud snaps that felt like a rubber band snap. This was the gathering of samples. I just stared at the wall and prayed for a massive stroke.
He took 12 samples in all and turned to leave. I had to stop him, and this bothers me a bit. I wanted to see the image, and know what he found. He had the decency to show me, and said there were no lumps or tumors. My prostate is enlarged though. I never do anything half assed (couldn't resist). Turns out my prostate is three times larger than normal for a man my age. Normal is like a walnut, mine's like a tangerine.
Cute nurse B stuck around to watch me get dressed, and to make sure I was properly mortified. I must not have done a good job, because she offered me a pad for my underwear. No thanks, I'd rather burn my clothes when I get home. If she'd offered me a lemon slice and a shot of hemlock right then, I'd have taken it.
I wanted nothing more than a hot bath. If you ever read fiction about a rape scene, and the victim spends hours in the shower afterward — believe it.
Waiting for the lab results was fun. You get to see blood pass from every orifice south of your belly button. It also takes a week and requires another office visit.
In this day of emails, FaceTime, Skype, etc. I still had to use more leave to physically walk under that Tumor Institute sign once more.
Today was the day. Would this be a life changing moment? Loss of the prostate gland means losses in lifestyle too. Sex would never be the same again. Various therapies are also life changing. Would my beard fall out? Would I turn white headed?
It turns out they did not discover cancer in any of the samples. Cancer is a bit like Bigfoot though. All they can guarantee is they didn't find it. They can't promise it isn't present at all. Doctor #3 talked to me about drugs that can reduce the size of my prostate. He also said it was a quality of life issue, and I have to decide when. It wasn't bothering me before my colonoscopy. He told me to check my PSA every year from now on, and that's the most recent update.
Part of me wonders if I'd gotten the colonoscopy in 2010, if I'd have missed out on the high blood pressure. This could be a bad thing. Without high blood pressure, I never would have had the blood work done. Things happen for a reason, and I have to accept that.
I want to go to Joe's Crab Shack now to celebrate my brush with cancer. Eating the zodiac symbol for cancer feels appropriate.
I've done all the research to write a smashing story about alien probing. I think I'll pass on that one.
I've let a bit of my grouchiness get on this page. The fact is prostate cancer is no joke, and people die from it. The whole process is embarrasing, and you'll have some strange thoughts about what your future holds. The cancerous alternative isn't funny at all. If you get it checked soon enough, you may live to publish that alien probing story.
I encourage all men to get things checked. It's kind of our way to wait until there is a problem, but by the time you have a problem it could be too late.
It's been a few hours since I wrote this. I'm struggling with whether I should hit publish or delete. I really am a private, introverted person. Still, it's worth it if it inspires one person to get things checked out before it's too late.