I’ve been writing and rewriting my thoughts about ‘memory’ after I came across a song called “I Remember You” by Frank Ifield, recorded in the early 1960’s. I hit the (writing) wall… until today.
I recently posted to Facebook, a note that I have been Cancer FREE for five years. The responses to that post have had my mind spinning like a dreidel all day.
My thoughts have run through memories of losing two of my brothers to cancer, Robert Lynn Coons in 1994, at age 47 and Michael Edward Coons in 2012, at age 56, as well as uncles, aunts, cousins and other friends. In the case of my brothers, their cancers were widely spread by the time they were diagnosed. We don’t know if it included Prostate Cancer. It even hurts to see that in print. Virtually everyone I know and certainly most of those people who clicked on “Like” or commented on that post, have family members, close and distant and friends, whom they’ve also lost to cancer. Seeing that I have survived* it, had to hurt those whose family members and friends did not. I never take that survival for granted. Not ever.* Whatever caused cancer to invade my body could cause it again, only not in the same way. I’m more aware now, but as George Carlin might say, ‘Just because the monkey is off you back, doesn’t mean the circus has left town’.
I ask you; plead with you to be more aware than I was. The diagnosis of existing Prostate Cancer came to me through one of those serendipitous events which grew from what I thought was a different physical problem. I had annual physicals and realized after the fact that my PSA had been climbing over the three previous years. I had seen it but did not process the information.
On the morning of January 2, 2010 Louisa, Seven and I were walking in Washington Park. It was very cold and there was snow on the ground, much like today; nothing unusual about that. Louisa stopped to talk about dogs with a gentleman who was also walking his dog. At some point I realized that I was unsteady. I felt that, if I tried to move I would fall. When they finishing visiting, Louisa started to walk and stopped, asking me what was wrong. I said that I didn’t think I could move without falling. She walked me to a bench and sat with me. She said I had no signs typically associated with a stroke. After a few minutes, perhaps five, I got up and walked some with her. I felt alright, but was shaken enough to schedule an appointment with a doctor. The visit and the subsequent journey, started on January 5, 2010.
Dr. Katherin Compton examined me, took a blood draw and suggested that I visit a neurologist, which I did. She also said that I should visit with a urologist, since my PSA was high, at 9 at the time. For the next four weeks I underwent brain scans, MRI, MRE, eeg, ekg and I don’t recall what else without looking at records. The neurologist confirmed that I had not had a TIA, but most likely experienced low blood sugar at the event in the park.
I did visit the urologist, Dr. Reuven Rosen who suggested a biopsy based on the pattern of the rising PSA. The biopsy showed Prostate Cancer; caught at an early stage. After considering various options of treatment, including natural and chemo, and due to the history of cancer in my family, I chose to have the robotic surgery to remove it. I have and do give thanks to God for his guidance, putting me in care and the skills of Dr. Jeremy Weiss, his staff, nurse, doctors and technicians. I say I am cancer free because, since that surgery on January 4, 2011, my PSA continues to be “undetectable”, which really means ‘not enough to measure’.
My friend, the late Charles Burrell* introduced me to the Hamilton Rademacher Men Cancer Community (HRMCC), two weeks after my surgery. I continue to participate in the support group and encourage you to contact me personally, through Facebook Private Messenger or by phone, if you know of any man whom you think could benefit from our discussions. Men usually don’t want to participate or discuss prostate cancer or talk about any illness. The HRMCC provides an atmosphere where men really do that. Really. *Not to be confused with the well-known Denver musician of the same name.
Prostate Cancer continues to be researched and is supported by groups locally, such as the Prostate Conditions Education Council (PCEC) and through events such as Mac’s Run for PCEC and the Denver Blue Shoe 5k, hosted by The Urology Clinic of Colorado (TUCC). I’ve run in each of those races, wearing a BIB that has a number and the word SURVIVOR on it. I am a five-year survivor of Prostate Cancer. I am careful about what I eat and drink and remain watchful of any changes that might signal a change in that state.
There aren’t many ‘givens’ about Prostate Cancer. Because of the prostate, it’s a male illness, sometimes found as early as ages 40 plus and more often 50 plus. For reasons unknown to date, if is found more often in African American men. I asked a guest speaker at a meeting of the HRMCC, a retired urologist why that is. He said, ‘we just don’t know.’ It’s an important part of the research, but as yet, with no conclusive results.