For those of you who are regular readers and have read the previous posts on Cancer, you can skip this first paragraph.This is the latest installment in my occasional series about how I'm adjusting to living with a big C in my life. For those of you who aren't, here's a quick summary. I'm 51 years old and in October 2011 I had a prostate biopsy following two "slightly high" PSA tests - 2.8 & 4.1. The biopsy took ten tissue samples and one of these showed a "low grade cancer" which gives me a 3+3 on the Gleason scale. I'm now on a program of active monitoring. In early February, I got the results of the a PSA test - down to 3.5 and an MRI scan which found absolutely nothing, two more tests in 2012 were at 3.5 and 3.9. My latest PSA test in August was not quite so promising, back up to 4.0, in other words the downward trend has stopped. I've no symptoms and sadly for a few people, if I'm gonna die soon, it won't be from Prostate cancer. Got the picture?
Well if that title did not catch your eye, I don't know what will. What has sodomy and happiness got to do with cancer? Well nothing really, except that today I bumped into an old friend whilst going for a pre surgery screening check. Sadly he is far further down the journey than I am. His life is one of "pain control". I haven't seen him for years, we lost touch many moons ago. I was shocked to see him, didn't really recognise him until he spoke. It turns out he's an avid reader of my blog. He is facing his demise with pragmatism and humour. As an out gay athiest, I was intrigued to hear his views on his forthcoming demise. He had followed the recent blogs on athiesm with interest. I was surprised to find that he's modified his views on the afterlife.
He tells me that he had a rather odd spiritual experience. He explained that the rational part of his brain puts it down to the morphine, but what happened was unlike anything he's had before or since. He said that he had a vision that he took to be Jesus. The image told him that he didn't need to worry because it will all be alright. He also said, "you don't need to worry about priests, athiests or any of them, they've all got it wrong. You just need to have love in your life". He explained that after this reveleation, he has no fear. He has set about repairing relationships that he'd let fall away and tried to make amends where he'd done wrong. I asked if he'd become religious. He said "No, that wasn't what it was about, it was about being me".
I then reminded him of an event many years ago where he attended an evangelical rally. There was a US style preacher on a barnstorming tour of the UK. He'd snuck in out of curiosity just to see a snakeoil salesman in action. He managed to secure a seat near the front. Half way into the show, the preacher exclaimed "There is only one thing that can make man happy, can you tell me what it is". My friend stood up and yelled at the top of his voice "Sodomy!". The preacher was visibly taken aback. He responded "No, sir, Sodomy is a sin, it can never make man happy". My friend retorted "Have you actually tried it?". The Preacher again taken aback replied "No sir, I don't need to try it to know it is a sin and that it cannot make you happy". To which my friend replied "If you haven't tried it, then you don't know. You are simply guessing and making things up". At this, my friend was ejected by a couple of burly security guards.
I asked if he was going to make it up to the preacher? He burst out laughing and said "trust you to remember that!". He then told me that he couldn't remember "the last time I got it up". He said that the drugs had destroyed his sex drive. He explained that something which was central to his being had disappeared from his life. I asked how he felt about this. His answer was again surprising "I am just determined to get as much from every day as I can.". He explained that he's rediscovered painting and poetry. He made an interesting observation "I wish I'd given more thought to the things which were actually important, before I couldn't really do too much about it". He then asked what had made me decide to write publicly about my condition. I explained that the purpose was to encourage people to look out for the signs, get tested and not leave things until it is too late.
Anyway, all to quickly my friend departed as his appointment time was looming. I then went for all the checks needed to assess my fitness for procedure. Blood pressure 120/80 - good. My pulse rate 59 - OK
my Oxygen level 96% OK. My ECG scan was perfect. The ECG man even commented that this was exactly the shape that you'd want. The healthy lifestyle clearly is making my heart happy. I then got a leaflet about the procedure and all the lovely side effects of a prostate biopsy. Blood in stools/Urine for 7 days and semen for 4/5 weeks. No alcohol for 24 hours after the anaesthetic. Last time I had the biopsy under a local anaesthetic, this time I elected for a general as it was truly horrible. Not particularly painful, but disturbingly degrading. The nurse noted that I'd elected for a general. She said "wise move, it is unpleasant". At this, for some strange reason, my mind jumped back to my friends encounter with the snake oil preacher. I sniggered in a rather schoolboy manner. The nurse gave me a puzzled look. Then she said "You have received a confirmation of the date? September 13th?" I replied "what day of the week is that?" She responded "Friday". I replied "A prostate biopsy on Friday the 13th, doesn't sound good, does it". She said "You don't believe that superstitious nonsense do you?". Well actually I do. I just felt too foolish to say. Then we discussed anti biotic cover. I said "Do I start them before the procedure". She wasn't sure and so checked. The answer was yes. Always check everything. If you are unsure, mention it and get an answer you are happy with.
After a 40 minute wait for my prescription, I made my way home. As it is Jewish new year, the roads around Barnet are dead. I couldn't help thinking about my friends vision. If the priests and the atheiests are all wrong, who is right? Will it all really be OK. Is my biopsy on the 13th a deadly omen or is it all superstitious nonsense? All I know is that whenever such events are looming, I feel mightily apprehensive. The one thing I have gleaned from seeing my friend, is yet again there were warning signs for a long time prior to the diagnosis. Yet again they were ignored. In his case, it is lung cancer. He confided that he'd always assumed that AIDS would get him and so he'd been rather careful and taken precautions. It had never occurred to him that the 30 cigarettes a day were secretly working away and mutating his cells, hence his current predicament. It's always the one you don't see coming that gets you.