Nine Hundred Miles: The Second Step

The Second Step

The journey of 900 miles continues with the second step.(Ersatz Chinese proverb I just made up.)

Since I posted my first blog on the diagnosis and treatment of my prostate cancer, several people have asked about the title. The explanation is easy and features math even I can do without a calculator. The Cancer Center at Lake Manassas (a marvelous place with an incredibly competent and compassionate staff) is 20 miles round trip from my house, and I made 45 such trips, so higher math (20 x 45 = 900) tells us that I drove 900 miles total for my cure. Q.E.D. and other Latin stuff like that.

The next step involved a visit to Prince William Urology, a practice famous (or is it infamous) for another doctor in the practive, Dr. Sehn re-attaching John Bobbitt’s member after his unfortunate encounter with a kitchen knife wielded by Lorena. Can we say ouch? Ironically, as I studied the stories about the event hung around the walls of the office (no kidding). There I met Dr. Sejahdi and his staff. We were going to get to know each other uh, intimately in the next few days. I didn’t know what was involved in the diagnosis, but I did know I was going to say ouch more than once, and possibly quite loudly. than in a whisper.

I showed up for the test a couple of days later, and was greeted by a friendly nurse who assured me that she had presided over thousands of these test and that it wouldn’t hurt for long. I am a big chicken when it comes to pain, so I asked if they’d put me out for the procedure. She laughed. “It won’t take that long, and it will be over before you know it.”

I was skeptical, but it turns out she was right. I won’t go into the details of the tests except to say they involved instruments in places where the sun don’t shine. Since I was sedated and the beneficiary of a strategically placed local anesthetic, I felt discomfort and pressure rather than pain. Still, these diagnostic tests were by far the most unpleasant part of the experience until I experienced side effects late in the treatment and a month after treatment stopped. And the tests lasted about three minutes each. Still, lying in an awkward position, uncertain as to what would happen next, I felt every second of those three minutes.

I thought it would take a few days to get the results, but as soon as I was dressed, Dr. S. came in  with the results of the diagnosis. He handed me a piece of paper with a color scan of the area in question and said, “Your Gleeson numbers for the cells in this area are 7 and 8. If they were both 7’s, we’d do what we call ‘watchful waiting.’ But I would recommend radiation in your case. Your cancer is non-aggressive, which means that without treatment, you’ll live ten to fifteen years more. With treatment, 30 to 40. The choice is yours.”

As he delivered this news, I rubbed my eyes, which were itching from spring allergies. He reached over and put a hand on my shoulder. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I said, and I was, right then. I felt a sense of calm, particularly with the prospect of living until 106, so I said, “Let’s do it. And you’re all invited to my 106th birthday party. I expect to see you there.” Talk about a no-brainer.

I really felt all right, but I think I was in a state of shock. My dad had just finished treatment for colon cancer, a much more serious condition than mine, and I would be going to the same place, the Cancer Treatment Center at Lake Manassas. He received radiation and chemo, while I would just have radiation. It looked like a cakewalk that April day, but that was more like the beginning of a marathon in the mountains for me, as it turned out.

Next time: Reactions and Understandings


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4 responses to “Nine Hundred Miles: The Second Step

  1. retiredrewired

    Hey Dan,

    My husband John is two weeks into recovery from prostate surgery . His urologist recommended removal of the gland on which aggressive cancer cells were found with a Gleeson rating of 4. Two years ago his psa numbers started creeping upward while John was ” watchfully waiting”, so the decision was made not to mess with it especially considering John’s thirty year history with melanoma scares ( three earlier surgeries). At this point the doc ( Stephen Guarnaccia with Kaiser Permanente) says no radiation or chemo is needed, but John’s psa will continue to be monitored every three months, and if it shows its previous pattern, he will undergo radiation treatments. John feels very fortunate to be watched “like a hawk” which is helping him deal with the annoying side effects of the surgery!

    So, you are not alone!

  2. Retiredrewired, thank you so much for your kind and insightful comment. I felt fortunate not to have surgery, but radiation has its own particular perils. One of the unexpected bonuses of joining the “cancer club” is that I have met some wonderful people going through the same thing. My best to John and to you and I hope you find the remaining posts helpful.

  3. Maria

    Great posts! Can’t wait to continue on this journey with you. This will help so many others who are going through something similar, so write on!!

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