By Bruce Stambaugh
On the morning of Dec. 14, 2010 I got the call I had dreaded. My preliminary test for prostate cancer was positive. A follow up biopsy confirmed the results. My journey with cancer had begun.
My immediate reaction was more of disappointment than surprise. My father had died of prostate cancer, and my older brother had had his cancerous prostate removed a year and a half earlier.
I saw the miseries my father had been through, and I knew what inconveniences my brother dealt with. Still, it was that immediate family history that resulted in my early diagnosis, for which I was most thankful. My doctors tested my PSA level twice a year.
Nevertheless, my initial emotions resembled the steepest, most winding roller coaster at any amusement park. Only, this turn of events wasn’t amusing. It was sad, frustrating, discouraging, lonesome, unacceptable, and agonizing all rolled into one.
At the same time, I knew that with the early diagnosis that I likely would have many more options than other cancer patients with much worse prognosis. And yet, this cancer was in my body and I was not happy about it.
I had been close to cancer before. Besides my father and my older brother, other close relatives and friends had had cancer. Too many acquaintances, former students and friends have either had cancer, are currently in their own battle with cancer, or have died because of it.
Each of their experiences touched me. Still, when the doctor tells you that you have cancer, everything changes.
Yes, it had been detected early. Yes, it likely could be removed or radiated. But it was still cancer. There is no good cancer. Cancer is cancer. Any action to counter the disgusting disease had the potential for unwelcome and unwanted physical, mental and emotional consequences.
Even so, I have found both friends and renewed friendships so far along this rocky path. I have been proactive in asking questions, and others have reached out to me.
I meet periodically with two friends, both also in the midst of dealing with prostate cancer. Hearing their stories helps me to understand that each situation is different, and requires decisions that are best for each individual. The road to being cured from prostate cancer is different for every patient. Indeed, for some, there is no cure.
My route took me to a new urologist who laid out the best options for me, naming one by one the potential side effects, both short and long-term. None of them were pretty, including incontinency and impotency.
I have chosen robotic surgery as the best way to deal with my cancer. It is the least invasive, least painful, has the least blood loss, and the quickest recovery time, assuming all goes well. Plus, the surgery will remove the cancer from my body.
My particular prognosis for recovery is good, much better than hundreds of thousands of other cancer patients. I don’t find much solace in that, however.
Statistics show that one in six men get prostate cancer, and some of them are as young as 30. Early detection through testing is paramount, especially with a family history of the disease.
Others who have been down this road ahead of me say it’s important to maintain a positive attitude. That is how I am approaching my surgery. With supportive friends and family, I am comforted knowing that I do not have to walk this journey with prostate cancer alone.
Footnote: I especially appreciate the information and support received so far from Gabe Canales and his Blue Cure Foundation, along with all the good folks who post on Gabe’s Journey with Prostate Cancer Facebook page.