Prostate Cancer Part Deux, Here I Go Again

Prostate Cancer Part Deux, Here I Go Again

Prostate Cancer Part Deux, Here I Go Again

You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It's a mindset - Dave Pelzer

     
Prostate Cancer Part Deux, Here I Go Again
image by:

I didn’t think when I wrote the column about my experiences with prostate cancer four years ago, that I would have to write a sequel. I was wrong. As it turns out, even though the surgery to remove my cancerous prostate gland had been deemed a success and I had been given a clean bill of health, the luck of the dice has not rolled my way.

Apparently, a small number of renegade cancer cells had somehow escaped from the extracted prostate and were now biding their time, waiting to flourish and multiply (much like wannabe municipal politicians and bureaucrats vying for placement in positions of authority).

As a result, my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) was slowly but insidiously rising, and my oncologist (Dr. Blood, I kid you not) advised it was time to take the bull by the horns by beginning hormone withdrawal treatment followed closely by external radiation therapy.

The hormone treatment involved the injection of a small pellet of a drug called Zolidex into my midsection, where its timed release would suppress my body’s ability to produce both estrogen and testosterone. The decrease in testosterone would cause the cancer cells to retreat and go into a dormant stage which would make it much more possible to destroy them with external beam radiation.

Besides the reduction in bone density and the increased risk of osteoporosis, one of the expected side effects of hormone withdrawal therapy is the onset of “hot flashes”. These are the very same little “nasties” that often victimize women who are experiencing menopause. In my case, nothing happened for the first two weeks, so I thought I would be lucky enough to escape these annoying symptoms.

Not so. One day soon afterwards, I suddenly felt like someone had turned the thermostat dial on my internal furnace to “nuclear meltdown”.  Although the feeling lasts only several minutes each time, I continue to experience these flashes several times a day and especially during the night when they tend to wake me from my slumber with a confused suspicion that I must have somehow sleepwalked my way into a sauna (which we don’t have).

My arms have grown weary from the effort of stripping off my clothes or bedcovers and then pulling them back on again five minutes later. I would have thought that these hot flash symptoms would at least have been accompanied by increased empathy, sensitivity, and listening skills, but my wife tells me that so far she hasn’t noticed any improvements.

Before my radiation treatments were to begin, I needed to have my innards mapped out by a CT scan so that the zaps of radiation I would receive would be as accurate as possible. In order to achieve this, I was instructed to drink as much water as I could just before the scan because a full bladder would push my other organs out of the way of the desired target area. (The resulting bloated bladder made my highway drive home a “thriller”, eclipsing all the James Bond flicks put together.)

Finally, I was tattooed in three places around my hip area to help align my body in an identical position every time I was to receive radiation. Knowing about the tattoos ahead of time, I had anticipated that I would get my choice of designs and had decided on either a battleship or a Harley-Davidson. Disappointingly, the permanent marks ended up being three tiny little dots on my skin that need a magnifying glass in order for me to find them.

My radiation treatment calls for a total of 6400 rad (Radiation Absorbed Dose which is equivalent to about a Roentgen of gamma radiation) to be administered in thirty-two doses at a rate of 200 rad per day. This entails catching the ferry to Swartz Bay and driving to the Cancer Clinic at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria five days a week (no radiation on weekends) for almost seven consecutive weeks.

To give you an idea of what a radiation session looks like, imagine yourself positioned on a narrow steel table and asked not to move a muscle. Once the technicians have left the room, the radiation linear accelerator machine (affectionately labelled “True-Beam”) begins to whirr, buzz, hum and click as if re-enacting a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lights begin to flash on the machine and it proceeds to circle the specified part of your anatomy. What it looks like is a giant white mechanical gastropod trying to figure out exactly how it is going to ingest you.

While undergoing radiation treatment, I sometimes feel as if I have been abducted by aliens, transported to the mother ship, and am having my brain probed. However, since they can’t find anything in the area where my brain should be, they are aiming their beams a little bit lower.

It is now two weeks since I finished my thirty-second and last radiation treatment. Apparently, this is the time when the side effects and after effects are supposed to peak. Starting today, the healing process will begin.

I can’t tell you how much I look forward to being more like the person I used to be instead of the zombie who has been impersonating me these last couple of months. Mostly it’s been the sleep deprivation I have had to endure as a result itchy skin, cracked hands and feet, frequent urination (which is how this whole cancer saga began), rectal bleeding, and anal spasms that trick me into believing that I have to rush to an appointment with my toilet seat every two hours.

I should find out in the next few weeks whether the hormone withdrawal and radiation therapy treatments have been successful. If all goes well, there should be no trace of the prostate specific antigen anywhere in my body and the next series of blood tests should come back “negative”.

If, on the other hand, the cancer cells have not been eradicated, … well, I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when and if I get to it. When all is said and done and the experiences I have had over the last little while have become just another hot flash in my memory, I want cancer to be only a footnote in my life story as opposed to a chapter heading.

So I keep on keeping on and live in hope that I will be one of the fortunate ones who will be able to talk about the experience in past tense. I definitely want to avoid a sequel to the sequel.


Shilo Zylbergold lives on a small island somewhere in the southwest corner of British Columbia, Canada. He grows vegetables, teaches math, and is a columnist for a local paper. Send complaints to [email protected]

Shilo Zylbergold

Related Videos

The Latest from Best Medicine

Nobody Asked Me But: Probing The Ageless Male Syndrome

Nobody Asked Me But: Probing The Ageless Male Syndrome

Desire never ages - Nanette L. Avery

Fish Farms: A Panacea Gone Wrong

Fish Farms: A Panacea Gone Wrong

It is a mistake to think that salmon farms could replace the vital contributions that wild salmon lifecycles make to our home and community - Gisele Martin

Immunocompromised: The Other Pandemic

Immunocompromised: The Other Pandemic

Risk-free options do not exist for me, and I do not see them coming anytime soon - Shari Kurita

Nobody Asked Me But: Probing The Ageless Male Syndrome

Nobody Asked Me But: Probing The Ageless Male Syndrome

Desire never ages - Nanette L. Avery

Fish Farms: A Panacea Gone Wrong

Fish Farms: A Panacea Gone Wrong

It is a mistake to think that salmon farms could replace the vital contributions that wild salmon lifecycles make to our home and community - Gisele Martin

Immunocompromised: The Other Pandemic

Immunocompromised: The Other Pandemic

Risk-free options do not exist for me, and I do not see them coming anytime soon - Shari Kurita

AntiVaxxers: The Fight for Freedom Against Logic

AntiVaxxers: The Fight for Freedom Against Logic

The body does not belong to itself and never can - Judith Butler

Nobody Asked Me But: Probing The Ageless Male Syndrome

Nobody Asked Me But: Probing The Ageless Male Syndrome

Desire never ages - Nanette L. Avery

Fish Farms: A Panacea Gone Wrong

Fish Farms: A Panacea Gone Wrong

It is a mistake to think that salmon farms could replace the vital contributions that wild salmon lifecycles make to our home and community - Gisele Martin

Immunocompromised: The Other Pandemic

Immunocompromised: The Other Pandemic

Risk-free options do not exist for me, and I do not see them coming anytime soon - Shari Kurita

AntiVaxxers: The Fight for Freedom Against Logic

AntiVaxxers: The Fight for Freedom Against Logic

The body does not belong to itself and never can - Judith Butler

Stay Connected

©2016 | HealthWorldNet, Inc. | 108321

Last Updated : Monday, November 14, 2016