Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gratitude: Five Years Cancer Free!

This year I celebrate 5 years of being cancer free.

This is a strange admission for me, because neither the cancer, nor the surgery which removed it made me feel 'sick' per se. But in 2007, two weeks after the death of my son, a week to the day after his funeral, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

I can confirm what many cancer patients say: when you're sitting in a doctor's office and you hear the word 'cancer', you hear very little, if anything else.

Suffice it to say it was not a happy time.

Because of the fresh grief we all were experiencing after the murder of my son, I knew that the last thing anyone needed to hear was that I had cancer. Never mind that prostate cancer is treatable and that this particular cancer isn't necessarily a death sentence if caught early and treatment is timely, it would just be too much. So the doctor and I agreed that we would postpone action until December which would give us time to deal with our most recent trial.

The toughest part was going through the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, without my family knowing (although I told my wife just before Thanksgiving). Dealing with Jason's death during those first holidays and imagining that it was a possibility, however remote, that I might not be there the next holiday season cast a surreal and solemn pall over that time for me.

I had the biopsy in December and the surgery in early March 2008. I handled some of this time well sometimes, and sometimes I didn't. It was a particularly lonely and frightening time. But, I learned that this is what my faith was about. It was also a time that I learned what a great blessing to have friends, family and a church community to rely on. By the time the date for surgery rolled around, I was convinced that although it wouldn't be a piece of cake, I would be fine. In fact, I things went much better than I expected. And though I still deal with the after affects of the surgery, at the end of the day, I am very grateful for my life!

The other lesson I learned is that men have not become as open in talking about prostate cancer as women have about breast cancer. I can't tell you how often another man has told me about his diagnosis and spoken in whispers. It is also interesting to see the NFL in pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month (which is a great thing!). While NO professional sports team with male players even mentions prostate cancer!

We have to do better. Especially since, according to the Community for Disease Control and Prevention's website:

Not counting some forms of skin cancer, prostate cancer in the United States is—
  • The most common cancer in men, no matter your race or ethnicity.
  • The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic men.
  • The fourth most common cause of death from cancer among Asian/Pacific Islander men.
  • More common in African-American men compared to white men.
  • Less common in American Indian/Alaska Native and Asian/Pacific Islander men compared to white men.
  • More common in Hispanic men compared to non-Hispanic men.
  • In 2009 (the most recent year for which numbers are available)—
206,640 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
28,088 men in the United States died from prostate cancer.

If you are a man reading this and you are 40 or over, you owe it to yourself and your family to have an annual check up for prostate cancer. It is treatable and survivable.

There's no 'convenient' time to have cancer. But having it and not knowing it is deadly!

Click here for more information on prostate cancer...

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