I’m 58 years old and have been pretty fortunate. I’ve been healthy. I’ve never had a serious chronic health issue. I don’t take any medications. Though I could stand to lose some weight, I have great blood pressure, a strong steady heart rate, and no cholesterol problems.
But on Tuesday, I walked out of my urologist’s office with the words “you have prostate cancer” ringing in my ears and reddening my face.
The vast majority of men will, at some point, have prostate cancer. For most it isn’t dangerous. Keep a yearly eye on it and make sure there are no changes, and aside from the prostate’s natural inclination to grow and become a general annoyance, the majority suffer few ill effects.
Unfortunately, my cancer is Gleason 4+3, less stable, more inclined to spread and has to be dealt with. Radiate or surgically remove the prostate gland, those are my options.
I’m 99% certain I’ll opt for the surgery. It offers more safeguards than radiation. So some time in June I’ll be spending the night in Swedish Hospital after a few intimate hours with Dr. Porter, a maestro in the robot surgery customarily performed in cases like mine.
It seems simple and straightforward, right? Not so fast. Removing the prostate has some unpleasant side effects. The surgery is near the bladder and the urethra goes through the little organ. Removal of the prostate is almost always accompanied by a level of incontinence. Sometimes it is temporary and sometimes it isn’t. I’ll learn to wear some kind of pad, and hope not to embarrass myself.
A second side effect involves a pair of nerve bundles located near the prostate. If these are cancerous and must be removed, or are somehow damaged in the tight operating space it guarantees impotence. At the very least the loss of the prostate insures the use of one of the erectile dysfunction drugs. I’m hoping to discover the mystery of the Cialis bathtubs.
Couples sure seem happy in their solo receptacles.
Prostate surgery in men, especially a relatively young man, like me, is a lot like breast cancer in women. Not as lethal, but it threatens our masculinity every bit as much as a mastectomy challenges femininity or womanhood The only difference is a prostate is small, mysterious and unseen. It never competes for space on the cover Sports Illustrated with Kate Upton’s breasts.
I’m not afraid to talk about this. But, I’d be lying to say I’m not afraid. I’ve never had a chronic condition in my life-no asthma, no allergies, no diabetes or other persistent ailment. Today I’m a person living with cancer. Though in my heart I know I’ll be okay, that the surgery and recovery are just two more hoops to jump through on the road of life, it is diffIcult not to be apprehensive.
Monday I was the same focused, sunny, and relatively optimistic person I’ve been the last 58 years. By Tuesday afternoon, things were different. I was no longer Kevin Smyth husband, father and son. That I was teacher, journalism adviser, history buff, miniature war gamer and Mariners fan was lost in the understanding I was now Kevin Smyth, a person living with cancer