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A Simple Blood Test

BY JONATHAN BAKER

I sit here trying to figure out how to write my story of diagnosis with prostate cancer. Well, here I go. At the age of thirty-nine years, I was sent to the hospital for respiratory problems and was in the ICU for seven days. In the process of finding out what was causing my severe coughing, the doctors decided to have my PSA tested. I have a family with a history of cancer. My mother died in 2000 of bone cancer; my sister, after two bouts of non-Hodgkins, recently was diagnosed with breast cancer. My Dad had gone through colon, prostate and most recently kidney cancer. Once I was in the hospital ICU, they checked out everything, so they say.

The PSA did not come back normal: PSA of 15. Prior to this hospital stay, for months I complained to my primary doctor of symptoms of frequent urination and sweating for no reason. Never did he have my PSA checked. After I was released from the hospital, I had a follow up with a urologist. Again, I had my PSA tested, this time it shot up to 20. The doctor recommended a biopsy. He assured me it probably was only a infection. "You're too young," he said, "to have prostate cancer."

Meanwhile, back to the primary doctor. I tell him of the latest findings of my PSA. He says to me, Well, it's only your prostate, if you do have cancer. I drop him as my primary care physician instantly.

November, I have the biopsy done. Loud snaps, six samples of tissue taken from my prostate. The doctor still insists I have an infection. Now for the moment of truth. It's near the end of November, I am anxious for the results of the biopsy. I'll always remember this day, the nurse sends me to a room that is not your normal examining room. She looks at me in a very strange way. From that look, I knew this wasn't going to be good. The doctor walks in, he reads the report, stares at me. Thoughts are running through my head, I must have had a blank look. He says I have cancer. Suddenly everything around me is totally silent, On my face, this couldn't be. The Gleason score comes back at a 4+3. He recommends a Radical Prostatectomy.

RP, I say to myself, what the heck is that? I started researching about prostate cancer. I went for a second opinion, this time to a well- known doctor in Boston. Nerve-sparing doctor, I was told. Luckily, I get an appointment right away. He looks at the pathology report, biopsy results were done at his hospital, he feels comfortable with the report. He also recommends R.P.. Now I'm getting nervous, he tells me that I would be the youngest person he's operated on for prostate cancer. This doctor has people from around the world come and see him. I'm scheduled for a New Year's Eve operation.

The doctor said I have a 70% chance of making it clean from this cancer, but he recommends radiation within two months. The pathology report from the prostate taken comes back as a T2BN0. the Gleason stays at a 7.

After two blood clots, two visits to the emergency room, I start my radiation treatments. Everything seems to be going fine until the last few weeks of radiation. After two months' worth of treatments, the day after I finished -- back into the emergency room. I cannot urinate at all, nothing coming out, I'm in great pain. The ER doctor tries using one of those metal rods to push the catheter up into me. Oh! I felt like grabbing him by the neck and shaking him. They schedule me for a dilation in the OR later that night. 800 ml of fluid came out, what a relief.

Ten months after my RP, still wearing pads. Incontinence has been a big problem with me. At forty years old now, I never thought I'd be going through this. At the ten month mark, the doctor who did the surgery recommended a bladder neck incision. So off to the OR again. After this procedure, I had pain every time I urinated. They put me on antibiotics, nothing seemed to help. January 2003, back in the OR for a dilation again. I switch back to my local doctor because I'm getting nowhere with the "expert" doctor in town. Within three more months, the pain whenever I urinate goes away.

Now the other problem. I haven't had an erection in all this time, since the surgery. I'm growing impatient. Now to the ED specialists. They recommend injections. Seems as though the nerves weren't spared and/or the radiation did damage. I've tried a few shots with their special formula, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I kinda lost interest in sex at this point. Didn't think I would be in this state at forty-one. I'm trying to keep a positive outlook on everything. I have a beautiful three year old old son, and a very patient wife. But it could be worse. If I hadn't gotten ill for the other reason, my life may have been cut a lot shorter.

A simple blood test can save a few good men.

Afterword

I have dreams this was all a mistake, I had no cancer, biopsy was read wrong. I guess I'm in a denial state. I find it tough to talk to my friend about this. As a man, it's really hard to talk to peers about cancer and how it affects a person. Jonathan Baker 2003 All Rights reserved.

 

 

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