Jun 25th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Prostate Cancer Survival Issues

November, 2012, will mark the fifth anniversary of my prostate cancer diagnosis and surgery. Anticipating positive results on the PSA lab work, that means my chances for long-term survival jump to high levels.  Some might suggest, with their accolades and huzzahs, that that is major good news.  Indeed it is.  But with it comes side affects that don’t give you back all the pleasures of life you once enjoyed.

Recognizing what those affects are and learning to live with them, limitations and all, marks settling into a changed life style.  When the surgeon told me that my biopsy showed my prostate cancer a 9 on the Gleason scale, that, he insisted, gave reason enough for radical surgical removal.  In his language, he “wanted to put his hands on it.”  He assured me that he would do all possible to avoid complications and would work to leave me without side affects, but, of course, could not guarantee anything.

My assumption was, naively, that I would go in and be out within short order.  While the surgery was a proverbial “piece of cake,” the recovery was more involved and longer than I anticipated.  I was not “up and at ’em” as I had prepared myself to be.  My energy was sapped, a condition that would  be with me, intermittently, for the next nearly five years.  Other side affects would also become part of my new found non-cancer condition.  I would be incontinent and learn that “Depends” is both an answer to questions and a physical necessity.  Better than being dead, right?

Living With After Effects of Cancer

My physician, very competent and capable, also had pointed out with great confidence that had I not had surgery, I would likely only  live to my early 70’s (I was then 68) and die a horrible death,  Not comfortable with that scenario, I chose to go with the doctor’s judgment and experience.  I am now approaching 74 and each PSA test has shown no sign of cancer returning.

However, another side effect, which shows up periodically, is a lack of stamina.  Lacking testosterone, I also am absent sexual prowess, which for many men would be the last straw.  Here we are again.  Would you prefer death to sex?  While the choice seems a difficult one, it is clearly a no contest issue.

Generally, with some exceptions,  my state of health, while in some ways compromised, is good.   And, with cancer nearly 5 years ago, I was standing at the precipice anticipating jumping or holding on.   The clear issue is what do you want to do with your life, when facing the prospect of a terminal illness? A colleague of mine, who was going through the discovery of cancer, also prostate, at about the same time said that “every male he had talked to, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, thought his choice of treatment was the appropriate one for him.”

Very much like visiting a casino, the odds are what they are.  What would I do differently now, if faced with the same dynamic of 5 years ago?  My guess is were the players and dynamics and information the same, I would choose surgery.  Most of us are not in a position to take on cancer with only our own determination to fight and overcome it.  I am fortunate in that I have not had any chemo or radiation treatments.  That is a major plus, in my book, because of the side affects that are associated with those treatments.  I have had friends who chose “seeding” as a method of treatment.  They are now deceased.  This is not to say they chose wrong and I chose correctly.  The results just varied.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, you will be faced with a variety of decisions and a need to exercise reason and increase the odds in your favor.  What will those be?  They will be largely dependent on your physician or team of them and their collective experience in attacking your particular set of circumstances.  I can only hope you will be blessed with extended life and sufficient strength to live it out with as much satisfaction as possible.

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