At forty-eight, my husband appears the picture of health. He jogs an average of ten miles a week, lifts weights, eats healthy, and has an incredible amount of energy.
Things aren’t always what they seem.
Six years ago, my superman spouse was diagnosed with prostate cancer. To say we were shocked would be an understatement. One day we’re planning our next getaway to Key West and the next we’re fighting for his life. We had assumed this was an older man’s disease.
We researched all the treatments, including a wait-and-see approach that made us both leery. He elected to have the cancerous organ removed via nerve-sparing robotic radical prostatectomy. As I’d expected, he tolerated the procedure very well with minimal side effects. His greatest issues physically were regaining urinary control (That concern cleared up within months.) and ED (You’ve seen the commercials. There are pills for that.). The post-surgery test results all pointed to a healthy future. He just needed to follow up with yearly PSA tests in the rare case stray cancer cells returned to cause trouble.
We viewed this experience as a bump in the road.
Yes, it changed us, but mostly for the better. Life is even more precious, our enjoyment of the little things greater. If you’re curious about intimacy after such surgery, from my perspective it’s been better too. Different in some ways, but still incredible.
Life has been good.
Trouble arrived this past October, with an annual blood test showing my husband’s PSA count had risen. Our belief is that cancer cells must have escaped during the initial biopsy, lying dormant for years in the lower pelvis before growing again. Our earlier experience with this cancer taught us it’s unpredictable, but with many treatment options and many possible quality-of-life side effects. As you may know from your experiences with cancer, the days after diagnosis are the most frightening. We cried, we worried, and we waited for test results, including a full-body bone scan, there being a possibility of the cancer traveling into the bones. Apparently, that’s where bored prostate cancers like to migrate. There’s not yet a cure for that kind of prostate cancer, it’s painful, and the treatments compromise a person’s quality-of-life. The results were negative.
We could breathe again.
After more research, my husband chose an aggressive, two-pronged attack of his disease. He is undergoing six months of hormone therapy, which temporarily halts his testosterone production and in turn starves the cancer cells. Testosterone levels is a factor why a younger man’s battle with prostate cancer can be more challenging than that of an older man. In addition, my honey is being treated with radiation, fifteen minutes a day, five days a week, for thirty-five sessions, with the ultimate goal of eradicating those weakened, stunned cells. There are possible side effects to radiation, of course, including fatigue and interference with urinary and bowel function. These concerns are more likely to occur late in treatment and up to months afterward as the body heals.
What’s the prognosis?
Our goal is a complete cure, a miracle if you will, and the reason we’ve willingly sacrificed six months of physical intimacy and our family’s routine. The prognosis from the doctors is that his cancer is very treatable and manageable–whatever that means.
“Life is all about the experiences.”
Shortly after we learned the cancer had returned, my husband shared the above quote and added that this must his obstacle to live with or overcome. He didn’t exhibit self-pity. When he learned that part of his treatment would chemically castrate him for a half-year, steal his muscle mass and strength for up to eighteen months or more, and add hot and cold flashes and mood swings to his daily reality, he didn’t blink twice. I haven’t once heard him complain about being tired (although I know he must be). To me, this man epitomizes the saying, “No Excuses.”
Lessons I’ve learned from this experience:
- We are very blessed. My husband’s disease is treatable, with the potential for success. Many people diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses aren’t as fortunate. I pray for them to receive grace and dignity through their trials.
- Intimacy is the love shared between souls. The physical act can be an extension of that emotion, but it doesn’t define it.
- Don’t wait! Take a risk! I’ve been writing seriously just shy of three years. I’m as of yet unpublished, part of the reason is I haven’t risked putting my work out there enough. At my husband’s urging (and my writer friends), I’m preparing to submit my romantic suspence short novel to three ebook publishers next month.
- Love the people in your life. I always knew this, but this health scare has reinforced my commitment to nurturing relationships despite my shy nature.
Why share this now?
Months ago, my husband asked that I bring awareness to prostate cancer and to encourage men his age and younger to be as proactive about their health as many older men are by getting annual physical exams.
I’m a romance writer. Cancer ain’t sexy. This blog is about forgetting your worries. Life-threatening illnesses are one of the heavier topics a writer can broach. I’ve tiptoed around the subject, but I struggled divulging such private, sad information to the world. Lately though, I haven’t been able to concentrate when writing my weekly blog post. How can I lose myself for hours a day writing and revising novels, but be stumped by a 500-word article? That’s when I realized I was holding back from you, avoiding my secret pain, because then that would make it real. No going back.
Today I take a risk (Lesson #3) and share with you the silent battle my family has fought for the past six months. It’s part of us now. We’ve adjusted. We are doing well, dealing with what comes and enjoying each day. We look forward to the future. We’ve booked our family vacation with the kids for the summer, I’m attending the RWA convention in Atlanta in July, and my husband and I are headed back to Key West in October. Life goes on, and for that I’m very thankful.
I’m hopeful this story encourages you to make the most of each moment with your loved ones. If you don’t get annual physicals, please start. Maybe this post really does fit this blog’s theme. I look forward to bringing you a Margarita Moment on Monday.