Thursday, December 18, 2008

God, you wouldn’t do THAT, would you?

I have prostate cancer. Actually, I can now officially say “had.” Yesterday’s robotic surgery removed the prostate and ALL of the cancer with it. I’ve been overwhelmed with the prayers and concern, and truly humbled by it. Many, many prayers have been offered and answered positively.
Many of you already know the story, and I’m sorry if this is repetitive (but you can stop reading, can’t you?), and I really do not want to be melodramatic. In fact, I made sure to make one old friend promise to NOT start a world-wide 24/7 prayer chain on my behalf. Not that I don’t want prayers or think they don’t mean anything, but I’m a firm believer in God’s gracious guidance over my life, and a firm believer that God will do what is best for the people who mean the most to me. God and I have had a continual 3½ month conversation about this thing, so he’s well aware of all the angles I can possibly conceive.
So, here’s the story. I had a routine blood screen a few weeks ago, on September 5, because my prescription for cholesterol medicine had run out and I didn’t have more refills without having my liver enzymes checked, i.e., a blood test. The routine blood test showed an elevated PSA level – about 7 – which raised a “yellow flag” for Dr. Geoff Hoover. Geoff sent me to a specialist, Dr. Stephen Archer, a urologist, for further investigation.
Dr. Archer, on September 26, examined me. (Now comes the gory details, so if you don’t want to know, skip a few paragraphs!) First, I had to give a urine sample, which turned up negative. Dr. Archer even asked if I’d been sick on the day they took the blood at Dr. Hoover’s office, to which I answered no. He then had to do the “DRE” (if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself very fortunate! Thank God for doctors with small hands.)
The DRE showed nothing, so he ordered another blood test, which again showed an elevated PSA, this time up to 11. When the results came back from that test the next week, he ordered a biopsy, which he did on October 10. The biopsy showed cancer in both sides of the prostate.
Next step was to try to determine whether or not the cancer was isolated in the prostate or had spread. On Monday of this week, October 20, I had a bone scan. The next day, Tuesday, October 21, I had a CAT scan.
Apparently, something turned up on the bone scan, so Dr. Archer ordered an Xray on the 8th and 9th ribs. That was done on October 24 in place of the consultation with the Dr. we’d had scheduled for that day. That was more than a little disconcerting, and we had to wait over the weekend – the consultation was pushed back to the 28th (the next Tuesday). But Dr. Archer got the results on Monday morning, and called immediately to tell me that the Xray was negative – which meant that the cancer had not spread outside of the prostate.
At that point, we began thinking about treatments. Because of my “young age” (at least for this kind of disease ;-) ), surgery was the recommended treatment. Radiation might allow the cancer to re-emerge in the prostate at a later date, or ro re-emerge somewhere else, and if I have radiation now it would no longer be a possibility in the future. Even the “proton therapy” is radiation – though with a newer and presumably better method of delivery. Despite potential problems, surgery is the cure here.
So, we decided to look into the robotic surgery method, which led us to go to Dr. Mays in Midwest City, who works out of Midwest Regional Medical Center where they have one of the robots (the “DaVinci” robot). Everything about this process seemed positive, so we elected to have the surgery on Dec. 17th. The robotic procedure is less radical than the “strip mining” old method, with less recovery time, less blood loss, and fewer side effects afterward. Sounds great, but waiting from early November until December 17th seemed like a bit of a risk, especially to Mendy, so Dr. Mays recommended a hormone shot to keep the cancer from spreading until the surgery. I had that shot back on November 7th. The side effects have been minimal.
At any rate, last Sunday was the feast day of St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic and poet and truly one of the great spiritual giants in the history of Christianity. I noticed Friday as I read about him that he had died at age 49. Rats. I’m 49. On the other hand, there are so few other parallels between my life and John of the Cross that. . . . Well, you get the picture.
Further, December 17 was the feast day of . . . Lazarus. Yeah, you know – they guy who Jesus let die and then resurrected him. That was NOT what I wanted to hear! I wanted something like Saint George who slew the dragon! Why couldn’t Wednesday have been HIS feast day?
And finally, those of you who know me well know how much I “love” Stamps-Baxter songs (just as much as I love reality shows and Barry Manilow and, well, cancer!), and last Sunday in church the last song we sang was one of those: “Victory in Jesus!” God, you wouldn’t make my last ever song sung in church one of those, would you? No way. Of course, I could have just refused to sing it, but the song just before it, though not of the Stamps-Baxter genre, was just as bad, and I’d sang along with it already. So I went ahead and sang along with “Victory in Jesus,” knowing I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.
On a serious note, some of my friends have wondered about my recent obsession (?) with the saints of the Roman Catholic calendar. Not really an obsession, but I admire holiness, and these folks were indeed (usually) incredibly holy. If the writer of the sermon we call “Hebrews” in the New Testament can call upon a “great cloud of witnesses” with the knowledge that these are God’s holy ones who apparently now dwell with God yet continue to witness to the gospel, well, maybe a few of these can also fill that role.

2 comments: said...

Hi, Chip,

I enjoyed hearing your thoughts about your prostate cancer surgery and I share your concerns, both pre- and post-opm with regard to surgery. Mine too was robotic -last year in April 2007 at age 63.

If I had to retitle your blog post, I'd dub it, "When Your Chips are UP!" (sorry about the pun)

I too was quite open about asking folks for their prayers prior to my surgery, although like you I sought out friends around the East Coast and here in Sarasota, Florida, not worldwide. I figured you have to draw the line somewhere!

But I agree with you that trusting God and the skills He imbued in his servants (in this case, my outstanding doctor or yours), carried me through more than anything.

Now that the "main events" are behind you, you might want to read my blog, or read the book I published about my experiences and the those of 19 other men I profiled, including 8 other clergymen.

All that is in my book called Conquer Prostate Cancer: How Medicine, Faith, Love and Sex Can Renew Your Life.

One chapter that might interest you, based on your comments in your upbeat blog, is my chapter called "When Medicine and Faith Meet".

You can go to my blog and look around at lots of posts and even one chapter of the book (once you opt in). And then you can decide if you want a copy of the book.

I myself am a theologican, although I'm a retired rabbi who served congregations until half a year before my diagnosis. Given what we have in common, I wonder if you would consider doing a book review in one of your denomination's journals for laymen and clergy?

If you feel ok about doing that, that will help justify my sending you a complimentary copy of the book...providing you send me a copy of your review - from a theological and personal perspective! Let me know by writing to me

Thanks and good health to you and yours at this joyous season and in the new year.

Rabbi Ed Weinsberg, Ed.D., D.D.

Sammie said...

Wow. I wasn't aware of your struggle with cancer until last week. I guess I guess I've had my head in the sand. Well, I wish you guys a very merry Christmas amid all that you're going through. Thank you so much for your spiritual guidance, challenges to me, and support. I really cannot even tell you how much I look up to you.