Friday, September 15, 2023


...about PSA.

For much of this year, I have tried to embrace my role as supportive wife, telling myself that the tales to tell belonged to my husband and that he was the one who needed to be lifted me. Please note that it says I "tried". Despite my notions and what started as good intentions, I also pouted, cried, panicked, gobbled cookies, scarfed candy, ate ice cream and leaned heavily on a very small group of poor unfortunate souls who were kind and brave enough to keep showing up and weather my behavior. September is prostate cancer awareness month, and I am now very aware thankyouverymuch. Just typing that word, "cancer", yuck.

It started with a couple of slightly elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen since we are aware now) numbers, but zero symptoms. Age is just a number, as are PSAs, but a not alarmingly high number for said age is apparently still suspicious when it's been creeping upward. Next up was an MRI that we'd hoped would rule out any concern; but, instead showed some suspicious areas, so an utrasound guided biopsy followed. The biopsy results were available in the portal (which sounds much more mystical than it is), and the only googling we allowed ourselves was "how to interpret biopsy results" with their accompanying gleason scores and such. I could say the words out loud about what the biopsies showed, as in "the biopsies showed some cancer", but it took me longer to get the whole phrase "my husband has cancer", as if somehow the samples had come from some place that didn't involve him. Truth be told, I did ask the google a couple of other things like "what happens when a prostate is removed?" and some brief glimpses down whatever rabbit hole that query opened up. 

I sat at the edge of the frame for the zoom appointments with the urologist, radiation oncologist and then surgeon taking as many notes as I could in the event that my husband's mind was as filled with mush by it all as mine felt. Surgery or radiation - the doctors told him it was his choice because the success rates as well as rates for reoccurence were the same with either, as they believed the cancer was contained in his prostate due to his not terribly high numbers and the MRI. I told him it was his choice, because it was his body, and I kept my opinions out of his ears because most of the decision process seemed to involve very personal things. He opted for surgery. He reached out to his own tribe and got a couple of phone numbers for guys who had also had the surgery so he'd have a better idea of what to expect. I was filling in the blanks finding out what kind of underwear go best with a catheter. I really struggled with those logistics.

I was confident in the surgeon and the success of the surgery itself, but was still unsettled. I knew the operation and subsequent recovery would be life changing for some period of time with a potential to remain so. While I kept telling myself these possibilities were his concerns, I eventually lost the will to pretend they wouldn't become mine as well. I heard a bit of "well if he was gonna have cancer, that's the one to have".  Ugh. I know it was well intended, but no. The reality is that nobody really wants to talk about the private lives of prostates. It's awkward, and we can just leave it at that.

We read all of the paperwork the doctor's office sent us, noting the discrepancies on various pages. We weren't positive what to be prepared for, but told ourselves he was ready. Over five months after hearing that the MRI was concerning, the big surgery day came at the end of July. Five months sounds like a long time to agonize over something...because it is! The robotic surgery was to take ninety minutes tops, and I felt confident that I could keep my shit together in the hospital waiting room for that long. I was given my husband's number and pretended he was on some exotic trip while I kept watch on the color coded flight board for his status.
At the two hour mark, snacking and reading were no longer useful distractions and I entered the talking to strangers phase of panic. Luckily there was another designated waiter nearby willing to engage in mindless banter with me. When the surgeon appeared and asked me to come to a private room with him to talk, I clumsily attempted to gather all of the various bags I'd brought like a very nervous pack mule. He offered to help me which just seemed so ridiculous after what he'd been up to that whole time. We finally gathered me and my stuff and he very slowly gave me a recap. I suppose I could've warned him that I am a "tell me everything is ok quickly and then you can elaborate" kind of gal. He was pleased with how things went, saw something funky on the bladder, but the frozen sample showed no cancer and lymph nodes looked good. If he was pleased, I was certainly pleased.

The kids had asked that they be notified as soon as the dad jokes started flowing, and my hsband did not disappoint. I guess I had been expecting a groggy and maybe slightly queasy patient. Instead I was presented with a man using his hands to pretend he was parting the crowd in the hallway who ordered this for his post op lunch...
...and ate every last bit of it along with that pitcher of water. We knew there was a chance he could come home that day, provided he passed the milestones on the board like pain management, eating, drinking and walking. He reported his pain level as a 2 and we've already discussed lunch. The doctor just looked at me and said "he's very strong" and I admit to being as surprised as he was. My husband was just laying on the bed, wide-eyed with zero naps in sight. Our third nurse for the day took the stance that the catheter bag would be my responsibility despite how involved I tried to appear in reading paperwork when she started talking about it. My husband's responsibility was to just continue to lay there being strong while I read things I didn't want to read and looked at things I didn't want to see. We left the house at 5:30 that morning and pulled back in the driveway at 5:30 that afternoon (after stopping to grab a few dinner provisions because that lunch wasn't going to hold him over) with one of us a bit more rested than the other.

My husband works from home and has Fridays off. Since his surgery was on a Friday, he did not tell anybody at work how he spent the day, and just shuffled down the hall Monday morning, business as usual. The catheter bag became business as usual as well, aside from one incident that still baffles us in which he dropped the bag getting in the shower somehow causing a tangle that took an enginering marvel to outmaneuver. That led to his first bout of light headedness with the added convenience of soaking wet and nakedness. I just sat on the bathroom floor near tears as he kiddingly asked how my summer was going.
Just a guy out walking his catheter

I found myself following some new social media links...
...and that summed things up nicely.

We went for his follow up appointment one week later, and bid a not so fond farewell to "Pee-ter", as my husband had named the catheter, (Dad joking still intact). The labs had not come back at that time, but it really felt like somehow in one long short week the first hurdle was far behind us. I was not home the following week when the doctor called to say that some cancer cells showed up on the vesicles and so radiation may be on the agenda. Therefore, I did not get to ask eleventy-seven follow up questions. We will learn more at his follow up to the follow up appointment next week. I looked back through my notes the other day from the first three appointments and did not see that possibility mentioned. I suppose maybe it was just a given? We were deflated is probably the best way to put it. Since radiation was a treatment option to begin with, we are confident the cancer will be kicked. There isn't really any point to spending time regretting the surgery because we cannot give it back.

I swear this post is not intended as a pity party you accidentally were invited to, although ice cream is about to be served. It's about awareness. We are so grateful for my husband's doctor who was closely watching those PSA numbers and made the referral to a urologist. I am fortunate that my husband actually does go for routine medical appointments and follows the advice given therein. If you have a guy in your life who doesn't like to take care of himself or go for checkups, get bossy!

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

One Day at a Time

Well, I thought I was really off to the races, typing in a title that seemed to make sense...but now I have to pause to sing the theme song to the show, reflect on Bonnie, Valerie and Mackenzie, laugh about the friend who called me Schneider at the height of my house cleaning career because I had so many keys on my chain, and absolutely none of that has any relevance to what I had planned to talk about. Quite honestly, what I am about to talk about also has no relevance to what I originally intended to come back here with. I know I've said before that coming back from a blogging hiatus is always difficult because I feel like the offering has to be especially poignant and/or amusing, perhaps even cathartic. It is not a matter of feeling like I owe all five of you an explanation for my absence, as I am confident that you've soldiered on adequately without me. Instead I typically just catapult around in a pinball machine, bouncing off every single thing that seemed like a great idea to discuss, while the bright lights and clanging sounds just distract me from conjuring complete sentences. Did I go bra shopping out of season? Yes, yes I did. And was it successful? No, in fact even less characteristically so than usual. Somewhere I am sure I took at least one photo of the event, but considering how sidetracked finding that could get me, we are just going to talk about something

Today had all of the makings for an ordinary day. I say that with a great deal of joy, as there is nothing wrong with ordinary. My friend and I headed out to the good bagel place, armed with both a paper and mental list of items we needed to pick up on our quest to avoid the heat as best we could. After eating our bagels with cream cheese in the car, because we are fancy, we headed to the mall to use some coupons. I will not tire of handing the people at the Bath and Body Works registers my "no purchase necessary" coupon and walking away with only whatever free item was listed. I worked some other coupon magic at DSW and got some new sneakers at 1990's pricing. My quest to find knee-high nylons was foiled several time over though, leaving me to wonder just how badly I am showing my age by looking for such an item. (I own a pair of exactly what I am looking for, but the problem is that after weeks of searching, I cannot find them in my house either.) 

Once we were ready to accept that we really did not need anything else that the mall had to offer, we left for other places. We did not have anywhere to be, nor anyone to answer to or waiting for our return. We went to Marshall's (yup, right after deciding the mall had nothing else for us) and while waiting at the registers buying things we most certainly did need, saw a man shoplift a cart full of items simply by pushing his cart right on out the front door. One of the cashiers did call to him to let him know where the registers were, but maybe he didn't hear her. The crazy part is that this is the second time we've seen this event at that same store, yet there we were still waiting in line and paying for our merchandise.

We then made our way to Wegmans to get the apple peeler that was on my friend's list. I got some hummus just because going to the grocery store and leaving empty handed is nonsense. She had put a cooler in the car as she is a prepared kind of gal. I admit that I may have questioned her decision to just throw an ice cube tray in the cooler, as opposed to a blue ice, or bag of ice, but I understand that flying out the door feeling, so I threw my hummus in with her few refrigerated items next to the melted tray. We were approaching unstoppable. Those bagels keeping us fueled well beyond our usual lunch hour. We headed to Target to check for something my son wanted and talked about the lint roller I needed and where they lived at that store. There was no reason to pull out my list of FOUR items to see what the fourth thing actually was (her apple peeler was on my list and the elusive knee-highs and small garbage bags). My friend looked at her list for Walmart on her phone as we briefly debated whether those items should be purchased at Target or whether we should go across the street to Walmart. I admit that I am rarely looking for a reason to go to Walmart, but considering the store would be air conditioned, it met our prerequisites for the outing. (I also thought I stood a good chance of finding my nylons there and we were looking for some new seasonal Tootsie Roll item.)

Noticing that it was 2:45 in the afternoon, we started to give some serious consideration to our need for something that resembled lunch and what the options would be once we entered the store. As we opened our car doors in the Walmart parking lot, having had no time in the half mile ride from Target to actually cool the car off, we were blasted with a wall of heat that sent us back into the car to regroup. We knew we had our newly purchased hummus and cottage cheese; however, we were lacking in utensils even after a glove compartment search. She ripped the plastic film off the cottage cheese in half and thought we could each use a piece as a scooper. I let her go first to confirm that was a bad idea. Here we were, two women with no time constraints, nor other personnel to deal with, spending money in our wallets and a complete lack of recall as to how to fashion a day. We may have strayed too far from the days when we were ladies who lunched? Could we not figure out how to navigate two meals on the run? Did the heat just send us sideways? Make no mistake, we were enjoying ourselves, but perhaps falling slightly short of thriving. We had our extra good bagels (because you don't drive downtown to not get leftovers), so we ripped one in half and used pieces for cottage cheese scoopers. It was yummy for sure. Sadly, we had both drained our drinking water resources, aside from what was in the ice cube tray, but we were about to head into the third store in a row with grocery offerings.

We came up empty on our candy quest, despite seeing some new Reese's products. She got her flour and contact lens solution. I got the lint roller that I never looked for at Target, forgot to look for the knee-highs, did not get a drink and never thought about the garbage bags until I got home and took out my list. We may function better under pressure, or at least time constraints. This worked too though, as long as there is still time left in the week to get everything I forgot.