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!

1 comment:

  1. Oh friend! I am so glad you were so vigilant! I hope all goes well.