Living Well

January 25, 2010

Prostate Cancer: How Personal Mission Helps in Crisis Decisions

This blog is my first public sharing about prostate cancer.  I will be sharing a number of important topics during the upcoming blogs on this cancer journey.  I share them because I have had many men come and ask me about their own prostate cancer issues.  I am sharing frankly and authentically about my journey.  I am not an expert in prostate cancer, but I do understand my own emotions about it.  I want to be frank in these posts so that other men with prostate cancer in their future can find some honest insights into what they will experience.

My cancer journey started in December 2007.  I have an accountability partner.  This is friend who I meet with regularly to discuss life, my goals, and areas of concern or frustration in my life.  He is a really important friend.  One of my commitments to him is to have an annual physical since I am 55 years old (I was 53 at the time of cancer discovery). 

I went to my doctor as promised and completed my physical.  While all was good, my doctor said, “Your PSA is just a little high.  Let’s send you to a urologist for a follow up.”  I went to a urologist in the following week.  While his bedside manner was lacking, in retrospect, he was the first to detect my cancer by digital rectal exam (DRE).  I didn’t really want to accept that initial exam from him, so I began praying about my next steps and where I should go in this process.  I couldn’t ignore it; I had to deal with something that several doctors told me might be growing in me.  A dear friend (who had dealt with prostate cancer) led me to Urology of Indiana and Dr. John Ramsey.  As a side, I would encourage any man thinking they have prostate cancer to locate a urologist they are comfortable working with.  This is a critically important issue.  We all must take charge of our personal health.  My desire for a second opinion (allowed by most medical plans) was a way that I did take charge of my own physical health. 

It was now January 2008.  I had been dealing emotionally with all that was transpiring over the course of three weeks.  I had a range of emotions—fear, disbelief, anger, denial—emotions that moved from moment to moment, day to day.  I began searching websites and found many that described prostate cancer as a “life journey.”  I realized this was becoming the start of a much longer pilgrimage than initially imagined.

My faith was a solid foundation during all this time.  As I have stated in my “Who I Am” section, I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  I believe he watched over me and was protecting me in this journey and initial discovery.  Not only did we discover I had cancer, but also an aneurism.  I was finding that my faith was a central point for me.  A stable faith continued guiding me in times of doubt and frustration.  Believing that God was watching over me was essential to giving perspectives to the tears I shed at times wondering about the upcoming doctor’s visits.

A month of waiting and personal agonizing had now turned into February 2008.  On Feb. 20, I had a biopsy.  A prostate cancer biopsy consists of inserting a probe to the prostate through the rectum (the probe is about the size of a frankfurter).  This probe has a needle in it that inserts a Novocain or anesthesia into the prostate.  The prostate is a gland that sits on both sides of the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder into the penis for urination.  One half sits on each side of the urethra.  The prostate holds the semen that is emitted during intercourse/ ejaculation.   The probe then has a needle that grabs microscopic sections of the prostate.  Typically there are four to six sections taken from each side of the prostate.  The probe sampling stings a bit.  The noise of the probe is like a loud mouse trap snap.  This snap startles, but the Novocain makes this tolerable.  You are lying on your side in a fetal position during this procedure.  After the biopsy, you are a bit tender in sitting and will experience some blood in your urine over the coming day or so.  The procedure takes about 30 minutes, in which you are awake the entire time.  Once the procedure is complete, the waiting begins.

On Feb. 26 my doctor called.  I definitely had cancer.  One side of the prostate was a zero (on the Gleason Scale), but the other side of the prostate was a seven on the cancer scale of zero to 10.  This meant a series of appointments must now begin.  The first was to have a full body bone scan.  Prostate cancer makes its path into the bladder and bones.  Prostate cancer is always prostate cancer, except that it can lodge in the bones or move to the bladder (which is only separated by millimeters of tissue).  So, my first appointment was a full radiation body bone scan to determine if the cancer had spread.  With a report that the cancer had not spread, I was ready for my first major consultation on the steps we would now need to take to deal with my prostate cancer diagnosis.

During the weeks between January 1 and Feb. 26, I had a lot of time to process my thoughts and emotions.  I had to deal with them….any man with prostate cancer will have to deal with them.  I had to deal with the possibility of the spread of the cancer, the possibilities of complications, the fact that I am young with this disease, and the effect this diagnosis might have on my sexuality and sexual relationship with my wife.  But in it all, I was focused on the items I have already been blogging about….having a personal mission and knowing what really matters in life.  My faith, my mission, and my determination to live well were always at the center, even in times of grief and anxiety. 

Having a personal mission helps in crisis decisions, like those of cancer.  Whether it is cancer, a broken relationship, a loss of a job, or other events that happen in life, I am convinced that knowing what personally matters and making a choice to live well allows better decisions and choices to be made.  Having a personal mission doesn’t change the fact of the situation or maybe even the outcome, but it does allow you to be in a place for creating a brighter path through these life events.  A personal mission helps make the decisions cleaner and more definitive.  It also adds courage for the long outcome, not the short term issues.

My faith, mission and life purpose would allow me to make some choices.  I will explain how in upcoming blogs.

Grace and peace.

David Neidert

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