Cautious Optimism From A Man Named Sparkes

Part 5 & 6: Prostate Cancer Bliss

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know my blogs are too long, but how else am I going to help you with your insomnia? I can assure you, this blog is the very least I can do to help you overcome sleep deprivation.

For those who cannot wait, the great news is that I was accepted for the Prostate Trial Cancer Study at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Hospital in New York City. This is the Tookad therapy method I mentioned in an earlier post. You can read a summary here:  http://sperlingprostatecenter.com/photodynamic-therapy-tookad-prostate-cancer/ 

For me, what’s very interesting about my previous blogs is how many facts I got wrong or at least misinterpreted or outright misunderstood. In my eagerness to understand my condition following my diagnosis, I have read and listened to just about everyone and everything. I’ve consulted with at least five leading experts in the field … in fact, each consecutive doctor I have talked with appears to be one or two steps better than the last. (Of course the best doctor is always the one that tells me what I want to hear!) The doctors have all been straight shooters – great men, very concerned and helpful. If I had just stuck to what they’ve been telling me all along and not presumed or jumped to conclusions from what others and the internet was telling me, then maybe my previous blogs would be far more gospel than the humorous misunderstandings presented as fact! … Mea Culpa!

The funny truth is I just had to figure things out for my own piece of mind and in my zeal to learn and understand quickly I searched the Internet and talked to everyone with an opinion. In other words, and to paraphrase President Donald Trump, I have been duped by “fake news”.  Oh, and regardless what side of the political fence you rest upon there really is plenty of evidence for fake news.  One good example, who can argue with the fact your local weatherman has one of the few occupations where he can be wrong 60% of the time and still keep his job? (I like picking on weather people because its safe. If I pick on anyone else I’m apt to be labeled a hater and be castigated for all time for being intolerant and politically incorrect.)

I had hoped to consistently post updates for this blog each week, but last Saturday (9.09.17) we flew out to New York. On Monday, I had a consultation with one more Urologist regarding the Tookad trial / study he is about to begin at MSK, which, by the way, I am told is the #1 cancer hospital in the US (and I hope that much is not fake news). I did not bring a PC with me so my blog, as a result, is a little late and maybe a bit longer and maybe a bit rushed. Again, the great news is that I qualify and if all checks out I will be included with the trial study.

My MSK doctor tells me he is good friends with his British equivalent. If my facts are straight, cross your fingers, then Dr Mark from Europe conducted the Tookad study that released their findings last October. Tookad was 80% effective for the 400 men tested. Dr. Mark approached the EMA (Europe’s FDA) with the results and they in turn told him they were and continue to remain in agreement with the opinion of the FDA. That is, the EMA is not willing to approve Tookad as an effective treatment for prostate cancer until it can be shown to be effective on treating men with mid grade prostate cancer. Consequently, both the FDA and EMA want men with mid grade prostate cancer to be treated with the Tookad drug. If the results are found to be as effective as the tests performed on men with low-grade prostate cancer, then there is a very good chance the FDA will approve Tookad as a viable prostate cancer treatment!

Mid Grade Vs Low Grade

When cancer is found in the prostate biopsy a score from three to 10 is given to rate the seriousness. Dr. Gleason created the scoring system where two found prostate cancer values are added up together. The lowest possible score is three and the highest is 10. Low grade cancer is six (3+3) and under. Mid grade is 7 (4+3 or 3+4 and yes there is a difference) and anything above is considered high-grade cancer. I’m told you cannot have a score under three, but since four and five scores are possible, then that means 3+2, 3+0, 3+1 are all possible but 2+0, or 2+2 is not (don’t ask me why). The European study was performed on men with scores no greater than six.

The FDA is intrigued by the findings from last October, but the next step is to prove the Tookad drug is effective on mid grade cancers. My MSK Urologist is looking for men like me with a Gleason score of 3+4=7 and a PSA under 10 (my last one on May 31st was 9.73).

Tookad is a drug? I thought you said it was deep-sea bacteria?

Maybe it’s both. This is what I was told last Monday (9/11). The doctor who came up with Tookad was trying to find a way to treat his wife’s breast cancer. He realized that chlorophyll naturally attacks plant cancers. He wondered if there was a way to encourage chlorophyll to do the same thing in a human being with cancer.

It turns out that yes, chlorophyll may be the answer. Said doctor then went on to develop a new drug developed from chlorophyll and it is called Tookad. The trick, and the reason for the trials and studies, is that doctors are still trying to find how much chlorophyll is needed and how much light must be used to activate.

NOT SCIENCE FICTION – SCIENCE FACT! (Caution: A little graphic in places)

Chlorophyll naturally reacts to sunlight. Like I wrote in earlier blogs, it don’t like daylight. It gets angry and goes wild. Think Tasmanian Devil. Doctors have to keep the Tookad drug in the dark because even cell phone light can set this stuff off (my take and not necessarily fact).

My doctor and his RN at MSK explained some of the details for what I can expect to happen. The treatment is only performed on Tuesday (I suppose doc has a standing golf game Wednesday and Thursday and Friday is the start of his three-day weekend). I’ll be given the drug and covered from head to toe lest the rays of light disintegrate me like a vampire. So, for a few hours Tuesday I really will be a creature of the night (awesome!) Ooh, what if I have this procedure done on Tuesday, October 31st? Pretty cool Halloween I’ll say!

Lucky for me, they’ll knock me out for the actual procedure, but as I understand they’ll take very thin, (well, I hope they’re thin) strands of fiber optics and insert them into my prostate. Lasers are then fired, (is this cool or what?) which in turn angers the chlorophyll in the Tookad drug flowing next to and in and around the prostate cancer. Since the only light source is in my cancerous prostate, only the chlorophyll present therein will go Tasmanian and hopefully destroy my cancer.

I think I read or heard the actual procedure is about 90 minutes. From there they take me to recovery for six grueling hours! I say grueling because I have to remain covered from top to bottom so that the remaining Tookad flowing through me is not agitated by any light! I can’t play on a cell or blog on a laptop, (too much light), but if I wear sunglasses I can watch a small TV in the far off corner of the room.

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Maybe I can somehow reuse my eclipse viewer box during my recovery?

Once my vampirism wears off I can return to my New York City lodgings. Because the chlorophyll has violently attacked my prostate, it in turn is going to swell up and cut off my urinary tract unless they first insert a catheter (Yippee! and I do mean pee!). Following the procedure, I’ll need to take it easy for a few days. By the end of the week I should be all back to normal. The following Monday I’ll return for a follow-up consultation and then I can go home. Three months later I’ll return for a blood test and possibly another biopsy. I return again for a follow up after six months and then a year and then every year after, but maybe by then my local urologist will be enough.

The only serious side effect they are aware of is that the procedure will permanently sterilize me. (Make up a joke and insert it here). And assuming all goes well, the cancer will be destroyed or reduced to a level where it no longer poses an immediate or short-term threat. More good news, even if the trial is completely unsuccessful they can do the procedure again. Only if it doesn’t work a second time will I have to seriously consider robotic surgery. (This might be fake news but I believe of the 400 treated in the European study last year, only 6% had to eventually have conventional treatments – i.e. surgery or radiation therapy.)

I really have nothing to lose going with the trial study. My hope is that this proves to be a viable FDA approved procedure to treat men with prostate cancer in the future. Even if it doesn’t work for me whatsoever, the doctors will still have a better understanding on how much drug or light needs to be administered. They will be better dialed in on how best to use this method for treating prostate cancer (and maybe other cancers too!).

Participating in the study makes me feel I am doing something good with my life. It may not be much really, but it is still something and I feel very good about it.

My next step is to have a prostate MRI scheduled and performed, (locally in the next week or two). Once completed I’ll be set and I’ll only need schedule my Tookad procedure. I was informed today (9.13.17) the trials begin when I am in Hawaii! Ha! My doctor told me not to worry about it. Once I’m on the list they won’t remove me from the list. So, it’s just a matter of getting the MRI results to MSK and scheduling a Tuesday that works best. I’m predicting November, but it could be as early as Halloween … and like I said, what better day to be transformed into a creature of the night!

Ramble Alert! Insomniacs need only proceed from this point forward.

What an amazing month I have had. I have gone from resigning myself to having a robotic prostatectomy to cautiously hoping I could qualify for a state of the art cancer treatment. Aiding and adding to my optimism are all these really incredible coincidences … excuse me, Christ-instances. On top of that even, I have been swathed in prayers; deeply cared for by so many I cannot even begin to count, let alone thank (and thank you I do – each and every one of you!). Of course not everyone I know will read this blog, but those who do please know your prayers work. Prayer can and often does make all the difference in the world. My so-called “Prostate Cancer Blues” now renamed, “Prostate Cancer Joy” rests as evidence (see Back to Faith as the bottom of this blog).

Many of you know, last October (2016) Wanda’s Mom said going to NYC is one of the places she would like to visit someday. The first and only time I really visited Manhattan was back in 1973 (I was 13). I’ve been to New York State numerous times over the last 20 years but only passed through Manhattan twice. Like you, I knew all the famous landmarks, (Empire State Building, Waldorf Astoria, Central Park, Carnegie Hall, Times Square, Daily Bugle, Ghostbusters Headquarters, Friends Apartment, Soup Nazi Kitchen), but I didn’t know their proximity to each other. Going to New York City last May made my return trip last week feel so much more at ease. I now refer to mid-town Gotham as my not-so-old stomping grounds. Okay, and on top of that, even though I don’t want to live or move to New York City, I now get it. I understand why people like it so much. I get it and yes, I have to admit, I love NY (maybe not the Yankees so much, but the vibe of the city? YES!).

Sick Humor Aside Note: Did you know NYC has its own sound track? It really does. We arrived in NYC via Penn Station. As we came up out of the station depths we were immediately greeted by the sound of sirens (the song of NYC!). I love the sounds of sirens in New York City. It cries out reality and warns that sometimes those who have come to make it there might just not make it anywhere – anymore! Sorry, sorry. I know, I know, way too much cynicism and way too much dark humor. Hey, see the italics? It means I was joking and I don’t really mean it. Here, I’ll prove it. The truth is, whenever I hear a siren (here, there or anywhere), I treat it like a prayer call. I pray for the people operating or inside the ambulance or the people on the fire engine. I pray they are aided and protected by God in their rush to help and rescue people in need. I pray for the police and the other civil servants in action. I ask God to protect all parties involved and that He guide them all to health and safety.

See, here’s the thing, I honestly believe there would be a lot less road rage if we only knew each other better. If the road is packed and I’m in a miserable hurry I sometimes feel a mean streak when someone cuts me off or tries to make a last second lane change. But what if the other driver was a good friend or a relative? Well, depending on which relative of course, I think I would behave much differently if the person cutting me off was someone I knew. I may still be a jerk and block them from squeezing in, but we would be laughing at each other versus flipping each other.

An Aside Side Note: Don’t flip people off … Nah, that’s too easy and way too common and pretty much meaningless anymore. See, I prefer to mess with them big time another way. I like to blow them kisses. Why should you get all worked up tense and stroke out because someone has bad road manners. You can’t change them, but you can mess with them. So, I like to add to their tension by being overly nice to them! 

The point being, our previous trip to New York last May has paid out with many big dividends. Wanda and I are quite comfortable getting around mid-town Manhattan now, which is a good thing as I do believe I will be making four more trips over the next 12 months.

NYC Visit Summarized:

We arrived early Saturday evening and spent most of it getting settled in. One thing we quickly realized this visit is NYC is full of surprises and one should never take the city streets for granted. There are lightly hidden gems waiting patiently for someone to discover if they but go down these otherwise mediocre appearing mid-town streets (On the flip side, some streets have hidden things looking for your gems so please use some discretion!). Last May when we went out to eat we thought we were being pretty thorough with our good restaurant hunting, but most of our epicurean searches left us feeling something was never quite right. We thought we were looking pretty hard for good places to eat and we found lots of  places to eat, but we left New York wondering what the hoopla over the great NYC food was all about. This time, this visit, was different. We learned not to judge a New York City street by its appearance. This time, and only a half block away from where we stayed last time, we found some of the best Chinese food we have had in a long time.

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Joe’s Shanghai Soup Dumplings are big and delicious.

We missed it last time, because the road looked kind of dark and creepy. Plus we had Mom with us and we didn’t want to make her walk too far unnecessarily. This time it was only Wanda and myself so we were quite happy just walking, talking and exploring.

(Word to the wise single people out there: take your time finding someone to marry. I suggest you marry your best friend. If you can travel or vacation with someone for more than a week without wanting to go home to get away from them, then I would argue you have a pretty good shot at making it in marriage!)

We used points during our last visit to stay cheaply at the Hilton on W. 57th. This time we again used points, but we stayed next door at Le Parker Meridien on W. 57th & 56th. In the lobby of Le Parker Meridien there is a hole in the wall burger joint appropriately called, “The Burger Joint.” People arrive early, prior to opening, and almost fill up the lobby waiting in line to eat here. Naturally, we had to try it. It’s expensive, but not overly so, (try ordering a burger in the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s cuz that’s expensive!), but the burgers and shakes are pretty good.

On Irma Hurricane Sunday I went to Mass first thing. St. Patrick’s is only a 10 minute walk. And because St. Patrick’s Cathedral is right across the street from 50 Rock (Jimmy Fallon, Sat Night Live, NBC), Wanda and I walked down by the NBC studios following Mass, where Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and others were live broadcasting the coverage of hurricane Irma in Southern Florida. If you were watching Sunday morning around 7:30 am Pacific, then know I am sorry I didn’t wave to you.

We spent the rest of Sunday re-exploring and rediscovering our not-so-old stomping grounds. Highlights included the Swiss chocolate shops ($112 lb for chocolate and where the samples are restricted to smelling), window shopping (Tiffany’s, Sak’s 5th Ave) and hanging around the fine Asian art and collectibles at Christie’s Auction House.

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It’s not a question of price. I’m sure it’s worth $10,000, but will it make me look fat? 

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Okay, okay, this is where I throw one of my nieces under the bus … last May Kristin was able to go to NYC with us. She graduated from Seattle U last year and has lots of free time because she has no life, no responsibilities and still lives at home. Its cool though because she’s small; doesn’t take up much room and for the most part smells okay. Anyway, we all decided if we were going to go to New York City then it was mandatory that we also catch a play on Broadway.  I really enjoy a good play as nothing really tops a live performance so where better for catching a show than in an authentic New York Broadway Theater! 

We all loved the idea so I scoured the listings and boy were there a lot to choose from, but what ultimately caught my attention were the handful of shows featuring movie star celebrities. I mean the one and only Sally Field was performing in a Tennessee Williams play! Kevin Kline was in a play. Bette Midler was performing in “Hello Dolly” (probably her last stage performance). Everyone was talking about how great “Hamilton” was, and telling us to buy tickets no matter the cost. These were all very tempting to me, but the one play I had my heart set on to see was Arthur Miller’s “The Price.” It starred Mark (The Incredible Hulk) Ruffalo, Danny DeVito and Tony Shalhoub, (the actor who played “Monk” on the USA Network).  How cool is that? 

Ideally I really wanted to see all the above, but we didn’t have much time and we certainly didn’t have nearly enough money. At the end of the day they were all great choices and so I shared the list with my wife, my mother-in-law and of course, my niece, Kristin. 

Neither Mom and Wanda really cared what show we caught. They thought they all sounded good and told me and Kristin to decide. Now, I know, Kristin doesn’t really care for super hero movies or super hero actors. She’s not going to care if she see’s the Incredible Hulk live on stage or not, but that’s okay because there are two other celebrities on stage with him! How is she going to pass up on that I ask you?

Okay, here’s how – She’s a twenty something college graduate and we all know what that means … she doesn’t have a clue about almost anything! She thinks she does, and it’s important we humor her (ya know, let her think she’s got it together), but at the end of the day, she’s just an inexperienced twenty something college grad and completely clueless. So I realize even with three stars on stage, she might still not be interested. And you know what, that’s okay. I’m cool with it because I would be thrilled to see Sally Field and I know Kristin really liked Sally in “Mrs. Doubtfire” … (Say it with me – Shoe-in!)

A Sally Field Aside: In my last post I wasted a lot of writing … I mean I wrote considerably about movies. Well, I should have mentioned a little forgotten and overlooked jewel that essentially relaunched Sally’s career. If you ever get the chance, check out and watch, “Stay Hungry” starring Jeff Bridge, Sally Field, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the creepy but very good character actor, R. G. Armstrong. Besides being a great Sally Field movie, it is by far the best Schwarzenegger film of all time … with the possible exception of “Hercules In New York” (preferably dubbed).

Okay, so this deal is slammed dunked, sewed shut, locked and covered. We’re either going to see three stars on stage or one great female actresses. I am content with either play choice. I’ll hope for three stars but settle for one.

I informed Kristin of the choices and the first thing she made clear is that since we had just seen “Aladdin” at Disneyland already there really wasn’t much reason to see it again on Broadway. Consequently, she happily agreed for us to all go and see, “The Lion King.”

“Martha Pus-bucket!” Fortunately I only mumbled the words. Kristin didn’t fully hear it.

“What did you say, Uncle Doug?”

“Uh, nothing really. I said … uh, Martha … Martha Plimpton … yes, Martha Plimpton! I think I read or heard she’s starring in “The Lion King?”

“Martha Plimpton? Who’s that?”

“Right … Okay, never mind. So, uh, yeah, the “Lion King” that’s certainly one option … but hey, what about Sally Field? Wasn’t she just great in Mrs. Doubtfire?”

Oh, who am I kidding. Of course we bought tickets for “Lion King” and it was horrible. Too many problems to spell them all out but supposedly Chase is a proud sponsor and as a Disney Chase card holder I was lead to believe if I buy tickets I would be given upgraded seats at no extra charge, a souvenir drinking cup, a pin and a massage from a fat man dressed up like a hyena. Suffice to say we didn’t get any of it (okay, one of the zebra girls gave me a stink eye). The seats were terrible. They crammed us off to the far side by an exit door and both my wife and mother-in-law refused to return to their seats after intermission!

Okay to be fair, I’ll concede that the performance, the singing and the kid actors were exceptional but that’s it! That’s my only concession! Yes, I am bitter about missing Ruffalo and Sally Field! See, here’s the thing. I actually had a back-up, back-up plan and it included seeing the syrupy “Lion King”. I mean why couldn’t we catch two shows during the trip? So yes, sure, we’ll go see the “Lion King” … We can always catch another play (ya know, a good play) the next night or the night before. There’s bound to be plenty of show times … and there was except for the small fact we booked “The Lion King” our last night in New York (Tuesday) and all the shows are dark and closed on Mondays. Sunday wasn’t an option because they’re only matinees and we already booked tours for Sunday! Consequently, no Ruffalo. No DeVito or Sally Field, or Midler, or Kline or little Tony Shalhoub!

Adding insult to injury, Kristin caught me crying about it and she had the nerve to look me in the eye and say, “Hakuna Matata”!

So why do I bring up and rehash all this misery? It’s because only a few months later Wanda and I return to New York City and this time we don’t have Kristin anchoring us to something lame like, “Frozen”! I’m really excited about returning because there’s nothing stopping me from finally seeing genuine stars on Broadway! I’m almost more excited about this than qualifying for the Tookad test! So, get ready Mark, Danny, Tony, Kevin, Bette and Sally! One or more of you gets to entertain me live!

I tell you I couldn’t be much happier … 

Did you know not all shows run forever on Broadway? I guess I just assumed they did or at least ran longer than August. I mean Cats, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Aladdin, Chicago and Miss Saigon never end. Apparently celebrity shows do end, but come on! What is up with that? There’s at least a half-dozen never-ending shows in New York right now, but the three I really want to see have already closed. Mark, Danny and Tony paid Arthur Miller’s price and have since moved on. Kevin has de-Klined any more performances. Sally is outstanding in some other field. Hamilton is on the $10 but it’s another 10 months before tickets are available again. – It’s okay though because I still have a trump card in my hand – Bette Midler in “Hello Dolly”!!!

Yes, the tickets are overpriced, but Ms. Midler is leaving the show after November so if we’re going to catch a celebrity on stage this has to be the one! And now that I think about it, I’m good with it. Seeing the classic “Hello Dolly” starring Bette Midler sounds pretty cool to me. If this is her last stage performance of her career then what a great opportunity to see her “swan song” as it were. So that’s the play we’re going to catch – regardless of cost. I figure you only live once so it’ll all be worth it.

Once we booked our airline and hotel there was no going back. We were all set, so the only thing to do next was to book our “Hello Dolly” tickets. I jumped on-line to buy them and yes, there were still some great seats available for Sunday’s matinee (up in the third balcony and only 100′ higher than the attic!) As expected, the tickets were anything but cheap but that’s okay. (We’ll only be in arrears with our mortgage for three, maybe four months at best, but even so I still have a plan. See, Christmas is coming so I figure the bank will be in a forgiving mood!) At this stage I’m pretty happy with my plan. It is working out pretty darn well if I say so myself. And just as I am all set to second mortgage the house for nose bleed seats, I just happen to see, at the very last moment, some very tiny, very fine print: “Ms. Midler will not be performing the week you’re in town Mr. Sparkes. She returns the week following. Sorry, but no celebrity performance for you! We suggest you consider attending a different show. “Frozen,” if you haven’t already heard, is really quite wonderful and very popular with the 20 something female college grads“.

Martha Plimpton!

Well, needless to say I didn’t see any movie celebrities on stage, but we did catch a play. Neither Wanda or I have ever seen “Miss Saigon” (one of the forever running plays on Broadway). We figured it was about the Vietnam War but even that was nothing more than a dumb, obvious assumption. We had other choices too. As mentioned, “Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats” were also playing, but I’ve seen both and even though both are quite good (I own the soundtracks), we figured if Miss Saigon has been playing this long (like Phantom and Cats), then there must be something to it.

I told Wanda, “What the heck, let’s give it a shot.” I bought the best seats we were willing to pay, which is kind of funny because we ended up in center seats third row back from stage. Third row center is about $100 less than the seats behind us (which maybe explains why they’re so empty in the picture below!)

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Ah, what can I say about “Miss Saigon”? It is the best play I have ever seen but I still hated it!

I hated Miss Saigon … not the play, but the effect it had on me. Crikey! I even saw it coming. There were no surprises whatsoever. I knew and saw every plot twist before it happened. I knew the eventual outcome. I mean, it’s not as though this story has not already been told before. All the great writers have used this story structure in one form or an other. Yet, in spite of my preparedness, in spite of my reserve to not let it get to me … it really got to me! Crikey!

What a great testimony to the actors, the writers and the heart of the play’s message. It’s no wonder why it continues to sell out. It really is the best play I have ever seen and at the risk of taking Hamlet out of context I have to say, “The plays the thing“.

“Miss Saigon” was followed by a trip to “The Burger-Joint” and after dinner we spent the rest of Sunday evening exploring mid-town Gotham. Apparently I am not the first person to be attracted by the window displays at Tiffany’s.

On Monday, 9/11, we woke up relatively early and turned on the morning news. Although the 9/11 Memorial is on the other end of Manhattan there is still something very poignant and special about being present.

Offically just under 3,000 people died in the 2001 tragedy. Still, the silver lining, the underlying beauty is seeing, hearing and experiencing the resolve of New Yorkers determination to rise above it all. The names of everyone who died were read by surviving family. We heard testimonies from the children who grew up never knowing their parents. We heard from nephews, nieces, mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles and every relation in between. It was somber. It was powerful and a very important moment. Living in Washington state I am sometimes too distanced by my own world to compassionately feel and understand what is going on elsewhere in the world. It is easy to dismiss the past or the destructive events in other parts of the planet. Sometimes there is just too much happening and I feel a sense of helplessness. 

As I wrote above, maybe if all of us simply took the time to slow down and really get to know each other better, then maybe we would be less indifferent about our fellow-man. The next time someone annoys you on the road or in the store try to be more patient and maybe throw out a prayer on their behalf. Maybe that’s why God has you there in the first place; to pray for those who really need it but have no one to pray for them.

I never curse anyone to hell, because quite frankly, if I’m that annoyed with them, then chances are they are in a kind of hell already. I’ve written about this before, but for me, the greatest revenge is to pray for my enemies. I would love to see a day when my enemies come to me asking not only for forgiveness, but thanking me for my prayers – in heaven – for all eternity! Said another way, if someone really gets to you, if someone you know is just about all evil as all evil can get, then which would be better, their death or their conversion? Wouldn’t it be better if they had a complete change of heart and spent the rest of their life trying to make it up to you? 

There are people from my past who have hurt me deeply (and sadly, there are people I have hurt deeply). I pray for those who have hurt me. Again, I never wish them to hell. I try to pray and ask for their release from hell. And to those I have hurt in some form, big or small, I do heartily ask for your forgiveness. Life is too short to hold onto grudges. If I hate someone and continually send them wicked thoughts what does that do to them? I know first hand what is does to me, but what does it really do to them?

We’ve all had our hearts broken to one degree or another. I can remember a particularly bad break up I had a lifetime ago. I thought I really hated this person. I was spiteful, angry and more often than not, quite petty whenever I was around her following our break-up. Then, one day, I don’t recall the where or the how, but it just sort of dawned on me. I wasn’t angry with her. I didn’t really hate her. No, what was really bothering me, I discovered, is that I still loved her and I hated myself because I could not stop loving her! Hell, that was 30 years ago and I still love her to this day. In fact, I always will. And just to be clear, I am not saying that I am still in love with her. I am not saying I am nurturing those kinds of feelings whatsoever. The euphoria and desire for her died in the 80’s, but my love for her is eternal. People, I believe, are just wired this way, but we often don’t know this or understand it fully. The feelings for hatred I tried to aim at her for breaking my heart turned out to be a self-hatred deflected toward her. I hated myself for not being able to really hate her. I wanted to be indifferent. I didn’t want to care anymore about her. I thought I hated her, and I justified my anger because she had, after all, really hurt me, but what was ultimately making me miserable is that I could not turn off the fact that love really is forever. I didn’t want to accept the fact I would always care regardless what she did to me. (This truth, this awareness, gives me great pause because I have to wonder how our actions toward God must affect He-who-loves-us-eternally in spite of the fact we continually sin and reject Him … )

Okay, so moving right along, after watching the 911 Memorial from our hotel, we spent the rest of the day either hoofing our way to MSK via Central Park or waiting around the doctor’s office. My appointment was at 11:30 and we were seen just before 1:00. We finished just before 4:00 and had to hustle back to the hotel because our late check out (4:00) was clearly going to be missed. Obviously you know by now I was accepted for the prostate cancer treatment study, which I am extremely blessed and grateful about. Thank you again for all of your prayers. I continually thank God for you and all who prayed for me and especially anyone who went out of their way not to pray for me! (HA!)

For dinner Monday, we walked down to Carmine’s off Broadway where they only serve authentic southern Italian family style dishes. The food was great, but the Caesar salad alone would have easily fed four people. After dinner we “Lyfted” back to Newark Airport and spent the night at the Doubletree (yay points!). We caught the 7:00 am flight back home, which got us back by 9:00 am (an hour early), but we were, to say the least, quite worn out for the rest of the day.

BACK TO FAITH

I’ve attached Father Dwight D Longnecker’s article on suffering. Father D is a convert to Catholicisim and now a Catholic Priest (and on that note, one of  my favorites to boot – and not just because we’re clones). I found his September 15th 2017 post rather apropos:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2017/09/sharing-passion-christ.html

 

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Wake Up Call From A Man Named Sparkes

Before I jump in and go off the beaten path with numerous free associations, know that this first must be noted: Renee Padgett is a Washington State Patrol Officer and my next door neighbor. She is losing the battle to cancer.

https://www.gofundme.com/xoxoTeamPadgett?viewupdates

Cancer numbers still rising…
Renee Padgett can’t seem to catch a break as her multiple myeloma numbers continue to rise from 7610 to 7970. The chemotherapy treatment she is on now is too toxic for her body that they were considering lowering the dose but with these new results in it’s a mute point. It seems to be killing all her other cells and not the cancer cells. What now? The doctors will meet to formulate another plan. Padgett will continue to be supported with blood and platelet transfusions in the meantime. 

Renee

I ask that you keep Renee in your prayers and if you can contribute to her GoFundMe account, then may God double bless you as well. Regardless, please pray for Renee. She’s lost at least 2″ in height, but never gives up. She is a fighter, but this cancer is extra tough.

And on that note, my secondary title for this post may appear to be a little out of line: 

Prostate Cancer Joy

I subtitled my previous blogs, “Prostate Cancer Blues”, but only because I didn’t feel family, friends and readers would understand, “Prostate Cancer Joy”. The most succinct answer to convey my feelings is to again recall my co-workers response when I asked him, “If you won the lottery today would you quit your job?” And he replied, “No, but I wouldn’t be as nice”.

Cancer for me is like winning the lottery. I no longer need to be so nice. I can be honest and open because what’s someone going to do about it – kill me? As my sister-in-law recently said my cancer is a blessing in disguise.

So, yes, it is true, I do not have to be as nice, but then again, I never really did. Before my prognosis I just always shied away from being totally forthright, blunt and honest. And for the sake of clarity, I’m not saying I won’t still be nice. I’m just saying I am now free from the fear of being nice for the sake of politeness and political correctness (sigh).

Also, it should be pointed out, kindness is an entirely different word and meaning. I do not consider nice and kindness as equal or even synonymous. They are sometimes closely associated, but for me they are not the same. Remember, nice guys finish last. 

(I just now tried to find and look up the word “nice” in the Bible and I must be doing something wrong because I could not find the word even once!)

Nice

The point being, even though I consider my cancer as an opportunity to be free, I do not grant myself license. Respect, kindness (and of course charity – always charity), must continue to rule over my actions and decisions. 

People often mistake freedom with license. Sometimes people will argue along the lines that they’re not really free unless they can do anything and everything as they please – but of course this is all a lie. No sane person would consent to living in a world where license is the rule of the day … I’ll try to say it another way. In a truly free society there are no laws … because in a truly free society no laws are needed. If we were free, genuinely free, we wouldn’t need laws to tell us not to steal because a genuinely free person would never steal. They would never kill. They would never intentionally harm a living soul.

In a genuinely free society, the citizens would never go hungry or be thirsty or naked or wonder where they were going to sleep at night because they would know with all certainty the citizens within a genuinely free society can be counted on to always rise up to meet their needs. 

On the other hand, a society ruled by license is ultimately ruled by indifference. James Bond has a license to kill – indiscriminately (whether or not he exercises the right is not the point). He is indifferent to the consequences of taking another man’s life. Indifference, of course, is the opposite of love. 

Therefore, when I speak of being free, and of cancer giving me a winning lottery ticket, I am not, nor am I am ever intending to even insinuate I have been granted license. I am free, but my freedom is ruled under the surveying scrutiny of love, kindness and respect. Consequently, and in a real sense, I must be more on guard and use even more discretion than before. (Crikey! Why is there’s always a catch?)

It’s tempting to speak my mind and say whatever snarky thing pops into it. For example, I was at dinner with family and I made an impulsive comment, “But I have cancer!” I don’t remember the context but I do recall thinking I was being funny and in the end it all worked out that way, but there was this brief moment, this sudden yet noticeable pause, when everyone just stopped and soaked in what I had just said. For a second I felt as if I had dropped an “F” bomb. Fortunately I immediately realized I needed to show more discretion and respect. In other words, just because I’m okay with my condition doesn’t mean everyone else is or even needs to be (Sorry family. I love you guys! Just remember what Wanda tells me all the time, “If you don’t laugh at yourself, you can bet someone else sure will!” Okay, okay, Wanda never says that. I say it, but she can if she wants!).

An Aside Note: I’m reminded of Spiderman when Peter Parker’s Uncle says to him, “With great power comes great responsibility“. Not all can see the blessing of having cancer and as I have said repeatedly, part of the blessing is akin to winning the lottery. Consequently, for me at least, living with and having cancer is a great power and I need to learn how to use it wisely.  “Hmm, so what’s your superpower?”

“I can mock having cancer!”

Paraphrasing, mixing and otherwise taking all kinds of liberties with the words of William Shakespeare, let me go on by saying, “Friends, Americans, countrymen, I am not here to praise cancer. I am here to make fun of it!”  

Time out! Before I continue, I need to share something … I am deeply blessed to have so much love and support from my family (my sister in California being the one big glaring exception. I mean, come on Kathi, everyone else is saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you … anything!” So, why are you holding out? I have an entire list of things you can do for me … For example, looking around my room I see I have plenty of laundry needing attending to, then there’s my car payment. I like nice restaurants … Come on sis, get with the program!).

I have a big, big meeting with a doctor next Monday in New York City. I’m traveling there next weekend to see if I can qualify for a trial study he is performing with a new procedure, (a new drug really) for treating prostate cancer. Even if I am accepted (that’s a big if), there is no guarantee it will work, but in the words of Vicki, played by the amazing Jennifer Tilly from the underappreciated but awesomely great movie, “Let It Ride” (1989), “You know what they say, ‘Nothing ventured … nothing ventured'”. 

A Big Big Aside Note: Changing gears (as I am so easily distracted) and speaking of movies: There are way too many forgotten, underappreciated movies. “Let It Ride” is simply one of the best feel good movies I have ever seen. I have a small handful list of semi-popular or unpopular films that have really touched me deeply for one reason or another. At times the connection is spiritual. (I list them below, but caution is required … I mean, unless you watch the movie with me and allow me to explain the connection, you’re more apt to conclude I’m quite a bit odder than you could ever have imagined!)

If you haven’t seen any of the following, then I suggest you do so, but only, only if you keep in mind I know my list is sometimes understandably strange and at times very eclectic. Regardless, I encourage you to watch and enjoy anything and everything directed by John Houston (start with “Treasure of the Sierra Madre“). Other movies include Akira Kurosawa’s “Sanjuro” (1963) and “The Big Country” (1958). All three of these films spell out the rules for being a real man.

Maybe because I really liked the Pee-Wee Herman TV show, I have a deep love for satire and comedy – from the innocent, (1970’s “The Boatnik’s“) to the spot-on brilliant satire, Serial” (1980). Another one of my all time favorite satires is a Socorsese film, “After Hours” (1985). In addition, Wes Anderson only made one film that I actually like (maybe because it is animated), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009).  

Still Another Aside Note: Oh, and speaking of Pee-Wee, his Broadway show from 2011 is exceptional. His Christmas special is a tradition at my home every Christmas season and about a year ago Netflix produced, “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday“, which I think is better than both “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Big Top Pee-Wee” combined. Of course, it probably doesn’t have to be said, but “Big Top Pee-Wee” is not worth even renting as it’s only a lazy re-imagining of Twilight Zone’s, “Kick the Can” and an overblown attempt to shout out Pee-Wee is totally straight and not the least bit gay. However, I will say this for it – the talking pig is a nice surprise.

In the realm of forgotten obscura, Bliss” (1985 starring Barry Otto), is a long, winding story about a love letter that took a man seven years to write and deliver.  

1980’s “Excalibur” is bloody and violent, but from it I learned to say, “A-Nal Nath Rac, Ewuff Fas Beth-ud Doth Yel D-Envy”. (And I double Doug dare you to get nerdier than that!) I suspect, Peter Jackson (Director Lord of the Rings), was deeply influenced by “Excalibur”.

Finally, my list can never be complete without referencing the greatest Sean Connery movie of all time … That’s right, you guessed it, Disney’s 1959 classic, “Darby O’Gil and the Little People” (FYI: Try to watch the original with the voice of Albert Sharpe as Darby. Due to his strong Irish brogue most versions are re-dubbed with another actor’s voice.)

Other films to make my top list often do not match other people’s lists (Hmm, I wonder why). For me, the greatest films of all time, (in loose order) include, “Lord of the Rings” (the 12 hour trilogy – extremely spiritual), “The Wizard of Oz” (beautifully innocent), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (soul kissing), “The Dark Knight” (moral pondering), “Young Frankenstein” (nothing spiritual, just pure escape), “Animal House” (License maybe wrong, but not so much when its found in a comedy), 1973’s “The Three Musketeers” (youthful foolish passion versus the harsh coldness of the world), the first “Avengers” movie (Yay Hulk!), and Joe vs the Volcano (1990) (Joe is an exceptionally quirky film but quite deep if you pay attention. BTW: Joe is the only Tom Hanks movie I really like with the possible exception of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, but only because he wasn’t born and couldn’t be in it!). There are many, many more but since I mentioned Joe I will also need to add Dune (1984). Keep in mind I fully realize there may only be six other people on the planet that like this film! (Actor Kyle Machalan, director David Lynch and their parents.) I completely understand if you pass on ever watching it. But, if you ever do watch it, then know there is one line at the end that repeatedly sends shivers up and down my spine no matter how many times I watch the movie (and sheepishly I can admit I’ve seen it 20, 30, maybe 50 times – but not since my 36th birthday … more about that someday.) For what it is worth, I know only one other person who had the same experience with Dune. He was my Catholic Priest at the Newman Center in Eugene way back in college daze. Without any prodding or hinting by me, he once told the group of us how strongly the same line impacts him in the same way it hits me and that the only other time he ever feels that way is when he is consecrating the Holy Eucharist at Mass. 

See, for me, a great movie is one you can watch over and over again, (“It’s a Wonderful Life“, “The Wizard of Oz“, “Raiders of the Lost Ark“, and the vast majority of Bond films). And even though I believe “Bridge Over the River Kwai” is awesome, I would never place it ahead of something as bad as “Star Wars” because even though I think “Star Wars” is at it’s best, blase’ (most of it being stolen from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Frank Herbert), I can, (if nothing else is on), watch it repeatedly and not be too bothered by it’s goofy and unimaginative story line. Whereas once you’ve seen movies like “Citizen Kane” and “The Deer Hunter” you really don’t need to ever watch them ever again. 

(Statistics show I lost more readers to my Star Wars criticism than any other comment made. All I can say, is be grateful I at least didn’t get started on the Harry Potter stories and films.)

Okay, back to the “Joys of Having Prostate Cancer!” I call this disease a blessing because the mortality bell has chimed. As the notes of the bell reverberate in and across my mind and soul, I dimly begin to see a list of questions set out before me – “What have you done with your life?” “Who do you serve?” (Yes, I know this question is from Excalibur) “What have you done for others?” “Where is your treasure?”

I have heard these questions repeatedly over the course of my lifetime (okay, admittedly, the “Excalibur” question not as long). This reminds me of another adage I’ve heard or been told, “Knowledge is everywhere, but understanding is limited.” So, okay, what does that mean exactly?

In the simplest terms, knowledge is like the unwise man who knows smoking is bad for him, but continues to smokes anyway. Understanding is another word for wisdom and therefore, in this example, understanding is like the wise man who never smokes in the first place.  (Time Out: I have heard it said nicotine addiction is harder to break than heroin and maybe so, but that’s not the point. I am not trying to say all smokers are unwise or fools. I’m only attempting to give a rudimentary clarification between knowledge and understanding.) 

Knowledge is everywhere. (Wik it up if you don’t believe me. Snope it out if you think I’m lying. Oh, and just so you know, I coined that phrase so it’s copyrighted and you must pay me a nickel anytime you use it!) Understanding … that appears to be a gift from God and at times the result from an experience. “Ow!” cried the little boy as he pulled his scorched palm away from the hot stove. The throbbing pain was a constant reminder that Momma had not been lying after all.

Seek knowledge but pray for understanding.

I know I’ve said this earlier, but my prayers point me to believe cancer is a wake up call. Once more God is saying, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). The message translated is asking me, “When the dust finally settles, where will you be standing?” Again, I wonder, “Am I passing through the world, or am I in the world?” 

I am not a theologian so my apologies if I get this all wrong, but man was created and separated from the beasts on the sixth day. Is it any wonder then, the beast, the anti-Christ is comprised of a number of sixes? In some ways I believe when God is calling to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:9 and when He says, “Where are you?” it isn’t because He has lost sight of Adam and Eve and is searching for them (granted they are trying to hide), but it seems to me this is more a question of, “Are you still separated from creation and with me, or are you back with the beasts of the world?” Or as I continue to wonder, what about me? Am I in or of the world?

Sometimes this idea, this notion especially comes to mind when I see people permanently disfigure themselves to look and appear more like animals. The images reforms the question in my heart. The cancer then, like an alarm clock, jolts me into awareness. I am reminded of Ephesians 5:14, “…Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” (Or was it the movie Dune? “The sleeper must awaken.” Hey, all I’m saying is no matter how bad the movie Dune is, it still has some strong spiritual moments!) Regardless, and as much as we may want, our life should not be wasted staying asleep. (If you ever drive around the Puget Sound you’ll quickly see what I mean. See, I actually believe zombies really do exist, but I do not believe they are like the ravenous brain hunters commonly depicted by Hollywood. No, that part is anything but true. Real zombies do exist. I’ve seen them daily! They drive all around the Puget Sound, continually distracted by their cell phones, zoning out, day dreaming or fixing their faces in one form or another. You can spot them several cars away as they often drift in and out of their lanes, seldom do they signal and even when they do they don’t turn off their signal once they’ve made a lane change. Many times they will selfishly stop traffic so they can switch lanes or make turns they’ve missed because obviously they are the only ones on the road! … I’m going to make a movie titled, “Mindless Zombies of the Puget Sound!It’ll be super cheap to make as all I have to do is mount a camera on my dashboard. In a week’s time I’ll have enough footage for a two hour film. And for what it is worth, “Joe Versus the Volcano” is all about snapping out from zombie mode and waking up!)

Maybe this is the entire point of this week’s blog … wake up! There is an exciting world awaiting all around you and it continually calls out your name. Do not let familiarity breed contempt in such a way that it deprives you from living the rest of your days to it’s fullest. Why do you think the books of the Bible continually tell us to not be afraid? 

For those of you desiring to know how I am doing … I am doing rather well, thank you! I pray as much for you. My life dramatically improved with the news of my having cancer. It is not a cliche’ to say I would not wish cancer on my worse enemy but I am truly blessed and grateful for it. In other words, please don’t wait for extreme events to wake you up. Wake up before extreme things happen.

Still, for some of us, (me perhaps), Newton’s laws come into play well in that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. My extremely bad news of having cancer has the opposite effect on how I now live and see the world. I have countered extremely bad news with a good reaction. I suppose it is an equal and total opposite reaction and I’m very grateful to God for granting me the grace to receive it.

Please pray for my interview, consultation in New York next Monday with Dr. Coleman (Yes, I’ll be in New York City on historic 9/11). It’s in God’s hand and I praise and thank Him in advance regardless of outcome.

I’ll update this blog next week following my return from New York City.

Continual Ramblings From A Man Named Sparkes

Prostate Cancer Blues Pt 3

Parts 1 & 2 stacked below … it’s just how a “free” blog post works.

Monday August 21st 2017

I haven’t heard back from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. I have a reminder to call but Mondays at work are usually quite busy and today is no exception. Consequently, by the time I get a moment’s worth of free time, their east coast office is closed for the day.

Tuesday, August 22nd 2017

Today, Memorial Sloan-Kettering calls me to set up a consultation visit. They ask if I can be there Monday, August 28th. Well, yes I can if I absolutely have to, but would it be okay to postpone it another week or two – maybe the first available Monday in September?

My appointment is set for 11:30 am in New York City on … 9/11

At lunch we meet up with a retired co-worker from Costco for lunch. It’s a great visit despite the fact he constantly refers to me as Sven. It turns out he too had prostate cancer and was treated for it when he was my age (coincidentally about the same time Moses was found floating down the Nile … just kidding! See rules of engagement in PCB part 2). 

At the time of his diagnosis, and like most men with prostate cancer, our friend, (let’s just call him Mikey), quickly educated himself with everything prostate. For his treatment, Mikey picked and was able to go with the “breaky” method of treatment, (i.e. radioactive titanium pellets injected into the prostate). The bad news is even though he was radioactive for about three month following, I’m sad to say Mikey does not have any super powers worth mentioning. I suppose the silver lining is he has made a full and complete recovery and is still 100% cancer free to this day! Great news! Yay, Mikey!

Mikey also shared with me a small binder of information he collected regarding prostate cancer and treatments. Like I said, men tend to study up pretty hard when certain “important” areas of their anatomy are in danger. It was a great lunch and visit. (Mikey even paid for lunch and I didn’t even have to trick him into it by playing the cancer card!) Thank you very much, Mikey! Your friendship and warmth means the world to us, but you still shouldn’t expect Wanda to call or write. Tigers don’t change their stripes.

Thursday August 24th 2017

After a little back and forth, Wanda and I book our trip to NYC. We’re using points to fly and points for our hotel stay. So other than ground transportation and meals, this trip will be pretty darn cheap.

For a variety of reasons, I still have enough points to stay for free at Westin and Hilton properties. Currently I have more Westin than Hilton points and so when I booked my NYC hotel stay I tried to find the property closest to Memorial Sloan-Kettering. I mention this because the closest reward point hotel turns out to be Le Parker Meridien on W. 57th. This makes me smile because the Hilton property next door to Le Parker Meridien is where the four of us just stayed last May. It turns out I’m going back to my not-so-old stomping grounds!

American Cancer Society: Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer

Time out … American Cancer has a society? – that can’t be good!

How common is prostate cancer?

Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for prostate cancer in the United States for 2017 are:

  • About 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer
  • About 26,730 deaths from prostate cancer

Risk of prostate cancer

About 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

Prostate cancer develops mainly in older men. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Deaths from prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer. About 1 man in 39 will die of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.

Survival Rates for Prostate Cancer

Survival rates tell you what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful. Some men want to know the survival rates for their cancer, and some don’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to.

What is a 5-year survival rate?

Statistics on the outlook for a certain type and stage of cancer are often given as 5-year survival rates, but many people live longer – often much longer – than 5 years. The 5-year survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least 5 years after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 90% means that an estimated 90 out of 100 people who have that cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these people live much longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

Relative survival rates are a more accurate way to estimate the effect of cancer on survival. These rates compare men with prostate cancer to men in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of prostate cancer is 90%, it means that men who have that cancer are, on average, about 90% as likely as men who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

But remember, all survival rates are estimates – your outlook can vary based on a number of factors specific to you.

Cancer survival rates don’t tell the whole story

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of men who had the disease, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular man’s case. There are a number of limitations to remember:

  • The numbers below are among the most current available. But to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at men who were treated at least 5 years ago. As treatments are improving over time, men who are now being diagnosed with prostate cancer may have a better outlook than these statistics show.
  • These statistics are based on the stage of the cancer when it was first diagnosed. They don’t apply to cancers that later come back or spread.
  • The outlook for men with prostate cancer varies by the stage (extent) of the cancer – in general, the survival rates are higher for men with earlier stage cancers. But many other factors can affect a man’s outlook, such as age and overall health, and how well the cancer responds to treatment. The outlook for each man is specific to his circumstances.

Your doctor can tell you how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

Survival rates for prostate cancer

According to the most recent data, when including all stages of prostate cancer:

  • The 5-year relative survival rate is 99%
  • The 10-year relative survival rate is 98%
  • The 15-year relative survival rate is 96%

Keep in mind that just as 5-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed and first treated more than 5 years ago, 10-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed more than 10 years ago (and 15-year survival rates are based on men diagnosed at least 15 years ago).

Survival rates by stage

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) maintains a large national database on survival statistics for different types of cancer, known as the SEER database. The SEER database does not group cancers by AJCC stage, but instead groups cancers into local, regional, and distant stages.

  • Local stage means that there is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the prostate. This corresponds to AJCC stages I and II. About 4 out of 5 prostate cancers are found in this early stage. The relative 5-year survival rate for local stage prostate cancer is nearly 100%.
  • Regional stage means the cancer has spread from the prostate to nearby areas. This includes stage III cancers and the stage IV cancers that haven’t spread to distant parts of the body, such as T4 tumors and cancers that have spread to nearby lymph nodes (N1). The relative 5-year survival rate for regional stage prostate cancer is nearly 100%.
  • Distant stage includes the rest of the stage IV cancers – cancers that have spread to distant lymph nodes, bones, or other organs (M1). The relative 5-year survival rate for distant stage prostate cancer is about 29%.

Remember, these survival rates are only estimates – they can’t predict what will happen to any one man. We understand that these statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor to better understand your situation.

LIGHT BULB FINALLY TURNS ON: Upon closer scrutiny of my records and reports from doctors, I have stage 1 cancer (AJCC T1c). Whew! That’s a relief. I sort of thought so, but prostate cancer is just different enough I had concluded it was not described in stages like other cancers.

Well, this news is both calming and alarming (kind of a contradiction- eh?).

An Aside Note: I am learning to love and notice a lot of contradictions in my life lately. I get the world is seldom black and white (like the human race there are numerous colors; there is black and white and everything in between). Things of this world are seldom black and white but people want and push for black and white choices. They will ask, “Are you for or against?” “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?” Oh, and let’s not forget my personal favorite, “Are you pro-biotic or anti-biotic?”

Since the world is seldom black and white I have a hard time with labels. Oh, I still label everyone and everything – I’m not a saint (yet). But I know labels are treacherous and deceitful. Getting back to point, the news is calming … I only have stage 1 cancer. That’s like having baby cancer.Baby Knife 2

But it is still alarming because what right have I to complain? Yes, its a concern, but its a treatable concern and yes, the treatment is extreme, but I’ll live to cry about it whereas too many others may not.

I have a friend, a co-worker, who mysteriously lost his hearing over the weekend. It’s a genetic time bomb that went off unexpectedly. He’s going to be out of work indefinitely. He’s rightfully worried and concerned about the long term consequences of his condition. (I care about him so I told him I was praying for him and his response was awesome. He wrote, “Pray harder, damn it!” and added a smiley gif). In the scheme of things, and if you had to choose (black and white) between reproduction and hearing, which one do you give up? Reproduction is certainly the lesser, but the best answer is neither … but sometimes we’re forced into situations we cannot control. All we can control is how we act and react. At the end of the day, where will we stand?

If you’re reading this, please pray for my friend … In fact, pray harder, damn it!

Knowing that I only have stage 1 prostate cancer is calming. (Oh, whew, I can take a breath, there’s no need to panic. I have time to competently deal with it.) Knowing I have cancer is still alarming, (I don’t dare let down my guard). How I act and react is crucial in determining where I will be standing at the end of the day (whether that means facing God or showing others a resolve to use this illness to be a better man or to allow it to defeat me because life isn’t pretty, rosy, or how I envisioned it). Honestly, I’m excited because a lot of things I held onto up to now are far less important.

A passage in the bible, a warning by Christ really, has been haunting me. I feel God is asking me, “Are you in the world or of the world?” Until my cancer prognosis I must admit I have been of the world through and through. It is hard for me to admit hedonism was my flag of choice, but I believe there is abundant evidence to make a very strong case for it. One just only need look at my lifestyle. What kind of story does it depict? Surely my life choices ultimately parades all the things I hold most dear to my heart. Is it power? Is it wealth? Is it pride and pleasure? Sadly, the honest answer has been yes to all the above. I suppose power is the weakest temptation, not because I don’t desire it, but more because I don’t want to have to work for it. If you handed me power, (the people have unanimously announced Doug is their new king), I doubt I would have the strength to pass it up. I would convince myself it was God’s will and I would quickly turn into a tyrant (Remember Captain Kirk’s warning, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely).

The cancer then, is a wake up call, prompting me to put my house in order and I am blessed because of it. The treatable cancer reminds me life is short and do not waste it living in and for a world that is passing, temporary and finite.

In changing my focus from being of the world to only being in the world for a small amount of measurable time, I find blessings I would have otherwise ignored, passed over or been too afraid to accept. What do I mean? Well, for starters, I recently told my boss I might just retire in March of 2019. I’ll be 59 1/2 March 16th, 2019 and I do believe I can then tap into my 401k without penalty.

Granted, if I wait to 2024 or later, my retirement benefits vastly improve, but we have enough to retire in 2019 if we really needed. More time with my wife and family without the pressure of the daily grind is far more appealing than a later retirement with more money. Money is nice, but all the wealth in the world will not cure me of cancer or give me one more second of life with wife, family and friends.

I suppose if the income differences were so vast between retiring at 59 1/2 versus 65 I might be more inclined to wait, but the differences, although notable, are not so vast. Maybe we won’t travel as much as I’d like, but that’s okay too. I’ve started to appreciate the awareness that less is sometimes much, much more. 

I’m not saying I am set on retiring at 59 1/2. For now it’s just an idea I’m mulling over. I probably will change my mind several times between now and age 66. At some point I will pull the trigger (maybe sooner, maybe later, who can say?) My point is simply to say having cancer prompts me to reconsider all my retirement plans and goals.

A couple years ago, Wanda and I vacationed four times in Hawaii over a 12 month period. Friends then asked why we don’t just buy a place and live there. That’s a fair question, but part of our reasons for not doing so is that we really miss Hawaii.

Sounds like a contradiction, right? We don’t want to live, or retire to Hawaii because we really miss Hawaii? How do you make sense of that? There’s an old adage I’ve taken to heart, “Familiarity breeds contempt”. Partly why we love Hawaii so much is because we miss it so much. Because we’re not there 24/7 and because we seldom stay more than 12 days at a time, we really can’t afford to take our visits for granted. We milk the island visit for all its worth … even if that means just spending hours of our time beach relaxing. We breathe in and enjoy the time we have. I am many things, but something I’m not, is a morning person. But while in Hawaii, and whenever I can, I try to get up shortly after sunrise and try to at least be outside enjoying each hour we’re there. I soak up the experience and savor it like a fine wine sipped slowly over dinner. (Of course it doesn’t hurt that 6 am Hawaii time is 9 am in Seattle!)

At the end of our trip it almost physically hurts to have to return back home. My soul cries and yearns to stay another week or year, but that’s when it really is the best time to leave. Hawaii feels like home to me and it remains so because I never take it for granted. I never get used to it. (At the risk of being non-PC, if Bruce Jenner is really a woman because he feels like one deep inside, then I’m really a Hawaiian for the same reasons.)

Familiarity breeds contempt … many times people get frustrated with their spouses or family because we often lie to ourselves into believing we know each other too well. A common excuse I’ve heard couples make about each other goes something like this, “Why don’t you just tell him how you feel?”

“I’ve tried, but he won’t listen to me.”

Familiarity breeding contempt covers many aspects of our lives and is not limited to relationships. From a Catholic perspective I’ve heard people say over the course of my lifetime, “The Mass is so boring”. Or, “I left the Church because I wasn’t being fed.” This is classic familiarity breeding contempt. All I can do is to pray and ask God to wake them up.

CAUTION: Catholic Rant! Catholic Rant!

I sympathize with this position because I was a fallen away Catholic from about the end of college to just before my 36th birthday. Since returning to the faith my awareness, my awe has grown. I still struggle with the Mass, but I realize while on earth we’re like the squirming children at church. The Mass is so over our heads that we cannot ever fully fathom the significance. Dr. Hahn once said the Mass would be lined up for miles if the Priest, instead of offering the Body of Christ, were handing out 10 million dollars. To the awakened man, what is consumed at the Eucharistic meal makes 10 million dollars worthless.

So, familiarity breeds contempt and we must do our best to guard and work against it. Familiarity is like the 2nd law of thermodynamics (summarized best as !@#$ happens) in that just like how entropy is constantly at work breaking things down, we must not relax and yield to it. We mow and water our lawns, paint our homes, repair our cars, or replace them. Everything is breaking down, which is why the cynic’s definition of good health is so apt (we’re all moving toward death and good health is the slowest rate). We can’t stop entropy or the tendency familiarity has in breeding contempt, but like salmon spawning up stream, to make any progress at all, we must continually swim up and fight against the tide.

Yes, it is hard work, but like all things worth doing, fighting against contempt is worthwhile in the long run.  This point, in turn, calls me to flesh out another: If something is worth doing then it should be done well. But it also true and not a contradiction to add, if something is worth doing it should be done, even badly, because it is worth doing. 

Time Out! Why is all of this pouring out of me all of sudden? Why am I so compelled to write and go on about such things? Over the years I have been encouraged by friends, family and others to write. I always appreciated the encouragement, but I never had or found the motivation to seriously pursue it before. I honestly never felt I had anything to write about. 

Now suddenly, after being diagnosed with cancer, I feel compelled. I feel this pressure, this desire to express so much. It is like a dam breaking and torrents of thoughts and feelings are rushing, shoving, roaring to get out as quickly as they can. I have to slow it down, lest it all come out like one big pointless ramblings … like this blog! HA!

I honestly do not fully know or understand what to make of it. I can say none of what I write about is new. These thoughts, these words, these expressions have been bottled up for years, but so what? I mean, I’m sure we all have opinions about life and the world we live in … I’m sure mine are nothing new and relatively speaking not any better or different than anyone else’s. And just so we’re clear … they’re really not. These are simply ideas, feelings, concerns, beliefs I have nurtured, developed or learned from people far wiser than I can hope to ever be. These thoughts, these words and ideas, learned from the greats have helped me, have saved me really, and now appear to be giving me the ability to somewhat bravely accept the fortunes and misfortunes of life. Perhaps I share them now within a prayerful hope the blessings I’ve received can be passed on and shared with others.

On that note and in the words of St. Paul (paraphrased by a Catholic), “Test everything and hold onto the good“.

Sometimes reading the Bible and stories of the saints I would read of references made to this “Christian joy” promised and given to the followers of Christ. Many of the great saints speak of it. Many who actually witnessed the saints being martyred have left astonished by the genuine joy these holy men and women continually expressed even under the most horrific persecution. I have often wondered what is this peace they talk about? What is this joy the saints boast?

In my first blog post I lamented that maybe I needed to recapture the faith I had as a little boy who trustingly takes his father’s hand and allows his father to lead. This has been my prayer since my prognosis. I have prayed, asking God to help me to trustingly take his hand and lead me to wherever he sees best. I have worked to resign myself, my outcome, my entire future to the will of my heavenly Father. At the risk of talking too soon and drawing the wrong conclusion, I suspect and now believe in doing so, I have uncovered the secret. Time out! I don’t like the word secret. This is anything but a secret. Still, like a secret there does seem to be a trick involved … Uh that’s not quite right either. Perhaps it is more like a closed door. Hmm, I like that image better. Okay, it is a door and although it isn’t locked, it can only be open when one humbly and completely surrenders themselves over to the will of God. 

Door

Passing through the threshold, taking my Father’s hand is like being given new eyes. Everything remains the same, but everything is completely different. Again, the contradiction and the paradox does not escape me. I suspect my God is the God of contradictions and paradoxes ….

… and irony. Never forget irony. One of my favorite examples of God’s genius use of irony is when Pontius Pilate asks the Jews who they want released from death row. The Jews reject Jesus, the Son of God, and demand Barabbas be released instead. Barabbas’ name, literally translated (Bar-Abba), means son of the father. The Jews, in perfect ironic unison, are demanding Pilate free the son of the father, and kill the Son of the Father.  

Okay, so where am I going with all this? (I don’t know. What do you people want from me!)

Really, the point of it all is nothing new. Rod Stewart sings it well (Okay, so Raspy Rod singing anything well is a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean! Just kidding Mr. Stewart!) in his famous hit, “Every Picture Tells A Story”:

I firmly believe that I didn’t need anyone but me
I sincerely thought I was so complete
Look how wrong you can be

The women I’ve known I wouldn’t let tie my shoe
They wouldn’t give you the time of day
But the slit eyed lady knocked me off my feet
God I was glad I found her
And if they had the words I could tell to you
to help you on the way down the road
I couldn’t quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats
’cause it’s all been said before
Make the best out of the bad just laugh it off
You didn’t have to come here anyway

 

Years ago, when I finally, for the first time, listened to the actual words of this song, a chord was struck (pun intended) deep within and has resonated with me ever since.

Bottom line: Prayers still needed and deeply appreciated

As previously mentioned I now have an appointment with a doctor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Friends tell me this is the number one cancer center in the USA (Hmm, who would have guessed? I had no idea). Dr. Coleman is conducting a trial study on treating men with prostate cancer with a relatively new method. Please keep in mind, my appointment does not mean I am a shoe in for the trial. Even if I’m accepted the procedure does not mean I will be successfully treated for prostate cancer. Since first hearing and reporting on this “cutting edge” new approach, I’ve come to learn the hopeful statistics I read about are just that – hopeful. (It turns out statistics are easily manipulated and don’t always mean what they appear to mean –  What? Who’d a guessed, right?There’s still an excellent chance I will wind up having robotic surgery (DaVinci Method) for treating my prostate cancer … and I am okay with that.

I always tell Wanda, (and everyone else I meet), if you don’t ask the answer is no. Asking, of course, doesn’t guarantee a yes or even a maybe. The answer may still be no. But not asking does come with a guarantee. Not asking guarantees the answer is no. Another way to say this is, “noting ventured, nothing gained”, or “never say die”, and “never quit”.

I’m hopeful on being accepted for the trial and I’m hopeful the trial will be successful, but many times in life, things work out far differently than what we come to expect. I believe somewhere in the Bible it says God’s way is far different than man’s … something along the lines as the earth is from the heavens and stars so is God’s way distanced from mans. Consequently, it’s sort of dangerous and maybe even foolish to predict or second guess the will of God. It occurs to me the wiser choice would be to resign myself over to Him and simply let Him lead.  

I know and believe God has a purpose and His purpose carries me.

A final note for any atheists or agnostics reading this …

(Woody Allen, I forget what film, once said he had to break up with his girlfriend because she was an Atheist and he was agnostic. They had irreconcilable differences on what church not to raise the kids in.)

I have a variety of friends. Most know that I am proactively Catholic and I know and appreciate the fact many friends have questions on God’s very existence. One of the “tells” as it were, is the fact, these discerning friends never ever say they are praying for me. They always say something along the lines of, “My thoughts are with you”, or “Sending good thoughts your way”.

The sarcastic jerk in me really wants to have a hay-day with this, but I honestly do not want to slight, insult or otherwise dismiss the charity behind the message. In spite of the fact these friends do not believe in God the way I do, does not dampen or lessen their good will toward me. Therefore, I do not wish to cause trouble where no harm is intended.

However, in just the same way an avowed atheist might be dismissive or insulted by references to faith, prayer and turning to God, I am also inclined to be of the same mind toward “happy thoughts sent my way”. But on that note, perhaps there is a middle ground we can agree to meet.

I propose, regardless of your feelings toward the existence and definition of an all powerful, omnipresent, omnipotent being, we come to a mutually agreed understanding and belief in the power of love. Can we at least all agree love is real? Love, however defined, is something genuine and universal.

If that much is acceptable to you (that is, God may not exist, but Love certainly does …), then maybe here we can find common ground.

If this is agreeable then I simply ask instead of sending me good thoughts and good vibrations (as sincere as that is, and I do accept the sincerity) can you instead agree to “desire and hope all the best love has to offer comes to me in my time and hour of need”?

I know I can and do desire at least this much for you, regardless of your personal beliefs. 

To all my friends and family who can accept this message, “May the peace and joy of Jesus Christ come down firmly and give rest to your spirit”. And to all the others who wince or cringe at such messages, let me just say, I genuinely desire and hope all the best love has to offer comes to you and yours in your time of need. I won’t be sending you good thoughts, but I will be calling on the power of love to always to come to your aid.

 

The Continuing Saga of a Man Named Sparkes

Please note this is part 2. WordPress stacks latest on top of earlier posts.

AKA Prostate Cancer Blues

Sometimes my urologist can be a real pain in the ass.

Clarifying the Rules of Engagement

My mother-in-law lovingly, (geez, I hope it’s lovingly) calls me 50/50 because she can’t always tell when I’m joking or when I am telling the truth. Perhaps, sadly, she’s not the only one. Personally, I think it’s all rather obvious – I’m always joking and messing around. Its a defense mechanism. Its a shield and a protection to lessen the blows life hurdles at me, but maybe I sometimes take it too far.

My wife, Wanda, knows me best, but even she sometimes isn’t so sure when I’m joking or not. To resolve the confusion once and for all, she and I have an agreement. If she ever has any doubts about anything I say or do, if she isn’t completely certain if I’m telling the truth or not or simply exaggerating (Me exaggerate? Silly, right?) she only needs to ask me to say, “honest”.

I have promised her I will always come perfectly clean whenever she plays the “honest” card. And, I can “honestly” say my track record for being completely forthright and forthcoming has been commendable. Whenever Wanda says, “honest?” I drop any and all deceit. Maybe its unfortunate we have to go to such extremes, but in the end, honesty is our best policy.

Consequently, Wanda is no longer allowed to attend any of my magic shows. There was this one time when I made my assistant disappear .. Let me tell you now, it was nothing short of amazing! The audience was completely stunned and otherwise frozen by their inability to fully comprehend the genuine magic that had transpired before their very eyes! And as a magician, I can tell you it doesn’t get any better than that. Truly, this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment all magicians train and pray for and I was relishing, soaking up every moment like soft bread in gravy.  I’m sure I was grinning from ear to ear, but just then, at the peak of my bliss, I hear Wanda from way in the back shout out, “Honest?”  

Martha Pus-bucket! I could not believe my ears. 

They told me later the change in my expression was palatable and sort of priceless. Like a small dejected child standing in front of the whole entire school assembly, I started to pout and look down. I kicked and scuffed my shoes against the floor and mumbled, “Okay, I guess I didn’t really make her disappear …” Then pulling the curtain back, I showed the audience it was just a clever trick. My assistant was there in all three dimensions. I had not made her disappear after all!

I mention all this because I’m getting feedback from my first blog from some people saying they cannot always tell when I’m joking and when I am serious (Mr. 50/50 again). Okay, in order to clarify and otherwise help my readers translate and better understand where I am coming from, I want to use this opportunity to clarify and otherwise establish some simple ground rules going forward.

Firstly, if the print is black and white like this, then you can pretty much trust I am being straightforward and telling the truth.

Secondly, I will try to keep my humor bracketed in parenthesis. Any quick sarcasm, joke or tongue in cheek attitude will be expressed in parenthesis or if it’s more than a sentence long it might be separated into its own paragraph and listed as “An Aside Note“. But note not all “An Aside Notes” are sarcastic or intended for laughs.

Thirdly, and to this point, I will try to italicize my deliberate sarcasm, dark humor and joking around. So, if its normal text, like this, it is safe to assume I am being honest. If it’s italicized like, “sometimes it feels like this cancer is out to kill me …” then rest assured its my dark, corny and sometimes really bad sense of humor.

Finally, if I have a tall tale I just have to tell, I will change the font color to red. So, yes, the story of Wanda ruining my magic act is a complete and total fabrication … but here’s the thing, I take “honest” so seriously that if she were ever mad at me enough to ruin my act, I would come clean in front of everyone. She’s more important … our relationship is more important, than all the temporary adulation I could ever receive from amazing people with magic. The point is, my marriage really is the toughest job I have ever loved (with the possible exception of raising my kids, but that’s a different channel altogether).

Okay, so now that ground rules have been set, please allow me to continue. I had an amazing last week, but before I get into it I would like to better underscore what a powerful summer I have had thus far …

The Bitter & the Sweet

There have been too many departures this summer. Charles Burnett was the EVP for Pharmacy at Costco and Wanda’s former boss. I met him back in the 80’s and indirectly worked for him in the early 1990’s. He was a great man and full of charisma. Although he was well into his 80’s when he passed his departure was so sudden, so unexpected, it took many of us by surprise. In addition to Charlie, Costco also lost Jeff Brotman. Next to Jim Sinegal, Jeff is Costco. He and Jim made Costco what it is today.

And sadly, our family also attended Wanda’s grandmother’s funeral this summer. After a long struggle, Grandma Lee slowly succumbed to death’s incessant beckoning and is now at peace and at home. I bring this up because of the beauty I saw surrounding Grandma Lee the week or two leading up to her departure.

Grandma Lee was continually surrounded by love. Probably all of her family (kids, grand kids, great grand kids) were able to visit her during her last couple of weeks. How cognizant was she during the visits? Who can say? It honestly does not matter, but when I saw her last she seemed to have strong moments of awareness.

Besides the love surrounding Grandma Lee, I also recall the peace surrounding her. Oh, the bitter-sweetness of farewells. Grandma Lee wanted a small service so the funeral was limited to immediate family, grands and great grands … and even with limited attendance there were still about 80 people!

Looking over the funeral gathering I couldn’t help but smile. It was a somber moment to be sure, but there was so much family! How can you be sad when you’re surrounded by love? I don’t recall exactly what I said at the time, but it was something along the lines like, “All the right people at the wrong time.” Or maybe it was, “Funerals are always comprised of everyone I want to see, but for all the wrong reasons.”

Fast forward a few weeks later to my great nephew’s wedding. I only told a few people I was going in for my biopsy the day before. Their love and marital celebration really underscores the sanctity of life. Then the week following Zachary and Kaitlyn’s nuptials, I received the bad news. We kept much of it under wraps because Heather and Bradley were to be married the upcoming Sunday (yes, Sunday – these are the days when anything goes!)

Wow! Talk about great celebrations of family, love and life! Now here’s a time with all the right people for all the right reasons!

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In truth, this is what nourishes and keeps me going fearlessly. I am surrounded by the love of friends, family and Almighty God. The three are so interwoven. They all bleed and blend together in such a way I sometimes cannot tell the difference. I see God in my wife, my family and my friends. I see my family in my friends and I have so many friends within my family.

This is my wish and desire for you, dear reader. This is what the good life is really all about.

Aristotle said it is the nonsensical things that matter the most. This is why attending Heather and Bradley’s wedding is far more important than making a killing in the stock market.

This is also why I don’t write very much … Crikey! Any more syrup and we’re all going to contract diabetes type II!

As I wrote above I have had the most amazing week. The quickest summary is expressed as follows: I’m going to be a “Cancer Survivor”! This isn’t positive thinking or a joke. It’s a fact. At the end of this trial, I will be cured of cancer – not literally per se’, as there isn’t a cure for prostate cancer, but there is a treatment to remove it completely from my body.  As a result, I will not die the next 15+ years from cancer. My doctors all but guarantee it. That’s the good news.

And just so that we’re clear, cancer really does belong to the devil. If it doesn’t kill you, it will at least leave a nasty scar to remind you what to expect next time around. Unless I do nothing, there is absolutely no reason why I won’t survive this cancer and I will have the mark to prove it … And for a couple weeks at least I will also have a handicap parking pass! Let us not forget the all important parking pass! We often invite and take Wanda’s mom on a lot of vacation trips and people will sometimes say, “Oh, you’re so nice to bring your mother-in-law.!”

Heh, heh, heh! They don’t know me too well. I only bring her along because she has a handicap parking pass! If she ever forgets to bring it … Well, let’s just say I won’t be the one helping her carry her luggage any more!

What Happens Monday, August 14th 2017 Doesn’t Stay On August 14th

A lot of people don’t know this, but I am convinced time travel is not only possible, it’s been in use since the creation of time (I also think time is a man-made creation, but I’ll save that explanation for never). The honest truth is a lot of people don’t realize we are all time travelers and we all start to time travel from the moment of conception and continue to time travel all the way to our very last gasp before the grave. The problem, and why most of us don’t understand, is that genuine time travel is not least bit ornate like sci-fi time travel would have us believe. No, genuine, authentic time travel is always at a preset chronological pulse … second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day, month after month and year after year. See, we all time travel, but at a fixed rate of speed and in one direction … forward! There’s no going back! Okay, I’ll take it one step further … there’s no going faster into the future let alone into the past because there is and only always is right now … this very moment we’re in right now is really all the time we have. Everything else is either a memory or an imagining.

An Aside Note: If this sort of thought intrigues you, and you live in Washington, then perhaps to enhance the experience further you might want to consider one of our state’s fine cannabis emporiums. If you call the “Canni-bus” they’ll even come out and pick you up.

I mention this time travel talk because I sometimes have a fantasy that my future self will one day somehow time travel back to today and tell me everything will not only be alright, but ultimately fantastic. He’ll say, “Don’t worry, Dougie. Hang in there. The best is yet to come”.

An Aside Note: I once had an idea for a super hero with time travel capabilities. I never really came up with a good name for him, but I did manage to create some idioms and phrases. I even started to write a theme song,

“I’m off to the future today, so when it comes I’ll be there already. So when it comes I’ll be there already! I’m off to the future today!”

I had a signature line too, “I’m off to the future, but I’ll be back presently!”

At this point you’re probably looking at your watch or you’ve left the blog already! Okay, the point of all this time travel rambling is that on Monday, August 14th 2017 I had breakfast with my future self!!!  (Insert amazing musical sound effect here!) Time Traveling Dougie really does exist and he paid me a visit!!! (Insert a follow up and amazing musical sound effect here!)

It’s true. I am now convinced what happened this morning at breakfast can only be explained by the fact I will someday travel back in time to this exact time in my history and tell my past self no to worry and that everything will be alright.

An Aside Note: History? Every married man knows its really Her-story that matters. Remember, it is a woman’s prerogative to change his mind.

At first I did not recognize myself, but as I thought about it, how could I and why would I expect to? Oh, and future Dougie was clever too. He tried to trick me so I wouldn’t catch on, but no, no, I saw through it. He was me alright.

When a friend at work learned I had prostate cancer he immediately reached out and insisted I meet his “so-called” father-in-law. Apparently, Mr. Physh, as I like to call him, (mostly because it’s cool and not because he said his first name was Gill) had the same surgery I am now strongly considering. He’s a handful of years older than me (Time Traveler Clue #1) and said he had the surgery at 58 too (just like I will! Clue #2). He’s also married and like me, he married his best friend! (Clues #3 & #4)

Still think this is a coincidence? Well, get a load of this … his Gleason score from his biopsy was 7 (3+4) … Again, just like me! (Clue #5) But the real convincer is the fact he still has ALL of his hair!!! (Clue #6 !) So he has to be me! He has to have time traveled to tell me not to worry and to assure me all will be well.

Aside from that: A little rule to live by. If you know me, then you know I do not believe in coincidence. Most, if not all the time, I cannot even begin to explain coincidence, but sometimes the coincidence is just so thick that there has to be something more to it than simply happen-chance. Consequently, I have a little rule I use to help me judge events and occurrences in life. If something happens once, say my brother slaps me but quickly says he’s sorry, that’s a fluke. If he slaps me again and apologizes, well that’s coincidence, but if he hits me a third time … apology or not, that’s a pattern! So just remember, the first time is a fluke, the second is coincidence, but the third time is a pattern.

My wife is reading over my shoulder right now and she keeps poking me with her finger.

“What?”

“You do know you’re crazy, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you do know you’re bald, right?”

“Yes, Duh! I know. What pray tell is your point?”

“Well, if Mr. Physh has a full head of hair and you’re bald, then how can he be you from the future?”

Ah, I do love Wanda. I really do, but sometimes this woman can be so dense! So I stop typing, take a deep breath, turn to her and say, “Of course my future self will have a full head of hair. If he didn’t then the man I met could not be my future self.” I even throw out my hands in unison as if to say, “Isn’t it obvious now?”

Wanda just stares at me. “Huh?”

Okay, so now I’m annoyed. I mean how can I make it any simpler? So, I think for a moment and then I ask, “Which do you think is harder – breaking the laws of physics and changing the past by traveling through time or hair restoration? … Which is harder? Time travel or hair restoration?” I wait a moment so she can take it in and then continue, “Time travel – woman! The answer is time travel! So, in the future, when they discover time travel, they are bound to be far enough advanced to be able to already have a cure for baldness! If time travel exists then logic dictates hair restoration must come before it. I mean who doesn’t want to look their absolute best when meeting themselves in the past?”

Wanda is still staring at me in what appears to be complete and utter disbelief.

“Okay, look … Time traveling to the past is like going to your high school reunion. You have to impress everyone and make them jealous or what is the point of even going? Consequently, no one will time travel to their past unless their future is fantastic and their head is full of hair and their body is in great shape!

See, time travel doesn’t happen not because it isn’t possible, but because most people are too embarrassed. Clearly, my future is far better than now and that’s why I donned the character of Mr. Physh so I could meet myself and say everything would work out.”

Wanda just blinks and doesn’t say a thing.

I shake my loving hands at her, “Sweetie, can’t you see the Physh in me?”

She crosses her arms. “You’re fot-nou!”

What my wife means to say is that I’m crazy. Fot-nou is my rendering of her Chinese for crazy. She thinks I think she’s giving me a compliment, but I know better. In my best Japanese accent I turn to her and say, “Dasennay!”

“No, honey, its daseannay.” Wanda doesn’t speak a lot of Chinese but what she does she does well. Oh, and I have to admit half of my struggle with Chinese is dealing with the subtle changes of pronunciation and tonal inflection. I doubt I’ll ever get it. It’s easier to speak Chinese with a Japanese accent. I think it sounds cooler too. “Dhas-an-Nay!” I yell, again with my best Toshiro Mifune impersonation … Oh, and for those of you who must know, “daseannay!” simply means, “I will kill you.”

(Wanda’s aunt recently admitted she says “daseannay” to her kids a lot. In fact, its the only Chinese they really know.)

In the end, Wanda just doesn’t understand, but I’m sure, you, dear reader, certainly will. If Dougie from the future were to appear to me with less hair than I have right now, I would have to run him over with a bus. No way, would future Dougie appear to me with less hair than I have right now. And since I know this about myself, you can bet future Dougie does too and he wouldn’t even think of traveling back in time with male pattern baldness. But this is all common sense and rhetorical. The truth is future Dougie did come back in time to see me; he has lots of hair and so I know I can trust him. It really is that simple.

Wanda says she wants me to stop calling Mr. Physh future me. She is ordering me to “show some respect”.  Okay, okay, from now on I’ll pretend he’s not Dougie 2030, but you and I know the truth (wink, wink).

Although Mr. Physh claims we never met before, he was more than happy to drive out to my work and meet me for breakfast. To be sure, I was honored to meet him, to buy him breakfast and to hear his story. When I realized the visit would get me out of work for at least an hour – well, you know, I sealed the deal!

What an awesome man! Seriously, I am deeply blessed to have this kind man make the time and to go out of his way to help a stranger! So of course I bought him breakfast. (Hey, it was at the Costco Deli so both of our meals together was less than $5 – SCORE!!) Besides the great hair, Mr. Physh looked good too. He had white hair, like Santa and a warm smile to match.  I immediately felt comfortable and at ease around him. It felt more like a visit with an old friend than a stranger (Clue #7 – just saying!). As we ate our breakfast, (Costco Deli on Monday’s don’t have much to write home about. Sorry Mr. Physh! See side note below.) he told me his story and I’m happy to report after under going the prostatectomy, they did not find any additional cancer in his system. He’s been 100% cancer free ever since.

Aside from that: Sometimes when you press people for an opinion, something along the lines of how did you like your meal? Or how did you like the restaurant? People will say “It was okay, but nothing to write home about.” I swear, one of these times, I’m going to be at a nice restaurant with family and friends and when they ask how I like it I’m going to pull out pen and paper and write home about it.

I was very happy for him. I was additionally pleased to hear about how well he was treated by Seattle area doctors. He said he felt very good about the surgery because the greater Seattle area has many fine surgeons. Still, he encouraged me to find and to go with a surgeon (should I choose that option) with the greatest number of successful surgeries under his belt.

For example, my surgical doctor (from Doogie Howser Med) bragged he had well over 200 surgeries. I’m a magician so I am trained in deception and when someone says something like that I immediately think, “He’s not lying if he’s only done 201 surgeries. He’s misleading, but he’s not lying.”  Mr. Physh said his doctor had already performed well over 800 surgeries (and he’s not lying either. Even if he’s only done 801 because 801 spanks 201 – and this leaves Dr S choking in his dust). Needless to say, I may not be hiring Dr. Howser to perform my surgery after all.

At the end of the breakfast, Mr. Physh had answered all my questions that he felt he could honestly answer. In many ways, it really was as if a future version of myself had gone back in time to help me and help me he did. Thank you Gill! You are the best!

Earlier I wrote, “Cancer really does belong to the devil and if it doesn’t kill you, it will at least leave a permanent scar to remind you.” This is so very true and I mention it because of the mixed feelings I have about the whole shebang.

Devil

A rather distasteful image of cancer. He wants us all dead, but if pressed, he’ll settle on gnawing, biting, hurting, scaring and scarring us for life.

Cancer is something no one should have and I do not take it lightly. On the other hand, it could be so much worse and I am grateful to God that it is not. In fact, allow me to publicly thank God, for this “mild” case of cancer (mild being a relative term).

My prostate cancer is like a fire raging through the neighborhood. After the fire department arrives, controls and puts out the flames, I return to my house relieved to find I’ve only lost the garage. I feel lucky the rest of the house is intact and my car was with me at the time.

Unfortunately, this was a neighborhood fire and my next door neighbor wasn’t as lucky. Her home was utterly destroyed. Fortunately, she is still alive and can rebuild but at the moment her life is in tatters.

Coming back to reality, I’m very happy we’ve caught this cancer early and as a result, the odds of my not dying from cancer for the next 15 years is all but 100%. I met with a radiation oncologist last Tuesday (the day after meeting with Mr. Physh for breakfast) and he assured me this is the case. He strongly recommended I go with the surgery. If the cancer had escaped my prostate then he was positive it could all be mopped up with follow up radiation.

This is great news. I will be a card carrying member of the cancer survivor club. (Do yourself a favor and do not even apply for a membership!) A part of me then feels like I have made a big issue out of something that in the end amounts to something controllable … like a garage fire. It’s something, but it’s not like stage 4 pancreatic or brain cancer! I will have cancer wounds but I will live to talk about it … How dare I call attention to myself when so many others are dying from far more serious cases of cancer and other diseases!

Again, I will say this then, thank God because I am now so much more aware and sensitive to the sufferings of others today then I was yesterday. I am blessed to have this cancer because a mortality bell has chimed and I dare not take for granted my dance with time and my eventual appointment with the bony man and his scythe. I want the obligation of living my life differently and for the better. We are born into the world but not made to be in the world. Yes, thank God for the wake up call!

(According to the cynic’s dictionary, we’re all dying so good health is really just the slowest achievable rate of death.)

Taking the neighborhood fire one step further … My next door neighbor – now she’s someone suffering with cancer! It is a bleak struggle, ongoing for years, ripe with setbacks and yet every time I see Rene she is all smiles and very optimistic about her outlook. I’ve included a most recent update:

With the hard work and dedication of the team at SCCA, Padgett was able to start a new chemotherapy on Saturday. It was a long and grueling 10 hour day which consisted of two chemotherapy treatments, an immunoglobulin transfusion to help her lungs, iv hydration and a platelet transfusion!
Today she had her second dose of the chemo. Her kidney function is taking a huge hit, so that will be closely monitored as well as other labs. This chemotherapy will likely have her needing blood support and may cause her to be neutropenic. The smoke in the air from the wild fires is causing her to have to walk inside on the treadmill, which is not here favorite!
Thank you all again for the continued support! I will update more frequently going forward.
Xoxo Team Padgett
Rene Padgett is a Washington State Patrol Police Officer struggling with a very nasty, unforgiving cancer. If anyone reading this can send something, anything her way (even a note of prayer or encouragement) I know Rene and team Padgett will appreciate it very much.

https://www.gofundme.com/xoxoTeamPadgett

 Tuesday, August 15th 2017 Meeting with Dr Radiation

I only refer to him as Dr. R because because he is a radiation oncologist at Overlake Hospital. I have a morning meeting (Yay, skipping work again!) but I can’t help but notice the atmosphere in his reception area and offices is considerably different than my other two doctor visits.
I am meeting with Dr. R because I still have an option of skirting surgery and going with a high bombardment of radiation. Although I will probably go with surgery, I’m still looking at everything and turning over a lot of other stones as it were. It helps me better understand all my choices and options. Learning and studying is not always easy, but I can assure you ignorance is many things but it certainly is not bliss.
As I said, the radiation oncology offices have a different spirit. I just had a great visit with Mr. Physh the day before and I feel deeply comforted and sustained by the grace of God. People are praying and my spirit rejoices. I am ready to accept wherever God leads. Looking back at Dr. R’s visit, I see now I am really the only patient there that is having a good day.
Dr. R is well staffed. His MA is friendly, kind and assures us Dr. R is not only a great doctor but also a great human being. She tells us she loves working for him and again she goes out of her way to otherwise comfort and assure us.

When Dr. R arrives, I see that he is roughly my age (he later confirms we’re the same age). He gives me the run down on my PSA and Gleason score, what it means and he explains in general what kind of treatment he offers for my cancer treatment.

In quick summary, I would come in for a very specialized MRI. From this MRI a lower body cast would be made so as to precisely help aim the radiation at my prostate and no where else.

Said treatment would be daily, (M-F) and at the same time each day for about eight consecutive weeks. I would come in, spend about 15 to 20 minutes putting on the lower body cast and next be treated and blasted with high radiation for about 5 minutes. It takes about ten minutes to get out of the body cast and leave. The cycle would continue daily until treatments are completed. In addition my activities and diet would be monitored because everything must be regular and regulated for the entire length of the eight week treatment. The closer I am to being in the same condition as the original MRI the better the treatment and the less likelihood of radiating things better left un-radiated (if you catch my meaning).

I can only give a quick summary because this is all Dr. R offered. His point being, in that looking everything over, he strongly recommends I go with robotic surgery. Even though I jokingly have issues with Dr. S being too young, Dr. R has repeatedly seen his patients following surgery, and he assures Wanda and I, the man is a high level robotic surgeon. He was also first in class in residency (apparently all those hours playing video games all night paid off nicely after all).

Dr R patiently answered all my questions. With Wanda by my side, we collectively had an excellent conversation together. Then, after all my questions were answered but before Dr. R excused us, he next introduced to another member of his staff, Ms. A.

Ms A is a therapist and a counselor and her empathy for me was just this side of too much. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe she plays a vital and integral part in people coping and coming to terms with cancer. I was quite impressed, but her approach and style is clearly about helping people just trying to cope with having cancer.

I’m not trying to be smart, but her empathy was so strong I almost felt like I was missing something. I wanted to ask if I was missing something! I wanted to say, “I’m not dying am I?” With hindsight, I believe she sees so much heartache and despair that she’s just comes to expect to see it in everyone. My lighthearted cockiness was probably a curve ball and was seen as either a defensive mechanism or a wall of denial … Let me just add, Ms A is a very warm human being with a very tough job. I am very impressed with Dr R and how he manages his office, his bedside manner and his staff.

I may or may have been a curve ball for Ms. A, but she was certainly a curve ball for us. Still, I really loved her empathy and compassion. We left the meeting feeling very good with the information in hand. Up to now I had met with three different doctors. In addition, I had met with a good man who had gone through the same prognosis and had successfully gone through the surgery and looked no worse for it. All my doctors assured me this prostate cancer was not only treatable but that I would live to talk about it for many, many years. It was a turning into a great week and I was at peace until I met up with a work related friend the following day …

Wednesday August 16th 2017 & Why I Don’t Believe in Coincidence

I sometimes have a hard time defining in clear terms what I currently do for Costco. I either make my job sound bigger than it really is or I don’t make it sound big enough. Technically, my title is Manager: Energy Projects, and that is certainly true, but much of what I do is to help third party programmers create customized internet tools for warehouse (store) managers; to enable them to control their lights and air conditioning (AC) units from their work PC or their home PC, laptop or tablet. (Clear as mud, right?) From there I need to be readily available to help these same managers and their staff successfully use these tools. In addition, my team also manage LED lighting warranty and now solar projects for all of North America. It’s a lot of hats and most of the time it requires me to be pretty darn close to my desk at any given moment, as things quickly snowball if I do not address issues in a timely manner.

And on that note, when one of our AC suppliers invited my department and team to lunch Wednesday, I all but turned it down. The AC supplier’s parent company had put together a road show luncheon. They wanted us to come down see their latest toys and product line. In all likelihood I didn’t see it happening. I had already missed too much time, (Mr. Physh and Dr. R), so I told the supplier “maybe”. (In business, “maybe’ really means no or at the very least, don’t count on it, but I’m too chicken to come out and say it.)

The invitation was sent to all the key players in my department and one of my co-workers mentioned he thought it was important we all go. Long story, but he argued there were people in promised attendance we should meet with and this was a great opportunity to see everyone at the same time. Just then, two others from related work fields, who just happened to be listening, chimed in. They both felt the meeting would supplement their work and asked if they could tag along.

Suffice to say, I changed my mind and decided to attend after all. Then, the day came, and all my co-workers backed out! “Oh, I can’t go. I’ve got too much on my plate.” And, “Oh, we forgot, and scheduled meetings at the same time. There’s no way we can go.”

??? Okay, fine, I get it but I don’t really want to go. I’m busy too, but I had already confirmed with all the interested parties they could expect me to show up around noon. It was too late and too rude to back out now. So I went and as I was leaving I quickly grabbed a couple of the hourly support assistants in my department and drafted them into going along with me. It would get them out of the office (nice little change) and they would finally see some of the actual hardware we only discussed and talked about but never physically touched or viewed.

Well, what can I say … my attendance might just be a prostate cancer game changer. (I’m cautious to talk about this as I must admit I still feel like Charlie Brown getting ready to kick the football. I just know at the last second, Lucy is going to pull it away from me and I’m going fall flat on my back!)

While at the luncheon I ran into the supplier’s engineer. We’ve known each other for years, but she mostly works behind the scenes. My interaction with her is relatively rare but when we visit it is always good.

Normal pleasantries ensue and I ask how things are going and she tells me she’s getting ready to leave for New York City. Of course I just assume its for pleasure and I tell her how Wanda, I and her mother (with the handicap pass) and our niece were just there last May.

She nods in acknowledgement but says she and her husband will be too busy to sight-see or even catch a show. They’re not going to New York City for vacation or a quick getaway, but rather to see a doctor about treating her husband’s cancer.

Now I knew her husband had cancer and he’s had it for awhile, but I didn’t know what kind and so I asked if she would mind telling me and she turns to me and says, “Prostate.”

I don’t think I stopped in my tracks, but I could have … I quickly share the fact that I too am now a card carrying member and I ask why they have to go to New York City for treatment.

In quick summary, her husband does not want to undergo the surgery. He believes there has to be a better way. He’s been scouring the internet for a viable option and guess what? He believes he has found one.

It turns out, doctors in other countries have been using a combination of lasers and uber-deep sea bacteria to successfully treat prostate cancer with few, if any, side effects. Now, a doctor in New York City wants to begin testing the process here in America. There are trials scheduled for late September but only for the right candidates.

My friend and her husband were leaving for a quick trip to NYC to meet with the doctor and to have a biopsy performed to see if he qualifies for the trial.

I’ll link the article, but here is the gist of what they’ve been doing (this is all true but know some of my descriptions might be wrong due to my yet uneducated layman’s understanding):  Doctors have been testing deep sea bacteria on prostate cancer. This weird bacteria has never seen daylight or any other light for that matter. The doctors first complete a very careful MRI of the prostate. They work very hard at identifying the exact location of the cancer. Next, they inject the bacteria (still in the dark) into the prostate cancer. Following this step, they use lasers to expose the bacteria to light for the first time.

When exposed to light the bacteria becomes really agitated and angry. Imagine having to suddenly wake up at 4 am and there’s no coffee! So the bacteria is really mad and it starts eating everything around it. (If I’m miserable, then you’re going to be miserable too!) It attacks the cancer (and probably the prostate). Now the body’s immune system is notified. It comes in shortly after and like a swat assault raid, it rushes in shooting first. The body stops the bacteria attack but only after most, if not all, the cancer is destroyed. The good news is now the immune system is on high alert and if it finds any lingering prostate cancer missed by the bacteria, it attacks and hopefully finishes the job.

The point is, in a study last year of about 400 men, about 50% were cancer free after being effectively treated with bacteria and lasers. Additionally none of them had any measurable side effects. Only 6% of the men eventually had to have their prostates removed.

That evening, after I returned home from work, I started to search for this new method prostate cancer treatment and I found it!  http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38304076

Thursday, August 17th 2017: The Trials of the Trials

A doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is preparing to do a study on treating men with prostate cancer using lasers and the deep sea bacteria. The trials, (and I could be wrong on a lot of this, so please don’t hold me to anything I write as being gospel – Just because I write with authority doesn’t mean I am an authority) are scheduled for maybe the end of September (I bet with my luck it will be postponed till my prepaid trip to Hawaii in October – just watch!).

I called the doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. The man who answered was responsible for scheduling appointments with the doctor conducting the research trials. Let’s just say he was not too optimistic. He said the trials were postponed till the end of September (or maybe longer – hard to tell). He said I would need to undergo another biopsy as the doctor would want to perform one for himself before deciding if I even qualified.

This meant I would have to fly out to New York City (hmm … it’s kind of coincidental that I was just there last May and spent a bit of time learning the lay out of Manhattan). In addition, he needed to know if my awesome Costco insurance would cover it.

Lucky me it does!

That was Thursday and I have not yet scheduled the biopsy visit. I do not even know if I can qualify, but again, coincidentally, they only want men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer and with Gleason scores of 3+4 = 7 …. just like me!

 Okay Lucy, please, please, please let me kick the football just this once!

Today is Sunday, Aug 20th 2017. I gave the doctor’s office all day Friday to call to schedule an appointment for biopsy but they did not. I will call them tomorrow, Monday morning, first thing.

If you’ve read this then you now understand why I am asking for prayers. Again, just so we’re clear, I am not attached to the outcome. Let God’s will be done. Please Lord, allow me the grace to accept whatever you have in mind.

Here’s the thing, even if I am accepted and it absolutely does not work, and I end up doing the robotic surgery, then this is still a great, great blessing. Why? Because when you go to an undiscovered country and you cut a path for those behind you to follow, you should expect some set backs. After all, nobody’s been there before. No one knows the layout of the land. There is no map or manual. Someone has to be the first to reach the promised land. Consequently, it is to be expected to sometimes come up to a dead end. This doesn’t mean you should give up. No, it simply means, you now know the path you’re on isn’t going where you need it to go. You must find another way. Going forward, you simply make a note to tell others not to bother going down that road. Its unfortunate, but it saves a lot of time for the people following later on.

In other words, my success or my treatment failure might just be crucial in helping doctors create a valid, consistent and viable treatment for the men following me who sadly find themselves confronting prostate cancer. (Kind of a superhero after all and without the radiation – I like it!)

Regardless of the outcome for me personally, I would love, love, love to be a part of the study that leads to treating prostate cancer successfully and with minimal side effects.

I don’t have to pray for me, because others are surrounding me with loving and supporting prayer. I am so blessed. This love, this support, God’s grace, your prayers in turn, frees me from having unhealthy anxiety or worry. I can now freely offer my prayers for you and for people like my next door neighbor, Rene!

Please know you are in my heart and as far as I am concerned we are family.  It occurs to me so much of our worldly troubles would all but go away if we would just take to heart Jesus words, “Love one another.” (And remember, that’s a command and not a suggestion!)

Prostate Cancer Blues: Part 1

My apologies for not writing or calling everyone individually. With regards to the subject matter at hand I often find the first couple of conversations go well, but the motivation to repeat myself is harder each time. I was telling Wanda it’s like holding your breath and diving down deep to the bottom of the sea. The first time is pretty easy, and the second dip isn’t too bad either, but by the third or fourth trip, you’re just tired. The desire is still there, but sometimes you just have to come up to the surface, float on your back and simply catch your breath.

I tend to process interiorly, verbally and then, finally with writing. Maybe if I write one long unabridged letter (just speak my mind as it were), that in turn, will help me express better to any and all concerned, what is going up and what is going down at this point in my life.

Most of you already know that I have cancer. For those of you who don’t … well don’t you now feel pretty bad about some of those snide remarks you made about me behind my back? (Just kidding but don’t expect me to apologize for my warped sense of humor.) The truth is I only found out a week or two before Bradley & Heather’s wedding, (July 25th) and I really didn’t want to dampen their celebration with my bad news.

Apparently, I don’t mind dampening Wesley and Veronica’s wedding with bad news! Sorry about that kids! (Crikey! When is it ever a good time to tell the ones you love that you have cancer?) Fortunately, I feel there is a silver lining to all of this … but no one is more sorry to have to share this news at this time or any other time for that matter.

Forgive me if my morbid sense of humor creeps in from time to time. It is how I deal with things. People often ask me how I am doing and I almost always say, “No, worries”.  Sometimes I get a reaction, “No worries? Really? That’s amazing.” And of course my response is, “Hey, I’m in denial!”

So there you go! To some degree I am in denial. I really want to believe the doctors are wrong, or that somehow this will all be some weird misunderstanding or the test results were wrong and my cancer is benign. (It’s a little known scientific fact that cancer gives up after eight years. Yes, it’s true! There isn’t any deadly cancer after eight years because everyone knows after eight years cancer benign!) I still hope some brilliant doctor will magically appear and tell me to ignore treatment because prostate cancer is always slow growing and I really have nothing to fear. I want them to tell me I’ll die of natural causes years before the cancer can really hurt me. (Maybe this is why I joke about it … anything else would be really, really depressing.)

When push comes to shove, I know this denial of mine is just “fake news” but the truth is I really do want the facts and I really want to know the truth (the real truth –  you know, do I honestly have deadly, rapidly progressing, incurable cancer?) So, it’s not so much denial, as it is fear. I worry the doctors are wrong and pushing me to extreme measures for the sake of being safe versus sorry. I worry they might be blinded by the profit of performing an easy prostatectomy (easy for them to “say” and perform, but I can’t even pronounce prostatectomy).

I don’t mind admitting that I sometimes worry. See, it doesn’t matter how many other men have successfully been treated for prostate cancer (they’re not me). And it doesn’t matter that if I treat it now the odds of surviving another 15 years cancer free is nearly 100%.  It doesn’t matter because my family genetics life span averages somewhere from the 60’s to the mid 70’s. I’m 58 in September so genetically I probably don’t have another 30 years. What if the cancer won’t even be deadly for another 30 years? Maybe I should wait and see, then take action only when I start having issues? It is known for being slow growing, so maybe I can just ignore it (denial).

Some people believe with today’s advances I will have at least another 30+ years left to live. After all, I do live better than my parents, and I do have better health at my age then they did at mine. I have better health habits. I don’t smoke. I exercise and I watch what I eat, but neither of my parents had cancer.

Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance coincidentally represent both my life right now and the name of my lawyer’s office.

Yes, I am worried. Yes, I do dwell a lot about it. Since the news I’ve become more distracted at home and at work, but so far I haven’t been angry. I haven’t tried to bargain with God. I haven’t been depressed or sunk into despair (maybe I just need more time), but I have repeatedly tasted acceptance. What carries me, what keeps me going so far, and relatively happy, is quite frankly, my faith. I find so much comfort in God and the teachings of the Church. It centers me and really keeps me in check. If I am careful, if I slow down and really listen, I can almost hear where God is calling me and I can almost see where he wants to lead me … and despite all appearances to the contrary, he is leading me somewhere beautiful; somewhere perfect and quite unimaginable by my finite limitations!

8.11.17: Here’s the weirdest thing you’ll ever see me write or admit. Sometimes I feel like having prostate cancer is akin to winning the lottery! Crazy right? Well, here’s the thing; I once asked a co-worker, “If you won the lottery, would you quit your job?” And his response, after a moment’s thought was, “No, but I wouldn’t be as nice”.

I love his response, and believe it or not, for me, substituting being told I have cancer for a multi-million dollar lottery win is not all that much different!

Winning the lottery would allow me to stop being afraid to live my life on my terms. If I won the lottery I would not have to take any crap from anybody. I would go where I wanted and do the things that I wanted (more or less … can you say hyperbole? I think you know what I mean).

So, how is cancer like winning the lottery? Cancer prods me to get my house in order.  I awaken to the fact life really is short, just a blink. Therefore, everything I do (and what I don’t do) matters. Here then, is another opportunity to “wake up” and be the man I feel called to be. Consequently, what used to be important may still be important, but I have to ask myself, is it really? And if the answer is no, my next question is what am I going to do about it? With cancer prodding me I don’t feel I have time to waste. Even if my cancer were cured, I now know how important life is and how important it is to not waste any more of it.

When I finally leave this rock for good, I never want my wife, or any of my loved ones to ever feel they didn’t have the time to do and say all the things they now wished they could have said. I would rather pass away telling my wife I love her too many times than not enough. It really is that simple.

Cancer is a blessing if I allow it to be … I cannot control whether or not I have cancer. That is outside of my control, but I can choose how I react to having cancer. I can decide how it will effect me and I choose for the better.

This is a little esoteric, but I often pray and ask God to “Bring all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy – regardless of cost.” In other words, “Please God, do whatever it takes!” But don’t get me wrong. I am not asking God to make me a martyr. My prayer does not mean I want cancer. My prayer simply means cancer cannot sever me from the power, grace, love and mercy of God.

When I was little and my mom or dad took me by the hand, I would let them lead. I didn’t fight my daddy or try to get away. I loved and completely trusted my father. I knew, in the end, it would all be great. Maybe we were going to a baseball game. Maybe we were going to see Mom for breakfast. Maybe he was tricking me and taking me to the doctor for another unexpected shot – just saying! I didn’t always like or appreciate where we ended up, but my parents always comforted me when they had to take me someplace I felt was more than a bit unpleasant.

With hindsight, I can recall how they wanted to explain why it was important to let the doctor give me a shot. It helped when the doctor gave me a sucker following, but I still cried as it was so fresh and oh so traumatic. My mom and dad always tried to reassure and comfort me. I could tell by their concern they were truly sorry I had to go through so much agony, but that never stopped them from helping the doctor give me a shot. Their empathy never stopped the pain either.

In the long run, the polio shot, or mumps, or whatever prevention I received was necessary and always the lesser evil. Looking back, it is easy to see how these shots were needed to ensure I had a healthy life, and obviously, I am clearly no less for the wear. I’ve made it this far, so far, and how much of it is due to my parents loving and taking care of me even when I didn’t fully understand their actions at the time?

On that point, I’ve always been told God is our Father; our real, loving Father. If so, why am I afraid to take His hand and simply trust where He leads? Maybe I lack the faith I had as a 3 year old little boy?

One of the readings at Mass several months ago was about Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days. The Bible says after 40 days Jesus was hungry. (Of course he was hungry! I can’t even go two hours without snacking at work and he went 40 days!) Lots of people say this is the biggest understatement in the Bible …

Nah, not me. I do not believe this is the biggest understatement. The biggest understatement for me is when St. Paul writes about begging and pleading with God for help and God’s response is simply, “My grace is sufficient for you…” (And for my Protestant friends who are reading, that quote can be found in 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Now that, dear friends and family, is an understatement! … We little humans really cannot begin to even remotely comprehend a wondrous and infinite God! It is impossible for the finite to fully conceive of the infinite. Bishop Barron compares it to someone trying to explain a library or a kitchen to their pet. Even if the dog genuinely wants to understand how a refrigerator works and the master really wants to show and tell him, all little Fido can understand is when his owner opens the door there’s something yummy inside and maybe this time he’ll share something with him.

Gene Explains It All To Oliver

We’re just too physically limited (ya know, finite creatures) trying wrap our little minds around concepts infinitely greater than the entire capacity of all of mankind combined!

So in spite of my petty, human fears and worries, I have my faith to console and comfort me. And it does. When I am open to “He that creates and controls all things” none of this bothers me so much. My weakness, my stumbling is more often than not, stemming from a weak faith and a prideful desire to appear to be greater than I really am. In my head, I am the Flash, James Bond, Sheer-luck Holmes and the Incredible Hulk all rolled into one and if it weren’t for my tummy rolls, age, bad eyesight, memory loss, baldness and now cancer, I would be … someone else with a plethora of weaknesses.

I know I am not the first man to have prostate cancer. Apparently, it is quite common. So, come on Dougie, be a man and walk it off. Quit being a cry baby. You’ll be fine. Just tough it out.

Yeah, okay.

So maybe I should wait it out. I mean I read about the doctor who discovered the prostate specific antigen (PSA) being on record for regretting the discovery. Apparently, after his discovery in the 1970’s, there was a hard push to gut men with high PSA scores, but now, (if I understand things correctly), there is both benign and deadly prostate cancer and PSA can’t tell the difference! Consequently, for every 124 men given a prostatectomy only one life is actually saved from cancer! Okay, I made the numbers up. Maybe it’s one out of forty or one out of 100. I don’t recall, but it’s still disturbing because the point is, doctors cannot tell the benign from the deadly, so they sometimes promote “radical” surgery just to be safe.

PSA is a screening blood test used to see if a man has prostate cancer. It is the most common and most widely accepted screening tool for detecting early signs of prostate cancer. (It’s like golf too; lowest number wins.) Normal scores are under 5 and mine in October 2016 was just above 6.

I still don’t know all that much about PSA. In college I studied Advertising and PSA meant “Public Service Announcement”. Of course I knew it meant something else in the medical field, but deep down I was still rooting for “Pleasant Surprises Abound”.

At first, my urologist, (last December) wasn’t too surprised or too alarmed about my PSA score. PSA tests are anything but infallible. I was comforted by the fact my urologist was well aware the doctor who is credited with discovering the PSA test is on record as regretting it.  Consequently, he felt there was plenty of time to track the numbers. He said, ten years ago he might have pushed for a biopsy but today things are a little different. Many doctors today are less initially aggressive about rising PSA scores. If my score were in the teens, 20’s or hundreds, that would be a different story. Still, if they continued to go up, then more advanced steps would be undertaken, but in December 2016 he first wanted to wait and test a few more times before formal conclusions were drawn.

To my thinking, PSA scores are like our solar system, where the sun is death by cancer and all the planets are relative PSA scores. The closer the planet is to the sun, the higher the PSA number. Healthy men scores are like Pluto – not even recognized as a planet anymore! Sadly, some men have scores in the hundreds, (Mercury) and others like me, are closer to Neptune.

Taking this analogy further, you can live a long time monitoring and otherwise ignoring PSA if your scores keep you no closer than Saturn (10 and under) but once we’re looking at Jupiter (teens and higher) other measures need to be explored and taken.Solar System These times aren’t so tough. Back in my day we had nine planets!

In my case, my first PSA test was just over 6 (Neptune), but my next test, (less than 3 months later) was nearly 7. That’s a small jump from Neptune to Uranus (and yes, the prostate is very near your anus – You can quote me, but first quit snickering about it!).

The rise in PSA score isn’t good news, but it’s not horribly bad either (there is plenty of space between Uranus and Jupiter – What? Are we still in third grade people? Come on! This is serious! Class will continue after every one settles down.) Anyway, my doctor and I agreed to wait another three months and check the results again. For what it is worth, when my doctor felt my prostate, (again, lucky me) he could not find anything unusual about it. Fast forward another three months and now my results are a little above 10 (meaning I’ve landed on one of the moons of Saturn – Titan or Dione or Pan maybe).

Still, my urologist wasn’t too alarmed. A lot of things can cause a PSA to creep up to 10. In hindsight, I think he was waiting to see if it fell back down (bouncing up and down is common with pseudo or non-threatening cancer) or continued to rise. He was most interested to see if it would continue to rise or settle in and around 10. And in the end, that is exactly what happened.

In May of 2017 I had some independent third party blood work done for insurance purposes and they ran their own PSA test just prior to my seeing a follow up with my urologist. Their score came back just under 10. I hoped it was a good sign. I still don’t fully understand PSA, but I know the lower the number the better.  In the end, (get it, in the end? See what I did there?) my urologist was hoping for a bigger drop. It’s fine that it was going down, but if it were really bouncing, as we hoped it would, (thus suggesting something other than cancer was at work), a bigger fall in numbers (8 or ideally less) would have been a better indicator.

Consequently, my urologist suggested I just bite the bullet and schedule a biopsy. Fun, fun, fun! The procedure itself isn’t too bad, relatively speaking. If you have had a colonoscopy, then think of the prostate biopsy as his little, angry trike-riding brother. He’s not terribly tough, but he thinks he is. My doctor took 12 samples, which is like having 12 baby bee stings. It’s tolerable, but probably because I had just taken 15mg of Valium. Nevertheless, I was glad when it was finally over.

The prostate gland is circular and sort of like a walnut. Six random samples from each side of the prostate were removed for biopsy. Prostate cancer tends to be elusive. Other cancers (skin, kidney, pancreatic) tend to form and collect as a spot or as a growth. This is why many cancers can be detected with a MRI or other types of scans. Prostate doesn’t work that way. It’s kind of a spider web or root that stretches and spreads out and across the prostate with lots of gaps. It requires microscopic analysis. Consequently, it is conceivable even 12 random samples might miss any and all of the cancer.

The procedure itself took place at my urologist’s Overlake Hospital office. It took about an hour. Wanda drove me there and back, which is good because, as I mentioned, they had me take 15mgs of Valium and now I fully appreciate why people get hooked on these wonderful little happy pills of contentment …

The samples were sent out to a Pathologist and he screened them for cancer. About four days later my doctor called me with the results.

They say, if you’re a man with cancer, then make sure it is prostate cancer (yeah, as if you can control these things). I have heard it said all my life that if a man lives long enough, he will eventually get prostate cancer.

Prostate Stats

All men eventually get prostate cancer and the good news is that it progresses so slowly that most men die of other causes.”

All of this is true, but since it is so slow growing, why even worry about it? So what if I have prostate cancer? It’s not going to bother me for another 15 or 30 years. In September I’ll be 58 and with my genetic make-up I’ll be pretty thrilled if I make it to 74.

I call this thinking the got-cha because not all prostate is slow growing. In some ways, I’m too young to already have prostate cancer. The truth is I’ve been too relaxed about the whole idea of having a life threatening disease. I told myself it’s not going to happen to me, and even if it does, not to worry because it’ll take 20+ years before it becomes a concern. It’s an old man’s disease and I am not an old man (Hey, I’ll have you know AARP that in my head I’m still 22 and I have the emotional maturity to prove it). Consequently, my attitude was akin to people living near Mt. Rainier. We think it’s a dormant volcano but in 1980 so did the people living near Mt. St. Helens.

Back to my fantastic story … My urologist calls and says he is sad to say the biopsy came back positive. (He’s sad? I’ll show you sad!) Three samples have medium grade cancer. He says this and I’m still thinking, “Yeah, so what? Three out of 12 isn’t much. I can live with this slow growing thing for another 20 to 30 years. Bring it on!”

He tells me he’s going to schedule a follow-up to go over the results and treatment options (Options? What options? Oh well, me thinks I’ll just elect the “no option”). He tells me I should bring my wife and anyone else I feel should be on hand. Suffice to say none of you mattered, so I only brought Alex and Wanda with me (I’m teasing! Of course you all matter … just not that muchJk! )

The real truth is I didn’t want to alarm anyone because I was sure it was nothing and I just knew my doctor would say “just wait and see”. I mean all guys eventually get prostate cancer, right? It’s not that big of a deal! Also, need I point out, it’s 2017, so I’m sure they have some really groovy technology that isolates the cancer perfectly and destroys it without any side effects whatsoever. I mean, it’s 2017! We’re in the 21st century for crying out loud. (Oh, and while we’re at it, I grew up envisioning every one by now would be traveling by flying saucer, booking PanAm trips to the moon and wearing shiny clothes! WHEN DO I GET MY SHINY CLOTHES?)

Its 2017, so there has to be a g-nome shot (CRISPR maybe) that only costs 15 cents and it ingeniously attacks and replaces the cancer with my DNA (or the Flash, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and the Hulk all rolled into one). I am sure this is going to be the case. No worries!

The day arrives and Wanda, Alex and I go see my urologist and he spells out how the prostate works, what it does and what PSA tests tells us and why the biopsy results are important. He goes on to spell out about seven different treatment options from what he considers to be the most effective to the least. Sadly, doing nothing was number 7. (SEVEN? Are you kidding me? Doing nothing, just waiting to see what happens is the least effective option – really? Whoever said 7 was lucky never talked to my urologist!)

Then, to top everything off, his number one suggestion was full gutting robotic surgery. Okay, okay, I admit, the robot part sounded pretty cool (2017 technology baby!), but what does “full gutting” mean exactly?

Turns out it really is pretty nasty. Get this, if I opt for the surgery Wanda and I won’t be able to have kids! Jiminey Crickets! Sorry Katie and Alex, but Wanda and I won’t be making any more Sparkes!

With surgery I have to be sedated. The operation takes 3 hours and includes at least one night stay in the hospital. While I’m there they will have to massage my legs because if they don’t a blood clot might form; float up to my heart and kill me. (The odds are extremely low, but still a real concern and possibility). After this, the fun really begins. Since they’re gutting most of my internal reproductive organs and some of their close friends, they have to reattach my bladder to the sphincter where my urinary tract/tube used to be attached. This means at least 14 days living with a catheter. (Time out for a second. I heard urinary catheter removal is really painful. So why do they sedate me before putting it in, but do not sedate me at all when they remove it? I can just hear the announcement, “Dr. Marquis de Sade to see Mr. Sparkes. Calling Dr. Marquis de Sade – catheter pulling in room 303!”) Once the catheter is removed I can expect to uncontrollably wet my pants for at least a year or two or three. No one knows for sure. My apologies to everyone in the swimming pool, but at least I have a really good excuse this time. “Attention all swimmers! Get out of the pool!  Get out of the pool! Uncle Doug is going in for a swim!”

Pool

At this point, I have to tell you, option 7 is still pretty darn good looking. I don’t mean to be difficult, but I am really not very impressed with option numero uno. With a small, weak little voice I ask my doctor to move on and to tell me more about exciting option number two.

Whew! What a relief. Two is cool. It takes about an hour and top of that there’s no pain because they sedate you. It’s an in and out office procedure, so no blood, no hospital stay, no gutting and no catheter for 14 days! Plus, if I play my cards right maybe I can score more Valium!

The point is there is none of that nasty surgery business. Instead, they inject about 100 radioactive titanium seeds into the prostate. Afterwards they simply wake me up and I go home. And on top of that (and this really is the best part) for the next 90 days or so I will be radioactive! How cool is that? I mean how many superheroes were created from being “RADIOACTIVE”? Answer: ALL of the really, really cool ones!

I can barely contain my enthusiasm. I know its a long shot. I probably have better odds winning the lottery, but maybe I’ll have super strength or super speed. Maybe I’ll be able to leap over tall buildings or better yet … maybe I’ll have PSYCHIC SPIDER POWERS! Right! Right! You see where I’m going with all of this. I’ll be unstoppable.

The doctor goes on to list some so called annoying side effects, but honestly, I didn’t hear what he said. Quite frankly, I didn’t really care. I mean, once you know you’re improving the odds of getting super powers, what does it matter if you’re allergic to Kryptonite?

There was also option number three but it was a radiation treatment and it meant I would not be radioactive. Obviously, I wasn’t impressed. On top of that, it sounded very unpleasant. Radiation treatment is a daily massive dose of radiation bombardment for eight weeks. They fit you into a body mold (to hold you still) and then everyone prays they aim at the right spot!  It’s a five minute, daily bombardment, but fitting into the body mold alone takes about 15 minutes, then another 10 to back get out when you’re done.

On top of that I wouldn’t even be radioactive so the odds of becoming a super hero were, for all intents and purposes, nil, but (perhaps more importantly), it would kill the cancer. But it also comes with a lot of unpleasant side effects like irritated, burning colon! (I don’t need to see no picture!) Consequently, option three was much less desirable to me, so I really was starting to lean toward going with option number two. I figured option three radiation could be my back up plan. Quite frankly, option number one was never even seriously considered. Using all my amazing psychic powers I now publicly predict surgery won’t be selected or happening. Option number one is officially off the table!

Okay, so at this point, there is one tiny little thing bothering me. My doctor, up to now, has been very helpful and informative. He said he was listing the treatments in order of preference so unless he was going from worse to best (Yay 7! – do nothing!), I didn’t understand why option number one was even mentioned let alone the first option he suggested.

Regardless, I quickly came up with a plan. It’s a trump card I sometimes play when I’m in a new town and I’m looking for a good place to eat. I mean if you ask a stranger, “Where’s a good place to eat?” they invariably do not want you to be disappointed so they always suggest some famous, well-known establishment with overpriced, so-so meals. But if you press them, they invariably admit they’ve never even eaten there before! Nevertheless, they are always quick to point out they have heard the food is really, really good! So instead of asking where to eat, I’ll ask, “Where do you like to eat?” Or, “What’s your favorite place to eat?” Or, “Where do you like to go?”  This usually produces a more honest and trustworthy answer as they’re no longer concerned about making a good impression. But on that note, if they say Applebees’, open your Yelp app. and get another opinion.

The point is, I figure if this is a really good strategy to get an honest answer on restaurants, why not use a similar approach with my urologist about options? “So tell me, doctor, if this were your body and your decision, what option would you pick?”

It turns out this is not my doctor’s first rodeo. It turns out I’m not so clever after all and it turns out I am anything but the first person to ask him this question. Dr. U just smiled, “I won’t answer that question. Prostate treatment is different for every man. What’s good for one man isn’t good for another. You’re going to have to decide what treatment you feel works best for you.”

Martha Pus-bucket! That is absolutely no help whatsoever! A little voice was screaming inside my head, “Pick lucky 7! Lucky number 7! Or superhero number two!”

Dr. U suggested I take some time to think it over. Additionally, he strongly encouraged me to visit with one of his partners. He told me Dr. S has been performing robotic surgery a few times a month for years. Dr. U felt it was important that I at least turn that stone over, explore the option and allow Dr. S to elaborate and explain the full gutting, surgical process in immense detail.

Yeah, okay.”

We scheduled the appointment with Dr. S for the morning of Aug 7th (Yay, lucky 7), the day right after Bradley and Heather’s wedding. For those of you who don’t know. Bradley is our nephew. He is Gene and Lena’s oldest. In a few weeks following, Wanda’s other brother, Alan’s son, Wesley, is also getting married. My concern is how to go about telling the family. I don’t want to disrupt the joy and celebration. Wesley and Veronica are getting married at the end of August in Poland (yes, I said Poland). A few weeks later they return and they are having a second wedding here in October (don’t ask me why).

So, when do I tell them my news? How do I tell them the news? Okay, okay, okay, back up for a second! They’re getting married twice? And the first wedding is in Poland? Huh? Hmm, let me think. Okay, I got it! Cheryl Crow is a prophetess! Yes, that has to be it. Cheryl Crow is a prophetess. I mean double weddings, gay marriage, legal pot and pretty soon me gaining superhuman powers from radiation! Truly Crow was right. “These are the days when anything goes!”

Caution: The following is a slightly insane recollection of what transpired and may be a teeny bit exaggerated … A teeny bit:

How do I describe my meeting with Dr. S? Young Dr. S … I swear he must have graduated from Doogie Howser Medical School. Still, he’s a nice enough guy. He’s an oncologist and a prostate robot surgeon, and he really seems to know his stuff. My only objection is his age. I asked why he looked down and depressed and all he could say was he had been turned down for a movie date by a girl he really, really liked. Tiffany told him no more dates; not until he got his driver’s license. She said she’s really tired of the way his mother keeps staring at her from the rear view mirror. It creeps her out.

Like I said, he’s a sweet kid, so I knew immediately he and I would hit it off. I figured, he’d talk about the advances made in robotic surgery and how 2017 was the year of the prostate robot. I would actively listen, feign interest, ask seemingly interested questions, and suggest he try Proactive to combat his acne. In the end I would straighten junior out. I’d let him know, that  a wise, mature, middle aged man, such as myself, had a different plan and probably knew better anyway.  After all, I had given all the options a lot of thought and careful consideration, but at the end of the day, Dr. S would just have to accept the fact my decision to have 100 radioactive titanium pellets injected into my prostrate was the obvious and best way to proceed.

Just as expected, Dr. S explained all the horrors of option one to me again, but in much greater and gory detail. He said he performs at least two radical prostatectomies a month and has been doing them for years (and from the looks of things, probably since the 4th grade).

Time out! Did you catch that? He said “radical” prostatectomy! Okay, so here’s the thing. I was raised to not judge a book by it’s cover. And generally speaking, that’s good advice (nevertheless, sometimes first impressions do matter, but that’s another subject). However, just because I don’t judge a book by it’s cover, doesn’t mean I can’t gather a clue from the name! I’m not judging, but RADICAL screams, “Pay attention! Important clue here!”

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover, But What About the Name?

Back in the 70’s a mass of people unwisely invested in WPPS and lost everything. From the first outset of the investment opportunity and to this very day, WPPS is always referred to as “WHOOPS”.

“Hey, Mr. Broker do you have great investment opportunities for me?”

“Why yes, I feel very strongly about this deal they’re calling whoops.”

“Sounds like a winner to me. Tell you what, put everything I have into it. I feel good about this one and oh, what was your name again?”

“Bernie. Bernie Madof.” (Made-off with my money that is …)

Oh, and to be sure, I listened to Dr. S. I hung on his every word. I even asked the kind doctor a couple of questions to show I was listening. I figured seeing Dr. S was like negotiating for a new car and this was the part where the salesman side of Dr. S makes an offer that rewards him the most (assuming he seals the deal), and I either buckle and give in to his swag or I hold out for something that benefits me more – like option 2!

And that’s exactly what I did. I said, “So, doc, when you describe robotic surgery that way, it doesn’t sound half bad, but man, those side effects … honestly, they’re too much. That’s why I think you’ll see the wisdom of my deciding to go with 100 radioactive pellets.”

Dr. S winced. “I’m sorry Mr. Sparkes, but option two isn’t available for you.”

I was confused. “Uh, doc, what language are you speaking? What do you mean its not available to me? Dr. U said … “

“Oh, yes, crazy Dr. U … Great guy. We’re good friends, but listen to me.” Dr. S put both his hands on my knees and leaned very close, looking me directly in the eyes. “Repeat after me, Mr. Sparkes”, The doctor’s voice was firm but compassionate. “Dr. U … go ahead, say it with me … Dr. U …”

“Dr. U,” I mumbled weakly.

“Yes, very good. Dr. U is an urologist.”

“Dr. U is an urologist. “

“Dr. S is an oncologist.”

“Dr. S is an oncologist.”

“That’s right. Good.” Dr. S pulled away from my face and settled back in his chair. “Now, Dougie, this is important. Do you know the difference between an urologist and an oncologist?”

I stuttered, “No, not really.”

“Would you like to know the difference?” he asked as he pulled a green lollipop from his coat and waved it in front of me.

“I don’t like green” I said grudgingly. Hearing myself say those words made me cringe. What was I saying? After all, a green lollipop is better than no lollipop. I really hoped I hadn’t shot down my chances.

“It’s okay, Dougie. I have other flavors. You can pick one from any of them when we’re done.”

Whew! That was close. I lit up and sat up straight in my chair. I could barely contain my enthusiasm. “Do you have cherry?”

“Yes, yes, we have cherry. All the best flavors.”

“Wow!”

“Yes, wow is right. Now, would you like to know the difference between an urologist and an oncologist?”

“Yes, please.”

“Good. Well, a urologist doesn’t really know jack, but I have to admit they’re pretty good at getting men to jump with just one finger.”

“You can say that again!”

Dr. S paused for a moment to cover the slightly exposed Spiderman tee-shirt he was wearing. Looking back up at me he continued, “Now, a surgical oncologist such as myself, we’re the real geniuses of the medical field.”

“Really?” I asked, honestly perplexed by his statement. “I would’ve thought brain surgeons were right at the top.”

“Ha! That’s a good one, Mr. Sparkes … brain surgeons! That’s just one organ! Who do you call if you have brain cancer? A brain surgeon? No, way. You call a surgical oncologist! Why, because not even a brain surgeon cannot operate on a brain with cancer! Only a surgical oncologist can do that!”

“Wow! I never knew!”

“That’s right you never knew! But listen here old man, I want you to live! I want you to survive cancer and the only way that is going to happen is if you allow me to make six one inch incisions in an arch above your belly button, stuff a camera under your pelvic bone and go to town, gutting your reproductive organs like they were fresh poke’ and then making you pee through a straw for two weeks!”

My mouth fell open.

“Do I make myself clear?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess so.”

“You guess so?”

“Well no. I mean …”

“Tell me, Mr. Sparkes, what do you mean? Do we have a deal or not?”

“Well, uh, yes, we have a deal.”

“Great, now before we schedule the surgery, I insist you talk to a radiation oncologist.

“What? Why? I thought we have a deal?”

“No, not quite. I want you to first fully understand before you commit and make a decision. This means, you need to turn over all the stones and consider each option carefully.”

I had to admit, I liked his logic.  What he was saying made a lot of sense.

Dr. S gave me the name of a radiation oncologist near his office. He said I should call to make an appointment and in the meantime Dr. S promised he would send my records down to him ahead of time so there wouldn’t be any delay.

Dr. S next handed me a print out. He explained this was a summary of my prostate cancer condition … customized specifically for me with my specific test results. He went on to explain that prostate cancer is very dangerous. Once it leaves the prostate it tends to settle into the bones. It slowly attacks neighboring organs. The end result is the patient suffers a slow, painful death. There isn’t a cure for prostate cancer.

On top of that, the customized paper work on my specific results shows I already have nearly a 55% chance that the cancer has already spread. Consequently,  option number 7 (wait and see) was also gone from the table. Dr. S went on to explain option 2 was no longer a choice for me because that was only used to treat low grade cancer.

Low, Medium & High Grade Prostate Cancer:

The Gleason score is used to add up the points from your prostate cancer biopsy results and put them on a scale from one to ten, where one to four are considered low grade. five through seven are mid grade and eight, nine and ten are high grade cancers.

My point score was three and four, which adds up to seven. So, if high grade, 8, 9, 10, were grades in school (A-, A and A+), then I have a B+ in cancer. I don’t fully understand the score, but Dr. S said three and four is better than four and three. Although they both add up to seven, doctors have a more positive outlook if the the first point score is lower than the second point score.

The bottom-line is my PSA score, my Gleason score, and my age all play key factors in determining the best course of treatment. Radiation treatments are not advisable for men like me, (under the age of 65) because the radiation used to treat the cancer could give me other cancers (bladder, colon, you name it).  If I deal with prostate cancer today, at age 58, it is foreseeable that I could still live another 30 years. But, if I have radiation treatments at age 58 it might kill the cancer in the prostate, but I might easily redevelop cancer long before I’m 78.

Consequently, Dr. S leans toward my going with a “radical” prostatectomy. If I have surgery and the cancer is found to have spread, then I can still do radiation. It is still an option. On the other hand, if we skip surgery and go with radiation first, the prostate will be destroyed in such a way (think melting), that should there still be any remaining or new prostate cancer, surgery is now too dangerous a risk after having radiation. It’s a one way door; radical prostatectomy followed by radiation is fine but not radiation treatment followed by a radical prostatectomy.

This is how it has been explained to me or how I understand what was explained to me. Now, having said all that, it’s still my choice. I can insist on radiation first. I can still explore other options (4, 5 & 6) such as photon treatment, cryogenic treatments, and I can even research, explore and try homeopathic remedies (trying something like eye of newt mixed with dandelions then boiled for eight hours; allowed to cool for 15 minutes before consuming and sprinkled with Daddy-long-legs for taste.)

Statistically, some of these other options looked great on paper (photon for example) but so far the results have not proven to be any better. Thinking back, maybe there were eight options. I recall another one mentioned by Dr U. He said there was also something called “hormone” treatment.

Turns out “hormone” treatment is the politically correct way of saying “chemical castration”.  Apparently, male dogs can get prostate cancer too and it is a lot like human prostate cancer. So much so, that treating dogs often leads to developing successful human treatments.

Back in the 50’s doctors discovered that testosterone is the gasoline that promotes and causes prostate cancer. If you castrate the dog, he doesn’t get prostate cancer. This works for humans too. Chemical castration gives men a full life free from prostate cancer, but of course the joke is, what kind of life does a castrated man really have?

Regardless of your opinion on this subject, my medium grade (B+) cancer and my 53% chance that it has already spread, eliminates hormone therapy as a viable alternative. I am told I have seven or eight options, but really, it all comes down to one smart choice –  surgery.

I have scheduled a follow up with the radiation doctor the week of August 14th. I’m also meeting with the father-in-law of a friend who had the robotic surgery performed on him seven or eight years ago. Of the two, I’m mostly interested in talking to the father-in-law (Mr. G). I suspect his first hand experience will be the most enlightening.

And this is where I am at as of Saturday, August 12th 2017

I can accept the fact I have cancer. I can accept the fact that I have to have surgery. I just worry that my acceptance is a false front. I mean, until you put a knife in my gut what pain do I even feel?

A quote from the movie Excalibur comes to mind: “Looking at the cake is like looking into the future. Until you taste it what do you really know and then its too late.”

These options, these meetings, they’re all so surreal. I don’t feel like I have cancer. From the outside all is well and even on the inside I still feel fine.

Therefore, my worry, my angst, as it were, is more about how I react afterward. It is easy for me “now” to say to God, “I can carry this cross”.  Of course I can say I can carry it. As of right now, all of this is simply imagined. I mean, I haven’t had the surgery. I have not really picked up the cross.

The truth is I often worry about what happens after the surgery. I can put on a strong face before the going gets tough, but how will I act in the middle of my personal road to Calvary?

See, I know my weaknesses. I know from my past failures I easily fall down. Granted, I try to get back up and I plan to always get back up, but lets just say my true colors will be shown. And without the grace of God, my true colors scare me.

For me, prostate cancer is an opportunity. As I wrote earlier, it can also be a blessing. I choose to see it as a blessing and an opportunity to re-prioritize my life for the better. My worry is, “What am I saying? Can I really do this?” And the answer that comes back to me is no, not without the grace of God! My comfort is knowing (and this faith of knowing radiates through my entire being) God is with me and will be with me every single step of the way.

Going forward, therein lies all my hope.

Thanks to all who are praying for me. Please know that I am praying for you too. The beauty that shines through grace and the love of God combined with the prayers and love of others; reveals to me the joy Christ promises those who believe and hope in him!

Know that I think about and carry you all in my heart (I really, really do). The Bible says the prayers of a righteous man avail much. With God’s grace and help I will continue to progress in my struggle and efforts to become a righteous man. I see my cancer as just one more method God can use to refine me if I am but open to His way! Cancer is in no way a punishment, but instead, an opportunity. Our goal in life should be to become saints. If we remain open to God’s love, guidance and grace then even cancer can assist us as we struggle to make progress toward this goal.

May the peace of Christ be with you all!

8.12.17 This just in and thank you Wanda! http://melonup.com/products/watermelons/