October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month across the nation. This is a good and noble fight and I am glad that “pink” is everywhere down to the shoes and wrist bands the NFL players wear to the pink bats MLB players use. But I would like to share about a cancer that is not talked about very much. I would like to share about the second leading cancer killer among men–prostate cancer. (Lung cancer is the leading killer of both men and women in the USA). The following is personal aka”about me.”
I remember it like it was yesterday. The doctor waltzed into the exam room and matter of factly said, “Well, you have a cancer in the prostate.”
As he stood there flipping through and staring at the sheets on his clipboard, I was thinking—Huh? What? Wait a minute—Huh? Then came the frightened stare as I looked at this guy who in the briefest of moments had changed my life with unexpected news about ME. Cancer? No way!
It had not been a knockout punch but I had surely been sly-rapped and dazed. He calmed me down and, as I slowly cleared my head, he said, “Don’t worry, Larry. We did twelve cuts when we biopsied and there was cancer only in one. I think we found it early. I recommend you get it out now and you will most likely be finished with it.”
That was in March of 2007. On May 10 of that year I underwent a radical prostatectomy. Robotic surgery was brand new and unavailable to me so I had it done the “old-fashioned” way, by hand. They took it out. All of it. I have been cancer free ever since, with some residual side effects (another story for another day). So what is my faith challenge?
My annual checkup is every September. Every year, as the day approaches, the anxiety in me builds. I cannot help it. I have never forgotten that initial announcement about my having “a” cancer. Anyway, the protocol is that I go for a PSA one week week and the following week I see the Doc for the results.
The results have to be .003, yes, ZERO, and then I can breathe easy and go home for another year. So far, the results have been ZERO, nine years in a row. That is considered ‘probably’ cured. Praise the Lord, right?
That is my challenge. I like to consider myself a man of faith. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart,” right? I have this illusion that I do, but when it comes to this damn yearly test I get weak in the knees. I can’t shake it. Maybe I am a “man of faith” only when everything is hunky-dory. In other words, my “faith” is not nearly as strong as I may think it is. Am I a faith wuss?
I don’t know. I just want to go to the doctor like I’m going for a haircut and not give it a second thought. I tell myself God has my back. I think I believe that no matter what happens, it fits into God’s plan. Jesus loves me, I’m sure of it. So whatever is my problem? Is my faith journey all smoke and mirrors?
Here are a few numbers. One in seven American men will have prostate cancer during his lifetime. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. Every 20 minutes another American man dies of prostate cancer, which factors out to 71 deaths per day. That means 26,120 men will die this year from this type of cancer. Early detection is the key to survival.
Next March I will be ten years out from my diagnosis. I should be kicking my heels and jumping for joy. Don’t get me wrong; I do thank God every day for my good health and cancer-free existence. I just think that I should be able to ignore the possible downside to my test results.
Maybe it is all part of the human equation. We just can’t help recoiling when confronted with our own mortality. My faith has, without a doubt, carried me through this and all aspects of my life. I have been blessed and I hope the Good Lord has patience for a faith wuss such as me.
There is one glaring fact that is as obvious to me as the sun shining on a clear summer day. Until I draw my last breath, my faith journey will always be a work in progress and I shall never take it for granted.
By the way–the color for prostate cancer awareness is pale blue or powder blue. Not many people know that.
© Larry Peterson 2016. All Rights Reserved