Iím not a sociologist or now that I think of it, a researcher of any sort, but Iím willing to bet this is the most dreaded word in the English or any other language. It has the ability to kill us without us ever having the disease because we are afraid to go to the doctor to have a lump, lesion, or a myriad of other symptoms checked. Symptoms of diseases which may have nothing to do with cancer but we donít go because we are afraid, and rather not know.
Twenty years ago, I had cancer of the bladder. I donít recall any symptoms except perhaps being bone weary tired for several weeks. Finally I had a symptom, blood in the urine. The first "sighting" was a tiny little clot, which did not dissolve and I thought it was a piece of dirt in the bowl. The next morning, more clots, this time with a trailer of blood. My remaining blood, as the expression goes, "ran cold". I remembered my Uncle Charlie, my motherís brother. He was a neeír successful person living a life of financial and family struggles. I remembered my mom saying that he had blood in his urine and didnít go to the doctor because he had no money. Since this happened in 1955, when I was 16, going to the doctor probably wouldnít have helped him too much in those days but the recollection of my mom and her sisters taking the 40 mile trip every Saturday and then coming back on Sunday so discouraged, helped me overcome my fear and make a appointment with my family doctor that afternoon.
My family doctor examined me and since I was in otherwise good health, he asked if I had a lot of sex. I didnít realize that bleeding could occur from doing something I REALLY liked doing, and was encouraged. He found I had an infection. Encouragement. He treated me with antibiotics for 10 days, but the infection got worse, Discouragement. The doctor told me to go for a test (whose name I canít remember) where they inject a die in your veins and then take some x-rays. The doctor reading the x-rays said it looked like a polyp. Encouragement. Back to the family doctor who looked and said he thought I should see a urologist. Discouragement.
I asked the family doctor who I should go to and he suggested a physician by the name of Doctor John Egner. When I asked why him and was he good, he said he had sent his father to him. Now this is really IMPORTANT. What better recommendation can a doctor give another doctor than to send a parent to him. I made an appointment and went to see him. Dr. Egner turned out to be a hulk of a man with no "bedside manner" at all. He lifted the x-rays and said, " OH, YOU HAVE CANCER!!!". I broke out into a cold sweat and almost fainted, I was about to see my Uncle Charlie and I was sure he went down, not up. I recovered a little and told Dr. Egner that he should call a cardiologist because he had given me a f---- heart attack. Discouragement.
Dr. Egner said I needed surgery and started to describe the possible ramifications of my disease. I could wind up with a bag, I possibly would become impotent and lastly but not least, I could die. Discouragement. Since he probably thought I would not die right away, he also told me about some of the remedies for impotence. On his desk was a sample of a prosthetic penis that would be the envy of the neighborhood. I thought if my wife saw this, she would know how she had been cheated for the last ten years. Well, I could leave it to her in my will. The levity didnít last long however as the realization sunk in that for the first time in my life I was seriously ill. Surgery was scheduled for two weeks from then. Discouragement.
For some reason, I became very calm over the next two weeks. I went to work, played with my son had sex with my wife and generally tried to live a normal life. (I didnít tell my wife about the glass enclosed beauty I had seen however). Surgery day came and my wonderful wife (who had already lost about 10 pounds with worry) drove me to the hospital. FEAR X 2 , not only for me but my family. Something that most of us do not realize is, this disease attacks OUR bodies, but it also attacks the souls of those who love us. Also, I feel very strongly that entering the surgery with confidence is a key to starting to fight with the proper weapons. I am not an overly religious person but I think a few prayers helped me cope. This was not going to kill me.
I woke up and was in the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. The idiot who had put the catheter in me had placed it in such a manner that each breath brought waves of pain so severe that I thought I was going to pass out. I screamed for my wife to get a doctor and they adjusted it properly. The next thing I wanted was food. Donít ask me why but I was ravenous. Beef Goulash. 3 dishes. Encouragement.
After surgery, I tried to go about my normal routine, but cystoscopes every three months for the first year, every six months for the next two years and once a year for the next two do not exactly make for a normal routine. However, Dr Egner explained that at my age had he not scared the sh__ out of me I would feel so well after surgery I might not come back for checkups which are mandatory . Itís a pain in the "arse" but do it.
It has been almost thirty years and I have remained cancer free in my body, but not in my mind. The fear of recurrence is ever present and as a man with some prostate issues, forces me to examine my every bodily excretion. I feel like the old Italian people I grew up with in Brooklyn. I could never understand why they always seemed to discuss the nature of someoneís bowel movement if there was a health issue. With young people bowel movements are not an issue and the only urinary issues were which one of my friends and I could pi__ the greatest distance. NOW I KNOW!!!
I have always been long winded, and when writing, my wind is inexhaustible but I must end this some time, so what was or is the point of this narrative? I think what I am trying to say is donít ever give up. Life is worth living so donít be scared to death. There are ups and downs, so take the ups when they occur and live life until the next down. It will help to get you through the bad times. DONíT LOSE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR , laughing is good for the body and mind. Have confidence in your doctor and if you donít, GET A NEW ONE. Also the name of the disease is CANCER, not polyps, tumors, lesions or lumps, donít be afraid to say it, talk about it openly or discuss it with family and friends. Donít let the word scare you, the disease is the problem not the word.
Now donít get me wrong, I was very, very lucky. I caught mine early on and I donít wish to minimize the ordeals of those with more severe disease, but I really believe the first days are important to put you in the right frame of mind to do battle with this @#%$& disease, which debilitates the soul along with the body. You MUST believe you can beat it or, it will beat you, long before it kills you and once beaten, the killing is easy and almost welcome.
Story By: Anthony D.
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