"Youth and Age")
It's how I feel these days, especially three times a year when I have to go to the Cleveland Clinic--as I did this morning--for a blood test. They're keeping an eye on me, checking to see how swiftly my prostate cancer is returning.
In 2005, not long after I was diagnosed, I underwent surgery for the removal of the gland. The surgery seemed to go well--although the post-op biopsy discovered that it was a much more aggressive cancer than the pre-op biopsy had indicated. Things went all right for a while. And then, about a year later, the signs of disease began appearing again.
And so I went to the Clinic every day for thirty-five days (not weekends) for thirty-five radiation treatments. This was more wearisome than anything else--no more painful that a dental X-ray. Every day, at the Clinic, I saw people of all ages in far worse shape. I was humbled. And after the treatments, things were all right for a while.
But about year ago, here it came again--not rapidly, not making me feel ill. This is one insidious aspect of prostate cancer: When you start feeling sick, you're in major trouble. As my oncologist has told me: If it weren't for the PSA test, we wouldn't really know anything was wrong with you.
And so I go in now, every four months, just to see what message my blood has for me. I'm pretty good about not thinking about it much until, oh, a week or so before the test. Then it's no longer at the edge of my peripheral vision; it's right in front of my face.
My oncologist tells me not to be worried until he is. Which is nice to hear. But not fundamentally comforting. He tells me that it's microscopic (which creates a problem--where is it?), that it's not metastasized.
But it's growing, steadily--sometimes more.
The seeds of our destruction lie in all of us, of course. Unless some accident claims us, our biology, like a time-bomb, ticks, ticks, ticks ... usually in near-silence, if we're lucky.
But once every four months, for me, the ticking becomes louder, and on days like today--the day the needle goes in my arm, the day the blood moves from me into a vial--the ticking drowns out all else. And will do so until I find out what my numbers are. And what they mean.