Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016

Return to Seidman Cancer Center

Seidman Cancer Center
Beachwood, Ohio 

I'm sitting where I love to sit in the morning—at the Open Door Coffee Co. here in Hudson. It's very foggy at the moment—with an added hour of darkness courtesy of EDT—and from my perch I can see the Village Green. Our house is just on the other side of it. Joyce is off at the health club. Her morning ritual. It's almost 8 o'clock right now. In about an hour I'll head home.

And then it will be time to drive up to Seidman Cancer Center in Beachwood. Time again for my quarterly visit with my oncologist. Time again for my quarterly injection of Lupron, the drug that has, until recently, kept my recurrent prostate cancer on Pause.

As followers of this blog know, I had surgery to remove the cancerous gland in June 2005, but some cancer cells escaped the surgeon, and the disease began to show signs of a return sufficiently worrisome that I underwent a month of radiation treatments early in 2009. Things calmed down a bit. Then the cancer came back, made a move into my bones (a favorite place for prostate cancer when it metastasizes), and in July 2014 I “enjoyed” my first Lupron injection.

Lupron's side effects are unpleasant: depression, periods of intense body heat, death of the libido, lack of energy. The upside? I'm alive and able to do many of the things I've always loved to do--though in a somewhat diminished way.

Anyway, for two years Lupron kept my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) at the “undetectable” level—though I knew (and my oncologist continually reminded me) that Lupron is not a cure; it’s a temporary roadblock. The cancer will reappear.

And it has. On September 23, it was no longer undetectable. It was .01 (the lowest measurable level). My oncologist then decided that I should get PSA tests (blood draws) every six weeks. And my PSA has continued to rise: .18, .25, .56, and last week’s .80. Soon, I'll be on another drug in addition to Lupron. Again—no cure. A delay.

I also had some bone scans recently, and I'll be learning about the results a little later this morning.


Not the most pleasant of days today. I learned from my oncologist that I'm going to need monthly PSA tests now--to keep close tabs on its progress (such a horrible word for cancer). And--soon--I'll be on an additional drug: bicalutamide, a medication which does much of what Lupron has done (I will stay on Lupron, as well, as long as I live). The side effects are the same--with the addition of the possibility of breast enlargement, of seeing "halos" at night. I joked with my oncologist that I'm going to become an Aura Guy. (Link to more info about bicalutamide.)

The other, more worrisome, finding: my bone scans show that one of my ribs (the same one that the cancer had visited before) is once again "lighting up" on the scan--and there's a new spot, as well: at the base of my spine. If these spots become painful, he said (they're not right now), radiation will be an option.

So, we left Seidman today in a mood a bit darker than the one we'd had earlier in the day. A little pain from the Lupron injection; a little depression about the persistence of this damn disease. A more certain realization that this enemy is persistent--and deadly.

As I've written before, I remain fortunate in many ways. I am not "sick"--not anything like some of the folks I see--folks of all ages--in the Seidman waiting room. I weep to think of some of them. I can still read and write and laugh and exercise (critical on Lupron, which works hard to pack weight on me). I do not look forward to exercise anymore: It's difficult. I have to stop more often. It exhausts me to do things I could zip through just a few years ago. I have to force myself to go out there, and I don't always succeed: Sometimes, Mr. Nap convinces me that some time with him would be a lot more fun (it always is!).

Best of all, of course, I'm not alone. And this is one of the reasons I always wept near the end of The Scarlet Letter when I was teaching it. Arthur Dimmesdale is wailing about his situation. Hester has told him he should just leave. Get out of Boston. But he cries out about being alone. And she responds with the words that every true lover has always said: Thou shalt not go alone.

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