|Seidman Cancer Center|
University Hospitals (UH)
I spent some time up at Seidman this week. I'm going at least once a month now to get my monthly injections of Xgeva, a drug that is supposed to help with my bone strength. The major med I'm on at the moment, Lupron (a testosterone-killer--prostate cancer loves testosterone), helps delay (but not, ultimately, stop) the spread of cancer into my bones. But Lupron also weakens bones ... thus, the Xgeva. (Here's a link to more info about Xgeva, if you're so inclined.)
It's a special, expensive (a bit painful) shot that I can't, it seems, just get at my local UH office--about a mile from my house--well, 1.4 miles says Google Maps. Instead, I must drive about 20 miles (each way) to Seidman for the shot. Okay. Picky, picky.
This week (Wednesday) I went up there for some bloodwork and for yet another CAT scan to see what's going on inside. Is the cancer spreading? Where? How fast? We already know that it's moving into the bones, a move slowed by the Lupron--and by a new med which I will start taking today--Casodex. It's a drug that mirrors the effects of Lupron (which I will continue taking via quarterly injections), and my oncologist tells me that I probably won't notice any additional symptoms--except, perhaps, more of the surges of intense heat I feel throughout the day. We'll see. The only good thing: It's a pill.
We'll also see about the CAT scan. I haven't heard anything yet, but I go up to Seidman on June 12 for my regularly scheduled appointment with my oncologist, so if I haven't heard before then ...
I think this CAT scan was also to see if that spot on my lung from last time was merely an infection or something more sinister. When I last saw him, he didn't think it was the latter. But ... just checking to make sure? Probably. We hope.
For those of you who don't know what's going on--a brief rehearsal: Late in 2004 I learned I had prostate cancer. In June 2005 I had a prostatectomy* (removal of the organ). Things looked good for a while. Then ... not so good. My PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) started rising again--should not happen; I had no prostate gland. What it meant? Cancerous cells had already migrated outside the gland by the time they removed it. And now the cells were reproducing again. In January 2009 I underwent seven weeks of daily radiation treatments down at the Cleveland Clinic downtown. And, again, things looked good. Until they didn't. My PSA once again became measurable, then began steadily rising. And then in the summer of 2013 I began my Lupron injections, and my number fell from 22.9 to "undetectable" in a matter of months.
And so it stayed for a couple of years. Then ... back it came. Eventually, the number became worrisome enough that my oncologist decided to put me on Casodex (which commences today) and Xgeva. At times, I feel like a walking pharmacy now ...
All these testosterone suppressants have unpleasant side effects: periods of heat, lack of energy, depression, complete loss of libido, threats to bone health, etc.
And ... worry. Because these drugs are not cures. There are no more cures for me. Just delaying tactics.
My oncologist has told me that my body is fighting the cancer well, but the disease, as I well know, will not surrender, and at some point I (all of us) will. Such is mortality.
But I remain grateful for what I have--for what I can do. Joyce. Family. A gig reviewing books. Writing. Reading. Going to a movie now and then. Naps (!). A home near town (so I can walk or bike so many places).
One lesson I've learned--not insisting on doing what I can't. This took a while. A few days in bed now and then when I thought I was, you know, above it all. An exception. Nope. We all eventually learn, of course, that there are no exceptions. Not lasting ones.
*spell-check suggested I meant prestidigitator!