"It figures," were my thoughts yesterday as I noted the forecast for Thursday, March 4 was cold and rain continuing throughout the weekend. Mid 40s (7 C) with chill-inducing humidity plus some heavy winds. Dreary and unpleasant weather to be sure, and appropriate for a Judgment Day - my sixth since having the bladder cancer removed via surgery (a second time). While I have not consciously dwelt on this event for the past two weeks, uncertainty has eaten at my mood subconsciously, giving me a shorter fuse than usual and a shift in attitude evident to all. For some reason I was pretty confident last time, in early December, but not so much this time. I had some phantom pains around the bladder area (normal), and some real soreness in the past week (unusual). Sometimes knowledge is power, and sometimes knowledge (or perceived knowledge) just sucks. I suspect that knowing there were two more judgment days before reaching the critical two year mark was at play - if bad news is to come, now or next time (in June) would be the last chances for it to be automatically VERY BAD. Some cheating on the diet during vacations and weekends was other unwelcome knowledge to add to my sense of foreboding. Mentally I kicked myself for every supplement blown off or cookie sneaked. All to late now. Clinical odds of recurrence today are still at 50/50, so it's a toss of the dice in theory. The thing about clinical data is that they are based on averages. A single data point can be anywhere in the probability range. As a single data point, the 9 things I was adding could improve my odds - even if no peer-reviewed "proof" is close at hand. I could only hope and pray.
If you ever doubted it, let me assure you right here that God has a really good sense of humor. I slept in and took care of emails and comic reading, showered and glanced out the window at the expected gray skies. Slowly made my preparations and noted the location of the stored supplies for BCG, should I need them. Got into the vehicle as my wife drove us to the date with destiny at the end of a flexible medical cystoscope. The very first thing I needed as we set out was my brand new sunglasses, because the day was bright and sunny with blue skies and white, puffy clouds. Not the pure crystalline blue of a summer sky - more of a slate-blue winter sky - and very pretty and cheerful nonetheless. There were clouds on the mountaintops providing fresh snow for the skiers, and the rest of the scene was very pleasant. My mood improved minute by minute.
Traffic was sparse and speed enforcement was in evidence EVERYWHERE. No reason for it that we could see, other than the weather report and insatiable need for revenue in every governmental agency in this country (if not worldwide). People were being circumspect, as there were far more police fishing than fish caught that we observed. The trip to the doctor's office was uneventful, not impeded by traffic, construction, or weather. We arrived about 10 minutes early. Kathryn noted the absence of cars in the usually-full lot, hoping that it meant there was not a big backlog to delay my appointment at 11:30. After the usual signatures on paperwork, plus another new form to fill out in honor of the year 2010 - providing information they already had four or five times again. We were shown to the back right on time. There was one victim ahead of us in the scope room, so I finished out the new form while we waited in a nearby room.
I was happy to provide the usual urine sample, and we were quickly shown to the cystoscopy room. When instructed to disrobe in preparation, I was assured that I was indeed next - so I complied. Sure enough Dr. Hopkins popped into the room inside of 10 minutes, a new record! We had noted that no TV was hooked to the scope, because apparently his more senior partners had the priority on it. I was sorry to learn that, as the TV makes it MUCH easier to NOT concentrate on what's being done to you. Still the procedure was quick, and Dr. Hopkins announced "You're Good!" in less than sixty seconds. He prefers the optical scope over the video one, and he is lightning fast with it. Redemption from the impending judgment improved my outlook - like a snowstorm in a very hot place indeed.
While the great news was still sinking in, he announced BONUS #1 - a total surprise to us. "This makes almost two years for you."
"Just over 21 months!" I replied. "But who's counting?"
After sharing a laugh, he continued, "That's close enough in my book for two years, so I don't think you need to come back in three months. Let's make it six. Unless you prefer to come back sooner."
I assured him that I did not, and I was quite pleased to contemplate 5 months with no medical molestation of my private parts - after, of course, the three BCG treatments already scheduled to begin next Thursday. This happy news erases an inspection date in June that I was anticipating, and will now clears the spring and summer for all kinds of possibilities!
Dr. Hopkins ducked out of the room, and I had no sooner stood up from the table then he came back in, having forgotten to do a prostate DRE in conjunction with the PSA blood test he had ordered me to do. I was pretty confident that would be OK, as my PSA is a very low 0.8. The doc hates doing these as much as I hate getting them, so he was quick about it. That unpleasantness aside, we parted company until next week. I already mentioned Bonus #2 in the last post, but it is worth repeating here. A month ago I had my first colonoscopy, a requirement for turning 50 years of age. That inspection was so good that the surgeon said I did not need a repeat for TEN years instead of the normal 5.
I say all of that to communicate this: while there is still significant probability of recurrence in the next 8 years, the downside of it is not nearly so bad now that the "2 year" hurdle has been passed. I could even cautiously start using the term "remission" now, but it pays to be vigilant. While not statistically significant, all of these good results are at least heuristic evidence that the extra things I am doing to help the doctors fight cancer are working - either singly or collectively. Not only has there been no recurrence, but also my general level of health has improved. So I am well encouraged to continue! Having faith in God, avoiding chemicals and bottom-feeders in the food chain, focusing on fresh, natural, and organic foods and vegetables, and eating smaller portions of animal protein are the kingpins of the plan. Throw in some vitamins, supplements, and exercise (ugh) rounds it all out. Taking care of myself plus the grace of a loving God are bringing on the best results. I will bend anyone's ear about changing a lifestyle to change a life from end to end (pun intended). Refer to this post for details on 10 things I recommend to fight any type of cancer - and these are also good to prevent from getting cancer in the first place!
As for the promised rain? It is now here, accompanied by thunder, lightning, winds, and the whole Judgment Day panoply of special effects. And all of it makes me glad! Stay tuned to this space for details on the upcoming BCGs, a blow by blow (or pee by pee) accounting with charts and graphs as usual. In the meantime, I challenge you all to have an awesome summer, because I certainly plan to do so!