I do confess that when I had my first consultation with my oncologist I asked that universal question, how long do I have to live. I did frame the question with “outs” for him. “I know that you can not be sure and everyone is different. You see so many men with advanced prostate cancer; surely you can make some sort of educated guess.”
At first, he avoided the question, not responding directly to my concern. I can be tenacious and so I hit him again. This time he did respond, but he was clearly unhappy about having to respond. He told me that he believed that I would be a patient of his in five years, but probably not in ten years.
I have to say that I truly appreciated his answer. It was honest (confirmed by my understanding of the literature), but it did not give me a real time schedule or even a deadline (pardon the pun). His answer gave me a feel for my time. I left his office not feeling overwhelmed or in a crisis. I did not feel that my death was scheduled.
I now had a prospective on my life. It has allowed me to think about how I want to conduct the rest of my life. It has allowed me to make a list of what experiences I want to have. It has freed me to let my family and my friends know how I do feel about them. However, I do admit that I have become less patient and totally unwilling to involve myself with minutia and petty interpersonal conflicts.
I know, many of us do not believe that any human being has the right or the ability to look into a crystal ball and predict the future. Yes, when a physician does take a glimpse into the crystal ball they maybe stepping out of the traditional healing role, but for me this information has been very healing.
I know that my condition is serious, but it is treatable. I also know that my doctor understands that I am a person who needs honesty. My knowing what he has told me has not made me sicker. It has allowed me to free up my resources to be realistic and more importantly, to live my life as fully as I possibly can.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW
Yes. He or she will use two basic screening methods. Neither is perfect; both have high false-positive rates, meaning that they frequently indicate cancer when there is none. The tests may also detect slow-growing tumors that will never get large enough to harm you. But both tests can help doctors identify cancer early enough to save your life. One is known as a digital rectal examination (DRE), in which your doctor checks for lumps or other abnormalities by feeling your prostate with a gloved finger.
The other is a blood test called the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) which measures a substance that typically increases in men when they have prostate cancer. If the PSA test is high (for a man over 50, a score of 4 or higher), or has risen compared with a previous test, your doctor may do a biopsy on your prostate tissue. The sample will then be examined for cancerous cells. Unfortunately, PSA levels can be misleading. According to a report in the May 2004 New England Journal of Medicine, 15 percent of a group of 2,950 men with normal PSA levels were still found to have prostate cancer.
As an advanced prostate cancer patient who is also a fire paramedic, I come back from every shift with quite a perspective.
We go out on a 911 patient calls regularly where the individual was “in fine health”, “had plans for tomorrow and the rest of his/her life”, “was the greatest/nicest/etc individual in the world”, had XX children/friends/family, did great deeds, and…
…they are dead.
The Journey IS the Goal. None of us know where/when we are going. We have “this” moment, this moment only. All of us. What am I doing NOW? What am I committed to? Who is important in my life? Is the “business of my dying” taken care of so I can get on with the joy and gift of living my life? We all benefit, cancer or not, in what there is to learn from the many 911 cases out there.
“I find the harder I work, the more luck I have”, shared Mark Twain. I love that we PCa patients share the work–the research and our experiences–that set us up for improved luck.
To Joel and many others–may your luck take you well into your 80’s and beyond. We are a combo of “Boy Scouts–Be Prepared” and the smiling Buddha “Be here NOW”. We have the gift of a “shot over our bow” and the opportunity to ask “what would I be doing with my life if I only had XX years to live?” It can be an exercise that would empower anyone. What am I committed to?
Courageous Brothers and the women who love them–LIVE!
In memory of my friend and colleague, Lt. Bill Black of the Littleton Police Department who made his final transition yesterday. He served well, he made a HUGE difference in the world he touched, and I will miss him. He kept many of us safe, even as he lived WITH prostate cancer. His lessons and his values continue to live–homage to the gift that was our experience of our friend, Bill.
I have come to understand that some of us with PCa need to know this answer. I for one however have never asked my GP, Uro, Radiologist or Oncologist. It is not becasue I don’t want to know, it is becasue they don’t know.
They could use the averages to formulate an educated guess, maybe 5 to 10 years like they did in your case.
I live each day praying I am the outlier, the anamoly, the outer reaches of the bell curve!!!