War Declared on Prostate Cancer
... My fight with prostate cancer
by Len Dalton
My brother, Buddy, two years older than me, was a bit psychotic and the direct result of that miserable condition was that he was suspicious of the public in general and the medical profession as a whole. He wasn't even particularly enthralled with me either and I'm a genuine pussycat!
My wife, Joyce, a real soldier, was after him for years to get a check up so that serious medical conditions wouldn't sneak up on him. Alas, it was to no avail.
A year ago last February, Bud started to complain that his legs felt weak. He could barely walk! Joyce thought it was time to get aggressive with him as he was 70 years old and gave all the appearances of being somewhat frightened.
"OK! Get your jacket on! We're going to see Doctor Latty!"
"What? Waddya mean?" Bud was startled.
"Just what I said!" Joyce growled at him. "Either you come with Bruce and me right now or we will call an ambulance and they'll cart you outa here like a sack of potatoes!"
"Ok! Ok!", Bud replied and I was one surprised brother! He really must have been frightened to agree with so little resistance.
The poor guy donned his jacket and off we went to see Doctor Latty. Getting him down the stairs to the car was a project as Bud was about 250 pounds and needed a great deal of support. At Doc Latty's office, the good Doctor took one look, listened to the symptoms and said,
"Well, let's get him up to Boston Regional to see what's paralyzing his legs!" I think he knew right away but testing had to confirm his diagnosis. Sure enough, Bud had neglected his check ups and prostate cancer had been with him for a long time; metastasized and now it typically had established at least 2 tumors on his spine; one of which was paralyzing his legs. The psychosis was done away with almost as an afterthought with a simple medication. It was nice to see him lucid after years of suspicions.
In no time tests were done and one of the tumors was surgically dealt with. The larger was inoperable! They removed his testes as prostate cancer feeds on testosterone. After a bout with pneumonia, he was sent to a local rehab place and lived until the 6th of June and passed quietly away one evening after a session of joy playing with my grand daughter, Rebecca. I was sad, naturally, but even more so as I always felt Bud never got a good deal out of life.
We buried him and set about to move my mother to our house. In the meantime, I had my annual physical at the Teamsters Health facility and nurse Mary Barrett suggested a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. I blithely agreed.
A couple of weeks later the report came in. My PSA reading was 18.2! Normal is 4 or less! Dr. Latty had a back-up blood test done and it showed the same reading. What next, I asked.
"Well, I'll make an appointment with the urologist, Dr. Talbot, and he will guide you through the problem and fix you up. He is very capable and he will tell you about all your options."
Doctor Talbot told me that the first thing to do is to take tests; ultra sound and a biopsy to determine exactly what I had. A few days later at Boston Regional, we did all the tests whose description I shall spare you here. The biopsy showed cancer on the left side.
A few days later, in Doctor Talbot's office he explained.
" You have a cancer of your prostate with which we will have to deal or eventually it can kill you. That's a given but, don't feel too bad because all men, if they live long enough, will get the same thing. I am pretty sure it has not gotten to the lymph nodes which is good. What you have to decide is how you want us to deal with it. We can surgically remove the prostate; we can treat the cancer by an orchiectomy and hormone therapy combined with radiation or we can chemically castrate in combination with radiation. Frankly, the cancer feeds on testosterone so, the first thing is to deny it that hormone and then take casodex for a few months and then radiation up in Stoneham. I feel very confident that will bring your problem to an end." He assured me the orchiectomy was minor surgery so I agreed to that. I don't know if I was brave or just stupid.
Not long after that, I went to Melrose Hospital early in the morning and donned a johnny and was wheeled to the operating room. It was local anesthesia, it says here! After he was well on his way, I offered, "Hey! I can feel what you are doing!" The nurse offered, "Doctor, his blood pressure has gone from 170 down to 117 fast!" Next thing I knew, I was getting a shot in the arm and out I went! Yippee!
Two hours later I was awake and wondering what happened! Doc Talbot came in, examined his work and decided to take additional stitches, By this time the anesthesia had worn off so I was able to feel all the embroidery going on, but I kept my mouth shut! I didn't want to be a sissy! Due to being knocked out, I had to recuperate an additional three hours before going home. I struggled off the gurney, feeling like I had a basketball between my legs and I felt lousy.
Doc Talbot had written me a prescription for a strong narcotic so we stopped by Melrose Drug Center and picked that up. At home I felt so bad that I took 2 of the pills and in about a half hour, I felt like I could run the marathon! We had picked up some "Depends" at the same time. Boy! Did I need them! Not for incontinence but for bleeding! Dr. Talbot hadn't explained that the scrotum would be left open to drain and close by itself so the Depends caught the mess. It's a great product if you need it!
After two very long weeks, I took a mirror to examine my scrotum. To my horror there was a large opening there. I rushed to the phone and called Talbot.
"Hey! There's a hole in my bag big enough for a .45 caliber bullet!"
"Well, c'mon down and let's have a look!" Oy vey! What a revoltin' development! The good urologist examined the wound and did the usual, "Hm-m-m-m!"
"It's doing just fine. Just keep going as you are and it will take about a month or so to close. I'll make arrangements for your radiation in Stoneham." I felt like nobody tells me anything. Like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed a lot of horse-----!
The drug casodex, which was prescribed, tells the adrenal glands not to make any testosterone. 100 copies of those little pills retail for $1100.00! Fortunately we were covered at the teamsters pharmacy with our plan.
To make a long story longer, I visited the Chem Associates in Stoneham 39 times for radiation. They treated me wonderfully and it was a good experience. They told me that after three weeks of radiation I might start feeling tired or exhausted. That didn't happen. Every day, in defiance, my Australian Terrier, Sydney, and I went for long walks at Mt. Hood Golf course and I felt terrific! The wound had long since healed. When the radiation sessions were over they told me all was well and we would take another PSA test in 6 months.
Over the winter months Sydney and I took our walks and enjoyed every minute! At that time of year there are no golfers and we had that entire area to ourselves and it was most enjoyable. Even in bitter January temperatures, I dressed in thermal trousers and an L. L. Bean Maine Warden parka which kept me so toasty warm it was hard to believe. I am even looking forward to next winter. (1999-2000)
Recently, my wife, Joyce and I, had our annual check ups and my PSA is now a paltry less than 0.1 and my cholesterol is 170!! Those readings are a great morale booster. The low cholesterol reading is from taking mevacor 10mg a day. It works like a charm.
I hope this explanation is of interest and perhaps some help to you. In the event you are ever diagnosed with a high PSA in an annual physical check up, don't despair. The key is that annual check up. Prostate cancer is so slow that a checkup done annually will catch it before it can do you in as it did my brother. Good luck! In the event you would like to talk about prostate cancer you can e-mail me at, email@example.com.
October 1, 1999