Monday, March 12, 2012

Part II: The C-word

I don't mean to drag things on or to sound like an episode from the Guiding Light.  All I want is to tell these series of events as I saw them, as I went through them.  Yes, I'm alive.  And I'm doing fine.  But it took a bit to know all that.  So, onto part II…this is how I experienced it.

When we arrived in Boston on Sunday it had snowed.  Luckily it wasn't enough to haul out the snow blower.  My mood wasn't very upbeat and I wasn't up for shoveling.  With a broom I brushed off the front steps, enough for us to get the luggage in and for the mailman, in the morning, to get up the stairs.

From the office on Monday at 8 am I called my primary care.  "Hi, Mr. Bettencourt.  What can we do for you?" the receptionist asked. 

I couldn't tell her what was really going on.  "Um, I've had a little blood in my urine…"  Lie.   "Some back pain and the nose bleeds continue."  A month earlier I had been in for horrific nose bleeds that lasted up to twenty minutes and left me dizzy.

"He's free at 1," she said.

Dr. Smith wasn't overly concerned.  "A lot of men get blood in their semen.  It's usually calcification in the ejaculatory ducts but since you also have had back pain, for over a year now, we'll send you to a urologist to rule out anything serious.  It could be a kidney stone but we'll do the right thing and get you looked after.  And for the nose bleeds we'll get you a complete blood work up from a hematologist.  Still no bruising?"

I knew bruising was a sign of leukemia.  "No," I  said. 

My blood  tests from the end of last year indicated a slight slowness in my clotting time, which he thought was most likely brought on by too much fish oil and supplements, and not enough iron but he wanted a full blood work up to be conclusive.

After leaving his office I felt less concerned.  That was until I went to see the urologist.

My work week was packed with catching up.  I tried not to check my BlackBerry while on vacation but doing so meant more to get up to speed on.  Luckily the next few days kept me busy enough to forgot about my health.  Also, I wasn't particularly excited to see if there was still blood.

The urologist's office managed to squeeze in a lunchtime appointment for Friday. 

I was reading a short-story in the New Yorker when he came in.  At the time, I found this all to be an inconvenience.  I hated waiting, despite the story being good. My attitude was a bit carefree; I had work to get back to. 

We exchanged greetings. He was pleasant and had already read my self-evaluation.  I respect a man who's prepared.

"So I'm a little confused," he said.  "I'm getting conflicting messages.  Blood in the urine, blood in the ejaculate.  No blood in the urine."

I had lied to his receptionist as well.  What am I supposed to tell her, "I shot a wad of blood all over the sheets?"   At the time, I couldn't come (no pun intended) up with a word like semen or ejaculate to describe my condition.  Behind closed doors - though the walls were paper thin as evident by my knowledge of the next door down's patient's prostate being the size of a baseball - I was able to divulge everything.

He examined me. 

I've never made a good bottom, despite the small width of a doctor's finger.

This was much more exploratory than my yearly physical.

We cleaned up.

I felt like I just had sex.

He sat me down.  I'm not sure exactly what he said but it went something like this:  "To be honest, I don't  like what I feel.  It feels like prostate cancer but we won't know until we do a biopsy."

Cancer.  That was all I heard.

"I'd also like to rule out anything in the bladder and kidneys so we'll need to do a scope."  He continued on…

I didn't hear what he was saying.

Cancer.  Did he say cancer?  Is this really happening?  I went cold, similar to how I felt two nights ago when we nearly burnt the house down.

He mumbled on, something about waiting a week or two for lab results.  "I never  give a results over the phone.  We'll schedule you now for a follow up visit  a week after the biopsy."

"Cancer?"  Really?  And the back pain, is it in my bones?  "Could it have metastasized to my back?" I asked. 

"Well we'll run a PSA test.  Your last one, three years ago, was in normal range.  Let's just take one step at a time."

One step at a time?  I already had myself buried and in the ground.  


Jim said...

That was a scare for you Rick, I can see. The way you are sharing this is very interesting and informative, not to mention very brave!
Ron had a scare a few years ago with his was very swollen and difficult to urinate etc. He was put on meds and everything was has been fine.
I am glad that you said things are fine now at the top of the post.

Stew said...

It was certainly a week you'll never forget
And so nicely written.

wcs said...

I'm hoping this comes out better than it sounds. Please.

Greg said...

My Dad went through this a few years ago. I'm glad you got it checked and, depending on the rest of the story, I hope they caught whatever it was in time.

Peter said...

I'm sorry I called your last post an episode of some soap opera. Please forgive me. [falling to my knees, looking up and praying for your blessing]
[*Jeez, how do I ever get up again, my crutches and wheelchair are in another room*]

I do understand the C-word has a nasty ring to it. Take care Rick!


BosGuy said...

What can be said on your blog in the comments section that could possibly bring you peace of mind? Nothing... So I'll settle for letting you know you are in my thoughts, and I've got my fingers crossed.

Charlie said...

You're in my prayers and my thoughts!

Ron said...


About eight years ago I had blood in my semen. It lasted for two years. I went to the VA and told them (no lies, I was scared). They told me it was "nothing". Just the same as "blood vessels bursting in your nose that could cause blood when you blow your nose." I paid no further attention to it. About two years ago the blood stopped and my semen was clear (milky white actually again). Last summer my PSA count was 8.4. The doctor advised me to see a urologist. I made an appointment to see an urologist. Even before he examined (had sex) with me, he told me "Mr. Tipton, even if you do have cancer (there was the Big "C" word) you'll probably die of something else before you die of prostate cancer). Then he asked me if I wanted to continue. I did. He examined me and said my prostate felt normal, not hard or uneven. That was a good sign. He asked did I want a biopsy. I thought it over then agreed. Two weeks later I cancelled after reading up on all the side effects of getting a biopsy which was no guarantee of finding cancer. Then I changed my mind again and rescheduled a biopsy. A week later I was at a friends house for a Christmas dinner and she introduced me to her new boyfriend who just had his prostate removed. He was now wearing Depends. I knew the three side effects from getting a biopsy, radiation, and/or surgery were incontinence both front and back and lack of sexual function. I cancelled my biopsy the second time. My last blood test was 4.1 which was just a tad over the "allowable" 4.0. I may or may not have cancer but I decided not to go down that road of radiation therapy and all the possible side effects. Two weeks after Christmas I received a letter from the brother of a good friend of mine who I haven't seen in years but still exchanged Christmas cards with. He told me that his brother died of prostate cancer. His brother was 83 years old. He told me that Dick (his brother) was diagnosed with prostate cancer thirteen years ago (when he was 70, the same age as I am now) and underwent fifteen week of radiation therapy. He died thirteen years later of prostate cancer. I don't think the radiation therapy did him any good. I have elected not to do anything. I'll die of something, maybe it will be prostate cancer, maybe not. But at least the years I have left I won't be wearing Depends and I can still jerk off. I'm being blunt but this is my decision

tornwordo said...

I had something like that years ago. It turned out to be prostatitis and I had to sit on a donut cushion for a month and take medicine. Hurt like the dickens to ejaculate. Fingers crossed it's nothing serious.