Wednesday, March 7, 2012

6 month check. A very scary week

Before I begin let me say that I'm fine.  If you'd have asked me that two days ago you would have received a very different answer.

Guys, pay attention.  This could prevent you some grief in the future.

I went in to my Doc at the Seattle Swedish Prostate Cancer Institute, whom I would highly recommend, for my six-month check.  I didn't think that this would be anything other than the 'how you feeling, PSA looks good, see you in 3 months' type visit.  Although I have been having some frequent and very unpleasant GI issues and was wondering how much the radiation was causing my symptoms.  After discussing what was going on, the Doc reassured me that what I was experiencing was unrelated. (Good I guess, but now I have another battery of tests to go through.  I'm assuming it's an ulcer.)

He excused himself to go get my PSA results from the blood work I had done that morning.

If everything was in order I should see a PSA lower than 2.0, or somewhere around there.  Pre-brachytherpay my PSA was at 4.4.  At three months it was 2.1.  So this check should be lower as the cancer cells continue to die.  There is a thing called the 'PSA Bounce' that occurs in a certain percentage of men around the 1 year mark and is expected, but I'm 6 months away and should still be on the decline.

So when he came back into the office with a concerned look on his face I knew right away something wasn't right.

"Hmmm . . . ", he said, scowling at the paperwork he held in his hand, "well.  Looks like your PSA has climbed a bit."

"Oh.  Okay.  What is it?"

He looked again.  "3.0."

That's a jump of almost a full point.  Not good at this stage of the game.

"Wow", I said, somewhat in shock, "I wasn't expecting that."

"Me either," he said.

We then discussed what this meant and he was very kind and reassuring but in my head it was a very different story.  All I could think about was all of the people in my life that had passed from cancer, and how it always started with "You're going to be fine." and then the "Well, we've hit a little snag in the treatment."

Was this my 'little snag'?

We talked about the PSA 'bump', and the percentage of men that don't respond to brachytherapy and everything under the sun.  The bottom line was that while he was a little concerned he thought we should stay the course and check again in three months.  If the PSA doubled, or continued a steady climb for the next 6 months then it would be time to worry.

Easy for him to say.

We talked about the kinds of thing that can effect PSA.  Vigorous exercise, sex, motorcycle or bicycle riding - any of these activities performed within 3 days prior to the test could give a false reading.  I had been swimming - quite hard - in the days before the test.  He also explained that different labs could give different results.  I did have the 3 month and 6 month tests done at different labs, but he explained that for discrepancy to be that large would be highly unusual.

I knew all of these things on an intellectual level, but the visceral part of me could only imagine the worst.  I'd read other case histories of men whose cancer metastasisized, breaking the boundary of the prostate to attack other organs and areas in the body, or a prostate cancer that suddenly became very aggressive.

And, let's admit it.  I don't have a great track record when it comes to health.

So, as I'm sure you'll understand this made for a very, very long weekend.  Talk about the extremes of emotion.

I thought long and hard, talked it over with Suzanne, and decided that I would have my PSA re-checked on Monday - at the same lab where I had it tested before - as I had to go into my Doc for my stomach issues anyway.  It would be a good time as I hadn't rode the bike in over a week, hadn't been swimming for a few days, and with the way we were feeling sex was about the last thing on our minds.

So, into the Doc I went.  Got the blood drawn and then had to wait 24 hours for the results.

It was a long, long, long 24 hours.  Thank God for 'Skyrim - The Elder Scrolls'.  Killing Dragons and Falmer with my 'Ebony Gauntlets of Major Bitchslappery',  (They shouldn't let you name your own weapons in Skyrim),  kept my mind occupied so it couldn't cannibalize itself.  Video games have once again saved my life.    So take that Florida Rep. Chris Stearns.

Yesterday afternoon I walked into the clinic, picked up my paperwork, and took a deep breath.  I'd prepared myself.  If the number was higher then that would be confirmation - for me anyway - that something was wrong.  I could handle it if the PSA was the same or slightly lower.  That was my best-case scenario.

I couldn't even wait to get away from the labs reception desk.  I looked.  Did a double take.  Looked again.

The PSA was 1.6.  Exactly where it should be.  Almost half of the test a week ago.

I gave a shout of "YES" and, I'm not too proud to say, a mighty fist-pump.  Which I'm sure was highly amusing to the people in the waiting room but didn't matter to me at all.

So men, if you take anything away from this remember:  If you're going to have a PSA test watch the exercise, the sex, and anything else that would put pressure on or squeeze the prostate for a few days prior.  And if you get an aberrant reading, get it tested again.  And again if necessary.  Everyone makes mistakes.

Me?  I'm so relieved I don't even know what to say.

I'll keep you posted on the progress.

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