I have been following a discussion that’s been taking place on one of the prostate cancer listservs. The title of the thread is: “No Big Deal.” It is a compendium of statements that have been made to people here in response to the admission that they or their partners have prostate cancer. More often than not, these words have been uttered by doctors.
I think all of the people who downplay prostate cancer do so out of ignorance or because they want to be positive. This is more problematic when it comes to medical professionals, but I tend to be lenient.
I remember when we showed up at the urologist’s office three months after my husband had received his PSA reading of 10. After the first question, “Where have you been??,” the uro said, “Just want you to know, there’s a possibility that you have prostate cancer. However, that’s nothing to panic about. Nobody dies of it.” Also: “Thanks to robotic surgery, the side effects are not nearly as bad as they used to be.”
We practically danced out of the office. OK, maybe not. But I was quite happy with the “Japanese” (“speak no evil”) treatment.
The first thing we did when we got home was call T’s brother to urge him to get a PSA test. He already had. Then V. said the magic words: “I have a good friend who is a laparscopic uro surgeon at a top hospital in New York. Here’s his number.” Can’t beat that. Brother-in-law is good at fulfilling wishes — it was he who got us second-row seats to a Cardinals game. He’s the one with all the Personality.
By now it was evening. We called Dr. L. and had a good chat with him. DH asked about impotence. Dr. L. mumbled something about “the pump.” At the other end of the line I was fuming: “How dare the doc discourage the patient by talking of such desperate measures?” All I knew about the pump is that Dr. Scardino says it turns the penis blue. He is obviously not a fan.
Some months ago I pulled up an article about a doctor who was making a presentation at a conference. But before he reported the results of his PC research, he felt compelled to say, “You know, “Prostate Cancer is not a trivial disease.”
Somebody must think it is.
But you have to be careful of what you wish for. Because with the perception of the increased lethaliness of a disease comes the increased stigma. So yes, it’s frustrating if people think of PC as one step up the disagreeability ladder from — athlete’s foot, maybe. A mere nuisance of old age. But what’s the alternative?
Things are starting to change. Recently, we were on a cruise, and I was chatting with an elderly couple who sat at our table. I had vowed not to talk about PC on the trip (amazingly, not everybody thinks it’s scintillating!), but this sympathetic couple disarmed me. I told them that first thing when we got home, we were going to get DH’s salvage radiation results. Face the music.
The man started to say: “That’s not a big deal. All my friends . . . ”
His wife gave him a kick. She nodded sympathetically.
Anyway, here is my “Top 10” list of reasons to get prostate cancer (of course, tongue-in-cheek). They are taken from actual messages I’ve read or from my own experience. Feel free to add to it. To round things out I’ve had to add a few originals.
“Top 10 Reasons To Get Prostate Cancer”
10. All of my buddies have it — and they’re doing fine.
9. Nobody dies of this.
8. You die with this, not of it.
7. If you’re going to get cancer, this is the one to get.
6. At this age, you’re going to die of something — why not this?
5. The robot will fix everything.
4. Where else would you meet such great people?
3. It’s the next-best-thing to getting cancer of the toenail.
2. You put some seeds in — and that takes care of it. (Set it and forget it.)
1. It’s as easy to treat as the common cold.