Since disclosing my diagnosis of prostate cancer to a wider community in this space two weeks ago (March 26), I have received messages of concern and support. Most importantly, I have heard from two nurses who felt that my openness would encourage other men to talk about their own health: A retired nurse noted that the article provides “a service to other men in similar situations.” Another wrote:
The more we share our personal experiences, the easier it is for others to talk about it and perhaps spur someone to get that check-up too.
My own journey has continued. I am half way through my 30-day prescription of Casodex (bicalutamide), an oral medication commonly used to treat prostate cancer. I was relieved to open the package and find the pill was small and easily swallowed. Its function is to reduce production of testosterone. Common side effects of hormone therapy include “hot flashes.” So far, I have only had one—at 2am. The result was that I now have more empathy for women of a certain age. Other side effects can include fatigue and loss of libido, much like Austin Powers’ missing “mojo” in that Mike Myers film.
My second medication is Eligard (leuprolide), this one by injection once every three months. At $969 a shot, I am glad it isn’t prescribed daily. At least, the medication is brought right to my home and administered by a very competent and personable nurse. And thank you, Premier Ford, for having your Provincial health budget cover almost the entire cost. My friendly nurse first gave me a helpful “heads-up” that her injection into the stomach wall will be a bit painful, but just for a second or two. She was right. She added quickly that it is the subsequent “burning” or stinging at the site that patients find more challenging. Unfortunately, she was still right!
I was instantly reminded of a John Wayne movie set in some World War Two battle. Wayne pulls the pin on his hand grenade and hurls it at the enemy trenches. Nothing happens for ten seconds then—Boom!
But, as she promised, my “Boom” lasted only for a minute or so. I know because I desperately counted every second. And It was some consolation when she reassured me that the next injection is typically less uncomfortable.
According to Prostate Cancer Canada, hormone therapy “works by depriving cancer cells of androgens (the male hormones) they need to grow.” This will stop or slow down the growth of cancer cells in the prostate. I think it is designed to buy me time until a more lethal weapon is brought into the battle. (Forgive my sudden preoccupation with war metaphors.) That weapon is radiation—next month.
In the interim, a good quality of life continues. I don’t really know if my ongoing fatigue, nocturnal bathroom trips and that one infamous encounter with the “hot flashes” are a result of the cancer, the medication to treat it or simply encroaching old age. For the latter malady, there is no cure. But becoming elderly is still a far better outcome than not even making it this far on my life journey. And so, I continue onward.