Medical Update ~ Time for Reflection

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. ~  Rabindranath Tagore

For those who may not know, 4.5 years ago my dear hubby Terry received the news that many of you can relate to, the “you have cancer” message.  To say this news took the wind out of our sails is an understatement.  We quickly began to unravel our plans to start our RV life as the future looked rather uncertain at this point.  Through divine grace, a mother’s keen recommendation for a must-have book, a close friend’s referral and unselfish gesture of taking us into their home post-surgery to heal, and the countless well-wishes of family and friends, we feel much stronger and wiser.

My strong he-man!

If a man is faced with this diagnosis, prostate cancer may be the lesser of many evils as most times it is a slow-growing cancer found in one’s “golden years” and it is left alone.  Unfortunately, Terry was informed he was too young and the tumor too large to ignore, so surgery seemed to be the best option.  Blessed with none of the horrid side-effects this disease can hand you, Terry donned the Lance Armstrong LiveStrong bracelet and vowed to wear it until he had reached the “industry standard” survival rate of 5 years.

On the trail, in his element

Fast-forward 4 years, through many anxious moments following regular PSA tests.  All had great results until this past January when Terry’s PSA score was somewhat elevated.  Once again we unraveled our plans as it seemed bone scans and MRI’s were in Terry’s near future and we felt the need to sit tight where there was a plethora of excellent medical facilities.

Last week yet another PSA test.  I try to put myself in Terry’s shoes as he leaves the lab and begins the waiting game.  Although I can empathize and pray for a good outcome, putting myself in his shoes is not possible, for this is his personal journey to walk.  We all have these, being unique individuals, and face life’s obstacles differently.  Terry knows I am by his side and for me, that is what is important.

Hiking the Oregon dunes

Terry’s latest PSA score was the same as the previous two, which means he has held steady for the past nine months.  The good news – the number has not increased.  The not-so-good news – the number is still somewhat elevated, which means there is something going on.  This “something going on” could be benign or could be something else; we don’t know.  The doctor is confident enough that he feels the watchful waiting can continue for another 6 months.

Many who now live with cancer or consider themselves survivors wear the Live Strong bracelet, as did Terry, until a few days ago when his broke. Ironically the break occurred while anxiously awaiting a return call from his doctor on the lab results.  His first thought was “wonder what that means?”.  My initial reaction was “you no longer need this; it’s time to move on”.

Living Strong

Terry and I often talk about how deeply grateful we are for the ability to experience life as we are, seeing this magnificent country, walking in nature, feeling the hand of something greater touching us.  We can dwell on the ‘something else’ or we can live in the present moment.  It is our choice and we choose to live the now.  Terry chooses to breathe in the beauty around him, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people we are meeting along the way.  I choose the same, as I walk by his side.

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Watchful Waiting

So what the heck is watchful waiting anyway?  Well, in medical terms, for someone facing prostate cancer, it can be the standard treatment, given your test results.  Hubby Terry received this cancer diagnosis almost 5 years ago, one that roughly 1 in 6 men will receive sometime in their life, not unlike breast cancer statistics for women.  Unfortunately, given his age at the time and his Gleason Scorehe was not a candidate for watchful waiting, too young and tumor too advanced.  A prostatectomy was in order instead and he has been blessed to have a wonderful surgeon.  Ever the vigilant one, Terry has done his follow-up tests like clockwork ever since.

Our change in plans came about as a result of a regularly scheduled PSA blood test earlier this year.  Although not alarming by any means, the finding did not fall within the ‘normal’ range, which should be negligible once the prostate has been removed.  Additional PSA tests done here within the past two weeks have all provided the same conclusion, which could indicate any number of things.  Terry received the news from his doctor’s office that a battery of tests was to be the next course of action, to rule out a few things.  However, after further analysis and given that the PSA test score has not continued to increase, his doctor notified him yesterday of the decision to forego further tests for 90 days and practice watchful waiting instead.  What to make of this?  It feels like we are in limbo, as nothing has changed except to move the date out for yet other procedures.

A good lesson to be learned during this watchful waiting is to get back to the present; live for now; and not focus on what may be 90 days down the road. None of us knows the road ahead so why not look at what is around us instead?  Given the beauty found in this country, it sounds like a sound plan!  Special thanks to everyone who sent warm thoughts and prayers our way.

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A Special Bond

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”  ~  Henri Nouwen  (1932-1996)

Normally I would blog about the little treasures to be found in a city like Columbus, OH, and there are those, but I want to take a different path for this posting. Given where we stayed for a couple of days, I feel compelled to touch upon the beauty of friendship, one that is comfortable, one that is steady.

How many of us have had the great fortune of maintaining a connection with someone from our childhood?  Terry has a special friend that he has held onto since junior high, a connection born of the fantasies of adolescent boys, and that has been a constant in his life through many highs and lows for both.

Doug & Terry on their Zundap Bella motor scooters ~ circa 1960

A cancer diagnosis for Terry brought us to Columbus four years ago and a friendship that was already long-standing grew so much deeper, a tragedy flowing into a blessing. I was fortunate to be able to share in this friendship and we were both honored to spend a couple of days at Doug and Donna’s home this past weekend.  You just know you are going to have a great weekend, one promising the creation of memories, when all you care to do, with all the opportunities presented to you, is spend time together visiting.  That is the weekend we had.

Saturday night we shared a great meal, then relaxed around a crackling fire.  A nice glass of wine, discussing our travels, everyday happenings, and kids’ lives rounded out the evening.   When I hear Donna talk about her daughters and grandsons and see the love and support that they both have for their kids, I wish I had not lost my parents so early in life and had the opportunities for these kinds of interactions.

Sunday was even better, with no one getting out of their “comfy” clothes all day long.  Storytelling, the comfort found in moments of silence, and the joy for me of mowing their lawn (I know, sounds a little odd, doesn’t it) added to the day.

Me & John Deere
Me, refusing to relinquish my "ride" to Terry

Honestly, after I realized where Terry and Doug disappeared to, I should have surrendered my hold on their new lawn mower, although I really do enjoy mowing grass.  50 years later, there they are still enjoying their toys, or more specifically, Doug’s new BMW Z4, just a tad pricier and a lot faster than the Zundap Bella motor scooters.  What a beauty she is and the two “old guys” are aging pretty good as well!

At one point in the evening Donna looked at Terry, marveling at how close we had all become, and surmised that perhaps Terry’s journey of cancer treatment and recovery, undertaken at their home four years ago, was meant to result in drawing us closer together.  She may indeed be right about that.

How do you thank someone for opening their home and their hearts to you, leaving their imprint along the way?  Doug and Donna, two endearing souls, took care of us four years ago, and did the same once again this past weekend.  What we have with them is truly a special bond, one that will sustain us throughout our lives.

Doug & Donna

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”  ~  Albert Schweitzer