Here’s the latest on my prostate cancer journey. The next post should be about doing a split on BnB2 which I hope to do this weekend.
When I lived in California just after graduating from college, I remember driving up to San Francisco on I-280, passing over the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) and thinking how cool it was that they were doing high energy physics right below my car wheels. SLAC is a 2 mile long concrete structure where scientists accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light before smashing into the hills west of Stanford. Several discoveries leading to Nobel Prizes in Physics have been made there.
The CyberKnife system has a lightweight linear accelerator (LINAC) less than a meter long which uses an extremely high voltage power supply to produce high energy radiation. As I was lying on the table watching the CyberKnife work and thinking about the linear accelerator, I was reminded of a scene in Steven Spielberg’s movie “1941“. Slim Pickens has been picked up by a Japanese submarine crew and the sailors are trying to push his big cabinet radio down the hatch. One of them says, “We‘ve got to figure out how to make these things smaller!” CyberKnife was originally developed at Stanford, so I guess they figured how to make SLAC smaller!
I finished the last of my 5 CyberKnife radiation treatments a week ago Friday (June 5). The treatments themselves were painless – the worst part was the no-fiber diet the day before and an enema just before the session. (I never had an enema in my life until my biopsy in February – I guess I’ve made up for that streak in the past few months). I got to pick out my favorite music on Pandora which ran the gamut from rock to classical. Most days, I’d doze off during the 40 minute sessions. Before each session, I found a 4-leaf clover in my bee yard for luck. There has been a good crop of them in front of the entrance to BnB2, which makes for some interesting search and picking with bees flying in and out.
After the first session, I had some pain in the groin which taking Aleve alleviated. 😉 I think that was from standing at my desk at work a lot the next day and not directly from the treatment. I didn’t really have any of the usual side effects until about the 3rd or 4th session. Around that time, I started having to pee often and it really hurt (not a good combination). The doctor prescribed Flomax to help with that and between Flomax and Aleve, the pain went away and for a while I didn’t have to pee so often. Another common side effect is bowel distress. That varies from day to day – I’m either constipated or have diarrhea – oh joy. By last Friday, I was feeling better and thought I’d turned the corner, however today has been a bad day on both fronts. I hope this is a temporary bump. In most cases, these side effects should clear up a couple of weeks after treatment so things should calm down later this week. Some of this could be due to the Flomax which has it’s own set of side effects, so I’m thinking of stopping that. (I’ve had the sore throat and cold symptoms for the past week, but fortunately not the painful 4 hour+ erection!) On Thursday, I meet with the urological oncologist to start my 6 month Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT) to kill off any stray cancer cells that might be floating around in my body. That comes with a whole new set of side effects!
Most of the CyberKnife sessions were at 8 am each day (the third one was at 2pm which sucked because I couldn’t eat all morning) so I decided to take the whole day off as a sick day since I wasn’t sure how I’d feel mentally or physically. I took the opportunity of having the afternoons off to get my vegetable garden planted and to work the bees on some of the days which was very therapeutic. So, in the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, if it wasn’t for my cancer treatments, I probably wouldn’t have gotten my garden planted this year!
But having cancer sucks – even if it’s a mild form like my prostate cancer. It’s made me think about my mortality and that I might not have as much time on this planet as I thought I would (but then again, the pie truck could hit any of us tomorrow). I don’t want to sound like a whiny baby – I try to put a good face on the whole ordeal. The side effects I’m having are nothing compared to chemo and other forms of cancer treatment. I know I am much better off and have a better chance for cure and recovery than many others who have cancer and stare death in the face each day. I’ve felt the pain of my parents as they watched my sister succumb to ovarian cancer and of friends who watched their daughter pass at an all too young age. I don’t know how one recovers from that.
At meditation class last week, we were introduced to the Gratitude Meditation where you meditate on what you are grateful for. I’ve incorporated that into my daily practice, giving thanks for what I have. I’m grateful for the life I’ve been able to live already – I truly have been blessed with a wealth of opportunities and experiences. I’m grateful for my wife who is a source of strength and love for me even when this ordeal is taking a toll on her. (We’ll be married 26 years tomorrow!). I’m grateful for my sons and my siblings and my cousins and extended family. I’m grateful for my friends near and far who have expressed their support for me and for people who I don’t even know who are praying and saying healing mantras for me. (Thanks to you all!) And I’m grateful for my bees who bring me joy as I sit and watch them pollinate my gardens , bringing the pollen and nectar back to their hives to feed new bees and make honey.