“I guess the world is not a wish-granting factory.”

In a wonderful example of cosmic irony, I made my annual pilgrimage to my dermatologist on Monday, Oct. 13th where, upon the 20th anniversary of my melanoma, he declared the book closed on that cancer case.  On Thursday, Oct. 23rd, my urologist told me I had prostate cancer.  Thanks universe: it was a swell ten days.

I first learned that my PSA level was a little elevated this past summer.  “It is probably nothing,” my doctor said, “but let’s have you see a urologist.” “It may be nothing,” the urologist said, “but let’s have you do another blood test to see.”  “I wish I had better news,” my urologist said when he called with the results of the second blood test.  And so it was that I found myself lying on an examining table in Rochester undergoing a biopsy a couple of weeks later, quite literally the biggest pain in the ass I have experienced yet.  After those results came back with more bad news, I headed back to Rochester last week for two more tests to determine whether the cancer has spread to my bones or my lymph nodes.  When you first hear that you have prostate problems, I think every man first worries about whether he will end up wearing Depends or worse, with a loss of function below the equator, so to speak.  It is amazing how words like “bone scan” and “lymph nodes” change the equation of what we have to worry about.  The doctor says I have a “medium grade” cancer which means that there is a medium level of concern that it has or will spread and so it must be treated.

This past weekend was a dark and gloomy one. Worrying about my prostate interspersed with doing prep for teaching Edgar Allan Poe next week.  Great timing on my part. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to focus on my schoolwork Friday night when I saw my son bounding into the house, returning from his Halloween party. But as the figure drew closer, I realized it was not JonDavid at all, but his long-lost sister: Samantha. I had dropped her off at William & Mary in August and did not expect to see her again until Christmas.  But when she got the news about my health woes she began cobbling together planes, trains, and automobiles to make a surprise trip home to cheer me up.  From the time she was born I’d always sung to her, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.” And indeed she has always been my sunshine, never more than this weekend.

Beyond Samantha’s surprise, I’ve been blessed by such great friends in this ordeal.  One of the first people I told my dismal news was my dear Academy buddy, Janyce Smithley. I couldn’t have a better support at work than Janyce.  She cries with me when I need to cry, tells me jokes and funny stories when I need to laugh, and comes around offering chocolate and cookies in between.  “Anytime you feel like you can’t handle one of your classes, come and get me, I’ll take over for you!” she offered.  If any of you ever have to go through something like this, I hope you have a Janyce in your life!

Also on Friday evening, I had such a special visit from two of my favorite people, Bev Rhett and her son Thomas.  Bev is on her own cancer journey and has only recently returned from several months of treatments down in Virginia.  As soon as she heard about my prostate problems, she and Thomas put together a basket full of cancer-fighting food and snacks, a copy of her favorite book “Anti Cancer: A New Way Of Life” and an orchid plant, loaded up their precious puppy, Lincoln, and came over and paid me a much-needed visit.  Bev came to offer advice, love, wisdom and support as I begin my own journey. While Lincoln and Tillie romped around the house together, Thomas and Bev cheered me up with their loving friendship and support.

Be it resolved already that if I make it through this, I want to be a Janyce and a Bev to anyone who is struggling with cancer.  Ugh, that revolting word. I am reading what I can on prostate cancer and treatment options and most of what I read just makes me want to cry.  But I know that I am going to have a lot of decisions to make in the days and weeks ahead.  This is one of those times in life when I desperately wish that I could change the channel, but sadly, that is not an option.  If the cancer has not spread beyond my prostate, then I am facing a less deadly battle that will hopefully be more annoying than anything else.  If it has spread…then God help me.

Published by timnichols

First and foremost, I’m a dad. After that, by day I am a professor of Education at Alfred University, by night I'm a dog lover, a cancer survivor, and a daydreamer. Here are some thoughts and lessons learned from my journey…

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