Wednesday, January 19, 2011

PSA Is Greek To Me...

Then as I reached my 75th birthday, I signed up for my annual physical. All of these physicals were performed by my primary physician. A few days following that last exam, the doctor’s office called. They said, “Your PSA is much too high and the doctor has referred you to a urologist.”

Well, needless to say, this all was Greek to me. I had no idea what a PSA was. I called the referred urologist and set an appointment. He ran his own tests and confirmed that “your PSA is too high. We need to do a biopsy.” And so they did.

This information ran amok through my head. All I knew about this was what I had read in brochures while in the doctor’s waiting room. The PSA brochures mentioned many things but one item in particular stood out in my mind. It referred to prostate cancer.

Also the brochures taught me that PSA stood for “prostate-specific antigen.” “What?” My totally confused mind thought, “My understanding of prostate-specific antigen is just as muddled as my understanding of PSA.” Then it occurred to me, “When in doubt, ask the doctor.” And so I did.

The doctor said, “Mr. Hamby, your high PSA and the biopsy show that you have prostate cancer in the early stages.” I stared at him while my brain raced to locate a permanent lobe for this new information to reside. Didn’t things like this always happen to other people and never to me? The doctor stared back and continued his well-informed explanations. He told me that prostate cancer generally was a slow-growing type and that most likely at my age I would outlive it. In other words, I would not die from it but rather would die with it.

Doc continued, “On the other hand…” Always be alert when the doctor says, “On the other hand.” Generally this means “the rest of the story” (Paul Harvey). Doc explained that there was no way of knowing for sure if prostate cancer was a slow type or a fast type. He also recommended that steps should be taken to eradicate the cancer.

He gave me several options including surgery to remove the prostate (nope, too old for that), radiation everyday for eight weeks (no thanks), and cryotherapy. Finally the doctor had to take a breath so I jumped in with, “cryo-what?” Doc explained how that this procedure included the freezing of the prostate thus killing the cancer and the prostate. Also, he said that the recovery time was shorter than that of surgery or radiation. I talked this over with my wife, then told Doc that I had “chosen frozen.”

This was an outpatient procedure. They knocked me out with something. The next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room thinking, “That wasn’t so bad.”

The worst thing about the ordeal was the catheter I had to wear for two weeks following the procedure. Also I was supposed to walk and attempt to maintain my strength. One thing I learned for sure was that, “catheters and afternoon walks in the park never were intended to interface.” You can put that in your pipe and quit smoking.

One serious suggestion I wish to make with this essay is all men should have a physical examination annually. Be sure to ask your doctor to include a PSA test in your blood workup. Since prostate cancer usually has no symptoms, you may never know you have it until it is too late.

Fortunately, mine was caught early, thanks to an annual physical exam, a high PSA, a biopsy, and a cancer-killing procedure. And God.

Winston Hamby

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bean Sprouts In Beaumont...

Occasionally I write columns dealing with “Smarties I have known.” I wrote one about Dr. Dale Priest, Professor of English at Lamar University. Later, I wrote about Dr. William (Bill) Martin, Professor of Sociology at Rice University.

Here (pictured) is another “Smartie” I met when he was only 5 years of age. I was 4. Today, he is better known as Dr. Wendell C. Bean, Professor of Electrical and Nuclear Engineering at Lamar University, Beaumont. Wendell is one of the most humble individuals I have known. Later in this essay I’ll mention a few of his accomplishments, each one amazing in its own right.

When Wendell was 13, I was 12. We always sat together in church. You may know that churches of Christ sing a cappella meaning that they do not use musical instruments in their worship services. As a result many members develop fine singing skills. Most of our Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs are in four-part harmony. One Sunday morning while we were singing, I detected that Wendell was singing bass. I sang soprano because I could not hit those low bass notes. I recall thinking how wonderful Wendell was because he could sing bass.

Another time during the 1940s, Wendell and I were playing on the rear campus of Giles Elementary School. We decided to run a race from Avenue A to the school building. I prided myself as being one of the fastest runners in school. We started our race and to my shock and horror, Wendell outran me. I recall thinking how wonderful Wendell was because he could run so fast.

I learned early on that Wendell had an extra-ordinary sense of humor. He still does. One night back in the 1940s, Wendell and I attended some sort of Operatic Review at the City Auditorium (now Julie Rogers Theater) in downtown Beaumont. We were sitting in the center of the very first row. One of the presentations consisted of a pianist at the Steinway accompanying a lady soprano who was to sing an aria. The pianist began playing quite a long introduction. I leaned over to Wendell and whispered, “She is going to start screaming any second.” Immediately she burst forth with what I am certain was beautiful music for adults. But for two kids? Not quite. The lady would scream for a while then just stand there while the pianist played every piece of music he ever knew. Then the lady would scream some more then get quiet again. After several times of this back and forth, Wendell leaned over and whispered, “She keeps forgetting the words.” I went into silent convulsive laughter with one hand over my mouth and the other holding my stomach. Said stomach was sore for several days. I recall thinking how wonderful Wendell was because of his sharp sense of humor.

Yes, Wendell was a good friend and still is even though our paths through the years have taken us separate directions.

Allow me to tell you of some of Wendell’s accomplishments since our adolescent years.

I suppose you noticed at the first of this condensed essay that Wendell’s official title at Lamar University is Professor of Electrical and Nuclear Engineering. His areas of expertise include Control Systems, Biomedical Modeling and Analysis, and Nuclear Reactor Dynamics and Control. Now honestly I do not know what all of that means. If you want to know, ask Dr. Bean. He is a down-to-earth genius and will talk with you like a Southeast Texas brother.

A scholarship has been established in Wendell’s honor for his, “dedication for higher education and passion for learning.” For additional information on Dr. Bean, see and/or Google Dr. Wendell C. Bean for even more information.

I still think Wendell is wonderful for all he has accomplished and contributed.

Winston Hamby