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


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