The news reached me by satellite phone while I was on the Big Fish Fire in August. “The test results came back positive,” my wife, Linn, spoke the dreaded but expected words.
As fire information officer, my day usually started at six in the morning and lasted until sometime after ten at night. It was late enough that I wrapped things up and headed for my tent.
The reflection from the full moon off the ripples on the lake created bursts of light that sparkled like a thousand diamonds. With the smoke from the fire hanging in the air and low to the ground like fog, the effect was both beautiful and eerie.
Throwing my gear into the tent, I walked a few yards east to the edge of the lake and stood in silence. My thoughts went first to the vast landscape of the Flat Tops Wilderness that stretched to the north and east.
There are few places on God’s earth that hold such attraction for me. This special connection is a very real one that comes from over 10 years of walking this land with Elders from the Ute Nation.
Those shared blessings helped prepare me for what I knew to do next.
Facing east and spreading my legs out for firm footing, my arms instinctively lifted upward with open palms toward the heavens.
There was no script. No notes. Despite the deep thoughts held in my mind, the words would have to come from a completely open heart.
“Creator, I don’t understand what is happening, but I know that’s not necessary (to trust you this way). I accept this cancer and whatever purpose you have in it.”
There was a great peace that came upon me as if some huge burden was lifting from my body. This was something I could not face alone, not even with my friend’s and family’s love and help.
Deep inside my consciousness, a faint but knowing intuition that it might be cancer was ever present for almost a year. Cancer with a big “C.”
The only outward sign that ever caused concern had been blood in my semen. But I would learn that this is a rare occurrence in men with prostate cancer. There are normally no visible effects.
It would take four doctors over that period of a year to diagnose the prostate cancer. Another half dozen doctors would eventually help with my care. Once my PSA count started to rise, the monitoring began until Dr. Fegan, my urologist, and I decided on a biopsy.
We’ll get to what the heck a PSA is in a later column.
If these words do nothing else but scare every man over 40 who reads this into getting your PSA checked at least once during your yearly physical, then my experience has not been in vain.
Yearly and physical are the operative words here. I’ll leave it up to the wives, daughters, lovers, and friends of those stubborn and foolish men who don’t bother to have their yearly physical to do whatever it takes.
Why over 40, when most of the literature says you don’t need to start having blood drawn to check your PSA until you turn 45?
Because taking changes with prostate cancer is like playing Russian roulette. Only men have a prostate and every man who lives long enough will get prostate cancer. How do you like those odds?
In my next column I’ll give you one more reason to have your prostrate checked yearly if you’re over 40.
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