Was gone for a while. Now I'm back for a while.
In response to accusations that I have not made any contributions to my web log for a few weeks, I plead guilty but with an explanation. I've been on the DL. Am better now and will be back at you with offerings I hope readers find of interest.
For more details on my absence, see my column from the 6/11 News-Gazette. It's reproduced below.
Hey guys: Make a date to check your prostate
@Body Type Column:Two friends were seated together at the dinner table and, for two hours, one spoke while the other listened.
Finally, the man who had been doing all the talking said, "But enough about me. What about you? What do you think of me?"<$>
That apocryphal tale seems the best way to start today's voyage on the S.S. Narcissus because this column is about me, me, me, me. Ordinarily, that would be a poor subject for a news column, but I can justify this one because it could have something to do with you or someone close to you.
Readers may or may not have noticed, but I have been gone for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I was not on vacation. Actually, it was anything but.
In mid-April, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, a disease that strikes an estimated one in six men and causes about 30,000 deaths annually. More than 300,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society.
On May 18, I underwent a surgical procedure known as a "radical prostatectomy" at Carle Foundation Hospital, which means that my prostate and I are no longer keeping company. After a two-day stint in the hospital, I was sent home where I have been recovering. Now I am back at work, not nearly as strong as I was before the operation but doing well. Pathology tests indicate that the cancer was confined to the prostate, so I am looking forward to a complete recovery.
Although I consider myself lucky, my experience was not just a matter of luck, and that's what people need to keep in mind.
Prostate cancer is easiest to cure when it's caught early and confined to the prostate. But it grows silently and slowly and generally doesn't produce any symptoms until it has spread beyond the prostate, when reaching a cure becomes much more problematic.
That's why men, generally starting around age 50, need annual physical exams in which the doctor checks the prostate and conducts a blood test to measure his patient's PSA (prostate-specific antigen), an enzyme produced by the prostate that, if elevated, can signal prostate cancer.
It was an elevated PSA detected during an April 2004 physical exam that prompted my regular physician, Dr. Brian Earley, to refer me to Dr. Ronald Konchanin, a urologist at Carle Clinic. During the ensuing months, I underwent two additional blood tests to measure my PSA. One showed my PSA level was down, and the second indicated it was back up again.
At that point, we decided it would be best to do a biopsy and find out, one way or another, if I had prostate cancer.
Konchanin noted that elevated PSAs do not guarantee the presence of prostate cancer and said "there will be people who don't have cancer who have elevated PSAs." Because of that uncertainty, he said, different medical organizations have different opinions about the wisdom of performing a biopsy. But he said, in his opinion, it's best to determine what the situation is in an otherwise healthy, asymptomatic man, either diagnosing prostate cancer or allowing a patient peace of mind.
In my case, I wanted to know, at least I did right up to the minute I found out. The biopsy was performed April 8 and, about 10 days later, I got the bad news.
There are a variety of options for treating prostate cancer. Given my age (52) and the suspected low-grade, early-stage status of my tumor, surgery seemed to be the best course of treatment.
I wish I could say the surgery was a breeze, but it required some serious cutting. The prostate is buried pretty deep in the abdomen, and doctors had to root about quite a bit to get at it.
When I woke up in the recovery room, I was as helpless as a beetle turned over on its back. Blowing my nose was painful. The prospect of sneezing was terrifying. Lifting myself out of bed was an impossibility.
But time not only wounds all heels, it heals all wounds. Within a couple of days, I was on my feet. Since then, progress has come pretty quickly. The only downside is that I will be limited for some time in the physical activities I pursue. Much as I hate being a couch potato, I am under orders to take it easy.
Needless to say, time passes slowly when all you can do is read or watch daytime television, which is unbelievably wretched.
But I have been touched by the many expressions of kindness I have received from friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
I was particularly pleased when members of the Champaign County Democratic Party passed a resolution expressing the hope that I have a quick, complete recovery. I'm told the vote was 12-11.
And I was simply astounded when former Champaign County State's Attorney John Piland went out of his way to offer me a helping hand. It's no secret that The News-Gazette was pretty hard on Piland, a Republican, when he was in office. But he offered to put me in touch with a couple of well-known physicians to see if they could offer me any treatment. Unfortunately, neither Drs. Jack Kevorkian nor Michael Swango were able to get weekend passes from the prisons where they are being held to see me.
But enough about me. What about you? What do you think of me and my prostate?
I hope my story is sufficient to persuade you or those close to you that regular checkups have untold benefits. Ignorance is not bliss. Better for the day of reckoning to come sooner, when the problem can be addressed and disposed of, than to come later when it will be much harder to resolve.
(For the humor-impaired, let me state that my references to the local Democrats and former prosecutor Piland are strictly in jest. For me, sickness and gallows humor go hand in hand.)<$>
<*p(0,9,0,9,0,0,g)>Jim Dey is a member of The News-Gazette staff. He can be reached by e-mail at jdey[AT]news-gazette.com or at 351-5369.