Explaining Myself… Again

I’m happy to report that the negative reaction I was expecting from my last post never happened. I only received one comment that I’d consider negative. The rest was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, after three days, The Suggestion Box is now my all-time most viewed post. Apparently many people could relate to what I wrote. So I’m glad I followed my heart and wrote that post. You may not always like what I write here, but you’ll always get the unvarnished truth from me, at least as I see it. I did lose about thirty Facebook friends, though. I have over 2,600, so it’s not that big of a loss, but it still bothers me.

I got called out by a friend for “friending” (thanks, Facebook, for turning the word friend into a verb!) so many people just because they liked or commented on one of my posts. I was accused of craving attention. It’s true that I do that, but that’s not the reason why. To be very honest, in most cases, I do it simply so this blog will show up on their timeline. Not everyone is a member of a support group for prostate cancer. I want as many eyeballs on this blog as I can possibly get. Is that wrong? Is it wrong to try to expand my readership? I hope not, because I’m going to keep doing it. Call it self promotion if you want. I feel like what I’m doing here is important, that it’s helping people. I hear that every time I post. So yes, I will keep sending friend requests to those who like or comment on my posts. Feel free to ignore or delete those requests if you so choose. But I hope you’ll decide to join us here.

I understand that many who truly care about me may have felt that I was giving up after reading that post. One of my closest friends said as much to me just last night. If he felt that way, I know others must have too. So I feel like I should explain myself better than I did in The Suggestion Box. I thought I was done with the Explaining Myself series, but I guess not.

When I said that I may not be open to adding any new treatments, here’s what I meant. In terms of conventional treatments, the ones that insurance covers, there are only two options for me at this point, at least to my knowledge at the present time; Additional hormone treatments and chemo. If you know me, or have read this blog with any regularity, you know that I won’t do chemo. As I said in a previous post, I don’t believe it will give me that much more time, (around ten months seems to be the number most guys in my situation get from their doctors) I think it will just ruin the remaining time I have. Nobody is saying it will cure me, or even send me into remission.

Additional hormone treatment would make me even weaker and feel smaller than I do now. I’d be even less able to do the things that matter to me. And based on past experience, I’d only get a few months out of that too.

There may be treatments my oncologist can offer, or ones that he can send me somewhere to try, that would be covered, and that I know nothing about. That will be a topic of our consultation in June, if my PSA rises again, as both of us expect it will. I’m open to anything that is both covered by my insurance and won’t seriously reduce my quality of life. I’m just doubtful that those treatments really exist. I hope I’m wrong.

I’ve read a bit about Proton Therapy, and it is covered by my insurance, but my oncologist’s office doesn’t offer it. I will ask about it the next time I see him, though. Maybe he can refer me to a place locally that does it. But that place would have to take my insurance, which not all providers do. And I don’t know if I’m even a candidate for that, being metastatic.

The same is true for Immunotherapy. I don’t know if my insurance covers that, or if anyone who offers it in my area takes my insurance. Or, again, if I’m a candidate for it. I also don’t know what either of these therapies would do to my quality of life. These are all questions yet to be answered. If I get the right answers to either of these, I’m not opposed to trying them.

The problem with every non-conventional treatment out there, the ones that aren’t covered by insurance, is money. They’re all very expensive, from Naturopathic treatment to essential oils to my beloved cannabis oil suppositories. I’ll be very blunt and vulnerable here. Our income is next to nothing. We rely on friends just to stay afloat, financially. Our credit, while very good, is pretty much maxed out. So it isn’t just that I refuse to go into debt for treatment, I can’t do that. We can’t qualify for a loan in our present circumstances. So unless someone steps forward and offers to pay for one or all of these, I have to make do the best I can.

This is also why I can’t travel for treatment. It costs money that we don’t have. Others may be able to borrow money to do this, but we can’t. Simple as that. We’ve already done the crowdfunding thing. I don’t feel like I can go back to that well again.

When I said that I’m “done looking for a way out of this mess,” that may have been a bit melodramatic. But I am very tired. After 21 months of hormone treatment, sometimes I do want to just chuck it all. Every guy out there who is on Lupron, Xtandi, or any other hormone treatment knows exactly what I’m saying. It beats you down. It reduces you to a bowl of jelly. In the past week, two of my prostate cancer brothers, both of whom I’ve gotten to know over the past months, have both decided go off of treatment. Both are sick of living from one PSA test to the next. They want to forget about cancer and just live their lives. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting close. Unless you’ve been on this stuff for as long as I have, you’ll never know how that feels. I hope you never do.

To those who are close to me, or not so close, who wish I would fight harder, I say that it’s hard to fight when you feel like you can’t even raise your boxing gloves.

To those who say I should fight to stay around for my wife as long as possible, I can only say a couple of things without giving away personal information. First, my wife and I are in lock step when it comes to my treatment. She agrees with me on all of it. She doesn’t want to lose me any earlier than she has to, of course, but she supports all of my choices and agrees with my opinions. In fact, on the subject of chemo, she’s even more hard line against it than I am. And on the financial side, my attitudes about fighting are all about her.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I still believe that a big part of a husband’s job is to provide for his wife and family. We don’t have kids, so she’s the only one I feel I’m supposed to provide for. Frankly, I haven’t done a very good job of that for several years. Our retirement accounts are meager at best. Our main asset is our house, which could be sold at a substantial profit, but once our debts were paid, we couldn’t afford anything decent in the overpriced housing market here in Denver, Colorado. And I don’t want to sell and move. I want to protect this asset for her, so that when I die, she can sell this house, and combined with the insurance money, her 401k, and her Social Security income, she’ll be able to live the rest of her life without having to get a job. Hopefully sales of my ice cream and book will help her too. It’s all about her, even though it may not look like that to you.

Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Or one’s wife. My own paraphrase. In my mind and heart, I show my love for my wife not by depleting our resources to try to stay alive, but to provide for her the best way I can. If push comes to shove, I will bow out early in order to do just that. Unless I feel like our financial needs will be met, and we can live a comfortable, fun retired life together, free of the constant burden of fighting cancer, I don’t see the point of putting both of us through hell for months or years with one treatment after another, hoping against hope that each new one will be The One. And meanwhile, drain all of our assets and leave her in worse shape when I finally do die. She will have to mourn my loss sooner or later. I want to leave her in the best financial condition I possibly can when that happens. It’s the least I can do for her. And I’m willing to lay down my life for her in order to do it. I love her that much.


Of course, I know that she is not the only one who will mourn my loss, and consider it premature, no matter how hard I fight. I know that you want to push that date off as far in the future as possible too. Someone commented just this morning on my last post that I should be thankful that so many people care enough about me to want to give me advice about how to treat my cancer. Many don’t have that. I agree 100%. I am thankful for all of you. I may well ask you for information or advice if I feel you’re the right person to ask. I did that with a dear friend just this morning. It’s the unsolicited kind that I object to. The friend I talked to this morning has wanted to share information with me for some time, but waited until I asked. I appreciated that very much, and I finally did ask.

I hope I’ve explained myself well enough in this post. Maybe you feel like I didn’t need to do that, but I did. The last thing I want is to be misunderstood because I didn’t explain things well enough the first time. I actually have another post almost completed, that I intended to publish today, but I felt I needed to write this one first. My next post will be much more cheerful. The title is Life In Our Days. I hope you found this post informational, but I hope you find that one inspirational. I do. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

The Suggestion Box

I need to warn you. This is a hard post. You may not like it at all. You may be offended by it. But I have to say it. I hope you understand, and I hope I don’t lose too many of you with this post. But this is how I feel.

First of all, I need to say that I’m not directing this post at anyone in particular. If you think I’m talking about you, I’m not. Except for one or two specific examples I give, I’m speaking generally.

When you have cancer, you get a lot of suggestions from well-meaning people. They tell you what treatments you should consider. They tell you how you should eat. They send you articles to read, and links to websites for cancer clinics in exotic locations. They tell you to keep fighting, and to never give up.

When I was first diagnosed, I was like a sponge, absorbing all of this information. But now, after 21 months in treatment, I feel like I’ve seen them all. I can’t tell you how many people have sent me that “Truth About Cancer” video. Now, all of this advice has become rather tiresome. Especially since I’m not asking for any of it.

Even now, in the comments of almost every post, someone adds a comment about what they think I should or shouldn’t do, regardless of what the topic of the post is. Most the time, those comments are on Facebook. But some comment on the blog post itself. In the comments of my last post, someone suggested a treatment I should look into. This comment had nothing whatsoever to do with the content of my post. But I have this blog set up so I have to approve comments. I didn’t approve that one. I deleted it.

But it isn’t just comments on my posts. People message me with links they want me to look into, and videos they want me to watch. Most of the time, I’ve seen what they sent me before. Many times, in some cases. I even received a message this week from someone saying I should travel to India for treatment! As if!

It seems that people think I have a suggestion box on my desk, and they’re free to stuff that box full of all kinds of good ideas. But I’m here to say that I’m no longer open to suggestions. The suggestion box is closed.

I understand that those who do this are only trying to help. If we are friends, your suggestions come from a desire to keep me around as long as possible. I appreciate that. But I have to do this my own way.

Of course, there have been times when I’ve talked about a problem I had, and friends pointed me in the right direction. My friend Deanna, in particular, really saved me from some terrible emotional times by suggesting I try the supplement 5-HTP. It worked wonders for me when I really needed it. I think it was my friend Sandi who suggested taking Magnesium for my leg spasms. That worked for me too. I appreciate both of these helpful suggestions very much, and the friends who gave them.

The difference is, both of them were responding to a need I expressed, and tried to meet that need. It wasn’t just, “Oh, you have cancer? You should try this! I saw it on the internet!”

At the risk of offending so many who want me to try to find some way, any way to stay alive, the only people whose advice I’m willing to entertain regarding my cancer treatment at this point are my oncologist, my nurse, and my nutritionist. The medical professionals who treat me. And even they don’t have the final say. I do. They work for me.

I’m not interested in getting a second opinion. I’m not interested in traveling for treatment. I have confidence in my team, and it’s necessary for me to stay within the confines of what my insurance covers. I can’t pay for expensive new treatments that insurance doesn’t cover yet. I can’t pay for naturopathic treatment. I will not go into debt to try to stay alive a little longer. So when my oncologist runs out of options for me that I can go along with, and that my insurance covers, well, we won’t go there quite yet. But I think we’re pretty close to the end of that list now.

Please understand that my attitude about this is not a reflection on you. Especially if we have a real relationship, and aren’t just Facebook friends. Not to say I don’t have real friendships on Facebook. I most certainly do. I love you, but I’m done looking for a way out of this mess. Barring a miracle, there is only one way out.

And if the extent of our relationship is that we belong to the same support group on Facebook, or we’re Facebook friends but don’t really know each other, well, I want to say this as kindly as I can. Do you really think it’s your place to tell someone you barely know how they should make life or death decisions?

I think one of the problems here is that most people are fighters when it come to an illness like this, and I’m not. They’re willing to try anything and everything just to keep breathing as long as possible. If you’re that type of person, it’s hard for you to imagine why everyone wouldn’t feel the same way. But I don’t feel that way. There’s a limit to how hard I’m willing to fight.

Part of this is because I’m a man of faith. I don’t believe that survival is the greatest good, and death is the thing most to be avoided. I never have. I believe I have an eternal home waiting for me. In the light of eternity, does how much time we get here make all that much difference? Does anyone in Heaven think, “Boy, I sure wish I’d gotten a couple more years down there”? I doubt it. In all of the “near death experience” stories I’ve heard, I have yet to hear one where the person who crossed over wanted to go back. They’re always told, “It’s not your time. You have to go back.”

News flash: We all die. Nobody gets out of here alive. It’s just a matter of time for all of us.

It’s not that I’m stopping all treatment. Of course not. But I may not be open to any new ones. I’ll have to see what my oncologist has to offer. As far as I know, we’ll continue with Lupron and Xtandi, along with Xgeva to strengthen my bones. Hopefully that will at least slow the growth of my cancer, and keep me from having a catastrophic bone break or spinal issue.

I understand that you want to keep me around if you love me. And I have to say again that I’m astonished and humbled by how many of you there are. And I love you too. But urging me to fight for every minute and spend my remaining time searching for a cure that doesn’t exist is making it about you. It’s not about what I want, it’s about what you want. And worse, telling me to believe in miracles is questioning my faith in God. I have faith in God. So much that I’m willing to let him do whatever he wants with me.

I don’t know what my oncologist will say if and when my PSA rises next month. I don’t know what remaining treatments he’ll have available that will both be effective for a while and not compromise my quality of life, such as it is. I will listen to him, and my nurse too. I’ll talk it over with my wife. Together, we’ll decide what to do and what not to do.

What I need, and what every other cancer patient needs, is support. Encouragement. Love. Prayers. If we say we’re looking for information, please send it to us. If modern medicine has failed us, and we’re looking for an alternative, we’ll read every article you can throw at us. But as for me, I’ve reached a point in my journey where I feel like I have a pretty clear picture of what I’m supposed to do. And that’s what I will do.

Thank you for your love and concern for me. Let me say one more time that I know you’re only trying to help. I do need your supportive comments, your messages, texts and calls. I most definitely need your prayers and your love. But I don’t need any more suggestions about treatments I should pursue. The suggestion box is closed. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

Always On My Mind

Not the song by Willie Nelson, though it is a great song. It’s something else that’s always on my mind. I think you know what that is.

A friend asked me recently if there’s ever a day that I don’t think about cancer, and jokingly said that could be a blog post. Well, here’s the post. But it’s no joke. I don’t think about cancer every day. I think about it every minute.

It’s not the first time this particular friend has inspired a blog post. I don’t expect it will be the last. There are a few of you who know by now that your words can and will be used in a blog post. But not against you. Never against you.

Not that cancer is at the forefront of my mind all the time, but it’s the permanent backdrop of my life. It’s always there. Especially now, after the news I got last week. That rising PSA number brought me crashing down to earth fast. I was supposed to be the bumblebee, doing the impossible for a guy with all of my factors. Maybe I still am. We’ll find out in June. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels now like my wings really are too small, and gravity is pulling me back down. So it’s on my mind even more than it was before.

I’m not worrying or stressing about it, but I do want to talk about it. A lot. Have you noticed? When I wear one of my cross pendants every day, I’m always hoping someone will ask me about them, so I can tell them about my cancer. People rarely do, though.

If we know each other, don’t ever feel like I want to avoid the subject. It’s not me who wants to avoid talking about it, it’s you. I need to talk about it. Because it’s always on my mind.

Rather than worry and stress, the main feeling I’ve had since my last PSA result, and the consultation I had with my oncologist, has been sadness. I feel sad all the time. I can still enjoy things that give me pleasure, like watching a good movie or TV show, or listening to music I love, or reading a good book, or being with loved ones. Especially that. But the sadness is always there, like a blanket covering everything.

It wasn’t like that before that number started rising again. Back when I was the bumblebee. Sure, I felt like I was shrinking, getting smaller and weaker by the day, but I thought my cancer was shrinking too. Now, like The Incredible Shrinking Man, I keep getting smaller, while the spider has started to grow.

So my mood has changed. I try to think about other things, and I’m successful much of the time. But if I don’t have something specific to focus on, the wave of sadness comes back. It’s all gotten too real.

Well, this is a depressing post, isn’t it? I’m sorry if it comes off that way, but I have to tell you the truth. I have to bear witness to what this is like, at least for me. I’m not afraid, I’m not worried or stressed, and thank God, I’m not in pain. Much. But I am sad. And I’m very tired.

Let’s be honest. I’ve been preoccupied with the subject of my cancer since I was diagnosed. People would say I must be tired of talking about it, and I’d reply that it’s all I want to talk about. That’s why I write this blog, obviously. So I can talk about it with as many people as possible. But even that’s not enough.

That’s also why I’m in therapy. So I can talk about it some more. I talk about lots more than cancer with my therapist, but the subject is never far off. I doubt there’s been a session where it didn’t come up. Because it’s always on my mind.

It doesn’t take much to make a day go sideways for me now. After a frustrating morning in my recording studio Friday, where a technical glitch kept me from making any progress on my final CD project, I had to stop working by around 12:30 in the afternoon. I was too upset to work. Even after a good day’s work yesterday, as soon as I finished for the day, the sadness came rushing back in.

My PSA was expected to rise at some point, so I’m not sure what I’m so sad about. Actually, I do, I’m just not ready to talk about it here yet. But I think a big part of it is just sadness about running out of time. I’m not angry about my cancer. I don’t want to shake my fist at God about the unfairness of it. But I am sad about it, and I’m preoccupied with it.

Before you tell me not to think about it, before you say I should just live my life and not let cancer define me, tell me if you’ve been in my shoes. And even if you have or you are right now, everyone processes these things differently. There’s no right or wrong way, and there’s no instruction manual.

It’s not like me to feel sad for so long. I keep expecting my usual upbeat nature to assert itself. Maybe that will happen if my PSA goes back down next month. Maybe finishing my recording work, selling my gear, and going on a road trip in June will do it. Maybe I need to go back on the 5-HTP supplement for a while. But even if the sadness fades, the preoccupation won’t. That’s been a constant from the start.

I’m sorry this post has been so down. I’m just being honest about where I’m at. I find myself sighing deeply at the oddest times. Sitting down to tie my shoes. Making breakfast in the morning. There’s a heaviness to everything now.

I have a lot of work to do to get this CD project done in time, and that one little number knocked me off course for a week.  I just couldn’t get back there mentally. This week was better. I might not make my original deadline, but I shouldn’t miss it by much. It helps to have something to occupy my attention. It almost makes me forget for a little while. Almost.

Because no matter where I am or what I’m doing, cancer is there. It’s eating me up inside while we talk over coffee, or interact on Facebook, or breathe. So yes, it’s always on my mind. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

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Unfairness

I was talking with a couple of friends this past week who were upset about the turn my cancer has taken, and both of them said that they thought it wasn’t fair that I had cancer. Especially this deadly kind. I have to agree with them. It’s not fair at all. It’s not fair that I got sick at such a relatively young age, 60. It’s not fair that it’s so aggressive, and gives me so little time. It’s not fair that my octogenarian parents will probably outlive their son. And on and on.

But what are we really saying when we say that? Are we saying that no one should get sick or die? Are we saying everyone should just die peacefully of old age? Or are we saying that calamities like terminal illness should only happen to “bad” people? And who decides who the bad people are?

One of my friends actually implied that in our conversation. She said she thought people like me – a direct quote – should be exempt from cancer. People like me? I told her that before I had cancer, I wasn’t the guy she sees now. I wasn’t anyone especially “good.” I wanted people to think I was, but deep down, I wasn’t.

But even if I was the Pope, Ghandi and Oprah all rolled into one, I don’t think that exempts me from getting cancer. Or from what might be considered a premature demise. I almost said dying young, but no one would mistake me for young.

I’ve said before in this blog that I’ve never asked the question, “Why me?” Because if you do, you also have to ask, “Why not me?” What makes me so special that I can expect to avoid something like this? Not a thing.

I know many feel this sense of the unfairness of it all, not necessarily about me, but themselves or someone they love. Something terrible has happened, or did happen, or is happening to them or a loved one. The cancer community is replete with such people. But it isn’t just about cancer. We all have terrible things happen to people we love, or to us, or both. Many times all at once. I have friends for which this is true right now.

I recently read When Bad Things Happen To Good People by Harold Kushner. It’s a very well known book that I had never read until a couple of months ago. It’s pretty much the definitive statement on this subject. If you struggle with this question of why life isn’t fair, I highly recommend it. I won’t try to answer that question in this post. I’ll only agree that there’s nothing fair about any of this, but that includes the bad and the good. And for me, there’s been so much good, it’s really unfair.

Let’s start with the fact that I’m now in my 21st month without pain since my diagnosis. This is an incredible blessing that many of my brothers don’t have. Especially those who are Stage 4 like me. I know that pain is coming, but the fact that I’ve had this much time without it when so many others suffer is really unfair.

My wife and I have had a tremendous amount of financial help, most of which I never talk about in this blog. I have friends with mountains of medical bills and no way to pay them. They get no help at all, while we don’t have to worry about that. It’s so unfair.

I have a loving, supportive wife and family. Many of my prostate cancer brothers have no one. No wife or significant other, and no family. Or their families are estranged, or marked by toxic relationships. In many cases, their spouse left them when they got cancer. So they face this disease alone. It’s just not fair.

I have an incredible group of friends who support me and love on me constantly. It’s in my nature to make friends easily, so I understand that I play a major role in the quality of my friendships. We all do. Good people attract good people. But why should someone suffer alone just because they don’t make friends easily? It’s not fair that it’s so easy for me and so hard for them. They need love, companionship and support as much as I do.

I have a newfound purpose. I’m doing it right now. And I have other new passions that God has given me to replace my old ones. Many of my brothers mourn the loss of the man they used to be, and struggle to find a new purpose. I don’t know why this gift was given to me and not to them, but it doesn’t seem very fair to me.

I could go on, but it’s starting to sound like bragging. In spite of last week’s bad news, it seems like every time I turn around, another incalculable blessing falls into my lap. One of my biggest struggles is feeling like I don’t deserve all of this blessing, and all of this love.

Fairness is a human construct. Nature knows nothing of fairness. A herd of gazelle, if it could think, would probably think it’s unfair that the weakest and most vulnerable among them are the ones most likely to be eaten by a lion.

Like it or not, cancer is part of nature. It’s just cells doing what cells do; trying to reproduce. In a way, cancer is very fair. It doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care if you’re good or bad. To cancer we’re all just food. It’s horrible, but it is fair.

Jesus didn’t promote the idea of fairness. Consider the reaction of the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32, blog) This young miscreant wastes his whole inheritance, then when he runs out of money, runs home with his tail between his legs, and Dad throws him a huge party. What’s fair about that? But that’s the Gospel. There’s also the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. (Matthew 20:1-16, blog) The guys who show up with an hour left in the workday get paid the same as the guys who worked all day. Is that fair?

God isn’t that interested in fairness. What God loves are justice and mercy. And us. More than anything, he loves us. God’s love is not about fairness, it’s about grace. It’s about giving us what we don’t deserve. It’s totally unfair, in the best possible way.

We all experience things in life that seem unfair. Maybe it’s a terminal illness for you or someone you love. Maybe it’s a chronic condition that you’re forced to live with for many years, like my dad has. Maybe it’s a terrible family situation, like one of the friends I had this conversation with. Maybe it’s one of a million other things. But if you look hard – or maybe you don’t have to look that hard – you will see that the blessings in your life outnumber the bad things. Maybe you know someone who, when their life is compared to yours, you have it so good it seems unfair. I hope you can see the reality of that for you, the way I have in my life.

So I have to agree, this whole business is as unfair as unfair can be. Both in horrible ways and wonderful ways. But for me, the wonderful has far outweighed the terrible. That seems more than fair to me. #waroncancer #bearingwitness

One More Month In The Waiting Room

I was apprehensive before my appointment with my oncologist today. My PSA number has risen a bit, from .06 to .35, and I wanted to know what he thought it meant, of course. It turned out that my guesses yesterday were correct. He wants to wait and see.

He called today’s PSA score “one data point.” He needs another to recommend a course of action. But at the same time, he knows it’s up to me. If I didn’t want to wait, we’d go ahead with more scans now. But I can wait.

As usual, I “checked in” on Facebook when I sat down in the waiting room. As usual, the amount of support I received made me feel very loved. And as usual, the staff at Cypress Hematology and Oncology here in Denver, Colorado got me in without much of a wait.

Someone recently asked on Facebook what the best cancer care place in the Denver area is, and while I couldn’t answer which is considered “the best,” I answered that there’s no place else I’d rather go, and no other people I’d rather have treat me than these people. That feeling was reinforced in a big way with this visit.

Much as I thought, my doctor wants to see if my PSA will go back down of its own accord. I still have my prostate gland, and it’s still producing PSA. So it’s possible that’s all it is. But neither he nor I feel that’s likely. He thinks the number will probably go up again by this time next month. I do too.

He was very frustrated that I didn’t get more time from Xtandi. But we’re trying not to make that assumption yet. We’ll just sit in the waiting room for another month to know for sure. I’ll keep taking my pills every day in the meantime.

I told him about my sore shoulder. He poked at it, and asked what hurt. He asked when the pain started, and other questions. From my answers, he surmised that it’s probably an injury or some rotator cuff issue that happened when I began working out – at their behest, by the way – a couple of months ago. I know that’s when I noticed the pain for sure, when I started working out. Shoulder presses in particular hurt, and I was only lifting the bar with no weights. He gave me some simple steps to follow to try to rehab the shoulder as best I can for the next month.

At the same time, he assured me that he realizes that because of the history I have with this shoulder, and how my original diagnosis was thought to have found cancer there, that we need to pay attention to that possibility. So if, when I go back in June, my shoulder is no better, and my PSA rises further, he will order scans to see what can be found, both in my left shoulder area and everywhere.

He knows my priorities and criteria when it comes to treatment. He knows that there aren’t many more conventional treatments that I will agree to, if any. So this is a significant milestone. If my next number is higher, as both of us expect it will be, we will be making some very difficult choices.

Before he ran off to his next patient – these doctors and medical staffs are stretched far too thin – I asked him to sit for a minute so I could tell him how much I appreciate him and his staff. It was another one of those “sit still while I tell you how much I love you” moments, which seem to happen for me fairly regularly. I didn’t use the L word with him, but I made sure he realized how blessed I feel to have such people caring for me.

Then, my favorite nurse, the famous Melanie came in. I had two shots to get today. We went back to the four month version of the Lupron shot, thank goodness. So hopefully my appetite won’t go haywire this time. But my hip is sore, and it will be for about a day until the medicine spreads throughout my system. I also got my monthly Xgeva shot for my bones. That one’s easy. Just a shot in the arm. But I didn’t feel either one, since Melanie is the best shot giver in the observable universe.

After the shots, I also wanted to have a serious conversation with Melanie. Both she and the doctor had attempted to minimize the size of my PSA increase, until I reminded them that in terms of the rate of increase, it’s a lot. A factor of almost six. They both sadly acknowledged that was true. Their job is to try to encourage me, but they were both honest with me when I pressed them. That’s just one reason I love my team so much.

Melanie is a chemo nurse. My oncologist knows that I have no intention of doing chemo. I could write a whole blog post as to why that is, and maybe I should. But the bottom line is, I don’t believe it will give me much more time. I think it will only make the time I have left miserable. It will definitely not cure me.

I’ve grown attached to Melanie over the past several months, and I wanted her input on the subject. I knew that it would come up soon anyway. I specifically asked if she’d treated guys in my specific condition. She admitted that they don’t get a lot of prostate cancer patients there. Most guys with prostate cancer see a urologist. I think that’s a mistake, but that’s for another post too. I wanted to know if she had treated any Stage 4, Gleason 9 prostate cancer patients with chemo, and if so, what were their results? She said she’ll do some research and tell me the next time I see her.

But I’ll tell you one thing. Nobody is saying that chemo will kill my cancer, or even give me more than a few months.

I was a little afraid that Melanie would pressure me to do chemo, but she didn’t. She totally understands, and shares my views on the subject. She sees it every day, up close.

I find myself marveling at these people who care for cancer patients for a living. They develop attachments to their patients, and then, in many cases, lose them. They treat terminally ill people every day, and keep a smile on their face and a kind word on their lips. I don’t know how they do it.

I won’t reveal the rest of my conversation with Melanie. It was between her and me. But I’ll tell you this. It made me very happy to realize that Melanie will be my nurse for the rest of my life. She will be there, right till the very end. It’s a gift she has, to be a caregiver to the dying. I’m welling up right now with gratitude that God brought her into my life. And all because I was scared of a shot and demanded their best shot giver! That was about a year ago now. Today, she’s one of the most precious people in my world.

So I’m in the waiting room for another month. But it will go fast. I have lots to do between now and then, including wrap up my last recording project and take a road trip to Arizona for a dear friend and cancer brother’s benefit.

Both my doctor and my nurse hated my results and their implication. I know you do too, especially when things seemed so hopeful not so long ago. But I always knew this day was coming. The day when the combination of Lupron and Xtandi would no longer control my cancer. The day when I would look at the remaining conventional treatments available to me and say, “No thanks” to all of them. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

There is still the cannabis oil treatment I’ve been on. I’d like to move back to a full dose, rather than the “maintenance” level I’m taking now, just to see if it will help. But I’m not willing to jump through a lot of hoops to try to stay alive. No major changes to an already healthy diet. No magic supplements. No cleanses. No essential oils. No alkaline water. I just don’t believe in that stuff. I’m sorry. I’ll talk about all of this much more in future posts, as I already have in past ones.

I feel that my job is to trust God, and bear witness. That’s another blog post right there, and maybe the title of my book. Bearing Witness. Fighting for a few more months is not my style. Telling my story is. I have a lot more to say. I just have one more month in the waiting room before I can say all of it. #waroncancer