Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Once Upon a Prostate

Approximately eleven years ago, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Unnerving to be sure, but given that Dad is a "cup is half full" kind of guy, he approached the situation with his usual happy go lucky optimism. My mother, on the other hand, while not exactly a "cup is half empty" sort (more of a "cup is half full, but lets keep an eye open for cracks and chips just in case" gal), refused to accept this upheaval with my father's typical blasé attitude. She was the one responsible for researching the complexities of the disease and the different options; she was the one who researched various treatment centers.

In my dad's case, we were lucky in that the cancer was caught early, making it possible for him to undergo a course of treatment that was, relatively speaking, not too invasive. As I recall, his treatment, known as "brachytherapy", included a combination of mild course of radiation and the placement of radioactive seeds directly on the tumor, which had already been shrunken by the radiation. All treatment was managed by a very capable medical team at Sloan-Kettering in New York City, and lasted for approximately six weeks, during which time, my father stayed alternatively with friends in the City or family on Long Island, often accompanied by my mother.

Despite their reasons for being there, they enjoyed their extended stay in NYC, taking advantage of the situation by going to the theater, hitting the museums, and making the rounds of the restaurants. They spent time with friends and family, and generally made the very best of these somewhat unfortunate circumstances.

The success rates for prostate cancer are quite high, and Dad's prognosis was excellent. Indeed, he has been cancer-free ever since (tfu tfu tfu). Being far away, I was, of course, concerned, but given what I knew of this particular type of cancer, I wasn't overly worried. And, not to belittle the seriousness of the disease, but if you can imagine that my father and I have a similar sense of humor (as some of you can verify), you can also imagine that we managed to have fun with his illness. At gatherings of family or friends, he would say something to the effect that, "isn't it wonderful that my cancer is bringing us all together like this". When people gave him books to read during treatment, he would often ask, "if I survive, do I have to return the book?" As a result of such outbursts, I used to say that if the cancer didn't kill him, Mom would.

In the years since my father was sick, many of his friends have battled and beat prostate cancer. Colin Powell has beaten the disease as well (not to mention a host of other celebrities). While cancer is cancer, having witnessed both my father's battle with prostate cancer and my mother-in-law's battle with colon cancer (a battle she lost painfully just under ten years ago), when caught early, I'd have to say that prostate cancer doesn't make my heart skip a beat as some of the more lethal forms do.

Which is probably why I didn't go beyond the eyebrow-raising stage yesterday upon hearing that Prime Minister Olmert has been diagnosed with the Big C. Unlike former Prime Minister (and currently comatose) Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert is in good physical condition. He exercises and goes for regular medical check-ups, and his prostate cancer was caught early. Chances are excellent that he will be fine, though his choice of treatment – surgery – may result in both incontinence and impotence (of course, there are those of us who already believe he is rather impotent, albeit from a political standpoint...), neither of which must be terribly welcome prospects.

Though having cancer certainly isn't a lot of fun (my father's bout not withstanding...), prostate cancer is usually (though unfortunately not always) far less lethal than many other cancer types. And, while I can certainly understand how a sick Prime Minister is a hot news item, especially following the drama of the Sharon affair, I shudder to think that for the next few months, the media will be force-feeding us sound bytes related to the prime ministerial prostate. It's one thing to know that the man is sick, but quite frankly, viewing diagrams of a diseased prostate during dinner and hearing intimate details about the upcoming surgical procedure is just a tad more information than I need to know...

Amazing how far the guy will go for the sympathy vote, though, innit?


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Well, he got a few (brownie) points out of it, so it worked ;-)

RR said...

"(of course, there are those of us who already believe he is rather impotent, albeit from a political standpoint..."


Like your dad, mine also caught his prostate cancer early and it seems to be gone for good. Seems that when it's caught early, it's one of the "better" cancers to have (I know that sounds awful!)