Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I'm sick of worrying about my demise

I started out the day thinking I was going to die of Liver Cancer.

Last Friday, during a CT of my broken ribs, we accidentally found a cyst on my liver. Most of our medical establishment is set up to scare the shit out of you if you have anything abnormal show up on any test. All weekend long, I figured that I was a goner; sure to be dead within six months to two years. For three endless days, I ran through various scenarios in my head. Would I get chemo? Radiation therapy? Surgery? (The answer: no to chemo; no to radiation; yes to surgery). Would Joni have enough money should I die? While at the same time, I selfishly made plans in my head to quit my job, gather all the money I could find, buy an old VW van and head out on the road with Joni, a tent, sleeping bags and whatever dogs would fit into the van. I'd spend my remaining days touring beaches, taking opiates and smoking cannabis (I don't smoke marijuana but a terminal illness seems like a good enough reason to start). I'd  read books, try to scratch off some items off my bucket list and watch the waves roll in from lots of lovely beaches.

I had to wait until today, Monday, for the tests to be read by a Radiologist. Turns out there was hardly any need for concern:  I  have a 7 millimeter wide, fluid filled cyst on my liver. This is more than likely a congenital condition--although it also can be triggered by a parasite. I've probably had this cyst for fifty years. Although these cysts can become cancerous, this one is most assuredly not cancer.


A day of celebration! Dinner out. Garden supplies bought. Thoughts and plans of my demise put aside. Looks like I can plan that Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hike I'd like to do in 2021. The first year of my retirement.

Until I got home.

In the mail box I received the results of yet another test. I've been under treatment for a hormonal condition that needs periodic testing of my Prostate. We Fifty Something males are encouraged to get our Prostate checked for cancer by getting what is called a PSA test. This blood test measures the level of a substance in your blood that is associated with Prostate Cancer. It turns out mine is elevated to a level that causes some concern.

But you know what? I'm sick of worrying about my demise. It really caused some undue stress over the weekend.  There are two types of Prostate Cancer: one that will kill you fast and another that takes forty years to kill you. PSA tests are pretty unreliable and are only a barometer to measure your Prostate's health. Mine appears to be a little ill.

But just like the Liver Cancer scare, where I wasn't symptomatic, the same goes for this scare: I have no symptoms. So I will meet with my doctor and weigh out the options. More than likely we will just repeat the blood test in a few months and I'll submit to that "bend over" procedure that every male on the planet hates. The last time I  had one of those, the doctor thought he felt something, so I  had a scope done with not a lesion to be seen anyplace. It is best not to over react to these sorts of things. Like I said: the medical establishment is set up to scare the shit out of you should you have anything abnormal show up.

In the meantime, it would be a good idea to get a bit healthier. Eat right. Exercise (as soon as these broken ribs heal). Reduce stress. Relax more. Walk more. Hike more. Lose this fat. Enjoy every day. And follow through with medical care. This aging business sucks. Or, as a brave friend of mine who died of Liver Cancer last year told me a few months before he died: "You know, there is a whole lot of paperwork involved in dying." I'll start that paperwork after I receive the diagnosis; no need to start that before I'm told the horrific news.


  1. Sounds like you're on the right mental track regarding these issues. Hope they resolve OK.

    And the PSA test has a lot of shortcomings, if you believe this National Cancer Institute summary: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Detection/PSA

    especially point #5.

    (I'm not a big fan of 'national institutes' concerning health issues, but if they themselves are crying inadequacy, you know something is wrong.)

  2. You got that right Bill. I've been reading quite a bit about the shortcomings of the PSA and especially the "overtreatment" aspect of it. This is all a bit personal and I wondered whether I should write about it. Then I thought: "Why the hell not?" I think it is important to show a bit of class and tact regarding such issues, but putting it out there is healthy and natural (from my point of view). Nature is red of tooth and claw and not all that happy all the time. So is life.

  3. Whew, at least you won't die until after our camping trip. That is unless the bears get you. :-)

  4. I look forward to 11 days of camping with you, Scot. I need some tree therapy.