“It is the mark of good action that appear inevitable in retrospect.” Robert Louis Stevenson‘Aggh! I’m not going to the doctor. What the hell do I want to see him for? I’m fine.’ That’s a paraphrase, and refrain, I remember my Dad using pretty much all his life. When I was living in Spain, he and my Mother flew over for a visit and he looked grey. I attributed it to the flight. Later, he told me, in typical matter-of-fact fashion, that when he got back to Canada he was having his prostate removed. And I, in typical matter-of-fact fashion replied, ‘Oh, well – if it has to come out, then it has to come out.’ End of ‘discussion.’ Typical. Not something to be talked about.
Once back in Canada he called telling me that they didn’t remove ‘it’ and that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. My father continued to tell me that the best line of treatment was radiation, chemotherapy, and other drugs. Awe Shit, was my thought.
It was an aggressive cancer. Later, when he’d asked his doctor how long he had, the doctor told him that, ‘In five years he wouldn’t likely be here.’ He lived for seven more years. He died from the prostate cancer at the age of 63. He never drank, never smoked, and was physically active.
At one point he blamed his doctor for not telling him to get a prostate exam, or at least a PSA test. But knowing my Dad, nobody was going to stick anything up his ass, a blood test? Maybe. But the point is, we need to take responsibility for our health – full stop. You have to ask for tests. Prostate cancer death is preventable only if it is caught early, it can only be caught early if practitioners are looking for it, and they can’t detect it if you don’t go for at least a PSA test. There is a 90% cure rate if caught early.
My Dad only went to his GP when ‘something was wrong.’ At 56 it was terminal. He went to the doctor too late. Had he gone once a year from the age of 50, had at least a PSA test, the chances are very good that he would still be around; still chopping wood; still getting good deals; still playing with his grandchildren; still hunting ducks and doing all the things he loved to do.
In retrospect, it seems like small change to have an annual digital exam once a year in exchange for an extra 20+ years of life. Of course that thought played over in his mind at night, during the day, and when watching his grandchildren – ‘if only I had of…’
Every month is cancer awareness month and it is up to the men to take responsibility for those around you. Don’t end up thinking – ‘If only I had of …’ scenarios. If you think getting a prostate exam is uncomfortable, it’s a joy next to the process of not getting it done.