In ten days we’ll know if our future will include cancer or if we just dodged the biggest bullet EVER.
Sorry, that’s the shortest post title I can come up with because, since July 4th nothing has been normal, and racing, scary thoughts have been part of that.
My plan was to not say anything on social media until we knew one way or another, but it will be a full month between the first ER visit and the appointment at which we will get biopsy results and I just. can’t. stand. to. keep. it. all. in. any. longer.
I’ll start at the beginning.
On July 4th, six week after we returned from our amazing family trip to Europe, Tom was working on the water feature in the backyard, which had become a work of art as he lay small black pebbles carefully in the grout of the flagstone, creating a beautiful meandering line around the steps and the patio. When he was close to done grouting for the day, he suddenly noticed that he just plain wasn’t feeling well. He mentioned it to me as he sat on the couch, but he was determined to continue with our plans to watch fireworks from Elisabeth and Danny’s place in Seattle. They have an amazing view of the Olympic Mountains, the Space Needle, and the entire Puget Sound, and we weren’t about to miss it. Peeing, Tom said, was painful, and he felt like he was coming down with the flu.
As fireworks lit the Seattle sky, I noticed that Tom was just not himself. I don’t think anyone else noticed it, but to me it was obvious. When he didn’t fight my suggestion that we head home and stop at Urgent Care on the way, I knew something was wrong. Tom had had a bladder infection in 2005 and he had waited too long to get care, so by the time we got him to the doctor that time, his kidneys had been affected. Once he was on antibiotics, though, things cleared up quickly and within a day or two he was back to normal. We assumed that he again had a bladder infection and all he needed was antibiotics.
The doctor prescribed antibiotics and pyridium, but 36 hours later Tom only felt worse. This time I took him to the ER where they took another urine sample (which showed nothing) and prescribed him another, stronger antibiotic. They also suggested that he see a urologist. We found a urologist and made an appointment for ten days from the second ER visit. Elisabeth, our nurse daughter, implored us to find a urologist who could see him sooner – especially because he was still in pain. Fortunately we were able to get an appointment just two days later, on July 9th.
At the urologist appointment, Tom again peed in a cup and again, no infection was found. The doctor told Tom that he suspected possible prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate, or possibly BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia), both non-cancerous conditions. He was baffled, though, as to why the antibiotics didn’t seem to be clearing things up.
I stepped out while the doctor examined Tom and when I came back in, the doctor immediately told us that he felt a “nodule” on Tom’s prostate. This was of particular concern, especially because Tom’s father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in his early seventies. (My father also had it in his seventies. Our boys need to be extremely vigilant!) The doctor mentioned that he didn’t feel that the nodule was related to the symptoms that brought Tom in, but that he definitely wanted to do a biopsy.
First, though, whatever was causing Tom such discomfort MUST be cleared up, as doing a biopsy on a possibly infected prostate is dangerous. (His urine apparently showed no infection, but that didn’t mean that his prostate wasn’t infected… at least that was my understanding.) The doctor sent Tom for a CT scan to check for a possible kidney stone, but no evidence of any kidney stone was found. He also prescribed a stronger pain killer – which, like the pyridium, had no effect!
After that appointment Tom slowly, slowly began to feel better. The flu-like symptoms had disappeared and he was able to pee again. Hallelujah!
By the time we visited the urologist again a week later, on July 16th, Tom felt almost back to normal. The doctor examined him again and, of course, still felt the nodule. Then he ordered a PSA test.
This was Tom’s seventh PSA test. He’d had them regularly since 1996 and his score was always well within normal limits (under 4 ng/ml). His latest PSA, in late November, 2012, was 2.2. Nice and low. Completely normal.
On July 16th, Tom’s PSA was 49. Forty-nine. A nodule and a PSA of 49. This is scary stuff.
Elisabeth and I immediately hit the internet – which was about the stupidest thing we could have done. Education is a good thing, but freaking one’s self out really isn’t. Tom, who was, I think, just trying to digest everything before hitting the internet, was faring far better than I was. He was upbeat, optimistic, and… breathing. I was panicking – and in that panic I called his doctor to beg for a biopsy sooner than the scheduled date of July 29th. The doctor immediately told me that he had seen a very high PSA like this, especially after raging prostatitis, that did not turn out to be cancer. He also told me that he will not do the biopsy any sooner because operating on a prostate that has ANY chance of infection can cause sepsis, a “far more serious immediate risk than your husband is dealing with now.”
So we wait. Tom has been on a third antibiotic for the past ten days and his biopsy is still scheduled for July 29th, with our “find out results” appointment scheduled for August 5th – a full month after our first trip to the ER.
Our emotions are everywhere, from very hopeful (because all stats come from somewhere; that is, there are always people who beat any odds) to more realistic, knowing that a PSA of 49 usually signifies cancer, and that a change from 2.2 to 49 in 18 short months can signify a very aggressive cancer.
We believe in positive energy and positive thoughts, so if you could send any our way as we wait, we sure would appreciate it. Hopefully, hopefully, there will be only one more post here about cancer, and it will be to say that Tom doesn’t have it.
Let’s focus on that possibility for now…