Thursday, November 08, 2018

This is your PSA (public service announcement) about your PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test.

Four years ago, during the summer of 2014, I was forced to ponder the possibility of life without Tom when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. (I blogged about it previously here and here and here.)
Prostate cancer awareness
Long story short, our Independence Day celebration in 2014 was cut short when Tom ended up at the ER with what we thought was a bladder infection. Pain meds and antibiotics didn’t touch it, so within a few days we were at a urologist’s office, where a PSA blood test revealed an abnormally high score of 49. Knowing that a score higher than 4 can signify prostate cancer, I began to panic – and research. (Tom did neither of those things which, in retrospect, was wise. Dr. Google can be terrifying!)
Three weeks after his PSA test, Tom underwent a biopsy, which revealed stage one prostate cancer. Stage ONE! Not stage four, as I had feared and researched myself into believing. I cried happy tears when the urologist told us the news – which absolutely baffled Tom who, having no idea what I had encountered in my researched, questioned why I seemed relieved. It was only then that I revealed my fears to him. So he had to get used to the idea of having cancer at all, and I could breathe a sigh of relief that he’d be around for a while, after all!
The urologist suggested removing the prostate surgically. But we decided to take some time to breathe and to get a second opinion at the University of Washington/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, one of the top cancer centers in the country. Since the biopsy had shown that Tom’s cancer was stage one and slow-growing, he opted to take part in an “active surveillance” study through the university. Participants in this study have a PSA test once every three months and a biopsy once every 18 months to two years. Many men stay in the study for years, with little to no change in their cancer. Unfortunately, Tom won’t be among that group, as his cancer is now early stage two – still not a panic situation but, according to his current doctor, time to “look into options.” We are still confident that the cancer is well contained within the prostate, but we know that this is NOT a cancer you want to deal with once it has “escaped the capsule,” as they say. In those cases, it can be a killer.
So we are currently looking into treatment options. None of them are great, and all of them come with some degree of risk of both incontinence and impotence – though an excellent surgeon (which we have) can often spare nerves so both can be restored. (We’re too young for this!)
We feel confident that we caught this cancer early – thanks to a terrible infection four years ago. But we are still amazed that prostate cancer, the second biggest killer of men, doesn’t have the spotlight that breast cancer has for women. Men, it seems, are not routinely encouraged to have PSA tests the way women are encouraged to have regular mammograms.
Granted, the PSA is not a perfect predictor of prostate cancer, as it’s prone to false positives, but it is something!  I have begged our sons (29 and 31) to get baseline PSA tests (even asked for it for Christmas this year!) because both their grandfathers and their father had/have prostate cancer. But in my opinion, EVERY man should include a prostate screening in their regular check-ups, beginning sometime around 35-45. This means a DRE (digital rectal exam) and a PSA (blood test). I asked our PCP why this isn’t done on a routine basis and he said that most practitioners will do both tests when requested (and seriously, would the average man ask for a DRE?!), but that it just isn’t the “gold standard” at this point.
Tom and I began to mention this to our family and friends and were amazed at the number of men in their 50s, 60s and older who have never had a PSA test!
So this is our PSA regarding your PSA:
MEN: PLEASE, please, please… GET ONE!
PARTNERS: PLEASE, please, please… make sure he GETS ONE!
Rant over. Smile

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Saturday, November 03, 2018

NaBloWriMo–a Mo late

I came home from this weekend’s Write in the Harbor conference determined to start writing again.
I don’t mean Facebook post writing; I mean sweat-it-out-straight-from-the-heart-blood-sweat-and-tears-head-down writing, like I used to do here.
What better time to re-dedicate myself to writing, I thought as I left the conference, than right at the beginning of November - National Blog Writing Month. It’s perfect! How inspiring!
Then I got home and looked up NaBloWriMo and came to realize that things have changed since the last time I undertook this endeavor. It turns out that November is now NaNOWriMo – National Novel Writing Month! I missed NaBLOWriMo by, well, a month. It was in October.
I can handle some self-imposed pressure to blog every day, but the pressure to write a novel is exactly what’s paralyzing me – and it’s what brought me to the conference to begin with.
I promised my father before he died that I would tell his story. He wrote for his children and grandchildren but didn’t want his story “out there” while he was still alive. After he was gone, I came across numerous files and documents with “directions” for me, things like “Carol: you’ll want to use this for the book.”
No pressure. Right, Dad?
No one who knows me would call me a procrastinator. In fact, I’m normally quite the opposite. There’s often a fire under my butt, but moss doesn’t stand a chance with me. If I can think it, I can do it – and there’s usually very little time between the two.
Except with this book. I simply can’t seem to get started.
I don’t know if it’s Dad’s voice, telling me just how he’d like the book written or if it’s my own voice, insisting that I could never meet his expectations. But the voice is persistent, and insistent, and I am obedient – and paralyzed.
One of the sessions at the writing conference today was titled “Overcoming Obstacles.” We were asked to complete two sentences regarding our writing. The first was “If I fail…” The second was “If I succeed…” My answers show just how paralyzed I feel:
“If I fail… my father will be disappointed – from the grave!”
“If I succeed… everyone will know my father’s story – and what if he didn’t actually want that?!”
The instructor pointed out that I saw even success as failure. No wonder I’m paralyzed!
Later in the class, the instructor asked us to imagine the most terrible thing that might happen if we were unsuccessful in our writing goal – and not to be afraid to “get dramatic.” My answer to this question was even more distressing. I wrote, “If I finish the book and it’s terrible or if it’s never even published, those who thought I couldn’t tell Dad’s story would be proven correct. I would die without doing the one thing I promised Dad I would do. ‘Never forget’ would be true because first-hand memories of the Holocaust would be a thing of the past – and I’d be partially responsible.”
Then I got really dramatic (per the instructor’s direction) and wrote, “’Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.’ Now we all have to repeat the Holocaust… and it’s all my fault!”
At that point, I had to go back to my notes from the session of the workshop called “Creating Your Writing Persona.” In that session, the instructor quoted Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible: “Don’t try to figure out what the other people want you to say; figure out what you have to say. It’s the only thing you have to offer.” 
And that is exactly what I’m going to have to do.
But first, I need to get back into the practice of daily writing, so Facebook notifications will be turned off for a month while I remind myself to do what I love (and remember how to do it).

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Friday, November 02, 2018


Our new son-in-law, Danny, is a fanatical devoted gold prospector.


Would you believe that he pulled the gold for these wedding rings out of the ground?


Danny owns a few mining claims in California and has asked us for years to join him and Elisabeth for a few days of prospecting – which we were finally able to do a few weeks ago.

It took us about 14 hours to get to Quincy, CA., where we’d be staying.


Fortunately, the long trip offered some amazing views, especially of Mt. Shasta!



Quincy is a quiet, charming town in the California foothills.




While Danny and Elisabeth always camp on the claim, Tom and I decided that we’re just too old to camp in freezing night temperatures. For the first time since we sold our trailer in March (when we knew we’d be moving), I missed not having our beloved home on wheels.

A motel, we decided, would have to suffice, so we booked a week at the Ranchito Motel which was, well… rustic. It actually had a charm all its own (says the glass-half-full optimist in me), with a cute little meandering stream.


The rooms needed some TLC, but management is apparently “working on it” - and it was kind of nice to have a kitchenette for the week.


When we got to Danny’s claim the next morning, Kat and Ian were there to greet us! (Unfortunately, they’d only be able to stay for two days.) The makings of a great week – our two daughters with their SOs and pooches – had come together to do some California gold mining!



Most of us quickly got to work.






Some of us left the gold mining to others…


I did have a go at mining with the “bazooka,” a cool gizmo that captures little bits of gold.


Just look at this booty (not one grain of which I prospected)!



I was distracted by things like this cute guy.


And this gorgeous white heron!



Quinn at first wanted to chase the poor guy, but quickly seemed to understand that we’d quietly observe and appreciate; no chasing allowed.


Good girl!


After six days of gold mining from sun-up to sun down (Danny and Tom, and sometimes Elisabeth) and relaxing (me, and sometimes Elisabeth), Tom and I headed home, stopping at beautiful Burney Falls on the way. Who knew something this gorgeous is just off the highway?!


We weren’t looking forward to another fourteen hours in the car, but views like this made it worth it.


Stopping in Ashland, Oregon was bittersweet. My parents moved there in 1981, so it was like a second home for me and where we spent many holidays with extended family. But now, since both my mother and father have died, and since Lou (who my father married in 2009) has moved away, there’s no one left for us in Ashland. Sad smile

Still, we enjoyed Lithia Park with its fall leaves, and we stopped for dinner, “creekside.”


(I like this picture of Dad and Lou better!)



When we got home at 2 AM, Quinn settled in to sleep, and barely budged for the next three days!


It was a golden trip, and something tells me it won’t be our only gold prospecting trip to the Golden State in the years to come.

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