A Scary Moment

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Yes, under the radiation moon, I will almost complete my treatments. They will end on August 6th and the new moon is August 1st. By then I’ll have an idea of what, if any, side effects radiation will bring. The new moon I’m going to call the Lupron moon because I should be well into the period when ADT might start causing side effects.

I had a brief scary moment while I did my workout this morning. Over the last couple of weeks two dementia related cautions have appeared in the press. The first, about anticholinergic drugs said users of these drugs faced a 5% increased risk of dementia. I’ve been on tizanidine for three years. It’s a muscle relaxant I used because my left shoulder had become painful. I stopped taking it.

The second caution was about ADT, androgen deprivation therapy. That’s the Lupron. I’ve focused, as I’m sure most do, on the side effects that can come with the drug right away: bone softening, mood changes, hot flashes among others. It’s a little confusing about the dementia/Alzheimer risk, but it seems 12 months of ADT can increase the risk of dementia by as much as 20%. That’s a lot.

The scary moment was: my god, what if I cure my prostate cancer and get Alzheimer’s? The good news, your cancer is gone. The bad news, you can’t remember you had it in the first place. My mood sank.

My mind went, unbidden, to a despairing thought. Is this all worth it? What if I do get a cure, but the treatment gives me dementia? Screw it. I’ll just give up. This is too much. Cancer and this risk? Too fucking much.

It was the sort of thing I’d usually suppress. Nope. Not gonna consider that. Enough already. Get back to the workout, let the exercise drive it away.

No. What? No, I said.

Oh, ok. What, then? Let’s look at it. Yes, dementia/Alzheimer’s scares me. But. The risk is an increase in the percentage likelihood of my becoming demented. No dementia or Alzheimer’s on either side of my family in my first level relationships. I exercise, which protects me to some degree. I challenge my intellect, learning new disciplines, painting, writing. Studying Latin, Judaism. If my risk is low, as I believe it is, then a 20% increase is probably negligible. Let’s say I have a risk level of 25%. A 20% increase in that would take me up to 30% overall. 2/3 of US Alzheimer sufferers are women, too.

Now the cancer risk. ADT increases my chances for a cure in the 5 to 10% range. Radiation puts me at 65 to 70% chance of a cure. With the two together my odds become 70% to 80%. And, I have the cancer. Right now. Conclusion for me? Follow the treatment. Take the risk.

Result? I don’t have a suppressed fear. I looked at it, recognizing anxiety that seems natural to me. That anxiety prompted me to look more deeply. I’m making an informed choice to stay with the treatment.

A soup├žon of doubt

Summer and the Radiation Moon

This t on the last day of the week, radiation hazard t on Mondays

Cancer treatment has given my life a new structure for at least seven weeks. I workout in the mornings earlier than I have been, head to Lone Tree for a visit with the Cancer Predator and its priestesses: Patty, Nicky, and Kim, and return, tired, but knowing that I’ve accomplished something important.

I may, often do, cook supper, too. That’s a full day for me. It’s noteworthy for what it doesn’t include. Painting. Writing or revising. Doing much else except some TV or a movie.

I do read, of course. Reading a number of books right now. Wolf Moon by Charles De Lint. He’s an original fantasy writer and this is his werewolf novel. I’m still reading werewolf novels, watching werewolf movies, and reading about transformations and wolves in the middle ages. I Like to Watch by Emily Nussbaum. A collection of her essays on the Golden Age of television. She pegs its beginning with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She had me at Buffy. The second novel of a duology about a Boston pathologist who intervenes in the millennia long history of werewolves from Arcadia. Lots of newspaper and magazine articles on the web. Essays on the Parsha Kate and I will present in September at the Bagel Table.

A once a week breakfast with buddy Alan Rubin from CBE. E-mail correspondence, a bit of Facebook. Feeding the dogs. Getting the mail. Ordering groceries. Yes. These, too. Trash. Those normal domestic activities. But the key focus is on radiation and taking care of myself/those I love.

a new fool’s journey has begun

Lupron therapy will extend past the radiation treatment, possibly for several months. It doesn’t have the same daily impact of a trip to Anova Cancer Care. There is though the waiting. Not for Godot, but for side effects. None yet. May that continue.

I will be under more surveillance, more regularly, again. PSA’s every three months for some time period. As long as I’m on Lupron, for sure, which could be as long as two years.

Another existential reality that I’ve not really come to grips with yet, too. My cancer returned only three and a half years after my first “cure.” As a result, my expectations for what cure means have been permanently altered.

Even if the ultimate result of all this radiating and testosterone suppressing is a long term drop in my PSA, there will always be at least a soup├žon of doubt. I don’t believe I’ll ever be as carefree about cancer as I was after my prostatectomy. I thought it was over. Nope.