"Don't give up when dark times come. The more storms you face in life,
The stronger you'll be. Hold on. Your greater is coming."
As human beings sooner or later life will throw its curve balls at us, as well as hurdles to the point where we exasperate ourselves trying to overcome them. These, unexpected set of circumstances tend to remind us to always expect the unexpected life. However, in my mind a Prostate Cancer, Post Specific Antigen (PSA) check is ten times worse, It hammers away at your mind daily, it claws at your energy and finally, it reduces your resistance to that of a fully deflated tyre only to be inflated by the good news of a negative PSA rise. Let me clarify what is meant by PSA and why it is so vitally important.
"The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by regular cells in the prostate and also by prostate cancer cells. It is normal for all men to have a small amount of PSA in their blood, and this amount rises as you get older. A raised PSA level may suggest you have a problem with your prostate, but not necessarily that you have cancer.”
The following figures are only a rough guide to ‘normal’ PSA levels, depending on your age, a ‘normal’ PSA level is less than:
• 3 ng/ml for men ages 50-59
• 4 ng/ml for men ages 60-69
• 5 ng/ml for men ages 70 and over"
During the first three years of my treatment, I was subjected to a PSA check on a monthly basis. Subsequently, this was changed to every eight weeks. However, lengthening the time process for checks did nothing to change the emotional trauma which built up within me.
For me, my inner emotions were ignited like a match to a slow-burning fuse and then diffused at the very last moment as I approached and came through each of my PSA checks. You see if my PSA had risen then alarm bells would start to sound and concerns on my side as well as my oncology team would go into overdrive because this clearly indicates all is not well. Obviously it is dependant on how much it rises but any rise is normally not good.
With no rise, my oncology medical team remain happy and revert to their inner shell until the next time. Not for me though, the concern and worry continue as the structure and consequence of repetitive thought begin to set their foundation within me. Getting stuck mentally over a never-ending revolving process of rising or falling will affect your health; you've heard the saying about having too many negative thoughts. It was and is always the case that my mind focuses routinely on the inevitable question of when will it will be my turn for my PSA to rise and cause significant worry again, this is by no means a small concern. I suppose the beauty in my case is that I am regularly checked now so a sharp rise and surge would not be something that would catch my oncology team off guard, unlike my first initial recorded PSA reading of 509 ng/ml which rose to 850 ng/ml before the prescribed medication was administered. It's incredible to know, though my PSA was high I have since learnt that there are PSA's recorded in the thousands when some men are first diagnosed. But one cannot wonder how significant these high readings are in comparison to the normal levels deemed safe. The mental anguish prevails routinely for us all as we near the PSA check. I have observed in Prostate Cancer facebook chat rooms how mentally hyped up many prostate cancer patients get when they near a routine PSA check. For some of them, the information of a pending PSA check is sprawled across many of their pages, as they let the public/closed group room know and the public/closed group room responds with favourable messages of support, which is all good. But when the news comes back unfavourably, the mental anguish is clearly apparent and the questions and advice commence even before the individuals have had a chance to sit with their own medical team to assess. For some of us though there exists a guilt trip concern within our mind that the news is favourable for us, but not for other sufferers. The inevitable question in my head is why them and not me. Obviously I'm not wishing it on myself but I am duly concerned about my fellow man. Why them and not me I suppose it just goes with the territory as I breathe a temporary sigh of relief, but it's only for a little while before the whole dramatic build-up commences all over again.
Let's be clear on something it's not just us that go through this emotional rollercoaster and mental re-arrangement, so do our families each and every time, they also feel the relief when we are relieved. Prostate cancer tears at the very heart of the family fabric and places undue pressure on this unity. What I would give for my family not to go through this emotional turmoil I face and for them to be able to return to an almost normal way of life. I suppose this is life's way of finding out who stands with you and beside you, after all, not everything is clear black and white, is it?
Sometimes I yearn for all what I am going through to go away. Sometimes I feel that it's all just a horrible dream and that I will wake up out of it and be the man I use to be. But sometimes we just have to accept the reality of the situation we are faced with, regardless of whether it's positive or negative and buckle our belts for the long or short ride ahead. God will not give you more than you can bear. Truly I have questioned this over and over during the last eight years, but my belief in this entity is the same belief that carried my mother through her cancer illness and what is carrying me through to the next part of my life's journey.....