Categorized | Sex & Health

A Prostate Problem

[dad]You would hate me if you knew me. I am sickeningly lucky in everything I have and do. My family is extremely close. My mother is my best friend, my father my protector, and my brother … well I don\’t know what he is, but he\’s hilarious, and he gave me an intelligent and caring sister-in-law. My grandmother put me through college and bought me the car of my choice (within reason). I\’ve lived in the same house my entire life and have friends that only appear in teen novels.
I always thought my life would be this way, and, while I realized that I was the picture in the dictionary next to the word \”lucky,\” I couldn\’t imagine anything else for me or my family. We would always have each other to lean on and, above all, laugh with. That\’s what we do. We laugh at everything and anything: my dad\’s ill-fated fix-it attempts, my mother\’s obsession with potty humor and just about anything my brother says.
So I was astounded when my brother stopped cracking jokes. After spending the afternoon playing Nintendo Wii, my father sat us down in my brother\’s kitchen and told us he had prostate cancer. I swear my eyes crossed involuntarily and in an instant a lump the size of a fist lodged itself in my throat. My brother, always the one to break the ice and offer some sarcastic wit, swayed on his feet and sat down. He didn\’t say anything until we left his house, and even then all he could muster was a weak goodbye. My sister-in-law was the only one with the sense to ask my father questions. But I wasn\’t hearing anything. My mind got stuck on the word \”cancer\” as if someone had planted a huge, glaring tombstone inside my brain that read CANCER. Cancer wasn\’t for my family – cancer was for stoic public figures and friend\’s grandparents. My perfect family didn\’t get cancer, we supported other people and sent flowers to those who were getting bad news. But here we were, standing around the island in my brother\’s perfect kitchen, playing with his perfect dog and talking about cancer. Sometimes I even have to say it once or twice in my head. Cancer.
[cancer]I refused to read anything about cancer for a few days, thinking, this is not happening. My dad does not have cancer. We don\’t get cancer. I told my friends, and I cried, and I talked to my brother almost every day for the following week. Shrouded in ignorance, the worst could happen. I had no idea what the prostate even did, let alone what the implications of cancer meant for my father. Looking back, I think I wallowed in my fear a little bit, but all along I knew it wasn\’t about me. My powerlessness was the most frustrating thing. Silent prayers ate at the space in my brain and overflowed into my mouth, but I couldn\’t do anything. Every time my mind wandered in class, my vision blurred to pictures of operating tables and my father, helpless and transparent in a white hospital room. They were always white.
It turns out my brother and I weren\’t the only ones who knew nothing about prostate cancer. Our generation pays more attention to breast and lung cancer, and even testicular cancer thanks to Lance Armstrong. To and from class everyday, I see the trademark pink rubber bracelets that denote an awareness to breast cancer. But what about the prostate? I found out that people don\’t know enough about the prostate to help.
Chris Boeve, a communications sophomore, got one thing right. He said that the prostate has something to do with producing semen. Right on, Boeve. The prostate does indeed produce semen as the urethra travels through its center, giving it a very masculine identity, \”the source of a man\’s manhood.\” Business junior Greg Smith had less of an idea. He guessed that it has something to do with male reproduction being as males have them. Though he may not have known exactly what the prostate does, he had a better idea of the severity and frequency of the cancer. \”I know it\’s pretty common, but I haven\’t heard of anyone dying from prostate cancer that I know of,\” he said.
Smith is on the right track. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one in six American males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, and more than 218,000 men will be diagnosed this year.
As common as it is, neither Smith or Boeve had ever heard of anyone who has had it, and neither knew how common prostate cancer was among men. Luckily, this diagnosis isn\’t a death sentence, as the cure rate for prostate cancer is over 90 percent, and is increased the sooner the doctors catch it.
If these two men are any example, it seems the student body, and maybe even the public in general, know little about prostate cancer. Well, I want you to know. Men, get screened as you age, and ecourage your fathers and grandfathers to get screened on a regular basis. Since doctors don\’t know much about prevention, we have to rely on early detection – and that is all up to you.
For those facing the same situation as my father, The Prostate Cancer Foundation lists some common treatments. Surprisingly, one of the methods is to continue to screen the cancer, but do nothing for treatment. The reason is that some men, who don\’t get regularly checked, actually have the cancer but will live a normal life (as the symptoms are usually mild or unnoticeable) and eventually die of other causes. Prostate cancer is not considered a typically aggressive or fast moving cancer.
The two main methods of treatment are prostatectomy and radiation. The original form of surgery involved a five-inch incision from the lower abdomen to the pubic bone and a good deal of recovery time. The new, more popular version, uses a robot (nicknamed Da Vinci) to make five small incisions in the abdomen and remove the prostate using tiny little robot instruments and a camera that allows the doctor to see inside the body. Radiation also has a newer, fancier method. Seeds can be implanted into the prostate and, over time, release the radiation. However, this version can take a while to show results.
The side effects of all of these treatments are less than pleasant. A man can experience incontinence and impotence either temporarily or permanently. Although side effects aren\’t pleasant, they beat the alternative.
So now I, and you, know enough to support someone dealing with prostate cancer. As I enter summer and the date of my father\’s surgery approaches, my shoulders tense with the anticipation of the relief that will envelop my family after he\’s out safely. Because he will be. Safe. And I know that soon, very soon, my family will be back to their obnoxious perfection. And you can go back to hating us.

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