One night in 2004 my Dad called me and spoke in a tone of voice that I didn’t recognize. He was clearly nervous, but also trying to sound calm and matter of fact, like “Hey, this is no big deal here, but…”
My Dad had prostate cancer; the second leading cause of cancer-deaths among men. I was taken totally off guard. My grandfather had passed away from prostate cancer, but he was ninety years old. My Dad was in his early sixties. This wasn’t supposed to happen for many, many years.
After I hung up with my Dad I called and woke up Heather (this is when she lived in New York). I told her the news and then, after a bit of discussion, said, “I don’t believe it. My Dad could die. That could actually happen.”
The doctor told my Dad there were three options:
1. Take the “wait and see” approach
2. Remove as much cancer as possible without removing the prostate.
3. Remove all the cancer, but also the prostate.
Option one didn’t make much sense. “Wait and see” until what? The cancer kills you?
Option two would disrupt his life less than option three (by leaving his prostate intact), but couldn’t guarantee to get all the cancer.
Option three WOULD disrupt his life (by making bladder control difficult, etc.), but would also get all the cancer.
After some deliberation my Dad decided to go with option three. He was a father and would soon become a grandfather. He had things to live for, and he couldn’t take any chances.
My Dad flew out to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to have the operation. Thankfully, the doctors did a great job and were able to get all the cancer.
As he recuperated a nurse put him in an adult diaper, but also mentioned that there were exercises that could teach you to hold your bladder without your prostate. After rockin’ the adult diapers a few hours he decided he was going to make the exercises work, and he did – within a week or two he tossed out the adult diapers and never wore them again.
Seven birthdays later my Dad is still cancer free, and has become a grandfather five times over. I am very thankful that the operation worked, and for all of the important work done by the American Cancer Society. They made special moments like this possible:
Here’s hoping Annie and her Grandpa have many more birthdays together.