I have cancer.
It is aggressive.
I am convinced that I have been made clean like the leper in the Gospels, but I am engaged in chemotherapy. It is not fun, but I am blessed with the strength to endure it.
I learned about my condition in September 2022, eight days short of my 73rd birthday. I decided not to discuss it on my tVM website because I did not want to host a pity party. Today, I have changed my mind because I think my experience can make a positive difference in other people’s lives. In the coming weeks, I plan to post a series of articles with the lessons I’ve learned with the hope that other people can avoid the mistakes I made and that they can have an idea of what to expect if they encounter a condition similar to mine
If you are a male over 40, a wife of a middle-aged male… if you have male children or grandchildren, I hope you pass this on and forward these posts. That said, I know that no two encounters with cancer are the same. If you have had experiences with this nasty disease, I encourage you to share them with comments on these posts.
There is no doubt that healthy eating and regular exercise are good for you and make for a more productive life, but they do not make you immune from disease. I consider myself proof that healthy eating and regular exercise over a lifetime will not prevent an enlarged prostate, prostate cancer, or a leaking heart valve.
For the past 40 years, I have lived my life with the thought that if one eats healthily and exercises regularly, he can avoid serious illness. I was wrong. Prior to my medical retirement in 1983, I complied with flight physicals as was my duty as an Air Force pilot. For the next 40 years, I only went to the doctor’s office twice: once in 2003 for a left hip replacement, and again in 2014 for a right hip replacement.
Entering 2022, I considered myself healthy and in good shape. I was conscious of what I ate, I hiked frequently in the nearby desert washes and mountains, I worked on the farm daily, and I still rode my bike every day. Since 2009, I had pedaled over 37,000 miles. Regrettably, I admit I smoked cigarettes from 1971 when I entered USAF pilot training until 2003 when I had my left hip replaced.
In January 2022, I experienced difficulty urinating… weak flow, and five, six, and more trips to the bathroom at night. My family convinced me to visit the VA clinic in which I enrolled the previous year for vision services. After the infamous ‘digital’ exam – my first in 73 years – my primary care physician said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that your prostate is healthy, the bad news is that it is enlarged.” She prescribed tamsulosin and finasteride to relax the muscles around the bladder and to reduce the size of the prostate. I did not request a PSA test.
She also heard something in my heart and ran an EKG. The EKG suggested that I had a leaking valve and she referred me to a cardiologist.
I visited the cardiologist in March 2022. After a stress test, he confirmed a leaking valve and atrial fibrillation. On the positive side, because I was in good shape, he did not prescribe additional treatment like blood thinners or valve replacement.
Eat healthily, be conscious of what you put into your body, and exercise regularly, but understand that healthy eating and exercise cannot make you immune from disease.