It’s been a few months since I last whined about my personal health issues in this column, but I’ve had several people recently asking about how I’m doing and I simply thought that a public update might be timely.
I do not particularly like to whine but I figure that this one-shot deal is better than answering the same questions two or three times every day. An old friend used to tell me not to ask how someone was doing unless I really and truly wanted to know. I suspect that folks who ask me about my health receive way more information than they really wanted because I do tend to get long-winded.
During late winter and early spring this year, as you may recall, I went through a battle with bladder cancer. The jury is still out in regards to whether or not the surgeon got it all but, at least so far, my bladder remains cancer free. However, no sooner than that scare was over, than I found out I had prostate cancer. That one probably can’t be fixed, but it may be put on hold for the foreseeable future due to treatments and medication I’ll probably need to take for the rest of my life.
So far, the prostate issues, with one conspicuous exception, have been pain-free and I’ve had no ill effects from the chemo. This chemo is nothing like what most cancer patients have to endure and the stuff I’m taking is only called chemo because they don’t know what else to call it. I have some discomfort for about 30 minutes after taking the stuff but it wears off pretty quickly.
On the other hand, I’ve had severe, bone-deep, chronic, lower back pain for the last six years or so and the doctors have been unable to find out what was causing it. They figured it was Uncle Arthur but that it shouldn’t hurt near as badly as I continue to swear it does. Now both the oncologist and urologist have redone scans and probes and such and determined that my prostate is putting pressure on my spine and causing all the back pain. The chemo stuff is supposed to eventually shrink the prostate cancer enough that it will relieve the spinal pressure and, hence, the pain. I’m not holding my breath but you have no idea what a great day that would be.
In the meantime, during and after the bladder cancer surgeries, I lost a few pints blood. Two weeks after the last procedure on March 13, I was still losing blood every time I used the toilet. That stopped around the first of April. By that time my hemoglobin count was down to 8 when it should have been between 13 and 14 under normal circumstances.
I started eating every iron-rich food I could get my hands on, taking two industrial strength iron pills daily and drinking as much water as I could hold then running back to the clinic and getting blood tests at least every couple of weeks. Nearly four months later my hemoglobin was still 8-ish and only changed a couple of decimal points up or down depending on how hydrated I happened to be at test time. I was so weak I sometimes had to rest between my hourly trips to drain my bladder.
So, last week, my oncologist told me the only way he knew to fix the immediate problem was to get a blood transfusion. He and three other physicians are still trying to figure out why I am not producing blood but they all agree that the prostate meds are not conducive to low blood count. Last Friday I spent nine hours on a hospital bed soaking up new blood.
If I’d been a NASCAR driver I would not have been able to start my engine on Friday morning. By 5 p.m. I still would not have been winning any races but I could have made it around the track a few times if everybody else stayed out of my way! I’ve never seen anything that will improve my energy level and sense if well-being like a blood transfusion.
I still don’t know what the hemo count is up to but I guarantee it’s way higher than 8 at this writing. I’ll keep you posted.