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The Phone Call

September 9th, 2013

Written by Murray Hill

I’ve been given bad news a number of times in my life, and although none of those phone calls or conversations were good, waiting for and getting the call from the urologist was the most difficult. Of course, that doesn’t count the really bad news of my parents and brother passing – but it’s certainly the most difficult call I’ve ever received that involved my own health.

My urologist knew that I was pretty sure I had prostate cancer, because we had talked about it in one of my earlier visits. Still, when he called and simply told me I did have cancer it was a pretty big shock. A little foreplay would have been nice, but in his defense, he was probably reading me as someone who knew the facts and probabilities, and thinking a direct approach was best.

In hindsight, maybe it was. But it felt like a kick in the stomach.

What I found interesting was that the urologist who examined me twice and who delivered the news wasn’t going to be the one doing my surgery. There are only a few doctors in town who do the procedure. Not that I have any complaints; the doctor who did my surgery was wonderful.
During an earlier meeting, he had talked to me about the various options available to me if it should turn out I had prostate cancer.  

Currently available treatments include external beam radiation, a radical prostatectomy (surgery), Brachytherapy – a type of radiation therapy that involves putting radioactive “pellets” in the prostate, which can’t be done in Saskatoon and requires patients to go to Vancouver –active surveillance, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

He told me on the phone that active surveillance was not an option for me because I had cancer in four of the ten samples they took during the biopsy, and although I was at a low risk level and my prostate was still smooth, surgery or radiation of one type or another were my only alternatives.

This brings up something that I think is important. If you’re in a similar situation, discuss all of your possible options with your urologist, and don’t stop asking questions until you get answers you understand. I did that, and it helped a lot. Even though I fully understood all the options, having someone say to you that “you do have prostate cancer,” or any type of cancer for that matter, is a jarring thing that will erase all logical thought from your mind for a while.

It was about this time that I decided to have a good, solid shot of rum whenever I went to a doctor and got any news, whether it was good or bad. I knew I’d be having quite a few doctor appointments, so I figured I’d have a built-in excuse for a drink that night!

The night after I got the news, I confess I had a few more than one. By the end of the evening, I was quite comfortable with the whole thing.

There are a few landmarks in this journey that really beg for a kind shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to, and this was the first and biggest. It was the only time so far that I’ve actually felt sorry for myself, and if it weren’t for a wonderful and supportive wife and son, and caring friends, it would have been a lot more difficult than it was.

I have prostate cancer, one of the slowest growing cancers out there, but nonetheless one of the leading killers of men. Twenty-five percent of all newly diagnosed cancers in Canadian men are prostate cancer, and one out of ten men will get it. I have a summer cabin at Pike Lake, and the guy in the cabin on one side of me has prostate cancer. The guy two doors down has it as well. I am shocked at how many men I know have prostate cancer, and I didn’t know about it.

It’s estimated that 23,600 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013, and 3,900 will die from it. In Saskatchewan, about 650 men will be diagnosed with it, and 160 will die. It’s the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer in men. I don’t want to be one of the 160 for this year, or any other year!

The urologist told me that a “nurse navigator” would contact me shortly after our chat and help me to understand the process, what to do, what my options are – everything about dealing with prostate cancer. I got a call from that nurse the next morning, and made an appointment for my wife and I to meet with her on Feb. 13.

I hate to repeat myself, but as I said before: DON’T DO IT ALONE. HAVE SOMEONE WITH YOU. It’s hard enough to deal with when you have support. I would not have wanted to deal with this alone.

Murray was a Tech and gadget writer with weekly columns appearing in some of Canada's largest newspapers and on canada.com for over twenty years. His love of gadgets and tech is only surpassed by his love of the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Manchester United. You can reach Murray at: murray@communicatto.com


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