How Far Had It Spread

Zine from the CancerGram 9 of 18, describing tests that were done in the fall of 2016.

I stayed in town to have the CT scan, pick up the results a few days later and drove to Memphis. I had a new job and plenty to do. With the tumor gone from my urethra, I could eliminate again with more ease. I felt kind of normal.

I told my family and close friends about my diagnosis, but decided not to mention it to my new employers. I didn’t know how bad it was and I felt fine. I figured that if it started to effect my work, I would tell them and they would understand.

We did consider giving up the job and staying in AZ. I wasn’t ready to do that. I was still chasing the dream of the academic career and the Memphis opportunity represented the culmination of a lot of work. All I wanted to do was to go work my new job. I wanted to teach and make art and mentor students and have a nice life in Memphis, TN. That was it.

I had to wait for doctors appointments for a couple of months so that my new insurance in TN through the job would kick in. I was afraid to use it too soon, since I’d had issues before with insurance companies trying to deny claims made in the first month of coverage. I used the time to get connected with a local oncologist who would take me through the next steps.

When he saw the scans, he was worried. It looked bad. They scheduled a bone biopsy. I definitely didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. I was busy at work and felt more or less ok. It turns out that prostate cancer is generally a slow growing cancer. But when it spreads, it tends to spread to the bone. That’s bad. If it gets in your bones, it’s essentially a death sentence. Also bad: that if you get prostate cancer in your 40’s, it’s generally not the slow-growing old-man type. It’s much more aggressive.

The bone scan showed a spot on a hip bone. They performed the bone biopsy and it turned out negative. Only then did I get the full picture of how devastating a positive test would have been. The higher resolution CT scan showed that the cancer had already gotten into my lymph nodes. Luckily, only to the nodes in my pelvic region.

Officially, it was stage 4.