Prostate Cancer and Testosterone

Zine from the CancerGram 11 of 18, describing events that happened in November, 2016.

I never knew it before, but some cancers feed on hormones. Breast cancers and prostate cancers are among them. As a result, the treatments involve hormone suppression. The oncologist wanted to start me on androgen deprivation therapy immediately. I researched the list of side effects and it sounded terrible.

Side Effects of Androgen Deprivation Therapy:

The hormone treatment would shrink the tumors in my prostate and lymph nodes, which would be necessary in order to take higher resolution scans to identify exactly which areas needed to receive radiation. I had done some reading about radiation treatments for prostate cancers and how non-invasive they could be. I wanted a treatment that would restore my sex function and make eliminating normal again.

None of the options guaranteed future functioning. The more advanced the cancer is, the more radiation is needed to treat it, the greater chance there is for permanent side effects.

At that point, just before the treatments started, I felt better than I had in years. I was working and enjoying Memphis. As I settled in, I could see myself staying there a long time. I seemed to be a good fit at school and I made a few friends in town. I got a video and a zine into a little art show at a local gallery. I liked my new life.

I considered refusing the cancer treatments. Why should I take a treatment that would cause so many terrible side effects when I felt fine? The answer, of course, is that the cancer would kill me if I didn’t treat it. It might sound crazy to think that I didn’t want the treatment, but part of me didn’t. It was prideful and selfish, but I didn’t want to live on those terms.

It’s peculiar how the cancer doctors go out of their way to be hopeful and convince you that you’re going to be fine. Even when your diagnosis is bleak. Right up until you say you’re considering refusing treatment. Then it gets grim. My radiation oncologist told me the truth about how dumb and painful it would be to let myself die of cancer. It was very sobering.

Walking out of the doctor’s office after the first Lupron shot it dawned on me that I would have no children. I don’t know if the cancer had already destroyed my reproductivity, but the androgen deprivation therapy would certainly affect it, and the coming radiation treatments would mangle any sperm I might produce forever.

It hit me hard. I felt some dreams die. That fantasy of someday meeting a woman and building a partnership that could create and support a family of our own was gone before I realized it.