This is something I previously wrote, posted and then withdrew for refinement and as such the context reflects the week of November 23.

Thanksgiving week is an interesting one for me.  For many people it holds memories of time with family and friends, of good food and of a time when all is set aside for the celebration.   In most ways it is the same for me, but with a couple different twists.  For me, Thanksgiving week is the anniversary of two rather significant events in my life.  The first happened the day after Thanksgiving in 2004 when my then wife informed me she intended to file for a divorce, pretty significant, but truthfully, not a shock but for the timing.

The second, and in most opinions even more significant, happened on the day before Thanksgiving, November 23, 2005.  That year I had already been diagnosed with a rather nasty case of prostate cancer, which, by all accounts was about as bad as a person could be afflicted with same.  But it wasn’t until that day when I went to see a doctor at Johns Hopkins for another opinion, my second or fifth, depending on how one counts.   I was accompanied by my uncle who lived in the Baltimore area and who had picked me up from the metro which I had taken from the airport. Reflecting back it was a good appointment, very frank discussion about my situation and possible options and one recorded by my uncle who listened intently.

The examination went as well as these things could, there are always some awkward moments.   We discussed the biopsy results, those which yielded the initial diagnosis and those from the Hopkins pathologists.   We discussed treatment options, different approaches and the current “state of the art” relative to treatments, among which were some inconclusive, yet promising trials.   In the process possible treatment outcomes were considered. All rather remarkable, but the most sobering of all was his comment following the DRE (digital rectal exam) which was “that is a big tumor”!

The comment on the tumor size was the first which really came close to cautifying the enormity of my situation.  Sure all the other indicators were daunting – 11 of 12 biopsy cores positive for cancer, Gleason score 5+4 in 10 cores, 5+3 in the other and PSA of 46.1, but the declaration of tumor size was more palpable and made the situation more easily envisioned.  As with all those whom I had seen previously, the diagnosing urologist and three doctors at UNC’s Cancer Center I then asked the standard question – what are the chances this will kill me and how long will I live. Prior to this I was unable to get a straight answer but rather the sort of obtuse – well it depends on lots of things or we can’t be sure until we try a few things and so on.  Ron, the doctor at Hopkins, was a bit more forthright and frank.  Based on his experience in seeing cases like mine, it was very probable I would die from this disease.  He followed that by answering the second part of my question, saying, “based on what I see the probability is you have between 5-8 years”.  Pretty sobering words, but not dismissive and I appreciated his forthrightness.

So that visit set the stage for that Thanksgiving and seemingly for all those which follow.  It has been four years now since that visit and I’ve undergone a number of treatments.  I would like to say they were successful, but while the jury is still out with the last series, it appears the war is being lost.   It is in that context that I begin the holiday season and celebrate the joys of thereof with family and friends.  In doing so I recognize that while my time may be limited, it is my choice as to how I go forward and I choose to do the proverbial” ignore it” until it is incumbent upon me to confront it once again.

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