On Sept 30, 2021, just over a year ago, I received the following diagnosis from my doctor at UCLA, “Prostate cancer metastatic to multiple sites, Primary hypertension, and Bone metastases.”
While I found that diagnosis rather troubling, to say the least, it came as no particular surprise to me since I had known for several years that my PSA was abnormally elevated, strongly suggesting that I probably had prostate cancer. So I looked up the ‘stats’ and learned that for men who had been initially diagnosed as having metastatic prostate cancer, only about 31 percent were still living five years later. I then plugged that value into a normal distribution curve which suggested that my life expectancy was 2.5 years plus or minus. A ‘holy shit’ moment if there ever was one!
But here I am one year later. No worse for the wear. No further tests ordered by my oncologist except for PSA and testosterone, all showing ~ zero (normal now), the harbingers of cancer progression and presumably an early (or earlier) death due to cancer. As I mentioned in an earlier article, I am an atheist, precluding prayer, beseechment of salvation and all the usual conversations people have with their God(s). Being the engineer scientist I am, I realized the conversation must be held instead with Mother Nature or ‘Mona’ for short. Coincidentally, my psychiatrist from the UCLA Simms/Mann Center is also named Mona.
As it happened, and which I also describe in an earlier article, I bought a power chair (mobility scooter) enabling me to plan and carry out my upcoming venture to Magic Mountain. Having worked professionally as an engineer and a teacher for much of my lifetime, I had been long accustomed to being and working indoors, preferably in a comfortable air conditioned space. This tendency was further reinforced by the fact that I am an above knee amputee ever since age 10. Even when I was younger and sometimes played basketball with my brother and neighborhood kids, with the hoop my dad installed over our carport, walking and hiking have never been part of my repertoire of favorite things to do. Try being an AK amputee and walking on an above knee prosthesis for a couple of hours. You will reach the same conclusion I did! The only ‘sport’ I ever played and was halfway good at was ping pong, which can (at least at my level of proficiency!) be mostly done while not moving very far. And of course chess! I’m a lifelong chess devotee. I was the Arizona junior champion in 1959 and have enjoyed the game for most of my life! Definitely not a lot of physical activity there! Except for blitz chess, which can be pretty crazy!
But practicing and getting used to my new power chair has enabled me to finally learn to appreciate being outdoors and more closely connected with the natural world than perhaps I had ever been previously. Since traffic laws do not apply to pedestrians or scooters on sidewalks, I suddenly became enamored with the newfound freedom I had to simply take my hand off the joystick, stopping the power chair in its tracks. Randomly. So I could finally listen to and admire all the trees and bushes and grass and birds and wildlife and insects and droppings on the ground that are all part of the natural world. Try doing THAT while driving on the 101 freeway!!
It was during one of those ‘moments’ that I started my conversation with MONA. She shared with me the notion that cancer, at least in my case, is not so much a disease but rather part of the natural aging process for men. In the natural world it makes sense that people like me, people who no longer have reproductive capacity, would not have much to offer in terms of propagating the human genome and enhancing the survival of the human species. I can only do so indirectly now, maybe helping pay for my grandkids to go to college, doing volunteer work in the community, etc. Point being, I should not be getting angry or upset that MONA has opted to put me in the ‘checkout line,’ as it were. I’m still going to fight on. Living each day. Being happy. According to my own agenda. Just for the joy and the fun of it! And Mother Nature is totally OK with that! At least for today. And that is all that really matters!