Since I retired in 2009 I’ve tried to remain active as a volunteer for various organizations, among which is our local VITA/TCE income tax assistance program in Thousand Oaks. When COVID-19 hit so badly during 2020, our program had to shut down and disband mid-season. The following year our program pioneered, with IRS’ blessing, doing taxes remotely. In 2021 I worked from home online round the clock during tax season producing tax returns and communicating with our clients without ever meeting them face to face. Being the engineer techie person that I am, I thought, “This is great. This is better than sliced bread!” Prior to COVID-19, I was already having mobility problems (osteoarthritis plus being a lifelong AK amputee plus ‘low vision’ now screwing up my proprioceptive sense, interfering with balance and whatnot). And driving. The AMD (age related macular degeneration) that had caused me to give up my tutoring gig at the Math Center at Moorpark College in 2017 inasmuch as it required long distance travel on the 23 Freeway was by now making even local driving very problematic.
So I’m like “Fine, I can do what I need to from home.” And neither my wife nor I like to do the typical ‘active senior’ stuff, RVing across the country, traveling to Africa, taking cruises to New Zealand, Iceland or whatever. I can do all the travel adventures I want on my computer! And without coming down with some shit like Chikungunya or Lassa Fever. Not only am I not jealous of all those folks, I just laugh at most of them, spending all that cash on an ‘experience’ that can easily be simulated and imagined by someone like me. And some of those folks don’t even return from those trips, not because they have found their new Shangri-La but simply because they died of a heart attack during it! Dying alone in Africa as one of our close friends from the Village actually did recently doesn’t seem like a great way to go out!
I was actually doing pretty good in my virtual world until Fall of last year when prostate cancer hit. The metastatic kind. The kind that kills you in just a few years or several, depending on how well you do with the treatment. In this case prostate cancer was not really a surprise as I’ve known for many years, since 2014 that I likely suffered from it. And of course my readers and my Urologist physician at the time are all saying to me, “WTF are you thinking? Why don’t you get a biopsy and treatment for it while it is still early? Good question which has a very simple answer. I didn’t seek diagnosis or treatment back then because the standard treatment for localized prostate cancer is RP, radical prostatectomy. At best RP can be curative of prostate cancer. At worst it may not only not cure the cancer but permanently destroy a man’s ability to have sex. Not to mention causing urinary incontinence. Rather than give up sex and wear ‘Depends’ for the rest of my life, I chose the ‘wait and see’ approach until last year when my PSA numbers got so bad I finally went to UCLA and saw the world renowned prostate cancer specialist, Dr Stuart Holden at UCLA. He told me that I am metastatic that it is too late for RP surgery, which was actually good news because I never wanted RP surgery anyway.
Meanwhile Dr Holden referred me on to another UCLA physician, Dr Shen, a medical oncologist, a brilliant young doctor who is an expert in the only therapy available for my condition which is hormone and androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). Unlike RP which usually destroys a man’s ability to have sex, leaving the libido intact, the therapy I’m on leaves the ability to have sex more or less intact, while destroying my libido. Meanwhile, the nerve bundles in my prostate gland region are still more or less intact which means orgasm, at least dry orgasm, is still possible and still doable. I’ve even scheduled a visit with my general physician to get a prescription for Viagra hoping this would help me be able to have some semblance of normal sex. But without libido, Viagra does not work. I found that out last night by reading. So I have been fooling myself this entire time. My libido, my desire to have sex, my desire to be naked with a naked woman are simply my intellectual libido mimicing what I once enjoyed but no longer can. I still plan to get the Viagra and experiment with this and see how far I can stretch my illusory virtual world into reality.
Meanwhile I’m still living in this sort of ‘Holodeck’ world which only ‘Trekkie’ (STNG) TV fans will be able to appreciate. Trying to stretch my virtual existence as far as I can so that I can still see a point in continuing my cancer treatment and maintaining my health as best I can. Recently I started going back to physical therapy again to try to get my body back in some sort of shape, but that didn’t work out quite the way I wanted and so I’ve decided rather, and for the time being at least, to simply do virtual exercise.
So I’m joining up with a tour group on a three week long quest to climb Mt Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain in both the Western hemisphere and the Southern hemisphere. You can follow my progress here: