Becoming A Cancer Warrior
My name is Todd Seals. I live in the rural town of Silverlake Wa. 20 miles due west of Mt. St. Helens. In June of 2006 at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Prostate Cancer. At the time of diagnosis I had a PSA of over 3200 and metastasis to my bones, lungs, and lymph nodes. My original prognosis was a year or less. This is my ongoing story...
2006.... it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Okay, so maybe the opening sentence of “A Tale of two Cities” is a tad extreme but in my case it is the truth. 2006 started off in amazing fashion. I had been clean for 5 months of the drug addiction that had destroyed my life, I was recovering financially, and I was in love.
Life is good
Aside from a nagging sciatic nerve issue, life was really good. The pain was extreme, originating in my lower back and shooting down the back of my right leg and calf. Sitting in a vehicle for any length of time was unbearable. Sleep was only possible in a semi-standing position. Chiropractic did not help and pain medication barely took the edge off.
I suppose that somewhere in the back of my mind I knew something was seriously wrong but I was only 42 and still immortal. 6 months previous I had a minor case of pneumonia. The chest x-ray also revealed a small nodule in one of my lungs. The E.R. Doctor pointed it out and said it was probably just a Pulmonary Nodule. He explained that they were common but I should have it checked. All I heard was “common and probably nothing to worry about.” I didn’t have it checked.
Things can change quickly
In late April 2006, I began urinating blood and my world began to unravel.
A cancer diagnosis is a slow process. The initial diagnosis is pretty quick but that is only the beginning. My PCP (primary care physician) upon seeing my urinalysis result and hearing my pneumonia story, immediately ordered a chest X-ray, a complete blood count, and a PSA test. My first test result was the chest X-ray. What used to be a single nodule in my lung had morphed into dozens of overlapping lesions. Suddenly I realized I was no longer immortal. Suddenly, I realized I was screwed.
My PSA test results were back the following day and my Dr. called me at work with the results. He told me my PSA was 3216.29. There was no doubt, I had Metastatic Prostate Cancer!
The next few weeks were a blur. To me, my cancer diagnosis was surreal until I sat in the nuclear medicine department awaiting my scans. With each bottle of contrast consumed and each big machine I lay under, reality slowly sank in. Every scan result yielded more bad news. Bone metastasis, lung metastasis, lymph metastasis.
The gravity of my situation came to a head the day my Oncologist gave me a one-year prognosis. I really was screwed. I fired him outright and found a doctor who would not tell me I only had a year to live and then I changed my life.
Looking for answers, looking for hope
Ten years previous, in what seemed a lifetime ago, I was heavily involved in church. I left church for personal reasons but still carry deep belief. One day, probably my worst day, I sought comfort in the Bible. I opened the book and pointed and read the 2 verses above my finger.
“Bless the Lord, Oh my soul bless his name. He who forgives my sins and heals my body of all its diseases.” Psalms 103, 2-3. What are the odds? Wow!!! It changed my perspective. It gave me hope!! It became the rock I would stand on as the storm raged around me. I would recite it over and over in order to sleep. It gave me peace. I believe that hope is the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. It does not matter where you find it. It matters only that you believe.
Prior to cancer, I wasted my life. I was a workaholic. I took vacation only when forced to do so. My relationships were dismal. I was alive but I never really lived.
A renewed life
Cancer changed everything. I am a better husband and father. I am a better friend. I stopped being afraid. One day I stood atop a bridge over a local swimming hole staring down at the water 50 feet below. I then did something I had always been afraid to do. I jumped. It was exhilarating. It also hurt like hell. If you have an enlarged prostate, don’t jump off a bridge and hit the water with your behind. I never said I was smart.
Still, as I surfaced and swam to shore, I felt freer and more alive than I ever had. I would no longer waste my life. I would no longer be afraid. I would live each day as my last and choke all the life I could out of each one of them. Somewhere in the midst, I forgot to die.
It has been 140 months since my stage 4 diagnosis. My last PSA test came back undetectable. My girlfriend at the time of diagnosis became my wife a year later. We have traveled to as many beautiful places as our bank account allows. We spend our summers on the water. We spend winters in the mountains. Our life is an amazing wonderful ride. I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel around the country sharing my story. I am still able to work full time. I have much to be thankful for and truthfully, I owe it all to cancer.
We will all die one day. We are all terminal. The question we must ask is this. What are we doing with the days we are given? I am not a cancer survivor. I am a cancer warrior. Cancer may one day take my life but it will not steal my happiness.
I have much more to share and I will continue to do so as time allows. Thank you for reading. Todd
How familiar are you with inherited gene mutations and cancer?