The Hardest Part of Being Diagnosed
Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with a chronic disease shares something in common. We all have to find methods of dealing with the mental aspect of our inner thoughts, fears, and reactions to our diseases.
On October 23rd, 2018, I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer which had metastasized throughout my body.
At the time of diagnosis, I was 46 years old and had lived a very healthy and active lifestyle. I had previously worked as a personal trainer, USA boxing instructor, and AAU basketball coach. I was a gym-rat in great shape. I was a single parent to a 17-year-old who viewed me as his indestructible hero! Now I was faced with telling him that there was cancer eating away at my body.
Feeling like it was a death sentence
This conversation was especially daunting, as my information was limited at the time and I felt as if a death sentence was just handed to me.
I also had to break the news to my mother and older brother. I was a health care proxy for both of them! My mom was a 70-year-old woman with diabetes and hypertension. My older brother had been diagnosed in 2015 with leukemia, so our family had already taken a huge medical blow; and now this.
Initially ignoring the warning signs
Leading up to my diagnosis, I was working as a Lab Facilities Technician in Cambridge. My job was a physical role which required walking, lifting, standing, and squatting all day. Within the two weeks leading to my hospitalization, my body began to have signs of a problem. My left hip was always aching, and my bones felt generally achy. I also noticed that I always felt tired and after taking stairs it would take me several minutes to recover.
I ignored the signs, because there were other explanations for these symptoms. I had torn my labrum in the same hip 2 years prior, so I thought the soreness was due to that injury. My tiredness I thought was from going to the gym daily at 5:30 a.m.
On October 22nd I was working and remember feeling drained. I felt like I just couldn’t get it together. I had an acute pain in my stomach also on the left side. I recall coming up the elevator because the stairs were taxing my energy. When the doors opened to the 3rd floor, I found myself leaning on the wall of the elevator unable to support my own weight. My colleague witnessed my weakness and assisted me into a chair. He immediately made me leave work.
As he walked me to my car, he made me promise to text him when I arrived home and also make an appointment with my primary care doctor. I kept my promise.
Going to the doctor
October 23rd began strangely, as I awakened without body pain, but only the pain in my hip and side were present. I went to my scheduled 9:30 a.m. appointment with my primary care doctor. I told him of all my symptoms and the pain I was experiencing. He conducted a physical exam on my abdomen and instructed me to drive 2 miles to the ER of St. Elizabeth Hospital for an ultrasound. My doctor was under the impression that I had an enlarged appendix and wanted it removed before it ruptured.
Once arriving at the ER, I was taken in and given an ultrasound and 2 MRIs on my entire body. I was left in the hallway on a gurney for what seemed like hours. I was admitted to the 7th floor where I was surrounded in a room by a team of doctors: oncologist, hematologist, pathologist, and urologist.
All I heard was "cancer"
The oncologist broke the news. “Mr Battle, you have stage 4 prostate cancer which has metastasized throughout your bones. We have a care plan to discuss.” At that moment, everything began to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Incoherent words and lots of audible sounds, none of which made sense. All I heard was cancer!
After being released from the hospital, I needed a few days to process everything and figure out a way to tell my son. In those few days I gained confidence by learning about prostate cancer, figuring out my care plan and the expectations, and talking to others who had gone through treatment.
With this information I was able to have a much better-informed conversation. I was able to answer many of his questions and reassure him that his dad would be around to see him graduate high school and many years after.
My life now
Presently I am a survivor of three and-a-half years, healthy, and I continue to live an active lifestyle. My son is a senior in college and an entrepreneur. I enjoy hiking, biking, martial arts, and live music.
Do you have ways of managing your mindset for big decisions?