The Holiday Blues
My calendar used to be marked with all the traditional holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. However, over the course of the past three years, my calendar has come to include a great many “medical holidays.”
May 22, 2017, changed my life forever: it was the day I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer with extensive bone metastasis, Stage 4.
Recognizing medical holidays
By medical holidays, I mean important dates and milestones that relate directly to my cancer diagnosis and treatment regiment. Despite the Thanksgiving holiday, the prominent date marked on my personal calendar was November 22. This date caused me to do some celebrating, as it marked the three-and-a-half-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.
The majority of my cancer treatment team told me verbally that in their estimates I had the hope of living only about 2 1/2 or 3 years following my May 22, 2017, diagnosis date.
Marking the calendar
Following my medical professionals’ timeline, you better believe my personal calendar was marked with special holidays noting the 2 1/2 year mark of my cancer treatment and the 3-year milestone.
A tradition in our home is the yearly purchasing of a personally-designed Shutterfly calendar. Shutterfly allows an individual to edit their own version of a yearly calendar with personal pictures and phrases. Another feature I like about these Shutterfly calendars is one in which you can edit into the 12-month calendar any events you feel are important to you and your family.
Many people out there may mark their calendar with birthdays, wedding anniversaries, local holidays, state holidays, or federal holidays. However, my personal calendar marks medically-based holidays.
Each month I celebrate the anniversary of the final chemotherapy infusion I had to suffer through. Currently, one of my favorite holidays to pay tribute to is the monthly date of the first time I took my initial Zytiga treatment.
A great call
A couple of key events always make my personal calendar, one being the surgical implant of a pain pump, and the other being the periodical implant of the Vantas System.
When my palliative care doctor approached me about the possibility of a pain pump implant, I was highly skeptical. In fact, I was downright negative and did not in any way want to discuss the procedure.
I have to give him credit for hanging in there with me and educating me on benefits of a pain pump. In the end, he won out, and I elected to go through the surgery to implant the pain pump. Looking back, this was one of the greatest calls by one of my cancer medical team members.
Focusing on testosterone
Another date that always appears on my personal Shutterfly calendar is the day my urological oncologist suggested I stop the Lupron injections and switch to the Vantas Implant system for hormonal control.
As all prostate cancer patients know, it is critical to control your testosterone levels. Listed on all my blood reports from my monthly oncologist appointments is data that describes my body’s level of testosterone. It is imperative that testosterone records as less than a 10. If my testosterone goes above a 10, we are quickly looking at a way to lower that particular score.
Remembering my father
Another date that makes my personal Shutterfly calendar without fail is the date that my father passed away from his battle with advanced prostate cancer with bone metastasis.
I gain great strength by observing this date, as it reminds me that my father’s cancer medical team only gave him two years to live when he was first diagnosed. Dad, through his trust in The Lord, turned a two-year estimate of life into an 11 1/2 year run.
Avoiding the holiday blues
In closing, of course my personal calendar has all the traditional holidays marked, as well as grandchildrens’ birthdays. Holidays are a tough business when you have a stage 4 cancer diagnosis and you are not sure when it may be your last Thanksgiving, last Christmas, or the last time you may be able to celebrate a child’s birthday.
This medical personal calendar, in a way, allows me to enjoy milestones and avoid the holiday blues.
Who did you talk to first about prostate cancer after your diagnosis?