My wife, Melinda, and I met in late 1979 while working at the same restaurant in San Luis Obispo, California. She was a native and I was a refugee from the east coast via a four year stint in Colorado. I was on a short vacation and when I returned to my job as a bartender and waiter, there she was at the hostess station when I walked through the door. If not love at first sight, it was certainly attraction at first sight. We soon started dating, I proposed one year later, and we were married on July 18, 1981, over thirty-seven years ago.
The life we built together
Together we raised three sons, supported each other in our careers, worked hard to provide a good life for our family, made and stuck to a plan of saving for retirement, mourned the loss of our parents, celebrated the joys of being a close knit family, including the arrival of three grandchildren in the last six years, and stayed strong through the inevitable challenges that all couples and families face. In December Melinda will join me in retirement, which we will celebrate with a trip to Kauai in January. Travel will be a big part of our future together.
Navigating health challenges
Perhaps nothing has better symbolized the strength of our teamwork as a couple than the health challenges I have faced in the last eight years. They started with a diagnosis of coronary artery disease, in 2010, and my first stent. That was followed by a mild heart attack in 2012 and a second stent. Both experiences were demoralizing for me because I have always been an active person, I haven’t smoked since 1980, I haven’t had a drink of alcohol since 1993, and I have never been overweight. Fortunately, my CAD status has been good since my heart attack.
In 2016 I had a PSA test prior to a routine physical. My score was a 7.1 and my primary care doctor referred me to a urologist. After taking some medication to rule out inflammation of my prostate, I again tested high, this time 6.8. My doctor recommended a biopsy, and I received the results on March 22nd, 2017: cancer cells in ten of twelve core samples, a Gleeson score of 3+3. I chose active surveillance, but when my PSA went up to 8.3 and my mind was getting weary of dealing with the idea of cancer in my body, I chose to have surgery, which occurred on April 16th of this year. Subsequent PSA tests show no indication of cancer. All of my results have been minuscule, recently a 0.008.
In September of 2017 I was diagnosed with severe cervical stenosis, degenerative disc disease and bone spurs that were compromising my spinal cord. I had surgery for that condition last October.
With Melinda's strength and support
Melinda’s great strength is to engage life with an equanimity that I find almost miraculous. She rarely overreacts to any situation, accomplishes complicated tasks without drawing attention to herself, walks through life without leaving a wake, as I like to say. She’s the essence of selflessness, a kind of Buddha nature that comes naturally to her. For an emotional, wears-his-heart-on-his-sleeve person like me, she is the perfect partner. Her strengths complement mine and vice versa.
So as I have dealt with my health issues – emotionally, physically, spiritually – she has been my quiet foundation, the one who lifts me by example when I’m down, who peels me off the ceiling when I get too hyped up. She has accompanied me to doctor’s appointments, sat with me in hospital rooms, cared for me after surgeries, and done all of the little things that have kept our lives moving forward smoothly and functionally.
We're a team
Perhaps nothing has been more challenging for both of us than my ongoing problems with the side effects of my prostatectomy: incontinence and erectile dysfunction, daily reminders that I’m not the man I was before my surgery. But as with every other challenge we have faced, Melinda supports me, loves me, adjusts to the “new normal,” and shares my optimism that time, healing, and effort will result in a full return to pelvic floor health. If not, we’ll be fine: we’re a team.
Summiting mountains and writing our story
A few weeks ago Melinda and I spent a few days hiking in the White Mountains and the Eastern Sierra, which flank the Owens Valley in California. On the second day we reached the summit of Bishop Pass at 11972’. I have been there several times on long backpacking trips, but it was a personal elevation record for her, the high point of a twelve mile hike we did that day. The accomplishment perfectly exemplified our relationship: my experience and enthusiastic coaching coupled with her quiet determination. She inspired me. We look forward to many other peak experiences together, both literal and metaphorical, as our wonderful life together continues.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?