CyberKnife Surgery (Prostate)
The Prostate Cancer Diagnosis: When Things Don't Go Our Way
I want to share the experience of a very special man’s journey with the diagnosis of prostate cancer. The Reverend Paul W. Zeckhausen, my wife’s uncle, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992. Six months after his diagnosis he gave a sermon to his congregation and I have borrowed and slightly edited his sermon with his brother’s permission. Following Paul’s words is a postscript from his brother, Bill Zeckhausen.
“This past December I felt as healthy as at any time I can remember. In mid-December I had a routine exam of my prostate, casually assuming to be reassured that “everything is just fine.” However, upon finishing the doctor was frowning and said that it was probably nothing to be concerned about, but he didn’t like the way it felt. He wanted me to have a blood test known as a PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen.
I was confident that the blood test would show that indeed there was nothing to worry about. But in fact, the results pointed toward the likelihood of cancer. Now my own anxiety level went up as more tests were scheduled for the day after Christmas.
I went through the motions of the beautiful Christmas Eve services at church, and our usual family celebration the next day. But my energy and focus were centered now on my own health. The tests, an ultrasound and biopsy, were positive confirming the presence of prostate cancer. I was told that it was a slow-growing cancer, and there was an excellent chance that the cancer was confined to the prostate and could be cured by either radiation or surgical removal of the prostate.
Less than a month later I was in pre-op getting ready for my surgery and in very good spirits. Even though I had that dreaded disease, it had been detected early, and in a few hours I would be cured.
My wife and our adult son and daughter were together in the hospital waiting room while I was undergoing surgery. The surgeon walked in somewhat sooner than expected with the news. “Paul is all right,” he said. “But we did not remove the prostate. Unfortunately we found that lymph nodes were involved; the cancer has spread. I’m so sorry,” he said. “But we will be doing hormone treatments and the good news is that 70 percent of people in his situation live for another 10 years.”
That did not really feel like good news.
I had a roommate at the hospital, Kent, who was a wonderful man whose surgery would take place a couple of days after mine. He came into the hospital the night before his operation, and I introduced myself to him and prayed with him for a good result. I was wide awake when Kent was wheeled in to our room from the recovery area. I overheard Kent’s wife telling him that the doctor reported that Kent’s cancer was limited to the prostate. I listened to him telephone the good news to his children that he was cured. That was one of my most difficult moments as I tried not being angry or resentful.
Of course I was glad for him, but I was also overcome with self pity. I think I had some idea of what it must feel like to be a woman who goes to the hospital to give birth, whose baby is still-born at delivery, and then is placed in a room with other women who have just given birth to healthy babies.
Now, seven weeks after the surgery I am mostly recovered from the operation, though my energy level is not very high. I want to tell you about a profound religious experience that I had in the hospital while undergoing the CAT scan.
A dye was injected into my body, but first a technician had me read and sign a sheet of paper that listed the possible crippling or even fatal results from the injection of the dye. After I signed the waiver and the dye was injected, I was left alone in the large room, wearing a funny looking hospital garb, lying on a narrow cot-like slab on wheels known as a “gurney,” with this very large white semicircular machine towering over me. I could feel the dye moving in the area of my chest and abdomen as a warm, glowing sensation. All alone in the room, suddenly a feeling overwhelmed me, a profound sense of love for God, something I had never before experienced. It was a wonderful, powerful moment and I found myself saying, “I love you, God.” I don’t know whether I said it aloud or not, or why it came so unbidden, so unexpectedly, at that moment.
In my whole life I have been many times touched, moved by the realization of God’s love, the love of God for me and for others. That has been very real, very meaningful for me. I have certainly been aware of the biblical command to love God with all our heart and mind and strength, but I had never felt so convincingly my own love for God. There was a really deep sense of peace and comfort associated with it. The moment left as suddenly as it came, and was perhaps a wonderful foretaste of more such experiences.
Another powerful thing for me during the last several weeks has been the enormous comfort of prayer – of people praying with me and for me. I have heard many people over the years say something like: “If you‘ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” And there’s alot of truth to that. But good health is not everything. Bernie Siegel, the renowned surgeon who has written and spoken so persuasively about the power of positive thinking, of love and prayer in healing, once wrote: “A dear friend of mine, Anita, whose husband is ill, said, “When you have your health you don’t have everything. Good health is easier to buy than good love. But when you don’t have your health, if you have someone who cares, you have everything.”
Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples sex therapist. He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC.
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