"Have there been any changes to your medical history in the last six months?" the dental hygienist asked through her mask and goggles.
I resisted the urge to blurt out that I'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer just 20 minutes earlier, but instead just smiled and politely said "no."
It was 10:43AM on Friday, April 1st and I was speeding down the Northern State Parkway wrapping up a phone call when the notice of a new test result in my NYU Langone patient portal popped up on my phone. Stopped at the light turning onto Route 110, I logged into MyChart, jumped into the test results section and scrolled through pages of text I didn't understand until I got to the punch line: "14 x 6 mm left posteromedial base peripheral zone lesion. PI-RADS 4, high (clinically significant cancer likely)."
I read those last four words a few times as the cars behind me beeped.
Of course, the journey didn't start there. It began with a slightly elevated PSA test done during a routine physical in February. I scored a 4.32 - just beyond the 4.00 reading that would have still been considered "normal." To be on the safe side and because the number had doubled in the last two years, my primary care doc sent me to a urologist, who sent me for a sonogram and then the MRI that contained the April Fool's Day news.
After a few visits with an urology oncologist and some incredibly invasive procedures I'll write about in subsequent posts, here I am with a Gleason Score of 7 and radical prostatectomy surgery scheduled for July 1st.
I've opted to chronicle this ordeal publicly because it's bound to be a big part of my life from here on. They say a cancer diagnosis changes you forever and so far, it feels like that's true.
I'm also told that, "if you have to have cancer, this is the one to have," but treatment is still a major ordeal, early detection is critical and I want to do my part to educate other men and caregivers who might have to walk this road. I've googled the medical jargon in my test results, quizzed my doctor, read dozens of journal articles and my Facebook feed is now flooded with cancer treatment ads. Someone else should benefit from my experiences.
I'm glad that my doctors caught my prostate cancer early, thankful that I have affordable access to the best health care in the world and grateful beyond words for an amazing group of family and friends without whom, this journey would be far more challenging.
Nobody fights this type of thing alone, but cancer messed with the wrong guy.