AND THE DOCTOR SAID…

I have been less active in baseball related activities since the beginning of Spring Training than any time I can remember. For the first time in years I went to very few spring games. In fact, I missed going to Florida for the first time in a long, long time. I was not active on twitter. I missed some games at Chase Field. I did not travel at all.

I’m a very lucky man. I’m fortunate to have Dr. Frederick Dicke as my physician. As a doctor working closely with professional baseball as he does, Dicke knows my lifestyle as a baseball scout/analyst. He knows me very well.

After monitoring my annual test results for years, at the end of last year Dr. Dicke saw that the score on my Prostate-Specific Antigen test (PSA) had escalated a bit. He wasted no time and sent me to the urologist.

We have a group of writers, scouts and baseball related personnel who gather often in the offseason to talk some “hot stove” baseball. At our January 8, 2015 luncheon I casually told a friend I was going to get the results of a recent prostate biopsy. I never mentioned it to anyone else. I wasn’t concerned in the least. Life was good. I really didn’t have a care in the world.

I entered the urologist’s office and wished the doctor a Happy New Year. He returned the greeting and asked me to have a seat. After a bit of chit-chat about his beloved Chicago Cubs, the urologist turned very serious. He looked me in the eye and said,
“You have prostate cancer.” Me? Certainly not me.

I remember thinking that I didn’t feel any pain or anything out of the ordinary. I felt fine. How could that be? Cancer? I turned numb. It was probably more from the shock of hearing those words.

The doctor showed me the results of the biopsy. I had cancer in three of the prostate lobes. He said it was caught early and he explained my options.

I chose to have radiation therapy. The treatment would last nine weeks, five days a week.

Prior to the treatment beginning, the urologist implanted “targets” to my prostate. Called “Calypso” the targeting acts like a GPS system so the radiation is localized to the cancer cells and nowhere else.

While getting the implants, I got a very stubborn infection. I was hospitalized for a week and subjected to constant antibiotic treatment. A peripherally inserted central catheter (Picc line) was placed in my right arm. It allows the flow of intravenous medicine without having to prick my arm every time I received treatments.

To rid my body of infection, I faced daily early morning treatments seven days a week for over a month at an Infusion Center. As I would sit quietly in the chair at the center, the potent antibiotics were working their magic.

During the infusion treatments my wife noticed my arm was swelling. A nurse at the infusion center immediately responded by alerting my infectious disease physician who was treating my infection. The nurse told the doctor she thought I had a blood clot. The doctor order an ultrasound exam.

The ultrasound showed I did not have a blood clot. The nurse at the infusion center was skeptical of the results. She was very firm in her belief that, indeed, I had a blood clot in my upper arm. She was very unsettled with the first ultrasound results.

I returned for a second ultrasound and the clot was discovered. I don’t know how or why it was missed initially. But the infusion nurse was 100% correct and I am grateful for her tenacity and persistence.

Indeed, the Picc line caused a blot clot to form in my right arm. I have been on blood thinning medicine for three months. I will find out soon if the clot remains. My arm is still swollen.

Finally, after waiting for weeks due to my infection, blood clot and to let my prostate settle from the original biopsy, my radiation treatments finally began March 20 with a trial experience. The following Monday the radiation began in earnest. They concluded May 22. which also happened to have been a milestone birthday. It was a big day for me.

I had to go to the Prostate Cancer Treatment Center at 8AM every weekday. For the 20 minutes prior to the treatment I had to drink 36 ounces of water. The water elevates the bladder, thereby offering a clearer, best pathway to the targeted prostate area.

Every day when I climbed aboard the radiation table I was treated to background music from the 50’s and 60’s. Right up my alley. I loved it. It helped make the best of a nasty situation.

Cancer introduces the patient to an entirely new world. There are unfamiliar words and treatments. There are countless tests, pokes and prods. My vocabulary and daily routine were altered beyond my normal comfort level.

The personnel at the Prostate Cancer Treatment Center in north Phoenix were beyond fantastic. The three technicians responsible for my daily treatments were greatly skilled and keenly sensitive. The oncologist responsible for the Center is beyond brilliant. I put my trust in them and I have every confidence the results will be favorable. I thank them for providing the best possible state of the art response to a wicked and evil demon.

The personnel at the Center and my wife provided incredible support and care during those long yet fascinating nine weeks.

My most prominent side effect was a complete lack of energy. I had to take a nap every afternoon. I was constantly tired. I wanted only cold food. I lost a few pounds (which is a good thing.)

Now I await my next PSA test to see if things have changed with my prostate. That will come in three months. I don’t know if the cancer cells have been eliminated. I do know I am a month removed from radiation and I’m beginning to feel better. I am still concerned about the blood clot. I still get tired, but not as badly. Dr. Dicke has cleared me to travel to watch baseball, which I will do beginning next week.

My colleagues and friends both inside and outside baseball have been of tremendous support to me. I didn’t tell them of my situation until I had started radiation. I told only my supervisors at MLB.com and my colleague at Short Hops-our weekly podcast. They were all fantastic. Supportive. Concerned. Caring and understanding. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, care givers, and everyone I have come in contact with in the past few months have been there for me every step of the way. It’s unbelievable how caring and concerned people have been. I am grateful and thankful for that support.

My wife’s support, care, commitment and dedication to my welfare go well beyond words. I can’t express what would have happened without her. She has been my source of strength throughout this ordeal.

Why am I telling you this? If you are a male I want you to go to your doctor and get the PSA exam. If you’re female, I want you to go to the doctor and have every test relative to female health. Early detection is crucial and the first step to a cure. These cancers are silent. They don’t tell you you are sick.

Every nurse and the myriad of doctors and technicians that have assisted me in this multi-faceted challenge surrounding my prostate cancer have been All Stars in my book. They are World Class. They work as a team and have instilled confidence and have eased my mind and spirits. From the hospital staff to the infusion center to the Prostate Cancer Center staff, to all the doctors on my team, to friends, colleagues, neighbors and all who have been there for me–Thank You.

And to Dr. Dicke. I credit you with a save. Thank you, sir.

And now I just wait patiently for all my results.

 

8 Comments

That took courage. Good luck in the future

Thank you so much. Much appreciated
Bernie

God Bless, Bernie.
Two years ago, I hadn’t heard from my best friend since childhood for several weeks – we’re usually in touch by email at least weekly.
After about five weeks, I had a dream that I was going to visit him in the hospital.
You know where this is going – I called and emailed him the next day to see how he was.
A few days later, he called to say he’d had his prostate removed. His grandfather and father had died from it, and his numbers said it was his turn.
I echo your comments about seeing your doctor right away.
Thanks for sharing, and best wishes for continued good health.

Thank you so much for your comments and for sharing the story about your friend. We can really touch lots of lives with spreading the word for testing.
Bernie

Bernie,

I had the exact situation you just explained, except for the blood clot. I also chose the 44 radiation treatments. I am now a year and a half removed from my last treatment. My PSA before treatment was 19. I am now at .2. I trust your results will be as as mine. Best of luck to you. I love your articles and podcasts.

Steve Russell

Sent from my iPhone

>

Steve: You give me great hope. I hope you are doing well. It’s quite an ordeal, but we make it through. Thanks for sharing with me.
Bernie

Bernie …. my best wishes to you for your continued improvement and full remission/eradication.

Thank you so much Diane. I am grateful for your support
Bernie

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