Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Getting Well Again

Dr. Carl Simonton wrote a book in the 80's called Getting Well Again. I read it many years ago when I was in seminary. It is a well-respected book that illustrates how a person's attitude and spirituality can have a positive effect on serious illness like cancer. He talks about how some people will picture in their mind that the cancer cells are being attacked and killed...sort of how Pac Man would run around an electronic maze and gobble up fearsome characters, fruit that provide bonus points in the game and "dots."

I have named this blog after that book, because that is what I need to do. I have to develop a positive attitude toward treatment of the prostate cancer that I was diagnosed with a week ago.

Prostate cancer has always been my greatest fear. My worst nightmare. I knew it was likely that I would have it some day because my Jackson heritage is full of cancer. Prostate cancer killed my father in 1979, and I watched him die a long, terrible and tortuous death. Cancer killed my mother in 1999 when the slow growing cancer in her liver that was there because of hepatitis suddenly jumped into her lungs and killed her in little more than a long weekend. My Father's father had cancer, though he died from a heart attack in 1975. My father's sister had breast cancer which took her life in 1968 at the age of 48. She had three daughters. All three of her daughters were diagnosed with breast cancer within a year's time and one of them died a few years ago.

There is no other way to state it. Cancer has gone through my family like crap through a goose.

I knew I was at risk, and for the last ten years I have had at least two PSA tests a year. All of them were around 2.2. Suddenly, in February 2010, it jumped during lab work for an annual physical to 4.5. They called me on a Wednesday to tell me and scheduled me for a prostate biopsy two weeks later on March 3rd. I had to ponder the situation for two solid weeks without any additional information...a very stressful situation for me and my family. Question marks hung over me and all of us for two weeks. The biopsy confirmed my fears. Prostate cancer had reared its ugly head on the Jackson family once again.

There is no way to communicate the level of fear that sets in on you when you hear someone tell you that you have a disease that could kill you. Once I had the awareness that many advances in cancer treatment have taken place since my father's death in 1979, the fear lessened somewhat. I know it is not a death sentence like it used to be. Many survive it now.

Despite these facts, the fear is still there. Fear of losing my hair. Fear of long days filled with pain and nausea. Fear of surgery.

Anger is there, too. Angry at the message that unless I change my diet drastically, my chances for recovery will be compromised. All the foods that I love have to go away. I am angry about getting this disease because I have worked hard over the years and tried to do the right thing. I don't deserve this. Why not Osama Bin Laden? Charles Manson?  Ann Coulter? Someone else that the world doesn't need?

I am angry at my level of stress that causes me to do things I would never do normally. I find it hard to concentrate. I forget things I never have before. I run out of energy much earlier than ever. I dont feel like myself anymore and I grieve that loss.

Yes, I have many blessings. I have wonderful co-workers and friends that have made it clear to me that they care about me and will be there for me and my family. Its a good thing, because I have hit the wall and I know it. Remember when Bugs Bunny would put a trash can upside-down over Elmer Fudd and would bang on it hard and loud causing Elmer to stumble around and vibrate like he was a huge bell that was rung? I understand how Elmer felt.

My friends have convinced me that I can face this and that I wont be alone in doing so. I have hope. So I am trying to keep things positive as much as I can. Am I scared? Does a bear go into the woods? At least I will be able to name this thing that is inside me and will soon know exactly what my best options will be.

Onward through the fog.....


  1. Richard, continue your faith in God and trust that everything happens for a reason, and He will never give you a mountain too tall to climb. God doesn’t bring the bad, he brings the good. Thinking and praying for you and yours!

  2. Also, please don't worry about losing your hair. It will come back, and most times, it comes back better than it was before you lost it. It may be a different texture or a different color, but it's usually better.

  3. Richard, I understand your fear. I was able to get beyond it by anger and later faith. Anger was very freeing-lots of energy instead of inertia. Anyway, know I am praying for you and Elizabeth and the kids. On a totally different subject, I love that you put Ann Coulter in with Bin Laden and Manson, although it might be unfair to Manson! Keep breathing and laughing. Oxygen is very good for you :)

  4. Well crap!
    Sometimes one wonders where God is in all this. And the answer would be right along side us. Yet still it hurts.
    I'm praying for you. And crying too.

  5. How 'bout we ALL join you in picturing that little PacMan munching up all those nasty cancer cells?! Yeah! BTW, Yul Brynner and Telly Sevalas were quite handsome! You will be too if it comes to that! :-)

  6. After a sleepless night and spending time with God for about an hour, I "unloaded" all my burdens concerning you. The result is my heart is much lighter, but my head hurts. Go figure!

  7. Sharon,

    Thank you sweetie. Love you from the heart. My head hurts, too, with all the stuff flying around in it. I am hoping to get settled on a treatment and get things going this week.