The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

I went to my first prostate cancer gathering four years ago, in Portland, Oregon, when I was fresh off surgery and unexpected news from pathology was still ringing in my ears: cancer in two lymph nodes. Entering the building, registering, and being handed my conference materials — I felt like a draftee reporting for induction into an army of conscripts.

That gathering was the 7th Annual Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer Conference, and yesterday was the 11th, the fifth in my attendance streak. With time, I’ve come to value these get-togethers as important connections to my cancer community, as well as recurrent reminders that I am not alone. I’m always energized by my fellow cancerians, knowing the challenges and the struggles all face and seeing the strength and courage they display.

I must admit, however, that I’ve sometimes felt that much of the discussion was intended for others, not me. At the 8th conference, for example, on Sep 27, 2008, I scratched this fragment in my notebook: “Pelvic Lymph Node IMRT + Rad treat of p bed.” I just didn’t pay enough attention to take further notes of elaboration, what it all meant and why the topic was in play. It just didn’t apply to me and never would.

Today, of course, that’s exactly where my cancer journey has taken me, to that prescient scrawl — that writing on the wall — and I’m now 24 treatments into Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy of the pelvic lymph nodes and prostate bed.

Importantly, these gatherings also provide key updates on advances in the treatment of prostate cancer. In the past 18 months, for example, there’ve been four new life-extending drugs brought to market for men with metastatic disease that’s resistant to traditional therapies. And more are on the way. What is probably next, Radium 223, is on a fast-track for approval, if all goes well, in late 2012, early 2013.

But can the track ever be fast enough when a disease causes 34,000 deaths a year?

“Why wait for tests, people gonna die in a year?” one frustrated guy asked, somewhat angrily, at the 2008 conference. He was specifically anxious for abiraterone, a drug for well advanced, metastatic prostate cancer that the FDA eventually did approve…two and one-half years later.

That man, that guy in the back row urgently hoping for help — I can only wonder whether he was still alive when hope finally became help.

About Bill Curry

Stage 4 prostate cancer

7 Responses to “The Writing on the Wall”

  1. Bill,

    I read your story and it’s amazing how similar our journeys are. Just has my quarterly blood draw and see my oncologist on Friday. Always a stressful time waiting for results even though he emails me as soon as they come in.

    Here’s to the salvage radiation. May it be highly effective. Remember… Only valuable items are salvaged. I guess that makes us special!


  2. I have tried to send you a note before. Couldn’t get it to go. Hope this one makes it. You have been in our thoughts and prayers since we found out. I know they are always coming up with new treatments. I guess you saw where they almost have a vaccine for lung cancer. Hope you are doing well. Obviously Jimmy did not have the same or extensive treatment you have had so hang in there. I know you’ll get through this. I am still counting on seeing you and Becky in Jackson. Love to you and yours, Dawn

  3. We are all learning from your journey — most of all, the fragility and beauty of life. A cliche, but so true. Thanks for writing about it so frankly.

  4. Bill, Did you ever think, when you became a writer for the Washington Post, that your real job would be writing this blog?

  5. Thank you. I love my family!

  6. Well done Billy! Thinking of you everyday.


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