The Radiation Arrow

Team SCCA: Patient with radiation therapists (L to R) Tony, Jason, Lorena

My 36 radiation treatments ended today, and we marked the occasion at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance with thank-yous, good-lucks, handshakes, a hug and a team photo of patient and therapists. In the cheer of it all, I felt the sadness of separation. I was the teammate who got traded. They stay together, and I move on. I’ll miss them.

Later, there was champagne at home (thank you, Craig). It was nothing, really, you’d call a big celebration, just a marking of the occasion with a toast and some of France’s best: one more cancer therapy, now completed.

Radiation seemed to go well — if you ignore the fact that there’s no way of knowing (yet) whether it “worked.” I asked how/when we’ll know if the radiation did me any good. The answer: When

  • I’m done with hormone suppression (in January);
  • my testosterone has returned to normal (about July);
  • and I’ve no detectable PSA,

then it worked!

Translation: not any time soon.

In fact, I hope it takes years — decades, even — to know. For the longer I go without PSA, the likelier the radiation worked its magic. I don’t know if there’s an end point where someone will announce, “It worked!” It will more likely be just three months at a time as I pinball from one PSA test to the next. We should, though, get some idea over the next few years whether my PSA, and thus my cancer, are ever to come back.

(Because I’ll be making increasingly frequent, and increasingly important, references to PSA in these posts, I’ve created a petite primer on PSA and where it fits in my health care — the PSA & Me link, above, if you’re inclined).

I do remind myself that salvage radiation was never held out to me as a slam-dunk “cure.” I knew, and I know, viscerally and intellectually, that radiation was never a solid certainty — nor was it a hollow hope. It was somewhere in the scheme of possibility, but, like whack-a-mole, the greater probability is that my cancer will pop up again.

In short, I never saw radiation as the silver bullet. It was always an uncertain arrow in the oncologic quiver.

And it has now been spent.

I shot an arrow into the air;

It fell to earth I know not where.

–Longfellow

About Bill Curry

Stage 4 prostate cancer

8 Responses to “The Radiation Arrow”

  1. One of my close friends needed salvage radiation, about three years ago. Every sign is he’s cancer free. It can happen!

  2. Bill, congratulations on the completion of your radiation treatments. You showed them all just how tough a Buckeye can be! And thanks for keeping us all posted on your progress.

    We wish you the very best….you deserve it ! Les and Ann

  3. Bill, you have no way of knowing this, but I am the Queen of Whack-A-Mole. I have never been defeated — not once. There is no Whack-A-Mole machine that I can’t beat — theme parks, state/county fairs, Chuck E Cheese! All of ’em. Barkers run when they see me coming because they KNOW I’m walking away with he plush. So, I am bequeathing to you my Whack-A-Mole crown (it’s unisex) so that you can now wear it with pride, knowing that the former Queen would never give her crown to anyone who missed a hiding cancer cell. I just know every last one of those f-ers are DEAD, DEAD, DEAD, just like those damn moles. So delighted to hear that radiation is now in your rear view mirror. And champagne sounded like a wonderful way to celebrate. Fondly, Kim

  4. Hopefully your arrow hit your cancer right in the… well, I was going to say nuts, but perhaps that’s too close to home. In the interests of good taste (and, as you know, that’s certainly my strong suit) let’s just say congrats on completing the radiation and here’s hoping the hormone therapy goes well. When you get your testosterone back we can chest-bump and go out and pick up chicks. (Only kidding, Becky).

  5. Congratulations on finishing your treatments, and thank you for sharing your journey with us. I hope your arrows hit the bulls eyes and ripped them to shreds!
    Your friend,
    Jennifer Cast

  6. Yay!!! I was thinking of you all day, thinking I should write, and came home to find today’s post. It was such a beautiful day, the fall colors continue to amaze us, as does your continuing strength in the face of your treatment. Thank you for your blog posts. They have been awesome [well thought out, emotionally open, always informative, and well balanced]. Like you.

  7. Hey Bill, congratulations! Did you know there are also serious cancer fighting qualities in champagne?? You didn’t? Well let me tell you. They enhance the cancer fighting attitude platelets, suppress the cancer fearing chromostats and provide a general feeling of well-being that spreads throughout and eliminates any negatively charged cancer prone cellular ions. Got that? Good. You be doin’ fine my friend. Keep up the good fight, all of us are in the ring with you.
    Paul

  8. Have followed your Blog and wish you the best. Now it’s time to relax and see what the future holds.

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