Living with Cancer

Seven years, three months and 24 days into my cancer journey, I’ve arrived at a new way station on this indeterminate itinerary: Living with Cancer.

Oh, I’ve known since pathology reported after surgery (“carcinoma in two lymph nodes”) that cancer would inevitably be a permanent part of my life, that an outright cure was of such low probability that a lottery ticket seemed the surer bet.

But there’s always been a binary quality to my cancer, an either/or state with no middling. I was either no evidence of disease (NED), or, in the event of evidence, my oncologist and I would be gearing up, discussing and planning the next treatment. I once even described my cancer status as “between treatments.”

Not so now.

My semi-annual, July 9 PSA test came back at 0.04 ng/mL, up from 0.03 in January. And the medical plan now is to continue to just monitor this trace amount, to watch it, and to check it again in six months, come January. With a slowly rising wisp of PSA and no treatment planned — none even up for discussion – “between treatments” seems out-of-date and “living with cancer” the more apt description.

To put these nano-numbers in perspective, think of them as the coinage of cancer. I’m now up from 3¢ to 4¢. The actual (and dreaded) recurrence of prostate cancer after surgery is not even medically official until 20¢. And in clinical trials for new prostate cancer drugs, getting a prostate cancer patient below $2.00 is an achievement.

I am, in fact, where a lot of men are dying to be, and dying they are.

I concede that I’ve had to do some heavy mental lifting to wrap my head around this slow rise in PSA and to accept the fact that we’re only going to monitor it, to see how high it goes, and how fast. Later – hopefully, much later – we’ll identify and implement the next therapy, if one becomes warranted.

Heck, I may now even be in a sweet spot of cancer management: a chronic but not (for now) life-threatening disease, one that I can just live with. OK, I can hope.

When I shared my July test results with my cancer-blogger friend Danean, she spoke Truth when she said: “I’ve learned that in this whole cancer odyssey, sometimes the only thing we get to choose is how we react to things.”

And this is how I’ve chosen to react: I embrace this new phase, uncomfortably passive though it feels at times. I’m lucky to be where I am, and my test results could have been worse. And I still do all I can with diet, exercise and supplements to push back against my cancer, to keep my PSA numbers to a tad and make my cancer but a mere chronic illness.

The bottom line is that, for now, I’m neither in remission nor imminently imperiled.

I’m living with cancer, and life is good.

It seems an appropriate time to inaugurate a new t-shirt.

It seems an appropriate time to inaugurate a new t-shirt.

About Bill Curry

Stage 4 prostate cancer

14 Responses to “Living with Cancer”

  1. Bill,
    Krista Bosce from AMIGOS here. i wanted to tell you how much I appreciate reading your blog and I hope we can connect in person in the future. Meeting you would be wonderful. I feel like the warmth of your words and smile are going to be a beam pulling me up to Seattle soon. Please keep writing and updating your journey. Warmly, Krista

  2. Bill, thanks for keeping us in the loop. I certainly agree with your co-CA friend Danean. She spoke truth when she said: “I’ve learned that in this whole cancer odyssey, sometimes the only thing we get to choose is how we react to things.” Had a recent scare myself (urinary bleeding) with nothing found on full workup. Due to atrial fibrillation and pacemaker I’m on anticoagulants meds (Coumadin), and that seems to have been the culprit, Take care, and hope we can chat at the Utzy-thing! —Jon

    _____

  3. Bill,
    You make me feel good. We all live with uncertainties… a disease now or a disease we will get in the future. We can’t control this but we must learn to live with it and enjoy life.

    Carol P

  4. Hey there. First of all, I want to say that I am so sorry to hear that your levels have crept up. That being said, however, I LOVE your attitude AND the t-shirt!

    Been thinking about you and wondering how you are doing. Have you done much traveling this year? I don’t have any plans until January when I am going to India with Piper McKay… It will be my first trip with her. I feel somewhat guilty going on a trip with someone other than Nevada, but the timing worked for me.

    At dinner tonight with two girlfriends we talked about doing the walk along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. After a bottle of wine, it sounded like a great idea. Gotta look into it further.

    Please take care. Thinking of you. Stay in touch.

    C

    Sent from my iPad.

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  5. As someone once said, “All life is terminal; we are discussing only means and rate.” We cancerians are perhaps better informed as to means. As for rate, your words are wise, Obi-wan. May your PSA doubling time be measured in decades, Bill

  6. Congratulations, Bill. It may be hard for you to chill, but you are doing a great job! 🙂 Living well IS the best revenge. Live on. Enjoy. Life is good.

  7. Thanks for the update Billy! Just last week while having breakfast with your (favorite) Aunt Betty, when she asked about you, I told her that you expected some test results this month.
    L,

    D&J

  8. Bill, if you are the face of cancer, it is a good face — positive and living life daily. Thank you for another wonderful entry in your story. Again, you are an inspiration to live life fully, and with passion.

  9. Hi Bill,
    As we say just Flip It. Give the cancer now energy and enjoy everyday. Life IS good and we are so fortunate to be able to enjoy everyday. You always remain in my thoughts and prayers.

    I have moved back to CA and do miss SCCA a lot but plan to try and do the same work at Stanford.

    Please give Ann my best and I am sure you are doing a fantastic job in my absence.

    Celeste

  10. Vicki Shepard Powers Reply July 20, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    I am constantly amazed and inspired by your reaction to life! I can only read with a smile on my lips and a tear in my heart about your continuing saga. Hang in there my friend for those of us less courageous need you! I keep you in my prayers. Vicki

  11. While we still have faith, gratitude and love for life all is well no matter with cancer or not. I was diagnosed with a lymphoma non-Hodking nd now I’m waiting the next level, radiotherapy. God bless us! My last round post http://vidabendita.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/last-round-of-chemotherapy/

  12. Patti Kilpatrick Reply July 20, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Bill, this sounds like a good report when you put it in the creative perspective you used. BTW, love the T-shirt! It sounds like every day is a good day now, to be enjoyed. Patti

  13. You Bill Curry are an amazing man!! Will keep you in my prayers as always.

    Debbie

    Sent from my iPad

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  14. Glad to hear there’s not a huge Change. Your money analogy really clarified things for me. Hope to see u in the winter. Love ya Hazel

    Sent from my iPad

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