Kicking the Can(cer) Down the Road

My most recent semi-annual cancer check-up came last year, quite coincidentally, on my birthday.

“Semi-annual.” That’s the check-up that arrives so soon that there couldn’t possibly have been that much change in your cancer. Yet it’s also the check-up that’s so infrequent that maybe — just maybe — enough time has elapsed for something to have gone haywire. This incalculable equation (time➗cancer=?) is, in part, why we cancerians get so anxious as our test dates draw nigh. And there’s nothing we can do to swing the balance of test results; there’s no strategy that will improve the outcome; and there’s certainly no studying in the hope of getting a better score on the test.

It will be what it will be, when it will be, and, all too often with cancer, you feel like you’re just along for the ride.

A cancer test on a birthday? A day to celebrate — or not.

At reception in the blood-draw lab:

“Your name?”

“Curry. C-u-r-r-y.”

“And your birthday?”

“Today.”

“Oh! Happy birthday! Any special plans?”

“That’ll depend on the test results.”

It would be an overstatement to say that, when he delivered my results, my oncologist seemed a bit giddy. But in the din of delivery of good test news, I think I heard him say something like, “With numbers like this, you’ll live forever.”

To be sure, my PSA had risen over the previous six months, from 0.06 ng/mL to 0.07. Really not that much of a rise at all – even a rounding error? — and so, over a birthday dinner of steak tartare, the champagne flowed: celebration times two.

Later, as I added the test results to my PSA spreadsheet, I noticed that I’d been here before, that I’m back exactly where I was on Oct. 4, 2010: a PSA of 0.07. (Reminder: PSA levels reflect the progression of my cancer.)

Of course, that was before my PSA rose to 0.10 and then to 0.11 and then to – well, before it could go any higher, I underwent 36 treatments of salvage radiation, trying to rid myself of cancer once again. Yet today, I remain a Stage 4 cancerian, one who’s back where he was five years ago. And that’s when I finally and fully grasped — and came to embrace — the import of ‘managing your cancer’: We’re kicking my can(cer) down the road.

We’re buying me time.

Except that, with cancer, buying time is truly about buying life – and all of the wondrous adventures and delights woven into the fabric of life.

Or as my friend David put it: “We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary…and chose to do it alone, off shooting pictures in the high desert of Arizona…and, most importantly, commemorated and savored a milestone neither of us thought we’d see nearly eight years ago” when his wife, Nancy, was diagnosed. “Oh, what a blessing!”

What a blessing, indeed.

Since my 0.07 PSA reading in 2010:

  • I’ve seen my daughter start and finish law school, marry a great guy, pass the bar and start practicing law.
  • I’ve traveled to stunning National Parks, experienced the wonders of far-off places and loved strangers in strange lands: China, Sri Lanka, Cuba and beyond.
    Version 2

    Loving strangers in a strange land: Huang Gang village, Guizhou, China; Aug. 2, 2012. (Photo ©Colleen Kerrigan)

  • At family reunions, I’ve reconnected with relatives I’d not seen in years, decades even, and together we stoked our family memories, raised toasts to our parents and enriched for the future our shared gene pool.
  • I’ve spent extended yet rich time with old friends and new, sharing memories, stories and thoughts of the past, the present and our futures.
  • I celebrated the 35th anniversary with my bride, a milestone, to quote David, I thought I might never see.

And, perhaps most importantly, since my last PSA of 0.07, six new prostate cancer drugs have been approved, each one with the promise of extending life. Six new drugs since, medically, I was last right where I am now.

So am I truly back to where I was on Oct. 4, 2010?

Not on your life. Nor on mine, because life doesn’t stand still even when cancer threatens to stop your clock.

And there’s a lot more life to pass as we kick my can(cer) down the road.

About Bill Curry

Stage 4 prostate cancer

20 Responses to “Kicking the Can(cer) Down the Road”

  1. What an inspiration you are………………….

    Andy

  2. Great news, Bill, and good to have another well-written, well thought-out post from you.

    Yes indeed, the specter recedes as one keeps living the life one has. The only time I think of my prostate cancer is every day, but not in as deep a mode as in earlier days. Gone from every six months to every year monitoring.

    One of the drawbacks of getting older, however, is that our doctors get old with us 🙂 For the second time, I have to find another urologist, as this one retired six months before my next scheduled visit.

  3. Your words are truly inspiring, as is your attitude. From one Stage 4 to another, “Cheers to today”. Life is daily. Thank the Lord for our blessings, small and large.

  4. Bill glad to hear u r doing so well. Just in case u hav forgotten Jimmy went thru the same back in 1999. Just want u to know he is doing great and we r blessed with a great life, as r u. Guess we will see u in Sept. Happy New Year to U and urs. Dawn Campbell Cole

  5. Dawn Campbell Cole Reply January 6, 2016 at 10:49 am

    You sound a lot like Jimmy and I when we evaluate our life together. We will be married 43 years this Valentines Day. We have been through the same things that almost every couple goes through when you are married this long. We have made lots of money and lost lot of money several times (as many of others). We have watched our children grow into adults and have families. We have been through illnesses, sometimes life threatening and we are still here. So in our discussion of our life, we decided we would do it all over again, realizing that the lessons learned and the blessing received far out weigh the hard times. Glad to hear you are still getting your blessings. My love to you and yours. Happy New Year. Dawn

  6. Bill, someone defined courage as “grace under pressure”. You personify that.

    Randy

  7. Vicki Shepard Powers Reply January 4, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I’ve been wondering how things were progressing with you and am delighted to hear your good news! You’re a guiding light in our journey through this jungle of tubes, lines, drugs and people who speak this foreign language we’ve had to learn. And our days have brightened with treatments ending, PET scans coming back clear and, lo and behold, hair that you can comb. Bill has come out on the other side and the oncologist is pleased. I read your posts to him and we discuss your strength, your attitude and humor. Your sense of humor has been priceless because when we can laugh , life is good. Has anyone ever seen their mission laid out as clearly as you do?! Your mission of HOPE! My congrats to the whole Curry family.

    The better part of one’s life consists of one’s friendships. Than you my Friend. Vicki

  8. Beautifully written, Bill. You’ve bought five more years as a magnificent wordsmith while you kick this cancer down the road, and I am grateful to be among those who get to read the fruits of your labors. Indeed, celebrate [your stable numbers] with those you love!

  9. Wonderfully written good news. Happy new year.

  10. So happy to hear the positive news. Hazel

  11. Dear Bill: This is so moving I feel like taping it to the mirror so that every time I kvetch about some trivial thing I’ll be reminded of what’s really important and how we should be grateful for our privileged lives. Fondly, Terry

  12. Right on! Happy New Year Bill.

  13. Thanks for sharing. Your writing is special. Continue the great list memories long into the future.

    Carol >

  14. HOORAY!!!!!!

  15. Hi Bill: Great post and great news. Your point is exactly the right one: Keep on living life as an adventure. So the past year saw quite a bit of travel and photography, although our only international venue was Canada. I, too, am now on the 6-month PSA test plan, so it’s really quite nice to keep cancer in the background where it belongs and and get on with life. It’s a cliche because it’s true: every day is a gift to be seized and enjoyed.

    all the best,
    Craig

  16. Hi Bill, great news. I just returned from my Oncologist meeting and the once every 3rd week Herceptin drip, which is what I am “down to” since this began in early Sept 2014. Your good news post is inspiring and comes at the right time. Right time as the completion of radiation 5 weeks ago had me feeling worse than I did before we started. Only recently has the internal irritation tapered off and I was really slammed by fatigue and loss of appetite.

    Jim and Vivian have news on the real estate front and have purchased a Condo on Mercer Island. Exact moving date is a ways off, but they make frequent trips to visit Daughter Katie and family and now to check on condo progress. I’ll let him know that you have a new post.

    Enjoy the continued positives.

  17. D. Keith Humphries Reply January 4, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Bill: Nancy and I are so pleased to here of your successful results. Maybe it is only back to where you began in 2010 – but you are back to where you began! Thanks for the update.

  18. Great news – keep kicking it!

  19. Great news and a great way to live. Life is good. May yours long continue, Bill! Looking forward to raising a glass to your good news in a few days. 😉

  20. Happy New Year to you…

    I loved reading your good news and especially loved the photo you included…. but can you make it smaller? or move it? The panel of archived blogposts runs right down the middle and so we can’t see YOU!!!

    I’m still here in NC running this little business i started almost 2 years ago. We continue to be busy and to grow, which is great. However, it means that I haven’t been able to travel much. But this year I am going with Sharon (my friend from LA) to India for the Kuhmba Mela in April. Still working out the details.

    Any travel coming up for you?

    xo

    Colleen

    Colleen Kerrigan Owner The Business Spot 537 Main Street P.O. Box 129 Highlands, NC 28741 Store: 828-482-0286 Fax: 828-482-0287 Cell: 615-400-5498 http://www.Biz-Spot.net

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