In This, My Eleventh Year

“You should write something,” she said, “like, ‘I’m still here.’”

As in, I’m still alive.

It’s my 11th year now – 10 years and counting – since they found cancer in my pelvic lymph nodes. In this decade of the ups and downs of cancer, I find that I pass milestones less frequently, my self-discoveries strike increasingly sporadically, the observations at the cancer clinic dawn less often. Yet one thing remains all too consistent: the disappearance of a fellow cancerian, never mind the precise genus of cancer, into the vanishing point of memory. What was her name? Celeste? Yes, that’s it. Celeste.

My cancer journey has been long enough now to ignite a singular light, which could even serve as a True North, of a sort, for almost every cancerian: the beacon of hope. There’s always hope. But reasonable hope, to be sure. Not faux hope that’s wishful, or fantastical, or even pie-in-the-sky. And certainly not the crossed fingers that put some cancerians on life support in the ersatz hope that something unknown today may, out of the clear blue, abruptly announce an arrival tomorrow, and, voilà – we’ll all be cured!

No, reasonable hope approaches in steps, incrementally, their tracks to be read for a saving grace. Since my diagnosis on March 26, 2007, seven new drugs for prostate cancer have jumped the hoops of federal approval. Seven, in large measure the product of Mike Milken and the Prostate Cancer Foundation he founded.

Milken & Hutch Group

Mike Milken (left), founder of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and Fred Hutch prostate cancer researchers at the Seattle Mariners’ Safeco Field, as the PCF inaugurates its annual Home Run Challenge to raise funds for prostate cancer research. Seven new prostate cancer drugs have been approved since I (far right) was diagnosed.

Thank you, Mike; thank you, PCF.

Which brings me to my most recent six-month check-up. PSA – you can argue the pros and cons of PSA as a screening and diagnostic tool – nonetheless remains the gold standard for monitoring a contest with prostate cancer, and the lower your PSA number, the better. And my PSA, on an early Wednesday morning in May, was a negligible 0.08 ng/mL. That was up a trifling 0.01 over the past six months. Heck, the rise may even be within some margin of error, or the result of rounding or…or…

0.08. Ten years in. Not bad, considering that my surgeon, after reading the pathologist’s post-surgery findings to me, advised me that he had another patient just like me, a patient with cancer in his lymph nodes, who was still alive six years after surgery. All this news stunned me – my cancerous lymph nodes, the metastatic march of my cancer, another’s ephemeral six years of survival –  it all sounded to me, and there are no words to cushion this for a soft-landing, like some sort of indeterminate death sentence.

Which is not to say that I’ve beat cancer, or that some oncologic god has called, “Olly olly in come free!” No, just that, for the nonce, I’m holding my own in Stage 4-land (there is no Stage 5). Holding my own as doctors continue their search for an eighth, a ninth, even a tenth drug. Holding my own as they experiment with the optimal timing and/or combinations of these new drugs: When do you get the best results with X? Should Y drug be administered in concert with Z drug? Should an old drug be retrieved from the shelf and used in a new way?

Someday – hopefully soon – we should know the answers to these questions, know what is today unknown. Reasonable hope, yes; but the question still hovers above all: when?

Meantime, I’m still here.

 

 

About Bill Curry

Stage 4 prostate cancer

15 Responses to “In This, My Eleventh Year”

  1. I am among many who are glad you are still here!! Your articles are always so positive! Gives hope at a time when sometimes it’s hard to remain positive! Keep up the good fight!

  2. Dear Bill, such good news and so glad u shared it with me. How’s the grandma and grandpa roles going. So much fun isn’t it? I’m back in the Berkshires for this month. Lots of activities. Plays, Tanglewood, hikes, visiting historic sites. Went to Hyde Park Ny. Roosevelt Museum was wonderful. All redone apparently. How’s ur mother-in-law doing ? Any trips planned?love you, Hazel

    Sent from my iPhone

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  3. Hey Cuz! I was about to solicit others for your email address just to check-in on you for I hadn’t heard anything from you in quite some time. So glad that you are still well considering the circumstances and all that could have gone worse in the long run. The long run is what you’re all about. Sadly, many like you have fallen along the way but you have not only stood strong yourself, but stood so admirably strong for so many more like you. My many kudos, and hugs to you!

    Sent from my iPhone

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  4. Always a pleasure, Bill, to find your blog post in my inbox. Like you, I’m almost 10 years from treatment—which in light of the new drugs and new protocols seems to have occurred back in the oncologic dark ages. Nevertheless, like you, my most recent PSA remains at 0.08. NED: no evidence of disease. Hooray. Nevertheless, like you, the Damoclean sword of recurrence dangles there permanently. Once again I was reminded this month by the death of fellow cancerian Randy and of Bill before him and other names not forgotten just how fortunate we are to be here still. May our meantimes continue for many years.

  5. Patti Kilpatrick Reply July 11, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Bill, Darrell and I are so happy for you! And Becky! Reasonable hope is wise and strong. My good friend Terri just lost her battle (kidney to lung cancer) at age 61 after 18 months. She had reasonable hope and always kept her sense of humor which was amazing. You and she are very inspiring to us to live each moment and count the blessings. Birthday coming up…so Happy Day in advance.

  6. Thanks for the update, Bill. I’m sure your column has helped others facing a similar ordeal. Hope to see you one of these days — before we all get too old!
    Terry Pristin

  7. Great to hear the latest results Bill.
    Cheers, Paul

  8. once again, well written. I’m looking forward to many more posts.

  9. Thanks Bill for the article – You continue to shine as a light of hope to many.
    Andy Grant

  10. Hip, hip, hooraaaaaaaayyyyy!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 Thx for keeping us on the loop, Bill, and godspeed ahead!!! 😘😘 kate

    Sent from my iPhone

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  11. Bravo, Bill!
    Sherry Nebel

  12. So glad you’re still here and continue to find a way to make us all hopeful and grateful. Good news about your test. Thanks for sharing. Vicki Shepard Powers

  13. Bill,

    As always… thanks for sharing. Can I email this to the Woodward 61 classmates?

    Carol Carol Pearce quizp@aol.com

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  14. Loved reading this. Good to hear from you. Any travels? Doing much photography?

    Colleen Kerrigan

    Please excuse the auto-correct. I’m sending this from my iPhone.

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  15. Great article Bill and we are so happy you are still here! Ann and Les

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