May: the Month of Health Challenges

This is an update on what has happened since my last health status update a month ago. The basics: I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early March, and had two scans that showed it hadn’t spread to either bones or lymph nodes, both of which would have been Bad. May is the month in which a lot of stuff is happening.

First, I am now on medical leave retroactive to mid-January when I found out I’d need a biopsy, because I developed an anxiety disorder that prevented me from concentrating well enough to do my work. I was on sabbatical, and trying to read scientific papers made my eyes glaze over. Now the official sabbatical will be rescheduled.

I kept coming to work a little time each week to see if my brainpower had improved, but no luck. Until, maybe, now. The Eastern Ontario Cancer Clinic recently hired a psychiatrist who specializes in dealing with cancer patients, and I had a chance to talk with him on Thursday. He prescribed an anti-anxiety medication, which I think is starting to work for me, but which if I read the directions correctly I’ll have to stop taking shortly before the surgery if there’s any chance I will need certain painkillers.

And now comes the litany of medical procedures for the month:

  • On May 2 (Wednesday) my regular dentist removes the cap from my dental implant so the dental surgeon can remove the implant itself on Friday (May 4) and introduce another bone graft to replace the one that has been deteriorating undetected for the last three years. In the summer he’ll take a look at it again to see if a second implant is plausible. I may need a partial dental plate instead, especially since I’ve lost teeth on the other side over the years.
  • On May 7 (a week Monday) I talk to the intake people at Hotel Dieu about all the issues involved in the upcoming surgery, including the long list of medications and supplements I’m taking and which ones I have to stop taking temporarily. We have a Google doc full of questions to ask about post-op care that may need us to make preparations in advance. The last two times I was in the hospital it was emergency conditions and there was no chance to get anything ready.
  • On Friday May 11 I have an ultrasound to investigate a small mass near my kidney that showed up on the CT scan that was looking for metastasis to the lymph nodes. It is nearly impossible that it could have anything to do with the cancer, but it still needs investigating. I was lucky to get in on a cancellation; the alternatives were to wait until July or travel to Napanee, a half-hour or so away. Sometime in the following week I’ll likely hear the results of the ultrasound, which may in turn require yet more interventions.
  • On Wednesday May 23 I have my prostatectomy, followed by two days in the hospital and two weeks stuck at home dealing with a catheter. After that, I need at least another two weeks off work and the doctor recommends four (total 6). I am told that sitting in a normal chair can be uncomfortable, but I’m hoping bed and recliner will be OK.

Then there are various probabilities of days, months, or years of various side effects from the surgery. I’m not going to go into detail; you can look them up if you feel like it, though it may take some effort to figure out which websites are reliable.

So May will be filled with medical downers, but I’m hoping for lots of other stuff to build me up while the stress of the interventions is tearing me down. Being on medical leave is a major relief, as is the apparently-working anti-anxiety medication. I hope to do some combination of reading and writing fiction, playing games, and maybe even reading a scientific paper or two.

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