Mark Bartlett

Without fanfare I was thrust into a group that included: Colin Powell, Motorhead’s Lemmy, Bob Dole, Frank Zappa, Bill Bixby, John Kerry, Rudy Giuliani, Robert Goulet, Joe Torre, Harry Belafonte, Norman Schwarzkopf, Arnold Palmer, Nelson Mandela, Telly Savalas, Dr. Timothy Leary, Roger Moore, Robert DeNiro, Ryan O’Neal, Charlton Heston and Warren Buffet, as current and past members. Pretty prestigious you would think. Lights fade and the squiggly view that always signals a flashback scene takes over. December 2015.

During a routine yearly physical, something I never have really been a party to since my Great-Uncle, “Uncle Doc” passed away some 50 years ago. I never felt bad and had always prided myself on the fact that I never was ill during that period. So why go see a doctor? That’s for wussies but the insurance company insisted as part of procedure.

Everything seems to check out and the smirk of I told you so was probably written across my face. One more thing…….drop your drawers and assume the position. As I turned, that unmistakable sound of a latex glove snapped against the wrist a sound you may never have heard yet stories have been shared about. That digital examination and I’m not talking digital as in technology but rather a probing digit inserted ans searching for god knows what. A quick gasp and grimace and then relief as the doctor proclaims all seems well and nothing abnormal. Except……………………

“In reviewing your blood work it seems as though you your PSA’s are elevated.” PSAs? My mind is searching…. PSA? Public Service Announcement? What? My first introduction (and a personal one) to world of PSAs- Prostate Specific Antigens, a protein produced by the prostate gland. A visit to a specialist was recommended and tests were administered those of which I will not go into because it makes a male squeeze his legs together and suck air between his teeth at the thought.

A week before Christmas I received a phone call and my Christmas cheer that hit harder than a stocking full of coal. “I need you to come into my office, you have cancer.”
I can’t tell you how I felt. I’m not sure although I know I didn’t feel much of anything ….pretty much numb.

After having a Heart to Heart with my soulmate and wife, Karen, we decided to do whatever it takes to beat it and began the list of tests, scans and research to get answers. Luckily it appears to have been diagnosed early and we had options.

First, the basic research (Insert dry and somewhat boring information here):

•    Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men (not counting skin cancer). It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men.

•    The disease is easiest to treat while it is confined to the prostate. At this stage, surgery and radiation are most likely to be curative and completely kill or remove whatever cancer cells are present.
•    If left untreated, however, prostate cancer can proceed on a number of different paths

•    Most cases of diagnosed prostate cancer, however, if left untreated, will grow and possibly spread outside of the prostate to local tissues or distantly to other sites in the body.

•    The first sites of spread are typically to the nearby tissues. The cancer can spread down the blood vessels, lymphatic channels, or nerves that enter and exit the prostate

•    Further advancement of the cancer can occur when cancer cells enter the blood vessels and lymphatic channels. Once the cancer has entered into these vessels, prostate cancer cells can “seed” into virtually any other part of the body. Prostate cancer is known to have a particular affinity for spreading or metastasizing to the bones especially the lower spine, pelvis, and femur. Other organs such as the liver, brain, or lungs can also be the sites of spread, but these are much more rare.

•    Once the cancer has spread distantly from the prostate, it becomes far harder to effectively treat and completely cure.

The Upside, if there is one, is that great strides have been made in the past few years regarding treatment and mortality. According to the most recent data, when including all stages of prostate cancer.

** The 5-year relative survival rate is almost 100%

** The 10-year relative survival rate is 98%

** The 15-year relative survival rate is 95%

This is a Private Club and I Don't want you to Join!


(Fast Forward six months)

With information at hand and further recommendation from my oncologist, a regimen of a series of 45 radiation sessions was embarked upon and delivered. At first thought 45 sessions seemed a bit excessive to me and I’m pretty sure I could roast a Thanksgiving Turkey in less than 20 but what do I know? I do know, I wanted it gone……..is it? I’m not sure, I prefer to think it is but will continue to be monitored via blood tests and find out.

So why do I share all this? Because I wish someone I knew had smacked me upside the head sooner and said don’t be a wussie, get checked out. I’m sure there are those in my group up above like Lemmy, Zappa, Bill Bixby, Telly “Kojak” Savalas, Charlton Heston and even Dr. Leary on a good day that wouldn’t have minded a kick or (digit) in the ass to get examined.

Please share this with your family, your husband, boyfriend or father……anyone that might be affected and push them to get an annual exam. It could save their lives.

Thankfully I feel good and am moving on. Cancer Sucks but if caught early can be treated. Cancer is only a word…not a sentence.

I want to believe I’ve kicked its ass for now and after 45 radiation treatments if I haven’t, I’ll probably glow enough to make a good nightlight.

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2016-05-23