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I was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly after my 53rd birthday and found myself at an oncologist’s office in a well-known hospital. He didn’t bother to examine me, but merely gave me his conclusion after reviewing my test results. Frankly, I thought he could have phoned it in.
“Your cancer has metastasized,” he said. “It’s incurable.” Simple as that. He delivered a death sentence with the passion of a second-grader reciting a poem.
I took his statement to mean I had very little time left: perhaps months, at best, or even weeks. I didn’t bother to ask him.
The next morning, I made myself a peanut butter and strawberry preserves sandwich for breakfast. I suppose having the Grim Reaper in the room next to the kitchen can result in one’s sensibilities being surreal. I remember thinking I would really miss the flavor of peanuts and strawberries when I died.
My next thought was what to do with the very short time I might have left to me. Did I want to buy a boat or a sports car, move to the Mediterranean or have a torrid affair with an attractive stranger? I didn’t long for any of those pastimes. Instead, I decided to go to my office as I always did during the week. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn’t want to do anything different than continue to live my unspectacular life.
The stories in “Grand Gestures” in the summer 2017 issue of CURE® reminded me of that experience 15 years ago. I was inspired by the others who pursued mountain climbing, masquerade balls and leaving a legacy of books, despite their diagnoses.
It turned out that the prognosis I anticipated was incorrect. Shortly after the incident with that oncologist, a new prescription medicine made from my own immune cells, called Provenge, brought me back from the edge. Now I am still going to work every day.
The moral of the story: Don’t believe everything you hear, even if it’s from a knowledgeable doctor at a prestigious hospital.
Mark LevyEVERGREEN, COLORADO
I liked Tara Haelle’s article on GBMs (glioblastomas) in the Summer 2017 issue of CURE®. I had a GBM in 2002. Mine was a large hit of pain. I also went to UCLA for a second recommendation.
I had a great doctor at that time, and I made goals of what I wanted to do in life. Even though there is brain damage after the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I wish there was more help for those who had a brain tumor. I joined the military, played women’s professional football and made it halfway through nursing school ... I would like to complete nursing school. However, most schools don’t have assistance for those who need to learn from a different perspective. If there was someone to help me with my bucket list to help me get through nursing school, it would be a miracle. Having a brain tumor is hard — but the dealing with goals afterwards was harder for me.
I hope that, one day, there will be help for others who have been through a brain tumor treatment.
Elisabeth LewandowskiPHOENIX, ARIZONA
I read with interest your article on palliative care. We received palliative care on the last day of my husband’s life. Had we had the knowledge that this service was available to us, we would have been able to make better decisions.
We felt disjointed with his care and knew something was missing. My husband was a model patient. All appointments were met in a timely manner. When the time came for “comfort care,” we were so stupid as to think that we would be able to continue to communicate with him, but he would not be in pain.
We are fairly intelligent people, but we were totally out of our realm. When my husband was turned into a moaning, incoherent person with the “comfort care” medicine, we found we were the ones who needed palliative care. The bustling, overworked medical personnel, even though they were caring and competent, only had time to administer doctors’ orders.
It became obvious that we had desperately needed guidance throughout my husband’s illness. As soon as he was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder cancer, palliative care should have been brought in to make his last months easier for him and his family.
Anita M. PetersST. HELENA, CALIFORNIA