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The Second Scariest Moment of My Cancer Journey

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Fear overtook my mind as I received rounds of scans for prostate cancer when my PSA results surged.

Man with a goatee and glasses smiling. Ron Cooper talks about how his scans for prostate cancer induced fear in him.

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would frighten one another with the claim there was a boogeyman under our beds. At night, on the verge of sleep, I found myself peeking under the bed to see if that were true. My sisters admitted they did the same thing.

And that wasn’t the only nail-biter during our childhood. By turns, each of us would hide in the TV room closet. At just the right moment, we would jump out screaming like a banshee, throwing the other siblings into a panic.

So, I was no stranger to fear, and with the help of an active imagination, experienced doom around every shadowy corner. And so, it goes for children who go through their make-believe phase.

But real fear caught up with me one day in 2014 when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Hearing that horrific word, I began to hyperventilate, feeling as if a dagger had been thrust into my heart. Surgery coupled with radiation and hormone therapy helped to calm me down and return me to something resembling normalcy.

In 2015, mere months after surgery, my PSA results surged, precipitating a second round of scans to determine if the cancer had spread. I was sure that now cancer had finally gotten the best of me, and the scan results would bear that out.

The second scariest moment of my cancer journey was about to take place.

I went to the hospital outpatient wing for a full body and bone scan. I lay down in a cramped position as the whirring machine slowly inched over me. I had to remain perfectly still, but inside I was a bundle of nerves.

The test had already run for about 25 minutes when the technologist came over the intercom and reassured me that I could relax soon, as the test would end in about five minutes. Shortly, though, she stuck her head into the small room, telling me the radiologist had asked for additional scanning. That caught me completely off guard and fear rose into my throat. Instantly, I felt doomed.

He must suspect something terrible, I thought.

When the scan ended, I got dressed and headed out of the room but was surprised to find the technologist trailing behind me. As we walked down the hall, she placed her hand on my shoulder. I admitted that I was very nervous about this scan. Then she looked at me with a soft gaze and said gently, “Maybe this is a wake-up call.”

My mind raced, trying to determine what she meant without asking her directly. Could she possibly mean that there was no cause to worry because we had gotten out ahead of the cancer’s spread and that we would need to go into a watch-and-wait mode? Or maybe she was signaling that there was indeed some spread in my body, but not extensive?

I was mostly consumed with fear that the cancer had spread too fast too soon. I convinced myself that my life hung in the balance. But a tiny part of me held on to the slimmest hope that the scan would turn out OK. So, during the follow-up with my urologist a few days later, I was thrilled to hear him say, “The cancer has not spread, but it’s still in there and we will have to keep an active watch on it.”

Yes, cancer does get a strong hold on our emotions. It’s like the monster in the closet or the boogeyman under the bed. But hope, however small, can be a formidable ally during these times of jangled nerves. Keep hope alive!

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