Thursday, July 17, 2003

The Stormy Sea

There were images of boats everywhere. Two photos of sailboats were on the wall across from us, and there was a horrifically ugly bronze wall hanging sculpture to the right, messily painted over in spots with what almost looked like white-out and nail polish. Between the light grey walls, plain navy blue-colored vinyl seating arrangement in the waiting area, and the boating motif, I figured that this was someone's idea of properly manly decor for a urologist's office. I have to say that I agreed with him, because I found it singularly unfeminine, even the area the female receptionist/nurse sat in.

J sat in the waiting room, next to the scary display of pamphlets with men smiling out from under titles about bladder control and erectile dysfunction, and calmly filled out the paperwork they gave him. Nothing in his face betrayed nervousness about the series of indignities he was about to endure at the hands (literally) of the urologist and his nurse in a few minutes. Although, that is not an accurate way to determine his internal climate anyway, since he often hides his more frantic emotions. I pretended to be interested in the issue of "Biography" I'd found there, but I was really worrying about what the doctor would do to him/say to him.

I'd gone on the internet and printed out a series of good articles about enlarged prostate, what it could mean, and the potential treatments, just so he would know what to expect. Also, so that I could learn more about it, since I had to admit that I was pretty ignorant about the role the prostate plays, and when and why it would enlarge. It seems that most men experience this in later life, so if he were, say, 65 or so, I would just think of this as fairly routine. But as a man of 47, already with a history of colon cancer, I am very concerned. These things should not be happening so early in life. I looked up at the sailing photos and wished that they would provide me with some sort of comfort, some hope that this wasn't happening.

I can't remember what the waiting area looked like when I went with my friend Lydia to the doctor that fateful day when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn't really expecting anything significant to come of her exam, and it didn't seem like a potentially momentous day. Just another insignificant cyst, is what I expected the doctor to say. It wasn't until other doctors were called into the examining room to take a look-see, and the biopsy was done on the spot, that we knew that things were going very badly. I clearly remember sitting with her in the doctor's office, where they left us alone for a moment, crying over the news with her. That news was the very worst in a series of bad breaks for her.

Perversely, surviving cancer was one of the few things that Lydia and J had bonded over during their very tense first meeting. J's bout had occured just previous to my having met him, and Lydia was already on the way to having had several years cancer-free at that point. Having been by Lydia's side during her cancer ordeal was quite an overwhelming experience. It made me realize, among other things, that I have the capacity to be strong when someone I love is in trouble. I just hope that this remains true, because it looks like I will be watching another loved one suffer through the pain and lack of privacy that cancer brings.

The urologist came out of the office first, and J followed behind, stopping to wink at me, but his face told me that something wasn't right. I heard the doctor tell the nurse to set up an appointment for a biopsy the next week. J was still acting brave, even making a joke with the nurse that had just helped examine him that she had just seen his best side. She hooted at the joke, which I'm sure was most unexpected comic relief after such an exam. I was proud of the way he was handling himself, figuring that he really must be so upset inside.

When I finally got a chance to talk to J in the car, we agreed that between the blood test results, the physical exam results, and the distinct lack of encouraging words from the doctor, we kind of know what the doctor is expecting to find with the biopsy. I hope and pray that this is just my "the glass is half-empty" perspective coming through, but in my heart, I know J is in for some stormy seas.

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