Derailed by Diagnosis

by Ed Davis on April 23, 2015

April 23, 2015

“The biopsy showed that out of twelve samples of your prostate, two of them tested positive for cancer.” As ready as I thought I was to hear this news imparted by the soft-spoken urologist, I still took a hit, despite what I’d always told myself: why should I escape the serious health issues so many friends and family members have suffered?

Nothing like getting a cancer diagnosis in the middle of your book tour to knock you for a loop. Even Israel Jones might be tempted to lay down his guitar and sleep for a few months.

In this blog I’m abandoning my usual professional approach to focus on the personal. Since being diagnosed in February with prostate cancer, I’ve had several wonderful, humbling lessons. While I hope such a disease never strikes you, it surely will strike someone you love; and if anything I say here helps you the way I’ve been helped, then I’ll be grateful.

As I recover from last week’s radical prostatectomy, here are a few of the gifts cancer has brought me so far:

  • Finding My Path. Within days of my diagnosis, a friend told me I should talk to Jim. When I called him, Jim generously shared his journey from the Cleveland Clinic to, eventually, Dr. John Burgers, an extremely skilled Columbus surgeon. By coincidence, I bought Dr. Patrick Walsh’s book, Surviving Prostate Cancer before discovering that Dr. Burgers was Walsh’s disciple at John’s Hopkins and practiced “nerve-sparing” surgery. Thus, I went from Jim to Dr. Walsh to Dr. Burgers, who successfully removed my prostate on Monday, April 13, reporting afterward that nerves had indeed been spared, the cancer confined to the prostate.
  • Loving Friendship. I discovered that friends really mean it when they ask, “What can I do?” You wouldn’t believe the goodies I’ve found on my doorstep and the moving cards, calls and e-mails. What an outpouring!
  • Becoming Dependent on Others, especially my wife. The new dependence has shown me how strong my most important relationship really is and how I must trust my best friend enough to let her take care of me.
  • Good Medicine. I experienced state-of-the-art doctors, nurses, labs and tests on a much higher level than I had before; and I was grateful for everyone, from Dr. Burgers and his wonderful staff on down, who put a human face on the treatment of such a potentially devastating disease. I never felt like I was “just a body.”
  • Choice. My diagnosing urologist, after presenting me with my three options—active surveillance, radiation or surgery—would not tell me what to do. He left this grave responsibility to me. And rightly so.
  • Time. I did plenty of research, fortunate to be retired so that I could peruse books, articles, websites and read Dr. Walsh’s inspiring, honest and comprehensive Surviving Prostate Cancer (highly recommended) twice.
  • Insight to see how lifestyle decisions have affected my health and the desire to make adjustments for improvement. For me, that means diet: a lot more fruits and veggies, since those are some of the best cancer fighting foods.
  • Community. As I’ve watched friends deal with this disease, I’ve seen one become a hermit and had another invite me to accompany her to chemotherapy. At Kettering Medical Center, I watched and listened as an amazing group of patients shared laughter, tips, stories and hats in a cheerful, sunny room with smiling nurses who knew everyone by name. Instinctively I’ve chosen to share what I’ve learned, just as Jim and many others did with me, to my great benefit.
  • Mortality. Of course I fretted some that my cancer might have spread beyond my prostate and metastasized throughout my body; or that I might die on the operating table. And it made me realize what matters most. Writing, as important as it is, is a distant second to my human relationships.
  • Spirit. I wouldn’t have wanted to face cancer without a Higher Power. In the “Hour of the Black Dogs” (as Ann Lamott so colorfully expresses late-night fears), I’m not afraid to seek comfort. And when I ask folks to pray for me during this journey, I mean it.

Doubtless, I’ll be receiving many more lessons in the coming days as my recovery continues. Right now I’m eager to resume the activities temporarily lost to me, like hiking uphill in Glen Helen and riding a bike long distances. Only time will tell if and how seriously I’ll experience either of the most serious side effects of prostate surgery: incontinence and erectile dysfunction. (However, my nerves were spared, my talented physician said when he visited my hospital room. I trust that he’s right.)

Today it’s nice to be able to sit in a chair for more than an hour.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kimberly Willardson April 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Ed, I’m so sorry to hear about your cancer diagnosis. I’m sending you positive thoughts and prayers as you continue your recovery from surgery. From your lucid, detailed post, it sounds like you’ve met this challenge as you’ve met many challenges: with your typical and thorough thoughtfulness, compassion, and intelligence. I’m cheering for you, Ed.

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laura j April 27, 2015 at 7:50 am

Hello Ed, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been sick; a fellow at my church is going through the same thing. Just finished reading the sample of your new book. Very nice. Is it out in paperback yet? Or on Kindle?

I wanted to let you know that I’ve finally gotten my novel onto Amazon (The Hedge Tree). Amazon also allows you to read a few free pages in it. I thought you might be interested since you are Charity’s de facto godfather, having been present at the birth when I took your novel-writing class at good ole Sinclair back in 2003.

I miss the summer workshops in YS, halcyon days and all that. I’ll never forget Anne Hagedorn bouncing up and down like a red rubber ball when her diet coke exploded on her. Or Kate Trochek enjoying her bag of brown-only M&Ms, a small perk she insisted on in return for doing the keynote and teaching a class. I read from The Hedge Tree on the closing night that first year I went. I even have a picture of me and my classmates from the afternoon intensive taught by the gorgeous blonde woman who’s got a few titles under her belt but I can’t recall her name at the moment. I’m even looking at the picture as I speak since it’s hanging in a collage on my wall.

I hope you recover soon. I was in Dayton for just a few days last December but it was mostly to take care of some business and I didn’t have time to visit half the people I would have enjoyed seeing. When I got back it was pouring and nasty here and I knew my family was probably talking about me being back in sunny California.

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laura j April 27, 2015 at 7:50 am

Hello Ed, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been sick; a fellow at my church is going through the same thing. Just finished reading the sample of your new book. Very nice. Is it out in paperback yet? Or on Kindle?

I wanted to let you know that I’ve finally gotten my novel onto Amazon (The Hedge Tree). Amazon also allows you to read a few free pages in it. I thought you might be interested since you are Charity’s de facto godfather, having been present at the birth when I took your novel-writing class at good ole Sinclair back in 2003.

I miss the summer workshops in YS, halcyon days and all that. I’ll never forget Anne Hagedorn bouncing up and down like a red rubber ball when her diet coke exploded on her. Or Kate Trochek enjoying her bag of brown-only M&Ms, a small perk she insisted on in return for doing the keynote and teaching a class. I read from The Hedge Tree on the closing night that first year I went. I even have a picture of me and my classmates from the afternoon intensive taught by the gorgeous blonde woman who’s got a few titles under her belt but I can’t recall her name at the moment. I’m even looking at the picture as I speak since it’s hanging in a collage on my wall.

I hope you recover soon. I was in Dayton for just a few days last December but it was mostly to take care of some business and I didn’t have time to visit half the people I would have enjoyed seeing. When I got back it was pouring and nasty here and I knew my family was probably talking about me being back in sunny California.

Reply

Cyndi April 27, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Ed, your post hasn’t left my mind since I first read it four days ago. I checked my calendar to see when your B&N reading was, and marveled (again) at your poise that day.

Know that many caring folks are with you in this battle, and if positive thoughts can heal, you’re well on your way!

Here if you need us (honestly!) –
Cyndi & George

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