Day One with Cancer

“Your prostate biopsies came back positive. You have prostate cancer,” said my urologist.

Two weeks ago I had the biopsy procedure done. Yesterday as I was heading back to the doctor, I thought to myself, You need to stay in the present, in this moment. Jesus told you to focus on today as tomorrow has enough troubles of its own. Right now, as you drive your car, you don’t have cancer. There is no diagnosis, negative or positive. Just enjoy the drive.

I stayed in the present.

No worries. Then I was called into the doctor’s office and got the news. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t have a “Why me?” or “Are you sure?” moment. I just heard this new information and accepted it. I let the doctor keep talking.

He talked in more detail about the biopsy and the results. He told me my Gleason score which measures the aggressiveness of the cancer. My score was low. Then he went on to potential treatment options. There were three. After some thought, he added a fourth. Then he asked, “Do you have questions?”

I love asking questions.

I ask questions for a living. I’m an angel investor known for the incisive and quality questions I ask.

I don’t remember having any questions. After the doctor talked for a long time, I remember thinking, I wonder what he would do if he were me?

Then he said, “Here’s the course of treatment I would select if I were you.” Good timing.

As he walked me out of his office to the front desk, he said, “The genetic test results will be back in three weeks. Make an appointment to come back then, and we’ll talk about your best option to deal with this. In the meantime, do your research. Learn about prostate cancer. Talk to people who’ve had it or are still dealing with it. This will help you when we get together.”

I set the appointment four weeks out.

Three weeks from now, guests are coming for Thanksgiving. Then, the Monday after Thanksgiving, my son is getting married. I didn’t want to think about this cancer stuff and the decisions surrounding it until after these wonderful and happy events. I thought to myself, My prostate cancer can wait.

As I headed to my car, I was thinking, I have to call Kathy and tell her what happened. It was my fault she wasn’t with me at the doctor’s office. I booked the doctor on Friday, and that is when Kathy babysits Scotty, our grandchild.

While in the parking lot, I got a call from the entrepreneur I was scheduled to meet. He was sitting in a Starbucks right across from Piedmont Hospital. He said, “I hope you doctor visit went well.”

I said, “It was not such good news.”

He met me in the parking lot and walked me into Starbucks. I said, “I have to call my wife. I’ll see you after the call.”

I met the guy and tried to focus on his pitch.

I was wondering, Why isn’t he asking me what happened at the doctor’s appointment? Life goes on, and he was focusing on accomplishing what he came to accomplish.

I drove north to meet my son David. He is getting married. We squeezed in a lunch. We hadn’t seen each other in three weeks.

On the way, I called my friend Richard who was in the same position ten years ago. He told me everything is going to be OK and then instructed me to do what the doctor told me to do. Do research and talk to people.

He admitted, “My knowledge of prostate cancer is dated, so I really don’t want to coach you on a best course of action.” He offered to connect me to his surgeon whom he respects deeply.

David met me in the parking lot of the strip center. We embraced. He then asked, “How’s your morning going?”

“Not so good,” I said.

“I just found out I have prostate cancer.” I watched as his jaw dropped. David was the first of my children I told. I was thinking, I’ve never delivered news like this before. What do I say? How do I discuss this? I want my children to know I am positive, and hopeful and they should be, too.

Over lunch I told him something I learned from all this: “I went to doctors all my life. The conversations were always about preventative health. They would tell me if I ate the wrong things and didn’t exercise, I would potentially have bad things happen to me. A list of negative health consequences.

“Now when I go to the doctor, he is telling me what I have and how it will kill me. Another doctor I saw recently told me, ‘Hey, you are 65. That’s when everything starts falling apart.’” I am at a new stage in life.

After lunch, I continued my schedule and did a two-hour interview for a client. I focused on this man as this decision was very important to him and his family. Not to mention how important this decision was for the business and the people he would lead.

Going home I started to dread conversations with my other three children. I am their dad. I’ve never had anything bad happen in the last twelve years. I am full of vitality, always busy, engaged, and healthy. Now I have to tell them I have cancer.

Not sure who to call first, I got a call from my daughter Lisa. She asked, “Weren’t you supposed to go to the doctor today?” So I told her. I explained what I learned. I could tell she was sad and very concerned.

I then put off the remaining two calls.

I didn’t want to talk about this. I didn’t. Every conversation made this new revelation more real to me. So I binge watched two shows to finish a detective series. It was good therapy.

Then Kathy and I decided I need to call the kids. I called Nick, my youngest. He was shocked but ended the call by saying, “Sure sounds like you’re not worried about it.” Then there was my oldest, Julia. I didn’t want to talk to her because it was the eve of a big trip for her, Zack, and their two little boys. They were going to Disney World. I’ve done this trip and know the night before is both stressful and exciting. I didn’t want to radically change the mood. We talked. She was encouraging. All was OK. She was going to Disney World.

My first day with cancer was over.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 thoughts on “Day One with Cancer

  1. Charlie,
    I’ve become very fond of you as I’ve followed your blog this year. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve appreciated your candid way of approaching your writing. It has become more frank throughout the year. And now this “C” word. Perhaps I can be of some assistance here.

    In my youth I was a nurse, first in the operating room in open heart surgery at Emory, then in ICU for several years as I worked my way into my chosen field. The experiences I had as a nurse have helped me throughout my life.

    I know people will tell you about the Power of Positive Thinking (and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve read the book!), but I’ve seen it work to bring about miracles time and again. Especially when it comes to issues of illness. It’s a form of constant prayer that literally transforms cells and energizes the immune system. I’ve used this “theory” twice in my own life. Once when I was facing the diagnosis of cervical cancer and the second time when I had the same infection that killed Jim Henson years ago. So this is no theory for me.

    If you would care to email me for more details, I would be more than happy to share my thoughts and experiences with you. God bless you as you lean on His abiding love to conquer this.

  2. I am glad I was introduced to you. You have a great heart and a great mind for life and business. I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis and I am happy to hear that your head is high and looking to God and family. If you need anything, yell.

  3. I love how you live out loud, Charlie. This was an incredibly hard and stressful thing to have happen. And yet you generously share it with us. We need this kind of generosity – it helps the rest of us to live that way too. Thank you. And God bless you as you battle through this.

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