If I made up life’s rules, people who have been through a lot would get a free pass to live out the rest of their lives in peace. But unfortunately, I am not yet in charge of the world. Case in point: My dad. In February 2005, he went to work an outwardly healthy man and about an hour into his work day our lives changed forever. He suddenly collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. We found out when we arrived at the hospital that he suffered a thoracic aortic dissection and a subsequent stroke. In English, that means that the largest artery in his body, attached to his heart suddenly tore. 80% of aortic dissection patients don’t survive and 50% never even make it to the hospital alive. Luckily, my dad did and after 7 months in 4 different hospitals he got to come home. My sweet mom retired to take care of him.
Now, 9 years later, he’s facing another challenge. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Fortunately, after a bone scan and CT scan we were able to determine that it hasn’t spread anywhere else. I didn’t even know this was possible but apparently the docs are so good these days, they can tell us exactly the kind of prostate cancer we’re dealing with. They score tumors based on a Gleason scale. I envision the tumor sounding exactly like Buford T. Justice and the doctors holding up signs with scores on them like in the Olympics but I’m pretty sure that isn’t actually how it works. Anyway, my dad’s tumor,
Buford T. Justice is an 8 out of 10. I’ve lived my whole life programmed to go for the high score but in this case a high score is bad. It means that the cancer is aggressive and likely to spread if we don’t kill it. Trust me, if we could hop in the Trans Am with the Bandit, head east, put the hammer down and outrun the cancer, I’d do it. But, unfortunately that only works when you have an awesome mustache like Burt Reynolds and I’m fresh out.
After several family conferences with his doctors, we have decided to go with the treatment plan of hormone therapy and radiation. Prostate cancer typically needs testosterone to grow so if we remove the fuel (testosterone) we can hopefully shrink the tumor and keep it from growing and spreading elsewhere in his body. But, because cancer is smart (darn it!), and this one is as aggressive as Buford T. Justice chasing the Bandit, there’s a pretty good chance that it could figure out how to live without testosterone and spread outside the prostate. In short, hormone therapy can’t be our only option because it won’t kill the cancer.
The only chance we have to permanently take down Buford is radiation. Unlike chemo, radiation doesn’t have too many side effects. It won’t make Dad nauseated, he won’t lose his luxurious locks of hair, and he’ll only have soreness at the site of radiation. The drawback is that Dad is in a wheelchair and it is pretty tough to get him in and out of a car so just driving him to treatment isn’t an option. When Mom takes him to the doc, she uses a couple of different services that picks them up in a wheelchair accessible vehicle since we don’t own one. Radiation must be done in 45 visits, 5 days per week, over 9 weeks. That’s a lot of trips to the doctor’s office. We’ve looked into using these services for radiation. Metrolift is $12 per day and has a subscription service that means you can use it every day if you live in the right “zone”. You guessed it-they live 5 miles away from the zone. So, it may be out but we’re still working on it. Medride is $74 per day so over 45 visits that’s $3,300 just for a few miles ride (basically Lake Hefner to Baptist)! We are certainly hoping for a better solution to getting him back and forth to his treatments for 9 weeks. I called the American Cancer Society but the ones they recommended require him to be ambulatory so they won’t work. Anyone have a wheelchair van we can rent for 9 weeks?
Over the next month, we’ll be working with his doctors to plan his treatment, transportation, and home care. While we already have doctors and a pretty decent idea of treatment, we could certainly use any prayers, transportation ideas, and warm thoughts that you can send our way. While I can’t shield Dad from this latest health challenge, I can rally an army of support to help him through it.
Update: I was able to sweet talk (aka beg) Metrolift to agree to transport Dad to his treatments and hire a companion to accompany Mom and Dad to treatments so things are already looking up! Thanks for all of the suggestions and words of support that have already been given, friends.