John Grindrod: A nod of appreciation to my local docs

As a guy who’s tried to support local business whenever possible, when some health adversity arose a year ago after years of battling prostate issues, something that afflicts so many men as they age, I decided to stay with our local docs.

For some time now, the main predictor of prostate cancer, a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, has revealed rising numbers, leading to my urologist, Doctor Jaber Alonzi, to order prostate MRIs and biopsies, before I had to decide, either remove the cancerous prostate or undergo radiation treatments.

A year ago in late March, I opted for removal, a surgery performed by Doctor Alonzi at Memorial, feeling that would do the trick. However, the pathology report after the surgery indicated there was some potential for recurrence. Incremental elevations would mean no real cause for concern but, unfortunately, a precipitous increase would. Guess which lane my body chose?

When I asked Doctor Alonzi what was the likelihood of my needing radiation sooner rather than later, he again shot straight and said he felt radiation would be necessary. I told him I appreciated his care over the years and accepted his referral to the radiation oncologist, Doctor Wayne Court.

Now, I will tell you that when I left Doctor Alonzi’s office that day, I was extremely disappointed that my opting for what I thought would be the more permanent solution last spring failed. As a matter of fact, I was so disappointed that when I received a link to fill out a survey on my visit, I deleted the request as well as a second and a third.

However, by the time I received a fourth request from a very persistent Lima Memorial Health System, I had sufficiently worked my way through the denial, the anger, the bargaining (when I weighed the chance that I would die of something else before I would die of this) and the depression to arrive at acceptance. And, part of that fifth phase was to also accept the reality that I am no more special than any one of the other estimated 300,000 men every year, according to figures released by the American Cancer Society, who’ll also be told they have prostate cancer.

So I filled that survey out, giving the good doctor excellent ratings and added the following message as part of the survey: “The care I have received has been excellent as well as the chair-sidemanner. When Doctor Alonzi told me I’d need radiation, he delivered it both with compassion and understanding. While it took me a while to respond to this survey as I worked through my disappointment, it is absolutely not the doctor’s fault that I have cancer.”

Of course, it was with a definite degree of uncertainty and trepidation that I attended my first consultation with Doctor Court. After all, while it’s easy to think about the world in which we live by what we see around us as we go about each day and the stories we read and see in the endless spin of the news cycle, it surely isn’t easy to think about a world without us in it.

Without question, the consultation was a ray of light in overcast times. Doctor Court explained the procedure in layman’s terms slowly, pausing for questions, and really demystified the radiation process. He did what we all wish doctors would do when we’re faced with issues, which is to convey the idea that all of what I would undergo was entirely doable. Throughout the hour-long consultation, he even demonstrated a sneaky sense of humor amidst all that cancer talk, not funny like Patch Adams’ red nose and floppy clown shoes, which I surely didn’t need, but subtle funny, which I surely did need.

As for my approximately eight weeks’ worth of Monday-through-Friday sessions, well, I guess you might say I’m coming down the home stretch and can’t wait to get through the finish line with, I hope, less than five left. There’s been some need for some topical creams to mitigate some reddened skin as well as quite a bit of fatigue, especially during these final few weeks, but so very many have endured so very much more, of this I am certain.

As far as lessons learned, beyond the obvious, which is that I know my linear line grows shorter, like so many others who’ve faced their own serious health tribulations, I think I’ve gained a truer appreciation that each day’s rising is indeed a blessing, another chance to appreciate fully God’s greatest gift.

When I think about the potential for another cancer recurrence, I also think of some most valuable advice from my friend Brian during his own dance with cancer, advice by way of his own doctor, who told him, “Never trade today’s serenity for tomorrow’s worries.”

So guys, please use today’s column as another type of PSA, as in a public-service announcement. Make sure your family doc is ordering blood work for that other PSA, starting as you approach your 50th because while we all know how life’s last chapter ends, we surely want the book to be a long hardback.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].