VIII. Thank Goodness!

Hello, Everyone:
Round 2 of the hormone therapy has gone far better than anyone, Dad especially, could have imagined. We’ve become so accustomed to bad news that one could say we hoped for better, but expected more of the same. Upon receiving good news, it’s like Dad won the lottery!
To recap: Dad’s PSA numbers when we began this race: 271. This was very, very bad.
Today’s PSA results: 2.5. This is very, very good. It means, most importantly, that he has been given a real, genuine stay of execution. The hormone therapy has done the good work it was supposed to do, bringing the cancer to a dull, almost undetectable roar and he’s allowed to live the rest of his life rather than prepare for dying. I’m postulating, but I think he’s got genuine years ahead of him. It is the best possible outcome, under the circumstances (Stage IV being, you know, pretty serious).
So today is like A Very Special Christmas, with Extra Special Guests who drop in on an already great line-up. Think Jon Stewart, with a visit from Charlie Chaplin. And maybe Billie Holiday and Mick Jagger doing a duet of “The Christmas Song” with Victor Borge on piano. You know, great.

After we received the results from Dad’s blood tests in the urology office, I took my leave; it seemed inappropriate to stay for Dad’s hormone shot since he had to bear his bum to have it delivered. I celebrated Dad’s great news by making an appointment to have my boobs mashed for a mammogram and then got a cup of coffee: genuine, appropriate honorific. I waited for him in the lobby.

When I spied him walking towards me, Dad had a hint of reserved glee. Calm, but jaunty. “I’m not wearing the catheter!” He spoke in a stage whisper, barely containing his obvious thrill. “I don’t even know what to do!”

His docs, encouraged by the rest of his numbers felt like Dad was ready for a test: to see if he could take a whiz. Have a slash. Drain the weasel. Water the horses.

And he did, just like that: no help, no bag, no catheter. Free as a flag in the breeze, liquid gold unfettered by medical grade polycarbons shoved in his doodle. That the urologist read the milligrams of pee by flashlight because there was a power outage just added to the surreal joyousness of the moment.

I pondered the magnitude of the morning on our way to grab lunch with Lars, also joining our impromptu revelry. “I’ve tried to figure out appropriate ways to celebrate,” I said, “but I can’t think of anything. Just have another really good pee.” 

“That would be great!” Dad laughed. “Fingers crossed!”

When we got to the restaurant Dad ordered iced tea. “Drink up! Drink fast!” Lars and I chanted.

Dad called later to tell me he had celebrated: he drained the weasel in the privacy of his own home, not a medical device to be found. “Once seems like good fortune; twice is a trend! I took your advice and sat down. Good thing, too. It’s a little crazy down there!”

It was a final great liberation: his mood instantly lifted. I’m not sure if he knew how much the catheter had been affecting him until it was gone, but once it was off, he admitted “Thank you. Without you I would have despaired.” This was a great compliment, but one which made me realize the gravity of his situation under all his jollity, and grimly aware of the emotional activity under the surface of his lighthearted response to the cancer.

Good numbers, good PSA, good kidneys, good pee. It was a great day for Dad.

Solo [detail] , oil on canvas, 2001

Solo [detail], oil on canvas, 2001

Dad had subscribed to numerous seasons of dance performances over the years; it was our thing. But going to a bunch of ballets was an impossibility once the cancer settled in. 

That week, we went to see Mikhail Baryshnikov perform. Other than me wearing a skirt as homage to my first love (girlish infatuation” not being nearly a strong enough word for my 12-year-old ardor), it was as it had always been: a girl and her pop out for a night on the town. That this seemed impossible just a few weeks before emphasized how lucky we were to live in the modern age. That Dad, who looked as though checking out was preferable to any alternative in June, looked forward to a very exciting cultural season of symphonies, dance performances, and visits from friends was amazing. Two shots of hormone therapy in the butt and the removal of the catheter gave him a bonus round.

“I’m thinking about getting back on my bike,” Dad said as we toddled back to the car from watching Baryshnikov perform—dancing more creakily than other days, but lovely just the same. “And it seems like if I’m entertaining the idea, I should probably just go for it,” he concluded. This was an absurd thought two weeks earlier; now it was a real consideration.

We had been planning around his increasing infirmity before; perhaps it was unstated but both of us considered big events to be eating dinner out, and taking in a movie once in a while, mostly at home. Dad maintained from the first diagnosis that he wanted to see as many of his concerts and performances as he could, but when he said it a couple months before, it was under the assumption that he would be missing some. Maybe most.

After the latest tests, he was planning on seeing all of them. He had hot flashes once in a while, and was still devoted to the Home and Garden Network, but on balance it was a small price to pay.


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