My Beautiful Cancer: How I'll
In late August, while camping in Vermont, received the news
that my prostate biopsies had come back malignant. By early
September, I found out that I was officially a Gleason 7,
(meaning I had moderately advanced cancer), and that radiation
therapy was the clearly recommended treatment. I also got
my first Luprin shot to lower my testosterone which gave me
a wapping series of hot flashes in the following months.
In late November I was to begin radiation therapy, 44 treatments
in the next 9 weeks. My prognosis was good 80% chance
I hatched a plan. I would make this a party. I would have
my radiation at 7 AM every day. I would try to find 40 people
who would drive with me for the 40 minutes into Mass. General
Hospital, then have breakfast with me and return to our regular
lives by 9 AM. I began telling everyone I knew.
By November, at least 30 people had volunteered and later
the rest signed on. A few people wanted to do it two or three
times. Some were a big surprise, like the minister of a Unitarian
church in the next town, or the woman I met at a party in
a town one hour's drive away who decided that night
she wanted to be a morning companion. Some were close friends,
many were people I knew but had never spent time with. A few
were members of my Unitarian Church.
Everyone showed up on time. One woman from an agency where
I consult spent the previous day shopping with her 4 year
old daughter for party equipment including six balloons, with
party hats and noise makers, water pistols, a ball, maracas
and a tiny deck of cards. We wore the party hats to the waiting
room and gave favors to other patients, the nurses, and my
doctor, who paraded with me the whole length of the radiation
center in our party hats.
Some of my new friends shared their life stories, some joked
around, all offered rich mornings of warmth and good breakfast
(I paid). Every day I took pictures of my companion to put
in an album so that I could remember this rich period of my
Now, at the end of my treatment, I am sad to say goodbye
to this adventure. It has been painless. All that is required
of me is that I lie on the table for the 10 minutes that it
takes my radiation machine to complete its round of seven
different exposures to my prostate. No side effects, thank
God, except those eternal, cute hot flashes. And I get so
much sympathy! One dear friend makes and delivers a batch
80% I'm cured. 100% I'm grateful for this dear
adventure into friendship. So if you have to have cancer,
please try to enjoy the opportunity it provides!
Jack Weltner, MD
Jack Weltner, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Marblehead
and on staff at Lynn Community Health Center. His web page,
safe-harbor.cc, is devoted to ideas about improving our lives.