My Beautiful Cancer: How I'll miss it!

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 of cure.

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 life.

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 of original toll house cookies every Tuesday. Are they delicious!

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

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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.