Prostate Lecture, fun huh?

As I have gotten older I have become an amateur expert on illnesses I have had or people I love have had. I could tell you all about Atrial Septal Defect, a heart disorder that is congenital that is usually found days after a baby is born but mine wasn’t found until I was 36 years old. It is unfathomable to me that all those doctors over all those years missed it. The one who found it was pissed off at all the others. She was a feisty bitch and I didn’t like her, but bless her heart, (no pun intended) she found it. I had it fixed. Not easy. Open heart surgery.  A lot of pain. A lot of drugs. A lot of scars. I could have dropped dead and I didn’t. I’m grateful to the feisty bitch.

Now, someone I care a lot about is having a prostate cancer recurrence. This man asked his primary care physician if he could get him in for a physical at the end of 2013. Of course, every one in the world is trying to get in for their physical while their deductible is satisfied at the end of the year. This man’s physician said no, he couldn’t squeeze him in. My friend said, “Can we at least do blood work?” This request saved my friends life.

You guys, prostate cancer is the number one cancer for men and one in six men will be diagnosed with it sometime in their lifetime. There are no symptoms in the first 2 to 3 stages of the disease and by the 4rth stage you might be toast. Yes, I’m trying to scare you. Like any other cancer the trick is to catch it early. Stage one prostate cancer is relatively easy to treat and has a huge success rate. Stage two, a little trickier but still very treatable with a radical prostatectomy. (Surgical removal of the prostate or other options depending on your situation). Stage three means cancer cells have gone beyond the initial site, maybe into lymph nodes, etc. and that gets into really serious cancer treatment which has serious quality of life implications.  Stage 4 I don’t even want to talk about.

The reason I’m writing this, is that there is this new idea circulating around that maybe a yearly PSA test is not that important. There are organizations that say it leads to false positives and unnecessary biopsies.   If my friend did not get a PSA test in 2013 it could easily be over by now, if you know what I mean. A PSA test will tell you if your PSA is elevated and if you might have cancer! It’s an easy and cheap test! A little blood test!

Men, I warn you, do not assume when your doctor says your blood work was fine that she /he tested you for PSA. You must know what your PSA is, guys!  I have men friends who say their doctors do the blood work but don’t include PSA! WHAT? It’s the number one cancer of men! Why would that not be obviously in every blood work up! I just don’t get it.  But it’s true.  Take control of your health by being positive your doctor is checking PSA.   Have I made my point? One in six! Get your PSA test no matter what anyone says!

Whew, I’m exhausted…..

Death and New Life

“Look, honey! The Gorilla has gray hair so he must be old like Nana!” a very old woman said to a kid I assumed was her grandchild while pointing to her hair. The woman looked like she was a hundred years old.

As an amateur expert on the Western Lowland Gorilla, I stand in front of their habitat at the Dallas zoo and speak to zoo guests about them. “He’s actually not old,” I said, “he’s 13 which is about 18, 19 in human years. And, he’s not gray he’s silver. He’s a silverback gorilla which means a mature adult. But he’s a young adult.” Nana wasn’t looking at me or hearing me and just kept saying to her grandchild how old this gorilla must be.

“Nana!” a woman of about 38 asserted. “She’s saying he’s not old, you’re not listening to her.” I realized that this was her grandchild and the young one was her great grandchild. “Nana, listen to what the woman is saying!”

Nana looked at me and narrowed her eyes as if trying to focus. “He’s not old?” she asked suspiciously.

“No,” I said, “just silver from maturity.” Nana went on to ask me several questions and as other people gathered around to see the magnificent silverback, Juba, I noticed her flowy shirt had been accidently tucked into her underwear which were showing well above the top of her pants on one side. I was the one to run to the front of the class in junior high to tell the teacher his fly was down before he got eaten alive by a bunch of hormone raging maniacs and I wasn’t going to let Nana continue walking around the zoo like this. I simply reached forward, grabbed her shirt and tugged upward. She realized what was happening, never took her eyes off Juba while she reached back and completed the task. We never said a word about it.

“Where are the chimpanzees?” she finally asked excitedly. I told her how to get to them and told her to look for our one year old baby chimp.

“A baby? Yipeeee!” she exclaimed as she staggered away. “I gotta go find my kids!” Oddly, the granddaughter with the child in the stroller had moved on and left this incredibly old lady by herself. It didn’t seem to bother Nana but it bothered me. This woman wasn’t moving well.

An hour or two later I was leaving the gorilla research station when suddenly Nana appeared. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to drive you crazy with so many questions today,” she said. “But, where are the elephants?” She was alone again.

“I will walk you to the elephants, Nana,” she seemed unstable and it was hot. “Now, up ahead do you want to take the stairs or the stroller ramp?” I asked.

“I know, I look drunk!” she exclaimed with a laugh, “I’ll take the stroller ramp.”

“You don’t look drunk, you just look kinda old,” I said.

“Kinda old,” she giggled under her breath. “I’m on morphine,” she said, “I have cancer.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “Wow, morphine, are you dying?”

“Yes,” she said as she hung onto the railing teetering as she walked, “but it’s fine. I’m 85, I smoked from the time I was 16 until I was 66! I should have gotten cancer when I was 21!” she exclaimed as she gave me a friendly slap on the shoulder. “Oh, I see the kids! I’ll just catch up with them. Thank you for your help.”

“Nana,” I said, “just past the elephants are the giraffes and there are two babies in there.”

Two babies! Yipeeeee!” she said as she waved her arms.


Prostitution and Crack Cocaine

“Something is really weird over there,” I said to my husband Steve. “Those cars in the driveway and in the street are the ones I see at various times during the week in the driveway when she isn’t home.”

“Well, it is Thanksgiving. Maybe those are her friends or other single mothers celebrating together,” he replied.

“Who celebrates Thanksgiving with the shades drawn?” I asked.

“Well, we don’t know the layout of that house,” he said, “Maybe they’re in the backyard.”

“They aren’t in the backyard,” I said, “I can see the backyard from the upstairs bedroom and I already checked.”

“You checked?? Why are you so obsessed with this?” he asked.

“It’s the house right next door. Those cars are in the driveway at all weird times during the week. I just wonder what’s going on in there. I was telling the lady who owns the tree trimming company about it when she was here and she thought it might be a crack house or a prostitution venue and told me to call the police neighborhood watch division,” I said. “I mean, she’s been in Texas a lot longer than us; maybe she knows something we don’t.”

“That’s a bit of a stretch,” Steve said. “I really wouldn’t worry about it until you have far more evidence.” Then he went out for a run.

I might be a little OCD and the truth is I was and have been obsessed with whatever is going on next door. The woman who lives there is named Marisol. I remember that by thinking “aerosol”. She’s probably late 30’s and is a single mother of a young boy. They are rarely home and I suspect they sleep over at a boyfriend of Marisol’s most nights and that part is fine by me and is also none of my business.

The problem I have is that during the week, when Marisol’s car is not there while she is working I often see one or more of three cars parked in her driveway. They are a black Suburban, a white SUV of some kind and a black Audi. I’m convinced something sinister is going on, yes, like drugs or prostitution.

I wasn’t cooking for Thanksgiving as we were going out so when Steve went running, I sat down to read on my comfy chair in my downstairs office which has a huge picture window looking out to the street with the big, beautiful trees (take note: I said “beautiful” regarding something in Texas!!) and Marisol’s driveway. At around 4:00pm I heard her front door open. I threw my book, jumped up and leapt to the window. A man walked out, went to the street, got into the black Suburban and drove away. Hmmmmm, I thought.

I retrieved my book and sat back down. Five minutes later I heard the door open again. I threw my book, jumped up and leapt to the window. A woman walked out, got in the Audi and drove away. I knew it!! I thought. There’s a prostitution ring operating over there! Wait till I tell Steve!!

My book was starting to look a little disheveled. But I sat back down and found my way to the page where I left off, began to read and I heard the door again. My poor book.

This time an older man walked to the white SUV. I was thinking he seemed a little old to be involved in prostitution. Maybe he was a senior pimp? He unlocked the car and got a small cooler out of the back seat then walked back to the house and put it inside the door. He then walked back to the car and got a second cooler, went in the house and closed the door.

He’s replenishing the drugs for the prostitution ring, I thought. What drugs have to be kept cool? Heroin? Crack? Is crack the same as heroin? Wait, crack is cocaine of some kind, right? Different than heroin? I’m sure all these drugs have to be kept cool and that is why he has them in coolers. Now he is going in there to transfer them from the cooler to the refrigerator for the next trick. (Aren’t you guys surprised I knew the word for a prostitution transaction was “trick”?)

My thoughts were interrupted by the tone 0f a text coming in to my iPhone. It was Steve saying he’d stopped for a coffee and asking how I was doing. I told him I was fine but had a LOT to tell him about the house next door when he got home.

This time my book got a break because I hadn’t sat back down. I heard the door and zipped over to the window. Out walked the older man, an older woman each holding a small cooler and……Marisol and her son.

“Okay, mom, dad, drive safe! Enjoy the leftovers!” she said with a smile. “Tommy, say bye to gramma and grandpa! And Tommy, did you say bye to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Bill before they left a few minutes ago?”

Just then Steve walked in. “So, what’s new next door, Sherlock?”
I had to eat crow.