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HEALTH UPDATE: I'm Alright, Don't Nobody Worry 'Bout Me...

Rampage Film Production. Shutterstock Images.

When I received a call from my primary care physician on May 11th, just one day after having a full physical, one that had him complimenting me, "You have a perfect prostate for a 65-year-old man", I immediately knew something was wrong. He led with, "I'm gonna get right to the point, Vin. Your blood work came back, and your PSA number is high. You need to see a Urologist right away…" 

And, so my journey began. One of the most difficult parts was the realization that I'm mortal and nothing in life is guaranteed, and that includes tomorrow… 

I freaked out. My doctor called it "situational anxiety and depression." I began living on Ativan, edibles, CBD, THC, and High Nooners. I was talking with three shrinks, Tony Soprano has nothing on me, and I paced around my house during the day, looking out windows through narrow splits in the mini blinds, not too unlike a convict on the lamb. I must've thought I was hiding from the grim reaper, who knows? 

I went through several tests to confirm my diagnosis. First, a prostate MRI, then a Prostate Fusion Biopsy, and finally, a bone and PET scan. It was confirmed, it was cancer, but it hadn't spread beyond my prostate, the only good news I received early on. They would later tell me my cancer was "curable", and that had a nice ring to it!

After I chose radiation as my treatment plan, I began taking 50 MG of Bicalutamide daily (hormone suppressor), and then after a few weeks, I received my first shot of  Lupron, a serious Testosterone blocker. I was told the combination would completely stop my production of Testosterone, which is the food of prostate cancer. Without testosterone, the cancer/tumor would shrink, making it an easier target for radiation therapy. In addition to the benefits, it would also reduce muscle tone, increase belly fat, cause fatigue, and reduce energy and sex drive. It did all of that, and in addition to shrinking my prostate and testicles, it took my junk down a few notches as well. I joked and told my wife, "If my dick was a snorkel, right now I'd be taking in water!" 

Had I unknowingly morphed into George Costanza?

I needed to have a colonoscopy and then the placement of fiduciary markers, and when those two procedures were done, I could begin radiation therapy. On December 20th, seven months after my original diagnosis, I started radiation. Getting to the treatment stage is not a quick process, but according to my doctors at Dana-Farber, prostate cancer is slow-growing, and I had plenty of time… One doctor told me the cancer didn't start growing yesterday, last week, last month, or even last year. He said it'd probably been growing for ten years or longer…

The radiation was much more difficult than I imagined. I was told it would be similar to having an x-ray, but there could be side effects. My doctor told me I could choose between two treatment plans, 28 and 44 days, the latter being a little easier on the body and could potentially minimize the side effects. I played it safe and chose 44. My first visit was an orientation, a meet 'n great of sorts, and to get tattoos on my hips that would be used to align the radiation machine the technicians referred to as "Wendy", named after one employee's fast food preference…

My biggest concerns were cancellations due to snow, power outages, machine failure, or sickness. I told my friends and family I wouldn't be socializing or letting anyone into my house until the treatment was finished. The radiation can also compromise immune systems…

Everyone at Brigham and Women's/Sturdy Memorial Radiation Oncology Center (Mansfield, MA) was great and very upbeat. Just what I needed. To receive treatment, my colon had to be empty, and my bladder had to be full. Weekdays, I woke up at 4:45, had breakfast, dropped a deuce, showered, and started drinking water. Apparently, a full bladder is necessary so it's out of the way, providing the radiation with a clear path to the prostate. I'd drink 30 ounces of water between 6:30-6:45, and then on my way to the Oncology Center, I'd drink another 20 ounces, finishing by 7:10, sometimes in the waiting room. I had a standing appointment with "Wendy" every morning at 7:15.

Once I was positioned properly on the table, the radiation began. It was done in under 10 minutes.

Towards the tail end, my doctor/PA both warned me the side effects could get worse. Early on, I had some stinging, and my doctor prescribed 100 MG of Phenazopyridine, which in addition to reducing the sting, turned my urine bright orange. It helped tremendously, but between my declining aim and an increase in late-night frequency, the bathroom began looking like a crime scene, and I couldn't deny my part in it… Busted!

My only mishap occurred when I decided not to piss before I left Mansfield after treatment and then decided to stop on the way home for gas. It was a poor decision, and I pissed my pants in public, but I laughed all the way home. "My bad!"

In addition to the stinging, more frequent urination, and incredible fatigue, the radiation also affected my stomach… At one point, I had so much gas I told my wife, "I could go from Norton to Boston and back on half a can of baked beans!" And, I easily could've… 

Then it happened. I only had a single-digit number of appointments left. It's funny how something can seem like it's taking an eternity to finish, but once it's completed, it seems like it went quickly. Radiation was no exception. 

On my last day, there was a bit of sadness. All the people who had taken such great care of me in Mansfield, people I'd seen every day for 44 days, would no longer be part of my daily routine… 

After I rang the bell, signifying the completion of my prescribed radiation therapy, I circled back at noon with five South Shore-style bar pizzas and a quart of coke I got from my favorite place, Pizza Tyme (Norton). It was the least I could do. They were so good to me! 

I entered into this fearful my radiation therapy treatment team would include the likes of one Nurse Ratched…

The "I finished radiation celebration" was brief. I knew the most important part of the treatment was its effectiveness. I had done everything they asked me to do, but how successful was it?

I had an appointment to see my Medical Oncologist at Dana-Farber in Boston on Tuesday, February 28th. First, there was a blood draw at 8:45 and then an appointment with my doctor an hour later. Of course, on that day, Massachusetts was under "Storm Watch", heavy snow was expected overnight, and most schools, fearing the worst, announced closures the day before. I was determined to make the appointment despite the forecasts of heavy snow. I have a four-wheel drive truck, and I knew if Dana-Farber was open, I could make it in…

The snow was minimal, 2-4", and I ended up having a quick ride into Boston because everybody else stayed home. The blood draw went well, and although I could've looked at the results on my phone, I opted to wait and let my Medical Oncologist be the one to interpret them for me. Okay, when it comes to reading test results, I'm pure, unadulterated chickenshit!

When I was first diagnosed, my PSA was 12.8 (2.0-4.0 is considered normal). A second test done a week later produced 11.1. After I started Bicalutamide and before my first shot of Lupron, my PSA dropped to 2.0, a huge unexpected drop my Physician's Assistant told me to celebrate extensively. Okay, she said to do it with ice cream and not Ativan and Nooners, which is not recommended by anyone in the medical profession, ever!

Then, three months after my first shot of Lupron and before my second shot, my PSA dropped to .09, another indication that my cancer was responding to treatment exactly as they had hoped. After completing the radiation and at the tail end of my second shot of Lupron, which lasts three months, on Tuesday, my PSA dropped to .002! (as non-existent as it gets!)

And, after he told me, my Medical Oncologist, who's 6 foot 6, and I stood up and high-fived the great result. It was an incredible moment. He's taken me off Bicalutamide and Lupron, and wants to see me again in three months. He said I'm not completely out of it yet but in a very good place, and that I'll start making testosterone again, rendering my George Costanza Shrinkage a thing of the past! 

Along with Barstool's design team, I created some "Prostate Cancer Awareness" merch, and Dave and Erika were more than willing to donate 100% of the net proceeds to The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. When I spoke to the design team two weeks ago, I was told we had $1,300 to donate, but I know we can do better! I really want to donate $2,500, and I believe that's a very reachable goal. 

Think of this as a donation or an investment in the future, and that we can wipe out Prostate Cancer if we have the funding to do more research, and that's exactly what your purchase of "Prostate Cancer Awareness" merch will do. Fund research, develop new, less invasive tests and treatments, and ultimately, save lives. That sounds like a good deal to me…

One of my favorite movies and one of my favorite songs. In case you were wondering, "I'm alright, don't nobody worry 'bout me…"