Two years ago, I skipped a doctor’s appointment. It wasn’t a big deal. I was supposed to get another PSA check. I blew it off. I was busy.
Six months later, that same doctor told me I had prostate cancer.
Looking back over a year of surgery and radiation treatments to rid myself of this beast, I wonder. Second thoughts are enemies of the soul. They haunt you, taunt you and make you retrace your life in tiny increments.
I remember they told me my blood work was a little high. I remember going to the urologist, and I certainly remember the digital examination.
I also remember the doctor telling me to get it rechecked in six months. Then I remember not thinking about it again.
In hindsight, it was like running a red light. Not something I did on purpose, mind you. Just something that happened.
What the heck? Nothing was coming.
Now I have second thoughts.
We all do, about something.
All cancer patients seem to have second thoughts, whether they admit it or not. Sometimes they rise to the level of regret. But mostly they exist in the world of “what if.”
What if you had been more vigilant in self-examination? What if you had gotten regular physicals? Quit smoking earlier? Started eating better? What if you hadn’t ignored the warning signs?
What if? What if?
I reconciled my behavior by saying it probably didn’t matter. Prostate cancer is slow-growing. Six months probably didn’t make a life-or-death difference.
But there would be other opportunities to procrastinate, second guess, slip through a red light.
After my surgery for prostate cancer, I was told it might come back. They told me to consider a clinical trial, a postoperative treatment that might make a difference in the long run.
But like most patients, I was impatient. I was sick of being sick, tired of hospitals and ready to get back to work.
I saw the light turning yellow, but I gunned it, sped through the intersection and back into the fast lane of life.
Now I sit in the waiting room with some other scofflaws who ran the light, ignored the caution signs, missed an exit. We’re all waiting for the judge’s decision, one way or another.
Most of us are innocent. Our only crime is being human, being happy. We didn’t think it could happen to us. But it did and here we are.
With the clarity of hindsight, we might have done something different. We might have hit the brakes sooner, slowed down a little, looked both ways.
But it might not have mattered. Cancer doesn’t play by the rules either. It hides behind the aches and pains of everyday life. It wears plain clothes. It sneaks up on you.
So spend time, if you must, wondering what might have been. Then let it go. The road ahead is more important than anything in your rearview mirror.
Next Week: Ringing the bell.