How I Got Here, Part Four, The Call

Let me take a break from history for a moment and give you some current news.  I have another appointment at the clinic later this week and if all goes well there I’ll be starting my treatments right after that.  I had hoped to be completely up to date with my history posts by the time treatment started but that isn’t going to happen.  Writing often has an energy of its own and I am finding that writing this whole story has been a great relief and greatly removed much of the fear and anxiety from what is about to happen to my body.

Like it or not, I have now been changed.  I am no longer just Andrew but now have been marked by cancer.  It shifts your perception of health.  It refocuses your priorities.  It brings your true desires to the surface.  I haven’t sorted it all out, but one thing I’ve noticed lately is that I every time I hear someone complaining about a minor health issue I have the overwhelming urge to blurt out, “Well that must suck but let me tell you about my last trip to the cancer clinic.”  Now most times I can resist, but it’s hard. Very hard.

More when I figure out the other changes.

Back to the past.

After the biopsy I was told it would take a week to get the pathology report which would naturally clear me of the charges of being a cancer carrier.  The doctor even made an appointment to call me on the phone.  He was supposed to call on Wednesday but on Tuesday he called while I was at the office with the news.

Here is what I remember of the conversation, “Mr. Reynolds your report came in early and I wanted to call you as soon as I could.”

An observation: Doctors never call with good news.

Then he continued, “Now I don’t want this to ruin you holidays but two of the cores have cancer.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, prostate cancer, blah, blah, blah cancer clinic, blah, blah, bring your wife, blah, blah, blah blah surgeon blah blah blah radiologist blah blah side effects blah blah blah blah any questions? Mr. Reynolds are you still there?”

“Um, yes, oh yeah.  Still here.  Haven’t fainted. No real questions. Just something we got to deal with.  So someone will call me set up an appointment?”  I replied.

“Yes.  The cancer clinic will.  And don’t let this affect your holidays, blah, blah, blah.”

and yes it did affect my holidays.  I am not the best at following doctor’s advice.

So now here is the part of the post where I answer the question, “What do you do when you get that call?”  Here is what I did:

I went back to my desk, put on headphones, set iTunes to sea shanties, started writing a detailed technical report on the finer points of SCM as it relates to ensuring that the  company’s intellectual property is protected and pretended that I hadn’t just received any call.  Sometimes denial is a reasonable coping method.

Then I thought of that damned Tim McGraw song again, and the line, “How’s it hit you when you get that kind of news?”

Yeah, I wish I knew.  I was just stunned and most reasonable thoughts were driven from my mind.  I remembered back to when I got the call that my father had just had a stroke and how I had leapt into action – grabbing his advanced directive, driving to the hospital and bursting into ER to take control of the situation – making sure the doctors did the right thing, reassuring my father and making at least 4 phone calls before confronting the medical staff.  Yes confront.  I can be a serious force when properly stirred up – lucky for the rest of the planet that doesn’t happen very often.

This time I didn’t leap into action.

Then I remembered the day at the urgent care clinic with my mother.  She was having problems breathing and her leg had swollen up.  They did an ultra sound to check things out.  I still remember the details.  The doctor found me in a hallway and asked me to join him in his office.  He had a large bottle of orange juice, a half eaten banana, an empty sandwich bag and the newspaper on his desk.  Pushing the paper away he placed a photo on the desk and said, “I thought I should tell you first, your mother has a tumor on her liver. I’ve called an ambulance and I am sending her to the hospital.” Now I don’t want to brag too much, but when I went into the exam room to tell mother, I was good.  Real good – strong, confident, reassuring and comforting.

This time I wasn’t any of that.

I couldn’t process it.  I didn’t want to go there.

Then my wife called reminding me that she was going to a class that night and I’d be on my own for dinner.  I said, “That’s great enjoy your class.  See you when you get home.”

A braver thinking man might have said, “Honey, the doctor called.  Can you stay home?  We need to talk.”  I am not a brave man and I had let my brain shutdown.

When I got home I had the dinner my wife had left me and watched all the “Red Green Show” episodes I had on the DVR.  Then I sat in the living room with the silence until my wife returned.  I don’t recall thinking about much or even praying.  I just sat and starred at the carpet and turned my mind off.

When she got home I told her the news and she said, “Why didn’t you tell me on the phone? I would have stayed home so we could talk.”

I didn’t have an answer then and I don’t have one now.  But I now have the answer to the question, “What do you do when you get the news?”

I felt like I had been punched in the gut and had the wind knocked out of me.

I was stunned.  I went into shock. I stopped thinking.  I stopped being.

It took a lot of talk and time before I was able to act again.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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3 Responses to How I Got Here, Part Four, The Call

  1. YAPCaB says:

    I find it very easy to relate to your experience. My life went into a state of suspended animation. It’s a good thing my wife attended all my meetings with docs, I had lots of trouble focussing. The one thing I was able to concentrate on was reading Patrick Walsh’s book Guide to Surviving Prostate Cancer. It gave the grounding I needed to get back in control and start making decisions.


  2. Marvin Tanner says:

    Hi Andrew,
    A fellow I used to work with leads a prostrate cancer support group. If you are interested, I will put you in touch with him. He lives at the Terraces where the Friebels live. I will ask them if they have met him.

    I guess I was lucky after my fall. All through my operations and immediate recovery, I didn’t really know all what was happening. I have not been depressed during my rehab. Each week shows improvement and hope,
    Praying for you,


    • Andrew says:

      Marv – sometimes it is easier to deal with the sudden injury or illness. I know when my gallbladder went bad it was a shock but there was something clear and urgent that needed to be done. No thinking – into the OR for you.

      This cancer thing is different in that you have time to think, consider and chose – too much time and it’s easy to second guess yourself, “Am I doing the right thing here?” Still I’d wish neither a fall or cancer on anyone. They are difficult roads to travel.

      I’ll send you an email to followup on the support group.
      and I’m still praying for you.


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