By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 15, 2008
Oskie vex too bad. Friday morning, first thing, he wake me up to complain, “Why you put ma name in de papers?”
“Well friend, Ah didn’t really put yo’ name in de papers. I was writing an article and I felt our conversation best personified your resistance to my letting the public know about this dreadful disease among black men.”
“But yo’ didn’t have to use my name in yo’ chupidness.”
He was crossing de line.
“You call me at half past six in de morning. You don’t even ask how ah feeling; but yo’ start to abuse me…”
“Ah sorry for dat but ah still feel yo’ could ah tell me that yo’ was going to talk about me in the papers.”
“Friend, ah sorry.”
That pacified him. He cooled down a bit. It was my turn to be aggressive.
“Oskie, you’se a hell of a man. I had surgery. Yo’ ah even ask, ‘Dog how yo’ doing’ but yo’ calling me this early morning to abuse me.”
He break down now. Ah know ah ketch him. He blurred out.
“How yo’ feeling friend?”
“Yo’ boy taking it easy!”
“Yo never tell ma how de operation went. Ah know dey operated on you but yo’ never give me any of the details.”
“Well, after dey diagnosed me with cancer, I decided to have my entire prostate taken out so as to remove the cancer in my body….”
“Dat was the only choice you had?”
“I had three choices: I could wait and see how the cancer progressed; I could have radiation seeds implanted into my prostate that would kill the cells and shrink the tumor (brachytherapy); or I could have the prostate removed (radical prostatectomy.)”
“And you had to remove yo’ prostate. Yo’ ent know you could ah dead!”
“They say, ‘No surgery is simple.’ Forbes Burnham, a former president of Guyana, died while they were taking out his tonsils.”
“Dat was Forbes Burnham; this is you. Why didn’t you wait and see how de cancer was progressing before yo’ rush to take out yo’ prostate.”
“Waiting has its dangers. Although prostate cancer is the slowest growing cancer you can wake up one morning and find it has spread outside the prostate and that is when de trouble start.”
“Why yo’ didn’t have dem implant the radiation seeds into your prostate?”
“Although those seeds try to kill the cancer cells; you are still carrying the cancer in you so I opted to have my prostate removed.”
“But Louis tell me that de implantation of seeds or the removal of the prostate give a person the same chances of success.”
Oskie was doing his homework. In spite of all de ole talk, he was beginning to read up about de ting and most importantly discuss it with others.
“And what make you think that Louis right?”
“I ent’ say that Louis right. He only say that the seeds and the removal of the prostate have an equal chance of curing prostate cancer.”
He had a point there. When the urologist first informed me that I had cancer he was convinced that the insertion of radioactive pellets provided a more efficient cure. I was not impressed. When I went to Beth Israel Deaconess, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, for a second opinion I was presented with both choices. They confirmed that each approach was just as effective. I decided on the latter course.
“So yo’ wasn’t frighten?”
“Frighten about what?”
“Having a doctor cut into you to take out yo’ prostate. And yo’ know how dem American doctors like to cut.”
Although Oskie was doing some reading he did not realize how far such surgical procedures had reached. Using small incisions in the abdomen (the laparoscopic method), a surgeon goes into a patient, get the prostate gland out of your body without the patient feeling a thing. At least that was my experience. I was wheeled into the operating theater at 7:30 am; taken back to the recovery room about 2:30 pm; and was speaking to my friends by 6 pm. The next day, bright and early, they wanted me out of the hospital. I came home two days later without any pain.
Since I didn’t want to go into the details of the procedure, I said to Oskie, “The operation wasn’t as bad as many people think?”
“But you didn’t have to go quite up dere to do dat? You didn’t even have to take an operation. I know a man in Debe who could ah fix you up with some bush and before two twos…”
Ah wasn’t in de mood to hear chupid talk so ah tell Oskie, “Ah understand what yo’ mean,” without questioning why we cling to old ways so fervently when a whole new world is opening up before us.
I had caught my cancer early and had a good surgeon, Dr. Martin Sanda, the Director of the Prostate Care Center of Beth Israel Medical Center, to take care of me.
Yet, I keep on wondering, “Did I catch it quickly enough?” Only time would tell.