Posted by: cg00n | April 2, 2009

The Doctor wants to see me

That was the message I got this morning.  My family doctor apparently got the results of two tests I had yesterday:  PSA and STOB.  That was unbelievably fast!  I thought results were that prompt only on CSI.

For those of you unfamiliar with these things (and there are many days I wish I was numbered among you) PSA is used as a predictor of prostate cancer and STOB for bowel cancer.  The doctor recommended I did these two purely because I am over 50 and the medical profession likes to stick it to us old people; they have nothing to do with the melanoma.

A couple of months ago my first PSA test came back just a hair over the recommended limit (3.08 > 3) so the doctor asked me to get it re-run in mid-March along with the STOB test.  This finally happened yesterday so getting such a prompt summons does not bode well.  Having been well briefed on the reliability of the tests (see here, for example) I wasn’t particularly concerned but P was quite unhappy in a sort of “now what?!” kind of way.  Her mood was infectious and I caught a slight dose of it for a while.

All this work I have done over the last 11 months is proving useful, however.  One step at a time is the first thing that came to mind:  there is no sense in jumping to any conclusions because:

  1. We don’t know for sure what has the doctor excited
  2. He can’t be all that excited if the earliest appointment I can get is next week
  3. Even if one or t’other test result is positive it doesn’t guarantee there is anything wrong
  4. Even if there is something wrong it probably isn’t serious – yet.

Just meditating for a few minutes did a lot to calm me but that unsettled feeling persisted for some hours.  It’s really amazing: a little shot of adrenaline and a few millilitres of neurochemicals can ruin your whole day.  The occasional dose of uncertainty, although unpleasant, is good mental exercise for me.  I am getting better at coping with it which bodes well for the future.

Around mid afternoon I suddenly lit upon a highly probably explanation for my summons.  The STOB tests require me to be careful with my diet for about a week before taking the samples, which I dutifully did.  The PSA test requires me to abstain from, shall we say, amorous activities for at least 48 hours in advance, a limitation that had escaped me on Monday night.  By the time of the test, 11 hours later, it is very likely that the PSA level had not settled down again and this may have provided the doctor with a rather surprising result.  I can hardly wait to explain this to him :-^

On the general topic of cancer this Globe & Mail article sheds some light on the meaning of cure and the reluctance of doctors to use the term:

… being cured simply means that, after treatment, a patient’s life expectancy is identical to a comparable member of the general population. Put another way, their relative survival rate is 100 per cent for five years and beyond.

This means that they will die of something other than their primary cancer.

On that basis I suspect the rate of cancer cures is better than I had thought.  My whole view of what it means to be healthy has undergone a radical change since this blog started and I’m still figuring out the finer points.

Speaking of radical changes in viewpoint, an article in New Scientist of Feb. 21 suggests that people who have trouble sleeping are more prone to anxiety, depression, ADHD and various other mental ailments than those who sleep well.  The idea that poor sleep may cause mental health problems is relatively new and effectively turns the whole argument upside down.  Fascinating to contemplate what my state of mind might be if I’d been a sound sleeper all my life.



  1. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  2. Keep me posted. So interesting that amorous activity can still screw things up now we are in our 50’s! (no pun intended)

  3. “Fascinating to contemplate what my state of mind might be if I’d been a sound sleeper all my life”

    No sleeping drug works on me, none of the other sleep helpers do either. It’s not so much getting to sleep as staying asleep and getting really deep sleep that I need help with.

    Topamax, a mood stabilizer among other uses, was a soporific that gave me solid sleep for the first time in 20 years, but it stupified me. I had so much word-choice issues I was afraid my mind was going.

    It’s statements like the one you made, from researchers, which makes me mad–I can’t control how I sleep, and thus am likely prone to all their results.

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