Friday, December 4, 2009

New Book!

A year post diagnosis I am cancer-free and doing well!

A book of my blog postings is available through Blurb. Cover images are by my wife, Vicki. Please check it out and perhaps order a copy.

Prostate Cancer: a ...
By W. A. Reed

Monday, March 23, 2009


A living dog is better than a dead lion.
Ecclesiastes 9:4

Thinking of her whippet who’d been recently castrated, my adult daughter asked if I’d need to wear one of those protective cones so I wouldn’t lick myself. After the surgery, upon my release.

I would if I could, guess I said.

My surgeon says there’s a slight chance they’ll find no additional cancer in the prostate – with it removed, and once they’ve had a chance to examine it. My response was something along these lines: I suppose at that point, it’s too late to think about putting it back?

They harvest a cancerous prostate, no different than harvesting a rutabaga or a summer squash.

It’s never a good thing when in the throes of a compromising position, someone tells you to take a deep breath or bite on a towel.

For my Florence Nightingale, my lady with the lamp: this is the in sickness and in health part.

The catheter, upon having finally been removed and hung on a nail above my workbench: ideal for draining the old engine oil from my lawn tractor or the Simplicity snowblower. We all aspire to something of a far greater value, finding new purpose long after we've exceeded our useful lives.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


an earthiness

at last
and as if watching
you turn the gardens

weren’t enough, to sit

on the back porch
immersed in birdsong

sweet apple blossom

Monday, March 16, 2009


So I meet with my physician, and from the results of a previous CT scan, learn I have a thin chest wall. But a big heart.

Or maybe an enlarged heart, considering all the exercise.

He’d smiled, when early on I’d inquired if it might be possible they’d gotten all the cancer during the needle biopsy.

In any case, start to finish, I’ve been treated like a rock star. An abridged report card: lab technicians A, radiologist A, nurses A, anesthesiologist A, surgeons A+, primary physician A+, facilities A-, hospital food C+, administration B+, pharmaceuticals B+, insurance carrier B+.

From the initial blood screening, to the biopsy and surgery and all that came after, I’m here to report that including the food, particulary the cottage cheese, the quality of healthcare in America is alive and thriving. Nothing against Canada. Nothing against Cuba, I'd love to visit one day. We have friends who are Cuban, Anna Ruth played her cello at our daughter's wedding. In this house, there is always morning. Nothing against Cuba, but contrary to Michael Moore's diatribe, I'm glad I had the operation a little closer to home.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Walking hand in hand with the one I love, sun on my shoulders, the wind at my back... steppin' out with my strapon and feelin' free.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I wake up to bright lights, loud voices, and a sudden, frenzied commotion. I wake up, and right away I’m thinking: I’ve been in a plane crash and I’m still strapped into my seat!

Except there’s this catheter draining to somewhere below my line of sight.

Which might be a good idea for longer flights, especially as the baby boomers’ prostrates begin to balloon. But in this context, tangled in the switches and cabling, the catheter seems ridiculously out-of-place.

Except this isn’t a crash site, it’s a hospital bed – one of several in Recovery, each a deluxe model with all the gizmos and gadgetry. Like lawn equipment, they’ve come a long way since the Eisenhower years.

Still, I’m confused by the juxtaposition.

It’s as if they’d just rolled me onto the operating table, then I’ve been wheeled to my room and it's instantly dark outside and nearly my bedtime. Glad I thought to hydrate. Glad I packed my toothbrush and a pair of slipper socks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


pure of mind

pure of body

pure of spirit

Saturday, March 7, 2009


On Friday, we get robbed. They came into our home and took a gold bracelet I’d engraved and given to my wife on the occasion of our wedding in 1972, and an old Elgin pocket watch that had belonged to my great-grandfather. He’d been a professional photographer in the late 1800s, and had photographically developed images of my great-grandmother and infant grandfather onto the watch’s porcelain face.

The incursion: rather a precise assault, we’d each later agreed. Almost surgical, a surgical strike! We were heartbroken. On the upside, sure, collateral damage. But fittingly, except for intangibles, with little else left disturbed.

Friday, March 6, 2009


This morning I heard about several high profile men who recently died of prostate cancer, as many as a dozen or twenty, and already I can’t remember their names.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


So I get home from work, and there’s this FedEx package waiting. When I open it, I see it’s my old catcher’s mitt – from when I played Little League. I’d bought the mitt in 1959 with S&H Green Stamps. Oh, and this letter and a poem were tucked inside:

Dear Brother,

I’ve enclosed a gift that you sent to me many years ago. You didn’t know it at the time, and I have never told you.

I want you to fully understand how important you are to me and how much I love you. I only have one brother, and you be da man!

I’m not sure you realize how much I look up to you, how proud I am of you, and how fortunate I feel to be able to constantly learn from you. For years I tried to emulate your every move. Thankfully, I matured and became my own person. We share the same genes, and I can only hope that I have at least a fraction of your many attributes. We are different, yet similar in many ways.

I’m very worried about your wellbeing, and am angry that you have to go through this crap. I’m sorry it’s happened. But I feel strength knowing it’s you tackling this issue. You’re so strong both mentally and physically that I’m confident you’ll get through it with flying colors. It’ll be difficult, but you can handle it. Easy for me to say, I know.

You’ll be okay, and please know I’ll be right there with you. Be strong, just like you always have been.


Monday, March 2, 2009


Okay, the operation is one week out.

They moved it up. Radical prostatectomy. Everyone said I should be happy to get it over with, but I’d been living in the moment like they told me and suddenly the moment was cut short.

So I did the only thing I could. I grudgingly adjusted to the new schedule, and now the operation is one week out.

One week. Perhaps there’s a silver lining. I’ll be ready, I’ll simply need to rearrange a few things. Maybe channel my emotions. It helps that the weather’s turned ‘round. It’s not exactly the January thaw we’d been hoping for, but after spending two months in the single digits, forty’s the new sixty.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I was thinking about a poem I’d written for my young daughter a number of years ago, sort of a study in hey! things could be a lot worse. If I remember correctly, it went something like this:

little girl
little girl
what shall I do?

one stocking is red, the other is blue

little girl
little girl
what shall I do?

one stocking is old, the other is new

little girl
little girl
what shall I do?

two stockings I have, but only one shoe

Saturday, February 28, 2009


The last time I was checked into a hospital and under the influence of any sort of surgical anesthesia (diethyl ether, in those years) Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower were celebrating their second inauguration at the White House.

I always liked Mamie Eisenhower, though she appeared uncomfortable in social settings and was rumored to have had a drinking problem. In reality she suffered from Ménière’s disease, an inner ear disorder that affects equilibrium. Maybe it’s what I found appealing – Mamie possessing a certain vulnerability that seemed to make it okay if the rest of us weren’t perfect.

Criticized by some historians for his lack of leadership on racial issues, it was with Mamie Eisenhower’s encouragement that her husband ordered federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce the desegregation of Central High School. He also worked behind the scenes in an effort to defeat Joseph McCarthy. He’d said to have done so directly would have lowered himself to the same level as McCarthy, confounding Congress by bestowing an unintended credibility.

I find it ironic that Dwight Eisenhower supported and signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 & 1960, and that under his presidency Barrack Obama’s birthplace became the 50th state to join the Union. I was excited by the flag with fifty stars, we all were, invigorated by the prospects of a new decade. Our thinking in those years, was the slate could be wiped clean and we’d be dispatched to begin again.

I still remember such a time in my life, the ether’s aromatic odor, its sweet, burning taste shading the dreams I had. My hospital room was airy and light, with a window that rose floor to ceiling and looked out at my house. I remember waking up in my mother’s arms, her hair all flyaway. Her glasses sitting slightly askew.

Friday, February 27, 2009


flew, it flew

we knew
it was there
we heard its song

watched it
blot the heavens
all crimson & honey-hued

then it was gone, it was gone

Thursday, February 26, 2009


We’re out with friends for a couple of beers when my eyes are drawn to a lone cracker there on the table, the solitary goldfish nestled in the midst of a bowlful of knotted pretzels.

Ever notice the Queen Anne’s lace has a single purple blossom at the center of every flower? acknowledging the similarities.

Same as the beer mix, guess someone suggested.

I’d been reading innuendo into the oddest of things – lately, hardly a billboard or a weather report that hadn’t made some sort of indelicate inference. So I say: or even my dreams parading as pretense.

Eliciting a response from one of us that dreams may be little more than windows to the soul, a revelation seemed directed at me.

Then when we get up to go, following an evening of frivolity and frenzied discourse, topics ranging from Obama’s cabinet choices to Marty Willson-Piper (lead singer for a band called the Church) and the hardness of Chinese ebony, I reach into the scattered pretzel remains to extract several of the goldfish I’d spotted languishing at the bottom of the bowl.

Eyebrows raised, our young friend Chloe who’d been quietly observing from across the table: a few fish for the road?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


On the eve of the operation, this is what I’m planning to write:

I’m sure everything will be just fine, Hon. But in the event they forget how to wake me up, I wanted to tell you how privileged I feel to have been your husband, your lover, and your friend.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Been so cold here in Wisconsin, snow nearly to our waists, I convinced my Engineering staff to develop a defrost heater for my piss bag. It seems post-prostatectomy, it’s sometimes necessary to be catheterized for a week or two and I was concerned the bag might freeze strapped there to my leg.

We’ll arrange a foil-backed resistant circuitry wired from dissimilar metals, was what I’d suggested, with little chance for spark or ignition.

They’d confessed they could only make it available in 115V AC.

I told ‘em that was okay, I’d have access to an electrical outlet (not thinking about what else could go wrong as a consequence of high amp draw, excessive current leakage, or the dielectric voltage withstand!).

Thursday, February 19, 2009


December 21, 2008

It’s been a rough year, Dad. Probably one of the roughest we’ve had to deal with in a very long time. Yet at the end of the day I feel nothing but overwhelming happiness, and I have you and Mom to thank for that. You’ve always been there to catch me. Now let me be there to catch you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Here’s what they say in their tv ad: side effects might include dizziness, runny nose, and a decrease in semen. Get the picture?

Get the picture? Get the picture? What, so just before you lose your balance your seminal tubes somehow start flooding all the mucus membranes?

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The year I dropped the tree on my garage, I guess you could say I already knew things were too good to last.

I’d even suggested as much.

But here I was all pumped up, believing I’d cut the perfect notch and even laying out saplings where I expected to fell the tree, as all the while I’m walking around thinking: isn’t it amazing how man can control something so massive, so much weightier than his own length and girth?

I’ll admit I’d grown a bit too full of myself.

Still, everything seemed to have fallen perfectly into place. Until I started my saw with a single pull, had hardly touched it to the trunk of the tree (opposite the notch, of course) when the saw suddenly pinched and I knew I was fucked.

Friday, February 13, 2009

GABBY (a young girl who answers deafness through her gift of prophecy)

written on the back of what I mistook for a napkin

Gabby’s been working on your husband a lot w/prayer, the 1st time she worked on him from his picture. Here’s what she said:

He’s getting better at trying to be happy.

There are a lot of special people who are helping him.

Learning how to accept what he has now will teach him to:

- live in the moment.

- experience life a new way.

- be happy that he has this life.

- look forward to more of what will happen.

- rest, and accept & know that he will get better.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


You have an ambitious nature

and will make a name for yourself.

You will have many friends when you need them.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Thanksgiving rolls around. And by this time, except for my son who’d only the day before arrived home from Minneapolis, and my daughter who tends toward internalization anyway and who’d been having a tough enough year of her own, we’d each had a chance to adjust to the news I’d received.

We knew telling the children would be a more delicate matter.

So my wife says, Hey! Let’s play pin the prostate on the turkey – as a lesson in anatomy geared for grade-schoolers, I suppose. Except the kids are already into their early twenties and we worry they’ll catch on right away that we’re stonewalling, maybe holding something back.

Do we know it’s a tom?

Doesn’t matter, it seems. The point is to use it as an icebreaker, as a three-dimensional visual aid. Kind of a let’s begin by acquainting ourselves with the proximity of the prostate and its associated piping and perplexities sort of perspective. Then we can relax. We can get on with the Thanksgiving holiday, everyone filling their bellies with livers and gizzards and feeling much better about themselves.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I read on the internet that Major League Baseball just signed their first two players from India. Imagine that, and after a hundred years or more! Because my urologist/surgeon is of Indian descent, of course I took notice.

What sold me in the first place, was that he’d said both his parents were surgeons, and coupled with his love of video games from an early age, the da Vinci robotic-assisted approach to radical prostatectomies seemed a natural melding of two worlds. I couldn’t disagree, though I found myself more focused on his lineage.

My urologist/surgeon sure knows his stuff. He’d laid out a number of options ranging from something called watchful waiting (I liked the alliteration), to radiation therapy, conventional surgery and robotic-assisted laparoscopy, each with a number of distinctive variations that had been assigned clever names like Cyberknife, brachytherapy, cryotherapy, and the proton and shaped beam radio surgeries, and each with their respective risks and potential life-altering side effects. I was told chemotherapy is typically reserved for the more advanced stages of the disease.

From early on, I guess you could say we were smitten – my wife admittedly more than I, but then I was still reeling from an onset of mild dementia brought on by the burden of my prostate’s betrayal. My urologist/surgeon carries himself with a certain swagger, seems confident in his abilities almost to the point of being brazen. He said if I were a family member he’d recommend watchful waiting. I’m more curious about his lifetime batting average, or whether or not he expects to win the Cy Young award.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


The geese so low, to hear their whisper of wing feathers one need only squat close to the open flue.

Cold and blustery.

Wood box brimming with kindling and brown ash, the ways of the world still measurably askew. We’ll be barefoot before we dare to breathe… a fish chowder steaming in the kitchen, our feet to the fire.

On a night so dark we fear we might lose ourselves, comes the moonlight reflected phosphorescent off the virgin snow.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Long before the divorce papers have been filed, both parties know the marriage is over. Such is the relationship I enjoy with my prostate.

We used to be better friends, displayed a far greater level of affection. No one’s been more accommodating, no one as nice. But I suppose age has a way of changing things, of setting the record straight. So no drawn out apologies, no sad goodbyes. My prostate won’t be living here anymore, and my patience is wearing thin. I’ve enough to be comfortable. It seems all I need now is the house to myself.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


I'm wondering if cancer has an odor. I suspect it might, 'cause I've heard how dogs sniff it out- no different than a pig nosing up a truffle, I suppose.

Surely someone would've noticed it by now.

And if cancer has an odor, I'm wondering if it's more mossy than leafy, more metallic than sweet. Does it ride the wind? Does it resonate with a bold and biting masculinity? Or perhaps it's more sensual, the same way upon opening, a vintage Madeira's blossoming bouquet suddenly fills up the room.

Friday, January 30, 2009


My thoughts for the opening few lines of a new poem:
undamaged / until losing the light / as if each were the world to each other / he loved the way she gathered him in.