So I’m diagnosed with prostate cancer, and I start hearing about people with life threatening diseases who imagine the worst. The hospital’s patient advocate, a sweet, saintly woman who’s sort of the wedding planner for critical care but who reminds me of that crazy old aunt you might keep locked in the attic, tells me it’s a natural progression, one of the many stages of coming to grips. She says when faced with adversity, it’s like people’s imaginations just run wild.
And I remember a story my sister told about how her springer spaniel, Max, swallowed this red sock that belonged to her young son and when the dog shit it out one day, my sister saw it there in his shit and from across the yard thought poor Max must be bleeding or something. She said when she got closer and finally figured out what it really was, she laughed and laughed. Said she was feeling resourceful. So all she did was wash it out, match it up and nestle it back in her son’s sock drawer.
The way everything unfolded for me, I get this PSA blood test, something they do routinely for men over fifty, and the level comes back elevated. When that happens, they suggest an ultrasound and biopsy to be sure you don’t fall into that minority who’ll have cancer. I learned during the biopsy they look for cells that appear very irregular, or those that differentiate themselves from the normal prostate cells. How different, determines your Gleason number. So I had the biopsy done, which was rather unpleasant but not too bad considering where they’re poking around with latex and sharp instruments or that the radiologist was an attractive young woman no older that twenty-eight, and much to my surprise, seven days later the results come back positive for prostate cancer.
Then, like everyone else in the world, somewhere between laughing and crying and wringing my hands, my imagination runs wild. But not in the traditional sense of being all doom and gloom. I’m thinking: what if what they biopsied was something I’d ingested as a child, and it somehow got itself wedged in a crack or a crevice there in the proximity of my prostate and my urinary bladder? So that what they biopsied wasn’t even my prostate, but an old sock from all those years ago. Something I’d swallowed. Just an old, unraveling red sock.