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Fear and loathing in the medical world – a year of doctorin

The year is only half over, but it's already been full of doctor visits and treatments

(Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Kelly now handles special sections and contributes a regular column.)

I'll probably always remember 2006 as 'the year I did my doctorin'.'

Ever since last Christmastime, when I learned my cancer wasn't quite as vanquished as I had been led to believe, I've been to the doctor a lot.

To recap briefly, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the summer of 2000. Of course, I took that opportunity to nag males of a certain age to get a checkup thinking they might save their lives. Then I had my prostate surgically removed, and the operation was deemed a success.

For the next five years I pranced around thinking I had kicked cancer's butt and felt pretty smug about it. Last winter I learned I was wrong; my PSA numbers had gradually increased to the point where I was told it couldn't be ignored (doubled, in fact, over a 16-month period).

The recommended course of action was radiation therapy, so, for seven weeks in April and May, I went to an underground room near Good Samaritan Hospital and laid on a table while a machine that looked something like a giant microscope revolved around me at various angles and made loud noises while I stared at the ceiling.

Thirty-five times in a row that was the routine - go down to the radiation oncology office, get undressed, wait for the sign from the ladies inside, then go assume the slab position. It was painless, in fact not even uncomfortable, since the ones running the machine were always full of friendly chatter, and they played an amazing diversity of music on their boom box.

Before the radiation, the doctors told me this treatment would give me a 40-percent chance of being cancer-free for the next five to 10 years. Personally, I would have preferred it to be a higher percentage and a few more years than that, but you have to play the cards you're dealt.

I'm now in the waiting period. They say it doesn't do any good to get a PSA test until a couple of months after radiation treatment has ended. For me, that will be mid-July.

So, I'm whiling away the time by working (got to keep that medical insurance up to snuff), plunking on the old Takamine six-string at every opportunity, taking a week's vacation in Las Vegas (now, there's a whole other story) and puttering around the 27-year-old house that is threatening to fall down around us.

In this, my year of doctorin', I've been to see a new primary care physician (because I had to change medical plans Jan. 1), a new urologist, a radiation oncologist, a host of technicians, nurses and support folks and even an orthopedic surgeon, thanks to a bum shoulder that refuses to let my lower regions get all the medical attention.

More on this story as it develops.

Meanwhile, if you're a man of 50 and haven't had a thorough physical exam, get one. If you're over 40 and have a history of prostate cancer in your family, you also should get one.

It might seem like a hassle. But, believe me, the inconvenience is nothing compared to the alternative. And I'm willing to bet that there's somebody who would like to have you around for a while longer.