I’ve always said I’d never do it because I’m not the type.
Though I’ve mellowed over the years, I still believe it’s just not me.
But, I’m getting tattooed today anyways.
There won’t be a big red heart that says “Mother” or “Sweetheart,” no coiled cobra or barbed wire encircling my bicep.
It will just be a few strategically placed dots, and they’ll be in an area where you’re not likely to see them — unless we get to know each other a lot better.
What’s important about these tats is that the radiology people will be able to see them and use them to pinpoint where they’re aiming that beam.
I have prostate cancer.
The diagnosis came just about a month before my wedding last summer, and we — my future bride and I — were initially devastated.
We wanted to know if this was some kind of karmic joke. On the eve of what’s supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives we learn that I have cancer.
And it wasn’t a tiny little tumor that could be erased with some special cream, but full-blown prostate cancer that had gone a long time without detection because I, foolishly, had not gotten health checkups in a long time.
(I had always thought it was a bad idea to visit doctors unless you’d cut, burned or broken something because they always seem to find things wrong with you.)
Ironically, I was getting a colonoscopy — a procedure designed for early colon cancer detection — when the prostate cancer was spotted.
Later that afternoon, I visited a urologist who assured me that cancer was the probable culprit.
So when it was confirmed after tests, we weren’t surprised. But we were a lot more optimistic after the doctor outlined the various treatment options. “Treatment options,” I remember thinking. “That means I’m probably going to live.”
We had consultations with other doctors and learned that some treatment courses are not an option for me. The more we learned, the more it became apparent that side effects — not death — are what we should fear the most.
Any residual self-pity we might have had melted away when we visited out-of-town friends a couple of weeks later.
Over dinner at a nice restaurant, I mumbled something vague about a cancer diagnosis.
“What kind of cancer?” one of them asked. “Prostate,” I answered.
They actually laughed at me.
“What do you think, you’re something special? Everybody gets prostate cancer.”
Well, perhaps not everybody. But, the rate in the United States is one in six men, according to the American Cancer Society. (One in five for African-American men.)
It’s a slow-growing cancer, and some men die of something else without ever knowing they had prostate cancer. (Eighty percent of 80-year-old men have the disease.)
The cure rate today is high. The American Cancer Society says the survival rate five years after diagnosis is almost 100 percent, after 10 years it’s 98 percent and after 15 years, 91 percent.
However, the side effects of prostate cancer — and of the treatments for it — can be unpleasant and adversely affect the quality of your life. (Ever have a hot flash in the middle of a crowded department store?)
Every man should ask his doctor if he should be checked for prostate cancer — when and how frequently.
And if you are diagnosed with the disease, try to be optimistic because that’s important, and remember that a tattoo is not necessarily a bad thing, even if you’re not the type.
Irv Dean is the Gazette's city editor. Reach him at The Daily Gazette, P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, N.Y. 12301 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.