I would imagine that somewhere the phrase “Rock Your World” makes the cheesy pickup lines Top 10. We’ve all probably thought this phrase at one time in our life as well when it comes to a major event. That’s exactly what happened to me on February 28, 2019. That was the day I heard that dreaded phrase that millions of others have also heard in their life. “You have cancer.”
Before we get to that day, let’s back it up to February 27, 2015. This was the day that my good friend, mentor, and father-in-law Richard Gebhart was rushed to the hospital in Denver, Colorado, while attending a meeting at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Richard felt some extreme pain in his abdomen and was quickly rushed to the hospital. Susan, Roxane, and Erica immediately boarded a flight to Denver. “It was snowing that day, that’s all I can remember,” Erica said. Turns out that Richard had pancreatitis and fought for 91 days before losing his battle and went to meet our maker. More on his story in a future blog post.
Up until that point in my life, I had never been to the doctor on a regular basis. I would normally visit the local voodoo clinic or urgent care when I was ill. It was time for that to change. I guess I was reluctant to go, because I was worried about what they would find. Heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all run in my family. I didn’t want to hear it.
So in August of 2015, I walked into the doctor’s office for the first time in my adult life at 38 years old. I researched local primary care physicians, talked with other individuals about good local doctors and found one my insurance would cover (that’t a whole other story about our health care system). I did the mandatory sit for 30 minutes until called back to be placed in a smaller room to wait another 30 minutes before finally seeing the doctor. (Just a little FYI, I don’t let them shut the door all the way while I’m in the little waiting room. My wife thinks it’s funny.) That day determined the base-line for the rest of my life.
I have since seen this same physician every August for a yearly checkup. We’ve checked my vitals, run every type of blood test you can run, completed a stress test, had a coronary calcium scoring done, and many other things. The entire time, focusing on my heart. August 2018 was a little different though. I went in, chatted with the doc, went to the lab to get a plethora of blood drawn, then headed to work like a normal day.
A week later, I received a phone call from his nurse telling me that one of my tests seem extremely abnormal and could I run back up to the lab to have another blood sample taken. So I did. I ran up to the lab on my lunch break, had a single vial of blood taken, and went back to my normal life. Guess what? It wasn’t a false test.
So I was refereed to a urologist. We did more blood tests. A month of “let’s watch it and see what happens.” A month of “stop taking any medication you’re on and we’ll see what happens.” A month on some very high-powered antibiotics (this is the only time I actually felt miserable) and “we’ll see what happens.” A “let’s do a colonoscopy to check things out,” which came back clean. Side note: the colonoscopy wasn’t bad. I didn’t feel or remember a thing. The stuff you have to drink the day before and the hours leading up to the colonoscopy are brutal!! It then came time for the last option. We had to go in and do a biopsy of the prostate. That was February 25, 2019.
Now back to February 28, 2019. The results were back from my biopsy and as you can now predict, they were not good. I was diagnosed with mid to high-grade prostate cancer. We received the standard packets of cancer information, were given various counseling options, and left having to make the biggest decisions of our lives. That doctor had just “Rocked Our World.”
It’s what the doctor told me before I left that has stayed with me every day since and what I hope you take away from this message. At one point in the conversation, my urologist looked at me and said, “Your doctor saved your life, young man.” I replied with, “What do you mean?” He then explained to me that doctors don’t normally test for prostate cancer until 45 with a family history of cancer and closer to 50 if you’re a healthy individual. He had no idea why my doctor would test me for prostate cancer at 41 years old but assured us that if we had waited until 45 or 50, it probably would’ve been too late.
I visited my primary care physician again this past August. This time it was a little different. He walked in, I gave him a huge hug, might have cried a little, and simply asked him, “Why? Why did you test me for prostate cancer?” He simply said, “Because you told me to.” He said, “The first day you walked in here, you told me to test you for everything under the sun and for anything that might kill you, so I did and have been doing so every year since your first visit.” He also told me that since my diagnosis, he now tests every male patient for prostate cancer at 40 no matter what the insurance company says.
So I urge all of you in 2020, go to the doctor. Make an appointment and go get checked out. Why do we act so tough and busy, but make a million different excuses to not go see the one person who is trained to save us? My journey is not over yet and more to come on that later, but get your butt up and go get checked out. I urge you to put this on the top of your list in 2020. Most importantly, make sure you tell someone I love you today.
-by Matt Boyer
Tell Someone I Love You Today