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a selection from:

Man to Man: Surviving Prostate Cancer by Michael Korda
continuing Part I - The Silent Killer

Picking up at pages 56-57 - (go to previous page)

THE METAPHOR OF cancer as warfare came up frequently — it is hardly surprising that oncologists sometimes refer to themselves as being ''in the trenches'' (as opposed to doctors in more effete specialties), or that patients are said to be fighting a winning or a losing ''battle'' against cancer, for there is, surrounding cancer treatment, a faint taste of World War I, of heroic attacks against overwhelming odds, of terrible losses and unspeakable suffering, of hand-to-hand fighting against a powerful enemy. For make no mistake about it, cancer is personalized, with good reason, as the enemy: cunning, swift-moving, deadly, giving no quarter, taking no prisoners. If you've got it, get rid of it, is the best advice; but getting rid of it, even when possible, is all too frequently a brutal business: a battle.

It is no accident that surgeons refer to the site of the operation as ''the field,'' as in ''battlefield'' or ''field of fire.'' A radical prostatectomy is warlike surgery. You get rid of the cancer by removing the organ it has ''invaded.'' With any luck, if hasn't yet spread to the surface of the prostate or beyond, you have beaten the enemy. QED.

Simple truth: to defeat cancer you have to destroy a part of yourself. Surgery removes tissue. Radiation destroys tissue. Chemotherapy does all sorts of damage to organs and tissue. Whatever way you attack the cancer, you can't kill it without sacrificing some part of yourself, just as no commander can expect to attack the enemy without taking losses. At some point in the process, the surgeon and/or the radiologist reaches a limit where the patient can no longer sacrifice organs, flesh, self. Then other tactics or various palliative treatments may be called upon in an effort to produce ''a truce'' with the enemy — ''stalemate,'' as opposed to unconditional victory or abject defeat. But until that point is reached, the only question is how much of himself the prostate-cancer patient is prepared (or able) to sacrifice to get rid of the cancer, he hopes once and for all. Victory doesn't come cheaply, or easily, and anybody who tells you different is lying.

Selections reproduced at with the kind permission of the author. Copyright © 1996, 1997 by Success Research Corporation


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