The film “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” just passed its 50th anniversary. If you’ve ever seen the film, it is a riveting 3 hour and 6 minute masterpiece. It’s weird. It wanders around a lot. The good guy in the film, played by Clint Eastwood, isn’t really good. Everybody in the movie is kinda bad. Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western from 1966 is an iconic piece of filmmaking, from the way it was shot, to the music and the iconic soundtrack, to the fact that it helped make Clint Eastwood a huge star.
But one of the more underrated aspects of the film is how the phrase the good, the bad and the ugly has slipped into popular culture. If you Google that phrase, you will see it used in just about every context. The good, the bad and the ugly of Trump’s first week as president.(Mostly ugly). The good, the bad and the ugly about this years Christmas movies. Whatever. You get the idea. That phrase gets used a lot, 50 years after the movie was released. My guess is that a lot of people that use the phrase don’t even know the origins of it. It’s just out there.
I’ve decided to use the phrase this week for my blog with a little twist. Because I want to look at some of the more positive aspects of hormone treatments and how they’ve affected my life, I decided to title this blog The Bad, the Good, and the Ugly. That way we can start with the bad, get over that, switch to the good, a more positive look at things, and then I will tell you an ugly, but hopefully somewhat funny story about life and the lessons I’ve learned.
I’m going to section this blog into 4 parts because in the last couple of blogs I’ve totally crushed the One Poop Rule. That way you can decide what you want to read, read it and then do something else, or you can read the whole thing. And as you go along you might decide the whole thing is a waste of time, and you could use this time to clean the bathroom. Totally understand. So here are the four areas in my life that have been effected by hormone treatments.
Ok, if you want to read about one of these things, just scroll down to that heading and start reading. If you just looked at that list and thought, good grief, I’m a little scared of the Libido section because I don’t want to read about Dan’s sex life, relax, right now Dan doesn’t have a sex life. Look, you’re here, you might as well read the whole thing. It won’t take that long, and it’s way better than cleaning the bathroom.
“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done.”
There’s a reason that this hymn is one of my mother’s favorites. Counting your blessings is a good Christian thing to do, because you could have it a lot worse. Put a smile on your face and soldier on. But here’s the problem with that analogy. Sometimes it’s really hard to see the positives. Especially when there are things going on in your brain you don’t really have control over.
I’m pretty sure that there’s a good deal of undiagnosed depression in my family. I know my mom has had her struggles with it, I’ve taken medication for it, and I suspect it runs through both my brothers as well. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about because, well, we’re Dutch. We don’t talk about that kind of stuff.
When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer I was 48 years old. My PSA clocked in at 22. Normal is 0-4. My Gleason score was an 8. Very high. Very aggressive. Surgery felt like the only option at the time, being that I was pretty young and the cancer was pretty aggressive. As we were talking about the different options and the different treatments, my urologist gave me a timeline of what could happen in the future. Surgery, and then if the cancer came back, radiation. Those options didn’t really worry me much. I knew if I put my mind to it I would recover and move on with my life. I was young, fit, and determined. I can do this.
And then he mentioned hormone treatments. If the cancer came back after radiation, I would start hormone treatments. Chemical castration. That got my attention. And not just because of the obvious reasons of no sex and no erections. I knew that the biggest obstacle of hormone treatments was going to be that ugly beast that lurks around the fringes of my family, waiting to pounce at anytime and take me down. Depression.
A quick story on how things can turn on me. I suffer from seasonal allergies. I sniff and sneeze my way from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. I used to take Claritin to fight these symptoms. I don’t anymore. One reason I don’t is that my symptoms aren’t as bad as they used to be. The other reason? After taking Claritin for about a week, things get very dark and weird inside my brain. If you ask my family about how I used to act during allergy season, the answers aren’t pretty. Ornery, emotional, prone to temper tantrums, yeah, it’s all there. And underneath the orneriness and the overall grouchy behavior, there was something darker. An overall feeling of hopelessness, the soul sucking feeling that life isn’t worth living. And yes, this was from an allergy pill.
So, you can imagine my trepidation with the thought of getting a shot that killed off my testosterone. My fears were confirmed when in the first year of getting Lupron shots, life just got harder and harder to live. It’s like a black heavy blanket was pulled over me, weighing me down, making it harder to do regular things like going out to dinner, seeing a movie or being anywhere that involved being around a lot of people. I tried anti-depressants, but that made things worse. My family could see me sinking away. And then they got me an early Christmas present.
In November of 2014, my family bought me a black lab puppy. We named her Zoey. And in some ways, she saved my life. When I get home from work, I am greeted with unabashed joy. She bounces all over me. After I have a cup of coffee and something to eat, she gets me out of my chair and makes me take her for a walk. After the walk, she has dinner and then curls up on the couch while I write. If I’m too tired to do anything, and I crawl into bed, she gets into bed with me, and with a heavy sigh, lays next to me with her head on my legs. Holly doesn’t get home from work until around 8:45. I get home early in the afternoon. That’s a lot of downtime. Zoey has helped fill the downtime and keeps me from getting lonely.
I know it seems kind of ridiculous that a dog could have that big of an effect on someone, but she really has helped me keep a more positive attitude. Holly tells me all the time that Zoey makes me giggle. And I don’t giggle.
I’ve got a couple of sort of disturbing stories to tell that are kind of ugly, or kind of funny, depending on your sense of humor.
Due to my PSA rising again, I was prescribed the drug Xtandi to knock it back down to zero. I had to take four big horse pills at a time. Oh boy. After about 3 weeks I started feeling really, REALLY bad. So I called my doctors office. The conversation went something like this.
Me: I don’t like what this Xtandi is doing to me. I feel like crap.
Nurse: Well, Dan, I know the side effects can be rough, but it is a really effective medicine. Keep taking it and then we’ll see where your next PSA is at.
Me: I don’t want to keep taking it, it sucks, I want to throw the whole bottle in the toilet. Can we cut this down a little, like maybe take two pills instead of four?
Nurse: I think you should stay on 4 pills until your next PSA test. That way we can see if it is effective.
Me: Listen, it’s gonna be hard to tell if the medicine is effective, if you have to dig my dead body out of the burning wreckage of my car, at the bottom of a ravine, after I drive it off a cliff.
Nurse: Ok, let’s cut you down to 2 pills and see how that works.
Me: Thank you
Slightly disturbing or funny story #2.
I am not a patient driver. I would rather drive 30 miles out of my way and keep moving than sit and wait in a 5 minute traffic jam. That’s just the way I’m wired. Hormone treatments has made this way worse.
Holly and I were heading to an event that frankly, I did not want to go to. So, before this incident even starts, I’m already in a bad mood. We’re driving down the expressway and the dreaded road construction signs start popping up. I live in Michigan. Michigan winters turn our roads into chop suey. MDOT then spends most of the summer repairing the roads and making them nice so in the winter they can turn back into chop suey again. It’s a never ending cycle. I know this. But road construction still pisses me off.
This particular section of road construction featured a relatively new strategy in fighting the traffic jam that inevitably comes with fixing our lovely highways. It’s called the “zipper merge.” Basically this consists of using BOTH lanes until you get to where you merge into one. Notice that I capitalized BOTH? Kind of a key point to this story.
As I approach the traffic jam that occurs with the road construction, there is a big sign that says, “Zipper merge. Please use both lanes until merging begins.” But nobody is doing this. Like lemmings, everyone is lined up in the right lane, which stretches back a mile or more before the actual construction. I see the open left lane and think, cool, the left lane is open, they’re telling me to use it, I’m moving up. So I pull into the left lane and start passing the lemmings.
One of the lemmings, lets call him a “hero lemming”, decides to cut me off by moving into the left lane. This move does not make me happy. I express my unhappiness by cursing repeatedly at him, flipping him off, and getting right on his bumper. He just sits there. I move farther left. He moves to block me. I move farther left again. He blocks me again. I immediately swerve back over to the right, and take his now vacated spot in the right lane. Dale Earnhardt would have been so proud of that move. So now he is in the left lane, out of line. And I’m sure as hell not letting him back in. Somebody let him in behind me.
When we get to the sign that says,”Merge here,” I point at the sign, flip him off one more time, and say a few more choice words. For some reason, he gets off at the next exit.
Did I mention that Holly was in the car with me? She is a combination of mortified, horrified, embarrassed, and upset. And really really mad at me. We’ve been married for over 29 years, so I am used to the “I am married to a crazy person” looks that I usually get. But this was way worse. I obviously crossed a line. The rest of the trip was pretty quiet.
I’ve had a couple of these incidents while on hormone therapy. I am getting better at recognizing them before they happen, but it is something I have to deal with now and then. When they happen, it is definitely ugly.
Looking at the word counter, I totally crushed the One Poop Rule again. And this is just the first part. So what I’m going to do is write three more blogs dealing with these different issues. Stay tuned for more in the next few days.
If you came down here looking for the libido section, what’s wrong with you? Go back and start reading from the top.
Thanks for reading.