patient with their urine cup waiting for their examination

The Scope 2.0: Quarterly Check-Ups

When last I left you, I had just finished my cancer surgery and was told that I would need no further treatment at this time. While it is true that I have not needed further treatment, I had and continue to have regularly scheduled scopes.

My first post-surgery scope was scheduled for three months after my surgery. I arrived and checked in, took all the forms that the nurse handed me and gave them to my adult (read: wife). I was very nervous, so I immersed myself in Crochet! monthly magazine and waited.

Providing urine sample

“Mr. Howard, right this way, please. We will need a urine sample; please fill the cup at least half full and put it in the door in the wall. When you are finished, you can return to the waiting room. Thank you.” So far so good. I joined the Army in 1981 at 17 years of age, and I do not think that I have gone more than 12 months without someone needing a urine sample since: first for the military, then for employers, and now for cancer screening. Somewhere there is a warehouse with a huge vat of my pee. I returned to the waiting room to find out how my crocheting pattern ended.

It wasn't too long before the nurse returned to the door and invited me to follow her again. I was ushered into a small, sterile room and told to strip from the waist down and sit on the table. She gave me a paper sheet to cover my lap and left. Once I had gotten in the prescribed uniform, I looked around. Posters showed me my entire urinary system with arrows and word bubbles describing the parts and their functions. On the wall closest to the door was a small wooden plaque that read, “Vasectomy is never having to say ‘I am sorry.’”

Beginning the exam

The doctor came in and asked how I had been and if I had experienced any further issues. He nodded thoughtfully as I assured him all was well. I laid back, the paper sheet was removed, and the fun began. A numbing ointment was applied to the point of the planned entry. Doc told me that I would feel a small pressure as he went through the prostate, and then he would be in the bladder.

Counting tiles on the ceiling

He pointed to the flat screen on the wall and told me that I can watch along if I wanted to. There were a number of things that I wanted to do, but watching along was not one of them. I can tell you that there are 156 tiles on the ceiling in the exam room. I can tell you that there are 86 tiles from the time of entry to the entrance of the prostate. From the beginning of the prostate to resuming my count, there is approximately a 10-second breath-hold. As long as I don't lose my place, it is 70 tiles until the scope is fully in the bladder.

Once the scope is fully in the bladder, is not long before the examination is completed. I have never timed it; however, I cannot imagine it being more than two or three minutes. The removal of the scope is painless and does not require any further tile counting on my part. When the scope is removed, the nurse, thoughtfully, replaces the paper sheet on my lap. Doc tells me everything looks fine and he will schedule my next scope for three months. He and the nurse are gone in a flash, and I'm left with my thoughts.

The actual scope procedure is virtually painless. A small bit of discomfort as the probe passes through the prostate, but even that is minimal. The report is wonderful. There is no evidence of disease, and my bladder looks completely healthy.

A burst dam of fear and uncertainty

I just sit there on the exam table. More than anything, I want to stand up and get dressed and leave, but I can’t. The emotional torrent that comes stops me. I am sobbing, silently, my whole body shaking. A burst dam of fear and uncertainty and wondering pours from me in waves. When it is over, I feel fully emptied and relief washed over me. I wash my face, get dressed and go out to share the good news with my wife. I text all three kids the good report.

Then it is a return to my regularly scheduled life. If all of this is new to you, I urge you to try and relax. After the first couple times of sitting half-naked in a room waiting to be examined, you will find it less daunting. I thought of getting a tattoo on the inside of my thigh welcoming Doc to the show. I have suggested he get a TV in the ceiling like my dentist. In short, I try to inject as much humor as I can.

Humor helps me

If you allow it to, bladder cancer will try to rob you of your dignity. Humor helps me get through. Find what works for you and use it without shame or hesitation. Cancer survivors are amazing warriors. Welcome to the tribe.

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