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I hate cancer. I hate the pain, the meds. I hate the incremental death.

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Editor's note: Jack Kurtz, an award-winning international photographer now living in Des Moines, Iowa, was diagnosed with cancer in September 2019. He has been chronicling his journey with the disease.

Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats you. In 2019 I found out the bear has not only been eating me, but it's also treating me as an endless buffet.

In May 2019, I had some pain and stiffness in my legs that I dismissed as aging and basically ignored. I’ve always been healthy.

In June, the leg pain worsened. I started popping Ibuprofen like they were M&M's. I thought (seriously) that it was because I had recently switched wallets from a super-thin one I had used for years to a very thick, but very nice, leather wallet I had gotten as a gift. I thought maybe the thick wallet had somehow bruised my hip (it’s a thing, I looked it up on the internet).

In July, the pain was paralyzing, and I ended up in a local emergency room. Going to the ER was a compromise. I wanted to stay home and tough it out. Cathy, my wife, wanted to call 911. I wasn’t about to be wheeled out of our apartment on a stretcher, so I hobbled out to the car and Cathy drove me to a nearby ER. At this point, I could hardly walk. I couldn’t handle stairs.

The ER doctor ordered X-rays, couldn’t find anything wrong, prescribed extra strength Ibuprofen and a series of exercises and sent me home.

I went to my family doctor, who didn’t see anything wrong but did a blood draw. The whole time the pain persisted.

About a week later, she called to say my PSA score was somewhat elevated. (Her actual words were, “I’ve never seen one this high.”)

I was sent to a urologist for a biopsy.

While I was waiting for the results I ended up back in the ER. A security guard with a wheelchair met me and wheeled me, after a very brief triage, back to the exam bays and then I was whisked off for a CT scan. When the results came in, the physician's assistant told me the problem was “significantly more complicated” than I thought.

The CT scan showed spots on my pelvis.

I think the words hit Cathy harder than they hit me because I was blissed out on whatever pain killer was flowing through the IV.

Two days later, I saw the urologist’s nurse practitioner, who said that based on the CT scan and my PSA score, I had prostate cancer. She gave me another prescription for painkillers.

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The painkillers worked, but I was still unable to walk or work (because being a photojournalist means spending a lot of time on your feet and walking). When I saw the urologist later in the week, he confirmed the diagnosis, ordered a bone scan and set me up with an oncologist. He gave me a shot that he said would restore some mobility and reduce the pain.

That shot was nothing short of miraculous. In a matter of days, I was starting to walk again.

My oncologist confirmed what others said: I have stage IV prostate cancer, and the bone scan showed it has metastasized. He said it had spread so much that surgery to remove the prostate would be ineffective – there was too much cancer to treat with radiation, although some individual tumors might be treatable with radiation.

He said my cancer was terminal.

He also told me to consider the cancer a chronic disease, like diabetes, that would be with me until I died.

I started a drug cocktail in October 2019: an injection every six months combined with five pills taken at bedtime to fight the cancer, a monthly injection to restore bone health lost to the cancer, and a handful of over-the-counter pills to battle the side effects of the anti-cancer meds.

Within days of starting the cocktail, I was back........


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