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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fringeville #102, April 12 2014

It's yours, free, if you just take it and leave!

What do I know about PSA? That's a teacher's union, right Doc?

Sometimes it's the phone calls you make, sometimes it's the phone calls you take. This time it was both.

Let's start with the call I made.

The woman who answered the phone at the doctor's office had a very, very pleasant voice. Cheerful, in fact. The perfect voice for answering incoming calls.

"How can I help you?"

"I'm calling for my biopsy results."

"Your name?"

"James O'Meara."

"Your date of birth?"

I gave it to her.

"Do you mind holding? I'll see if they came in."

I waited, and as I did so my mind wandered back to the things I had left to do that day and over the coming weeks. For the day, I was on my lunch and had a pile of work to get back to after the phone call. For the immediate future, there was a political campaign ahead. I had filed my petitions to run for Republican State Committee earlier in the week (the day before my biopsy, in fact). I was anxious to see what ballot position I would draw later in the month for the Primary Election.

Then my mind focused on the following day, one I was looking forward to. It was one of my days to pick up my grandson at daycare and drive him to school. We would have a half hour in the car together, and I would use every moment to the fullest. I would recite the name of every street we passed and we would play our "lunch game." The game works like this:

"What did you eat for lunch, James?" I ask. (My grandson is the third in a line of James O'Meara's ...I started a dynasty.)

No answer.

"Did you have elephant soup?"


"Alligator toes?"


"Snail soup?"


"Zebra gizzards?"


On and on we go until he has a grin the size of Oklahoma.

These half-hour trips are precious to me. On this particular Thursday afternoon, March 13 2014, I was also thinking about the route to take on Friday when I drove my grandson to school. He likes me to change things up, and always asks to go "a different way." It was becoming a challenge because there are only so many ways to go from one end of Pittston to the other.

"Mr. O'Meara?"

Oh, but her tone had changed. Softer, almost a whisper.

"What number can doctor call to reach you?"

That was it. Bang. Zoom. My life had just changed, and I knew it.

I gave her my mobile number and sat at my dining room table, waiting for his call.

"Well," I sighed to myself, "You finally get yourself in a race you might win and then you go and get cancer."

* * *

The first indication something was amiss started the previous autumn. I was working two part-time jobs. One of those jobs was for a national retail chain, where I was a home improvement sales consultant. That's a fancy way of saying I sold hardware, lawn and garden goods, and a host of other items. I applied for the job strictly for the challenge. I was a middle-aged deaf man with bilateral cochlear implants which restored my hearing. I wanted to see if I could walk up to total strangers, engage them, and learn to sell. I wasn't a great sales consultant as far as numbers go, but in the time I was there I began building a core of customers who would come looking for me when they needed something. It didn't pay well, but I had a blast. It was a job requiring me to be on my feet all the time. I liked that aspect of it, once I got used to it, because it kept my butt from growing so large it needed its own zip code.

I started the job in August of 2012, and for the first year things were fine. Then, as the seasons changed and the colors of autumn emerged in 2013, something odd began to happen as I worked. One minute I'd be fine, and the next I'd get an urgent call from Mother Nature that the dam in my bladder was going to burst. I would zip off to the men's room, answer her call, then zip back to the sales floor. At first this happened maybe once a shift. As time went on it happened more often. Usually it wasn't a big deal because frankly we weren't all that busy. But occasionally a scenario like this would play out:

"Hello, and thanks for coming in to visit us today. I'm Jimbo. I see you're thinking about a lawnmower,sir."


"Can you tell me a little about your yard?"

The customer would start talking about the size, terrain, etc. and suddenly an urgent message would be sent from my bladder to my brain: "Jimbo, wrap this up. The tank's full."

But of course, I couldn't wrap it up. I was just getting started.

"How does this electric start thingymabob work?"

I would start answering the question, and the others that followed, and a new message would arrive from below my belt line: "Jimbo. It's me. Your bladder. Maybe you missed my last call. Remember the movie 'A River Runs Through It?'  Well, in about 30 seconds that's gonna be your pants."


"Let me go see if we have these in stock in our warehouse!" I would blurt out, then hurry off.

Of course, we had a ton of mowers in stock, but once I was in the warehouse I could make a dash to the men's room, tap the kidneys, and go back to my sale.

Occasionally, though, it was difficult to peel away. When I said I wanted to check stock, my customer would stop me and ask even more questions. Usually it was just one or two, but occasionally someone put me through the retail version of the Spanish Inquisition. I would stand there, cross-legged and spit out the answers. On a couple of occasions I came within seconds of saying: "Buddy it's yours, free, if you just take it and leave right this second."

Sure, I'd have been fired. But I'd get to pee, and at those particular moments in time all that mattered to me in the entire Universe was peeing.

I suppose I should have been alarmed, but I simply put it down to getting older. I felt great otherwise. My bladder was just a little excitable.

When my other part-time job became full-time with benefits in December of 2013, I left my retail job. I also made a mental note to see my primary physician sometime after the holidays. I hadn't been to the doctor in more than two years, largely because for much of that time I'd had no health care benefits. When I finally got limited healthcare benefits in January 2013 from my retail employer, my schedules were insane and I put off scheduling an appointment. The full-time job as "the office guy" for a local shoe store offered a lot of flexibility. I could finally make an appointment and get a good once-over. I had routine blood work done in early February 2014 and on the 13th of that month I finally found myself in my doctor's office waiting to be scolded over my cholesterol levels and for putting on a few pounds.

"Well," he said, "You're due for a colonoscopy but there's something else we need to look at first. Your PSA rose from about 1.8 to over 6. I'm going to refer you to a urologist."

And with that, my happy race to heck in a handbag began.

* * *