From the August 2010 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Take the Test

As you may recall from last month, I hate taking tests. In fact, about the only way I take a test is if someone makes me. In school, the teachers made me take tests. After graduation, employers made me take tests to get jobs (Series 7, Series 24, etc...). Finally, in my late 40s, I figured I was finished with tests for life. As most of my life proclamations have turned out, this one too, proved to be false.

The first time I took the Series 7 exam, I didn't find out how I had done until about a week later. When I had to retake the test about 20 years later, I found out with the click of a mouse how I had done. There's something to be said for immediate feedback. At least I didn't have to go on a Schlitz binge waiting for the results, like the last time.

For my most recent test situation, I had to wait 10 days for the results. Much like slow water torture, no matter what I did I still had to wait, and wait and wait. As I was waiting in the office to get my results, I heard the guy who was to give me my results talking in the hallway. He made a joke to one of his employees about the salad dressing she was using. Surely, only good news could follow a laugh about salad dressing. Right?

As the doctor entered the room he was still chuckling to himself about his salad humor. He firmly shook my hand, looked at my chart and said, "Well Bill, we found one biopsy sample with cancer." He spit all this out before I could make an even wittier comment (than his) about salad dressing. I soon forgot all the humor in my Wishbone Vinaigrette joke.

The good news is, because of its early detection my cancer hasn't spread. As my doctor so aptly put it, "Don't worry, this isn't going to kill you." The past few weeks have been like going back to school for me. In my three-week crash course I've learned about all the things that are going to happen to me soon... but won't kill me. The biggest conclusion I've reached is that I might have to revive the old Schlitz binge, once again.

So why am I bothering you with all this? Probably the biggest reason is that if I hadn't taken this last test, the outcome may have been much different. As a friend of mine said, "Just do the surgery. You're no good to me dead." Isn't it amazing how old friends can cut through the BS and get right to the point?

Prior to my diagnoses, I didn't know much about prostate cancer. I now know, next to skin cancer, it is the most common form of cancer that men get. One in six of us will have it at some point in our lifetime. You other five people in my group can thank me later.

Personally, the reason I took the test had nothing to do with that specific test. A few years ago, a friend, who happened to be a nurse, was horrified that I didn't have a family doctor and I hadn't been to see one in years. She convinced me to see her doctor for some basic blood work. Had it not been for that, I could have easily gone another five years without getting tested and as a result... I would now be writing a witty obituary instead of this column.

As I sit here typing this, I am 24 hours away from my surgery. I'm hopeful, optimistic and slightly scared to death. If you're reading this and you haven't been to the doctor's office in awhile, suck it up and make an appointment. Don't be a baby and not go because you're afraid of the tests. As any woman would happily tell you, "It's nothing compared to having a baby."

Does anyone know if they're still making Schlitz?

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