Monday, September 5, 2016

Some Reflections on Bicalutamide

I returned from an unexpected inpatient stay in hospital the other day (see my CaringBridge blog more more about this) with a prescription for a new chemotherapy regimen that includes a daily pill of bicalutamide, a drug that is usually given to combat prostate cancer but that genetic profiling suggests may be effective against my head and neck cancer also.

So what does bicalutamide do, you may well ask?  Well, prostate cancer is a disease of men, and it was discovered some years ago that the male hormone testosterone seems to activate and energize prostate cancer cells (and, according to the profiling that I mentioned, my head and neck cancer cells also); thus, if one could somehow reduce a guy's testosterone levels, one might slow down the advance of prostate cancer.  That's what bicalutamide is for.  It is one of the more modern of a range of testosterone blockers - effective, standard cancer therapies based on inhibiting testosterone production.  "Feminizing" therapies, if you want to get sanctimonious about it.

I can't help smiling a bit at the idea that my transgender child may be cheering me on from the realm of light as I embark on a drug regime which is also used by transgender women!  Thanks for encouraging me, Eli, and showing me that there is no big deal about my "identity" that I need to worry about here.  At the same time I have a question for all of you guys (yes, it was all guys) who were so confident in telling us that this kind of hormonal therapy was contrary to God's plan, to "God made them male and female", in Eli's case.  Here it is: I presume that if you end up with advanced prostate cancer (which I hope and pray you won't) and are prescribed this kind of standard therapy, you're going to refuse it, right?  After all, you were self-righteous enough to tell my child that they should refuse the same standard therapy for their suffering because of what you thought you knew about God's plan for gender.   You ready to apply that "knowledge" to your own life and death also?

Okay, rant over (for now).  In fact, angry though I am at the way our child was treated, that was not the point I really wanted to emphasize in this piece.  What I wanted to share is something quite different, something that brings a warm glow to my heart even in the midst of my sadness.   What I wanted to share is the surprising way that my treatment is bringing me closer to my child's experience - and the extraordinary fact that I feel that Eli is encouraging me, after quite a few years when I did my best, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to encourage him.

Love you forever, Eli.

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