Friday, April 4, 2014

Happy Birthday To Me

     Random thoughts on my 69th birthday (tomorrow) when the calendar says I'm 62. I remember the good old days at age 16 when I easily passed for 21. Those were the days when Id's were not required and looking older than my chronological age presented me with lots of advantages.
Fast forward the clock four decades. I take my son Chris Redner to rent a movie. As I reach for my wallet, the clerk says to Chris "Isn't it nice your grandfather is renting a movie for you?" Chris thought that was very funny. I was NOT amused.
     To reverse these types of age misunderstandings, every year I decide how old I'm going to tell people I am. This year I'm going to start with 69 and see what kind of reactions I'll receive. If I find that people easily believe I'm 69, that means it's necessary to move it up a few more years until I hear a comment that goes like this: "Wow, you don't look that old" There's only one downside to doing this. It's beginning to hurt my self-esteem as to how old I need to say that I am before someone finds it hard to believe. I hope it won't be necessary to say I'm in my mid 70's this year.
      This much I do know, what ever age I'll end up saying that I am, I intend to enjoy this year to the fullest.
I'm not waiting until I retire to enjoy my life. This year my family and I traveled to NY to attend my eldest son's wedding. After the wedding, we flew many members of our family to Florida for a week long family vacation. We flew them home so my wife and I could enjoy a romantic week in Florida for ourselves.
     Very soon we are taking our adoptive daughter to her country of birth, Korea. My wife, daughter and I will stay there for nine days. This summer I'm taking my wife the the CA coast. We plan to live the rest of our lives to the fullest.
       Becoming a prostate cancer survivor changed my life. I don't take time for granted. I don't take my health for granted. It's become very important to me to celebrate and create new family milestones as often as we can. I know many men who've had their prostates removed say that surgery ruined their lives.I also know that with attitude adjustment you can view the time we have left as a very precious gift. That's the legacy I want to leave my family. I want them to say Dad sure learned to live better as a prostate cancer survivor. You can make that choice whether or not you've been diagnosed with cancer.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Gift from Prostate Cancer

     In March I had the privilege of attending my eldest son's wedding. I did not take my attendance of this event for granted. There was a time early in my journey with PC when I believed I'd die before reaching this and many other family milestones.
     Before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 58, I'd been complaining of pain in my bones. Like most men,  I found it less threatening to complain about this to my wife, rather than see a Doctor about this potentially serious symptom.
      When it became necessary for me to see my Urologist for a prescription refill he insisted on performing a digital-rectal exam. When he said he felt a suspicious lump and that I'd need a biopsy, I was not only convinced I had prostate cancer, I was certain it was already in my bones, which explained why I'd been experiencing  bone pain. As I waited weeks for my biopsy, I was convinced I'd be dead within a year or two. My deepest sorrow wasn't about dying. I have Christian world view, and I believe absent from the body, present with the Lord. (2Cor 5:8) My deep sorrow and regret came from my belief I'd miss seeing my all my children married, becoming a grandparent, and living long enough to retire with my darling wife.

     When my bone scan came back clear I felt as though I had a new lease on life. I was blessed with  the opportunity to live long enough to see some, perhaps all of those milestones. My son's wedding was the first milestones. I can't even put into words what it meant to me to have lived long enough to see and participate in this wonderful event. I was joyful. Joyful for them and joyful to be there. The couple was kind enough to let me offer a toast to them.

In Jewish tradition I ended my toast with the words: "l'chaim" which means "to life" I was toasting to their lives together as a couple, to the lives of all those people who were attending this wedding, and to gift of life I'd received to be in attendance of this event.

Yesterday one of my son's invited my wife and I to walk-through of a new home they'd just purchased. It was another milestone I'd lived long enough to see. This was the house they purchased to raise their family, and I was alive to see it. I feel  a special gratitude for the opportunity to part of these events, and that's a gift comes from my status and prostate cancer survivor. I hope those who read this won't find it necessary to be a cancer survivor in order to experience family milestones with a grateful heart.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Small Beginnings Aren't As Bad As We Think

If you were given the choice at the beginning an endeavor to choose between instant success or slow and gradual success, which would you choose? I'd choose instant success every time. I've come to the conclusion it's a good thing that choice is not in my hands.

Approximately 15 months ago my wife and I published a book titled:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours? Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Sexual & Spiritual Aspects Of Prostate Cancer.
Prior to publishing this book I was aware the average self-published author sells less than 100-150 copies of their book. Given those statistics it's amazing anyone would spend hundreds of hours of their time to write a book.

For my wife and I the desire to write a book didn't originate with ourselves. We felt called to write a book to help men and couples cope with life and love without a prostate.  When I created our Facebook page
Where's Your Prostate?  to promote our book, I had no idea whether or not men world would drop by our Facebook page to share the city, state or country where their prostate was removed.

I remember starting out with fewer than 10 pages likes. Fast forward the clock 15 months. Now we've crossed over 500 page likes with many hundreds of more likes to the links we've shared about prostate cancer. New people visit our Facebook Page every day.

Each and every week I'd have to make a decision what I can I add to this page that would make people want to visit us. I'd also need to invest money in advertising which meant I'd need to evaluate which ads worked and which ads did not. Because our success was gradual rather than instant I've worked to improve what we started with many times over.

The same is true for our Pre & Post Surgery Forums.. We started out very slowly with only few people visiting our forums each week. I kept creating relevant threads based on what the needs men and couples shared with me. Each and every week our Forums changed and improved their content. Now we see approximately 3,000 visitors per month.

This blog began with very few page views, but I kept on blogging. Maybe not as much as I could have, but I kept on blogging. Very soon will have crossed over 8,000 page views.

In each and every one of these endeavors, I never achieved instant success. That didn't stop me. I was persistent. There's an old expression which goes like this: "If at first you don't succeed, try try again.
That's only half the story. In fact one could argue that's the definition of insanity. If something doesn't work, don't try it again and again. If at first you don't succeed, try again a different way, and if that doesn't work try again another way, and keep on trying until you succeed. It's that attitude which in the end sorts out those who will succeed and those who will fail.

 If you give up after a single failure you will become a failure. In this journey I've learned the value of persistence. That said, our book hasn't hit the Amazon or New York Times Best Seller List. It's highly likely it never will. However, with  persistence we continue to sell books every month. The book won three awards. We've had dozens of positive reviews from readers, and our book was called "A clear-eyed, warmhearted and extraordinarily useful guide" in Kirkus Review.

Sometimes success doesn't come from persistence, it's comes from changing the definition of success.
I'd be a failure as an author if my definition of success was making the New York Times Best Seller List.

My definition of success involves saying yes to these two questions:
1. Have I've been faithful to the task I was called to do?
2. Have I performed those tasks to the best of my abilities?

What's your definition of success? Does it harm or increase the likelihood of you being successful?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Two Types of Comforters- The Good & The Miserable-Which Are You?

                                                        Types of Comforters
I never thought that some day I'd find myself sharing the news that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. In the book of Job we find two types of comforters. The good comforter and the miserable one. It's relatively easy to know which type of comfort your receiving. Here was Job's reaction to miserable comfort:
 Job 16:2-4
Miserable comforters are you all!  Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer?  I also could speak as you do, If your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you, And shake my head at you; 

Clearly Job was  frustrated as a result of receiving their comfort. In fact it is safe to say their "words of comfort" added to his pain. In contrast to miserable comfort Job describes how one receives good comfort:

Job 16:5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth, And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief. When a person receives good comfort the pain of the moment may linger, but there is feeling of relief that someone understands your pain. 

As I've shared the news I have cancer I've discovered most reactions fall within two groups:

Group#1 This group that responds to the news by sharing a personal experience:
Your initial reaction to someone offering this comfort could be frustration because it appears they are not reacting to what you said, but moved to completely different personal experience they've had with cancer. t's important to listen carefully to the story they've shared because it's through that filter of their experience they are viewing your cancer.For example one of my employees first question to me was: "How much pain are you feeling?"  I realized that her concern came from her personal experience, so I asked her the following question: "Who in your life experienced pain with their cancer diagnosis?"

Without a moments hesitation she began telling me about her mom, who died of bone cancer. I told her that I didn't have bone cancer. I also told her that prostate cancer is for the most part painless. Therefore men can have it for decades and not even know it's there. Once I helped her differentiate her experiences from mine we could talk in the present without her experiences filtering what she was hearing from me.,

Another example was this comment from a close friend.  He said: "I'm sorry to hear that. My dad died of prostate cancer." Initially that comment added to my anxiety.I  wanted to run away from him and my circumstances. Then I realized what he was really saying here was this: In my experience with prostate cancer tells me it's deadly, and I'm worried you are going to die too. At that point you can share your own fears about cancer being a death sentence if that's your worry, because this person will understand your fears. Therefore, the story they share with you gives you a window into how they are experiencing the news you just shared with them. There is an opportunity to receive comfort from this group of people.

Group#2 This group of people offer a comfort cliché. That is to say they offer a few sentences designed to keep you from sharing anything further with them. So they might say: Cheer up" or "I'll pray for you" After they say their few words they are done. It's obvious they don't want to make a deep connection or know more about your  circumstances. They are much more concerned about saying something which they believe will make feel me better, and/or make themselves better. So I'll listen to their cliché, say a perfunctory thank you and walk away. I put those folks on a list of people whom not to share anything remotely intimate. If we are friends I may share facts like I'll be going in for surgery, or I'll be home from the hospital on such in such date but I will make it a point NOT to share a single emotional, relational, spiritual, or physical struggle.

                                             Sources of Comfort Good Comfort

People further along in the journey than you are: These are men who've been diagnosed and have lived with prostate cancer for years longer than you. They may offer appropriate comfort, information and support. They are people you want on your team.

Comfort from God:
2 Cor 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. I found this source of comfort to be the best. I found comfort in answered prayers, in promises in the Bible, hymns and praise songs. To face prostate cancer without this source of  comfort is a serious mistake.

Questions to consider:
1. Who in my circle of friends and family offer good comfort.
2. Who in my circle of friends and family offer miserable comfort.
3. What are  your reactions to receiving miserable comfort?
4. What are your reactions to receiving good comfort?
5. What type of comforter are you?
6. Is God a source of comfort for you? If so,  how so? If not what do you need to do in order to invite God      into your circumstances?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Power of Words in Encourage or Discourage Us

This weekend I heard from someone who read my article titled "Life Lessons on Coping with Cancer" "
Here's what he said: Inspirational and very well written. Thanks for sharing Rick!"

Then I heard this from a man who read "I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours? He said:"
I found that no detail was omitted in any of the 42 chapters of this book. It has now become my number one source of information relating to the effects and recovery from Prostate Cancer. Well done."
I'm encouraged by the words I've heard this weekend. In my life and I'm sure in yours we all experienced the power that words have to encourage or discourage us.
A Bible verse came to my mind: Prov 15:23 And a word spoken in due season, how good it is! Sadly I think I remember the discouraging more vividly than the encouraging remarks because the first quote that came to my mind was this:
I'm so sorry you have prostate cancer, that's what killed my dad.
Much much later on when my sanity returned,(there are some in my family that suggest I've never had sanity to lose) I understood why he made that remark. As a friend who loved me dearly, he heard the news and was expressing his own fear and personal experience with about prostate cancer. He was also wondering whether I like his dad would die from prostate cancer. At that time I thought I would die from prostate cancer. I'd been complaining of bone pain months before I was diagnosed. After I received the diagnosis I was convinced that cancer had spread to my bones and I'd be dead within in a year. Thankfully the CT scan showed no bone cancer. (which is when I believe my sanity returned)

When I heard his Dad died from prostate cancer my fears increased ten-fold. At the time, I didn't think that was possible! As a result, I stopped telling people I had prostate cancer for many weeks. The last thing I needed or wanted to hear was another remark that would increase my terror.
Another discouraging remark occurred when I shared how difficult it was for me to cope with losing urinary control and live with changing my diapers 15 times a day.The comment was:
That's not so bad, at least your alive.
At the time I was wishing I hadn't survived my surgery. After that remark, I gave up trying to talk about my experiences with healthy people. I'd only share with men on-line or with men who'd been through something similar.

Today I'm greatly encouraged by the words I received this weekend. I consider it to be a blessing to use my experiences to help others. Unfortunately,  though, I've something about myself that I need to change. It's much easier for me to remember the discouraging words and act upon them rather than it is for me to keep encouraging words in my heart. With encouraging words I feel good for a moment and then they disappear. Discouraging words cause me to make decisions that affect me for days, weeks or years. I need to reverse this process and rid my mind of the discouraging words, and fill my mind with encouraging words.

What about you? What words of comfort built you up and encouraged you and what words  discouraged you and affected you for days, weeks, months, or years?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

10 Tips For Coping With Prostate Cancer

1. Don’t Rush Into Treatment- By the time a man is old enough to receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer, the odds are he’s known friends and/for family who died as a result of cancer. Past experiences, assumptions about cancer, and fear rather than specifics of their diagnosis often drive men to chose unnecessary aggressive treatment options. A diagnosis of prostate cancer does mean you face a life-threatening emergency. Some prostate cancers are so slow in growing you can go decades without aggressive treatment. Base your treatment decision on the specifics of your diagnosis, not from your pre-existing fears about cancer.

2. Don’t face prostate cancer alone. Put together a team to help you cope as well as to help you make the best possible treatment decision. Your team should include Doctors from different fields of treating prostate cancer, friends, family, clergy and other people coping with prostate cancer. Make sure your team includes people who are further along the journey of coping with prostate cancer than you are. If you’d like meet with people face to face, Us Too has a very large person to person support groups around the country. If you are more comfortable with the anonymity an on-line support group offers there are many great on-line prostate cancer support groups to join.

3. It’s OK to admit you are afraid. Take the time to process your fears about your diagnosis of cancer. Find other prostate cancer Survivors to speak to about your fears about cancer. Get support from many members of your team.

4. Don’t forget your partner- Both of you are facing cancer and your partner needs comfort and support too.

5.   Find ways to bring laughter into your situation. I went on-line to find jokes about prostate cancer. My fear was so powerful, I knew  laughter could help me overcome my fears. Find many ways to laugh. Watch situation comedies, rent funny movies, and spend   lots of time with the people who make you laugh.

6. I found that songs helped alleviate my fears. Secular songs like Lean on Me by Bill Withers, praise songs like Blessings by Laura Story, and hymns like It Is Well With My Soul song by Chris Rice, provided me with comfort and hope.

7. I can’t imagine coping with cancer without prayer. Praying invites God into your circumstances. Things I found helpful to pray for were for peace, wisdom, grace, and laughter. Praying to be healed isn’t a prayer that’s always answered but it’s something important to pray for.

8. Enjoy your life in a new way. The old expression “take time to smell the roses” applies. You may discover your priorities will change, the things you value, what’s important or how you spend your time can change as a result of your experience with cancer.

9. Learn to Celebrate. You can celebrate when you've made a treatment decision, when a friend reaches out, when a prayer is answered, when a relationship is restored, when you are able to laugh. Find as many things as you can to celebrate. Don’t celebrate along, invite others to share the things you celebrate.

10. Allow your experience with your own mortality change you for the better. Develop new perspectives on what’s important in your life. Become a peacemaker. As far as you are able try to end grudges with family and friends. Reach out and put your best efforts into restoring broken relationships. Become a better listener. Become kinder, more generous, forgiving, and loving. Allow your experience with prostate cancer and your mortality to transform you into a better person.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Receiving A Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer is a Disruptive Moment

Disruptive moments are what Gordon MacDonald, author of The Life God Blesses, describes as an unpleasant slice of life . Disruptive moments frequently occur in the context of what begins as a routine day. Suddenly and unexpectedly, something happens that brings about an unwanted, unwelcome, and sometimes catastrophic change in your circumstances, health, or well-being.

On one such routine day for me, I had a doctor’s appointment to obtain a prescription refill. While I sat in the waiting room, thanking God for my current state of good health, I could never have imagined that was I was fifteen minutes way from experiencing a disruptive moment.  During my appointment, my urologist examined my prostate. He felt a “suspicious lump,” which a biopsy would later confirm was prostate cancer.

Philippians 4:6–7 came to mind. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (NKJ, Thomas Nelson). Unfortunately, I didn’t experience a reduction in anxiety or the peace of God.

I knew too many people who had died from a variety of different cancers.  Additionally, I’d spent two years as a medical social worker. I left that career, and my wife left her career in medical oncology because of our mutual need to get away from suffering and death. The diagnosis of prostate cancer brought these words to my mind: excruciating pain, suffering, and death.

Based on my experiences with cancer, I felt fear, terror, and endured many sleepless nights. The fact that my faith made little or no difference in the way I was coping intensified my fears. During this phase in my journey, I prayed for three things: wisdom—because I needed to chose a way to treat my cancer; peace—because sleepless nights were interfering with my ability to cope; and the ability to find humor everywhere I could. Our prayers and the prayers of others were answered.

It became evident to us we were called to write a book to help others cope with prostate cancer. Since we’ve written our book, we’ve had the opportunity to share our experiences on radio talk shows.  I’ve been invited to write articles for magazines. I designed and host an online, faith-based pre- and post-prostate surgery support forum, which receives thousands of page views per month.  This month, our local newspaper is doing a feature story about our ministry. We stand in awe at the number of doors that continue to open for us to help others. None of this would have or could have happened if we ignored the call to write our book.

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