Sunday, December 14, 2014

How You Talk to Yourself About Cancer Makes a Difference in How You Cope

Every day since I was dx with prostate cancer 4 years ago, I'm reminded that I'm a cancer survivor not once but multiple times throughout each day. Some are very pleasant reminders. Every night I sleep through the night it's a pleasant reminder I'm doing so because I no longer live with an enlarged prostate. The nights of waking up 3-5 times to use the bathroom have come to end.  The benefit of uninterrupted sleep is that I think, feel and act much better than I did with interrupted sleep.

 In the bedroom the reminder isn't as pleasant. There I'm reminded of two painful losses. I miss the pleasure of ejaculation, and I miss the ability to maintain an erection. I've had to grieve these losses before I was able to embrace a new and very satisfying sex life. Someone posted this comment of my Facebook Page:
 "Dead men don't have sex"  which is obviously true. I've slowly learned to be grateful and enjoy what I'm able to enjoy.

Everyday I must empty my bladder frequently so an expected laugh or sneeze won't result in my leaking a large volume of urine. This never ending diligence is a constant reminder I'm that I'm living without my prostate. I remember what my life was like when I was in diapers going through 15 of them each day. I've come a long way! Frequent trips to the bathroom are a very small price to pay in order to stay dry. Each and every time I empty my bladder I feel true gratitude that I am a cancer survivor who regained control of his bladder.
I've come to the conclusion that how we think and talk to ourselves about our reminders that we are cancer survivors determines how well or how poorly we will cope with life as a cancer survivor.

If you want to read my book about coping with Prostate Cancer you can buy it here:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours?
By Rick Redner & Brenda Redner.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Meaning We Gain From Numbering Our Days & Facing Our Mortality

My concept of dying has changed during the journey from being a child to becoming a senior citizen and grandparent to be.  I don't remember how young I was when I realized my parents were not immortal and it was within the realm of possibility they'd die while I was a child. In my younger childhood years death frightening uncontrollable force that snatched love ones away from you permanently. I was so afraid of death my father decided to do something about it. He wanted me to talk to the tooth fairly who knew that he and my mother would live a long time. He dialed the phone and handed it to me. The female who answered the phone  introduced herself as the tooth fairy. She asked what was frightening me and I told her I was scared my parents would die while I was a child. She proceeded to tell me she knew for a fact that both parents would live a long time and that I had nothing to worry about.

My father's plan to ease my fears backfired. At the time I had serious doubts about the existence of the tooth fairly. I wondered which of his friends he'd called to set up this trick. I became convinced  my fears were spot on, and perhaps death was even more frightening than I originally thought, because the topic resulted in my father lying to me rather than speaking the truth.  I spent a good deal of my childhood frighted about death and dying.

Then came adolescence. My fear of death gave way to youth's universal illusion of immortality. The fact some older family members died during this time did not bring back my fear of death and dying. I was convinced death might touch others, but it was of no concern to me. Losing the fear of my death allowed me live recklessly. I took way too many chances. Looking back, I feel very blessed I managed to survive that decade of my life in spite of the death defying risks I took. 

The combination of getting married and starting a family took me off the path of  recklessness. I began the era of taking taking my health seriously. I wanted to do all I could to make sure I'd be around for family milestones ranging from the first day of school all the way to walking my daughter down the aisle.  My attitude toward dying in phase of my life transformed from youth's universal illusion of immortality to something I can avoid/postpone with the proper diet and exercise.

My illusion that I had the ability to postpone the time of my death was shattered when at age 58 I received the news I had prostate cancer.  It was then, I came to the frightening reality that I have little control over the time of my own death. For me, cancer came like a thief in the night to steal my good health.
I didn't think so at the time, but I've since changed my mind; it's good to have the reminder my time on earth is limited. Experiencing this reality on a personal level changed my life.

The Bible has something to say about living with the reality that our time on earth is limited. Here's the verse:
Ps 90:12
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Here's some wisdom I've gained as I've learned to count the number my days. I've learned the importance of friends and family. It's all to easy to sacrifice both in pursuit of financial gain or my own personal interests. I've learned the importance of forgiveness.  I've experienced decades of the disruption of important family relationships due to forgiveness. I've resolved to be thee first one to forgive, and to be the one who takes the first steps to restore broken relationships. I've also learned you can't reconcile any relationship if one party is unwilling to forgive. It takes two to reconcile. I've learned to become less dependent on work as the source of my identity. I'm working less and spending more of my free time with friends and family. I'm traveling more and taking more trips with my wife and my family. I've stopped waiting to retire to travel and have fun with both my wife and family. Last but not least, I've learned the futility and joy killing power of worry.  The best way to ruin your life today is to worry about tomorrow. I'm practicing living in the moment. I never realized how easy it is for me to live in the past or in the future losing out on the joy that's right in front of me in the present. 

I'm surprised the anxiety that came with the diagnosis of cancer was transformed into something positive as I've learned to number my days. It demonstrates to me whether or not you believe in God, the wisdom that's contained in the Bible can be found in no other book. If your life needs transformation, I suggest picking up a Bible and reading it. Start with the book of  Proverbs. There's no reason to allow cancer or the effects of treatment to rob you of the joy of living and loving.

Rick Redner is the author of the award winning book:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours?

This is my 100th blog about prostate cancer!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Penile Implants-The Difference Between Vanity vs Sanity

I recently heard from a widow. Her husband had prostate cancer, but that's not what he died from. To treat his prostate cancer he chose the surgical option. Like many men before him he believed robotic surgery would allow him the opportunity to regain erectile functioning. That didn't happen for him.
As the years went by he became increasingly withdrawn and depressed coping with ED. He began drinking heavily to medicate his pain. On his 7th year post-surgery he committed suicide. I can't help but wonder if anyone ever spoke with him about the option to get a penile implant.

I recently posted information about penile implants on a prostate cancer forum. I was shocked when a woman created a post to mock that option calling it a "cosmetic surgery" meaning the motivation for an implant comes as a result of vanity.

If a woman wants to increase the size of her breasts or man wants to increase the length or girth of his penis, that's cosmetic surgery. If a woman chooses breast reconstruction after a mastectomy that's not a decision based on vanity, that's a decision to be made whole again and get back something that cancer took away.

 In the very same way if man chooses an implant after suffering from ED after cancer treatments that's considered a restorative surgery. Why does this matter? Most insurance companies do not cover cosmetic surgery. Medicare and most private insurance companies will cover restorative surgery. Therefore, penile implants are a covered procedure for most men coping with ED after treatment for prostate cancer.That's the good news. 

Here's the bad news. Of all the ways to treat ED; the vacuum pump, muse, injections, medication and surgery, penile implants is the least chosen option among men coping with ED. The irony here is this, penile implants have the highest satisfaction rate among men coping with ED. 
Here's informational link which contains an interview with a man who chose this option. It's a worthwhile read:
Information & An Interview

If you've been coping with ED for more than one year after treatment for prostate cancer don't wait for your Urologist or Surgeon to discuss this issue with you, bring it up with them. If they don't have experience with an implant ask for a referral with a Doctor who is experienced with penile implant surgery.

Erectile Dysfunction can destroy a man's sense of being a man and have devastating effects ranging from  depression, emotional & physical withdrawal from a relationship, to substance abuse or suicide.
A penile implant can give you back what cancer has taken away, the possibility for enjoyable intercourse with your partner. Don't give in to despair and don't give up hope. Seriously explore this option.

If you want to read my book about coping with prostate cancer, here's a link to read a few pages at no charge:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours?

Rick Redner

Brenda Redner 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ten Tips For Coping With Cancer During The Holidays

In the month of November, Hallmark began the countdown to Christmas with special holiday movies. I skip all the movies about Santa or elves saving Christmas, but I'm a sucker for all the movies about about a single, widowed or divorced parent finding love during the holiday season.  I'm not ashamed to admit I enjoy stories with happily ever after endings.

Hollywood is on board helping to create the notion that good things are supposed to happen during the holidays. As much as I want that to be true, every year I'm reminded that pain, suffering, illness injury, disease and death do not take holiday breaks.

In 1976 the duo Simon & Garfunkel composed the song 7'OClock News/Silent Night which brilliantly deals with the disparity between what we hope for the Holidays and how the reality of the days news show us the futility of wishing for a Hallmark Christmas in a broken world.

Deep within our hearts there is a strong desire to experience a Hallmark Holiday. That's the reason  why I believe suffering of any kind during the holidays is amplified and felt more intensely.

There are a number of places you can be in your journey with cancer:
1. Newly Diagnosed
2. Waiting for treatment-surgery, radiation, hormone therapy etc
3. Coping with the physical effects of treatment-loss of libido, urinary control, erectile dysfunction, etc
4. Coping with the emotional component of coping with cancer, things like anxiety, fear, sadness, loss, depression, etc
5. Coping with the relational changes brought about by a diagnosis of cancer, Your relationship with friends, family, and/or your partner may be negatively affected as a result of the diagnosis or treatment of cancer.

Any one of these circumstances has the potential to drain you'd like to experience during this season. There are some attitudes and behaviors that could take away the joy you'd like to experience:

Joy Killers:
1. Cling to the expectation you deserve a Hallmark Holiday and rage against your current circumstances.
2. Try not to think about your current reality-This is a great way to become obsessed with your current circumstances.
3.Withdraw from friends and family
4. Use alcohol or drugs to numb your feelings.
5. Judge yourself harshly because you don't feel the way you want to during this season.

Here's a few things you can do to make the holidays better.
Joy Enhancers:
1. Treat yourself and others in your life with kindness, compassion, tenderness and love.
2. Take time to acknowledge and grieve the losses you face this year as a result of cancer.
3. Don't push yourself or expect to do everything you are accustom to doing. For example you might not be physically or emotionally ready to go to the office Christmas Party or drive/fly long distances to be with family.
4. Limit your activities to a few things you'll truly enjoy.
5. Spend time with the people you love.
6. If you are able, doing something nice for someone in need.
7. Develop new holiday traditions you are able to enjoy
8. Spend time each day counting your blessings to enable you to develop an attitude of daily gratitude.
9. Draw strength from your faith.
10. If you do not believe in God-now is a good time to question that assumption.

Here's a few links to relevant articles:
Tis the Season for Coping With Cancer
Coping With Cancer During the Holidays
Cancer & the Holidays
Ten Tips for Coping With Cancer During the Holidays

The next two are Christian faith-based books
The Case for Christ
The Case For Christmas

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda Redner are the authors of:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours?
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Why Live With Erectile Dysfunction After Your Prostatectomy??

Almost 4 years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After much thought, research and prayers my wife and I agreed that robotic surgery was the best way to treat my cancer. I was referred to UCSF. My surgeon was in the top of the field of physicians who perform robotic surgery. Both before and after my double nerve sparing surgery I was assured I'd regain my sexual functioning.
I didn't know how long that would take until I listened to the following video by ,Dr Mulhall on Penile Rehab. This is a video every man considering prostate surgery should watch.

I wanted to do everything possible to insure nerve bundle healing. Therefore,  I used ED meds before and after surgery. After surgery,  I used the vacuum pump and later performed penile injections until the medication stopped working. At the end of two years,  my success with obtaining erections hovered around 50-60% so we had reason to hope my response rate would improve. . I continued using ED medication for another 1.5 years with my success rate dropping slowly over time. Soon my success rate with ED medication dropped to less than 1%.  I saw no point in using medication that wasn't working so we went for another consult at UCSF.

My Specialist told me the period for healing was over and what I'd left is where I'd landed post surgery. He did have two plans with regard to dosage and frequency of taking ED medication which might improve my success rate. I tried plan A first hoping it would work. After 3 unsuccessful months we went  back to try plan B. Once again after 3 unsuccessful months Plan B hadn't worked either.

After 3.5 years post-surgery it became very clear to us that our hopes to regain my erectile functioning were dashed. My relationship with myself and my wife suffered greatly during this period of time. I went though many months of severe depression as I thought I'd lost my manhood. At the time, my  manhood was narrowly defined as my erectile abilities. I shut my wife out physically and emotionally. Kissing, hugging, holding hands, back rubs, all affectionate  physical contact stopped. I wanted no reminders of what I'd lost. I became too depressed to care about my wife's reaction to all that she lost during much of this time.

It took a great deal of time, effort and intentionality to begin the process of working my way back to Brenda both emotionally and physically. My depression lifted as I grieved my losses and began to accept life, relational living and sex without a prostate, we began to make the best of the transition from impotence to healing. Now I was faced with the a new reality, there'd be no healing.

I felt like a man on trial. I was found guilty and my sentence was more than I could bare-I'd spend the rest of my life impotent.  After all the time and effort with penile rehab, my hopes for recovery were dashed. Once again I felt myself sinking into despair, hopelessness and depression. When I went for surgery, I didn't sign up for a life time of impotence. I was also frustrated and angry that all the time and effort we'd put in to penile rehab failed to bring about the expected healing we both wanted.

While Brenda was in Vermont visiting our oldest son, the idea of a penile implant came to me. From my perspective that idea was a gift from the Lord. After doing research, and contacting men on-line who had an implant, I decided I wanted to go that route. Once again we drove to UCSF and met with our Specialist. He agreed I was an excellent candidate for an implant. We discussed the various types. I decided on the 3 piece implant. Now we are waiting for my insurance to approve this procedure. Once that comes in, I'm planning to have the surgery in the second week of January 2015.

I'm no longer angry about the failed time and effort we put into penile rehab. I have a certain peace knowing I've landed where I did doing everything possible, rather then landing here because I was ignorant about the concept of penile rehab. I fought the good fight. I didn't land where we'd hoped and expected I would, BUT we are blessed to live in an era and in a country where penile implants are an option.

I know many men who are so angry and bitter about their impotence, their attitude is "I won't let another surgeon come within a mile of me." I certainly understand why they feel that way, yet  their attitude sentences them to a lifetime of impotence, anger and bitterness. I hope all men struggling with impotence will consider this option. I'll be posting more about implants after my surgery.
If you'd like more information about this procedure check out this link:
Treating ED with Implants

Rick Redner
Author of:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Wait Until Thanksgiving To Share & Experience Gratitude

Like many families,  when our children were young we started a Thanksgiving tradition of going around the table asking each person to name at least one thing in their lives they were grateful for.
It's a tradition for us that continued for close to three decades.

This year I did something on my PC Facebook Page  which has changed my thinking about gratitude.
For last few days leading up to Thanksgiving I've been posting links that demonstrate the life changing habit of experiencing gratitude every day. Here's a few of those links:

Those who give thanks daily are happier people

7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Counting Blessings Improves Health

I could go on and on posting hundreds of links which demonstrate the benefits of daily gratitude.
So my question to myself this year this: Why wait and limit my experience of gratitude to one Thanksgiving day meal. Why not think about, search and discover gratitude each and every day.

It's sounds easy enough, but dozens upon dozens of broken New Year's resolutions have taught me saying I'll do something doesn't mean I will.

Every new habit we develop takes takes time, effort, discipline and intentionality. I went to a Thanksgiving Day sermon this year and the Pastor gave everyone a wonderful challenge,  The challenge was to change Thanksgiving Day to a Thanksliving way of life. Those of us who are cancer survivors have  unique reasons to experience gratitude, so I'm in! How about you?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cancer & Bitterness- A Deadly Combination

Cancer-is defined by the National Cancer Institute as a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. There are millions of cancer survivors living in the United States. 

Bitterness- Intense feelings of anger, hostility, frustration that doesn't go away. In fact these feelings may grow in intensity over time. There are no statistics that track the number of bitter people living in the United States but there millions of bitter people out there. Some of them are physically healthy, others have cancer. 

If  I were to ask you the following question: Would you like to be remembered as someone who actively worked to destroy every meaningful relationship you had? I hope your answer would be no. Here's the issue, for some people the answer is no but their behavior says yes. If you've been living with unresolved bitterness, some or all of these things could happen to you, bitterness will:

* Take away of your peace and joy
* Permanently split and  alienate family members from one another
* Permanently damage friendships
* Destroy your capacity to love
* End your marriage
* Ruin your life and the lives of everyone in your sphere of influence
* Distance you from God
* Make it impossible for you to experience God's love and forgiveness
* Destroy your ability to forgive anyone

What happens when cancer and bitterness join forces? It produces toxic waste that effects everyone in your life. You could be totally unaware your bitterness is poisoning every one of your relationships.. Alienation from children, broken relationships, divorce, isolation, loneliness alcohol or substance abuse are all by products of  bitterness.

How do you know if you are suffering from bitterness?  People who are bitter nurse and rehearse hurts, disappointments, and  perceived betrayals, over and over in their minds.You may feel your bitterness is justified because you're angry about living with cancer, or angry about you've lost as a result of treating your cancer. You may feel angry with the physicians who treated you or the medical establishment. What you don't realize is bitterness will  destroy your most important relationships. Haven't we all lost enough living with cancer? 

There is good news. It is possible to overcome bitterness and to restore broken relationships. I hope and pray that a diagnosis of cancer places a sense of urgency in your heart to take care of the root and fruit of bitterness in your life.  Your impact on your friends and family, how you will be remembered, and your legacy is in your hands. The choice is yours. You can hold on to your bitterness or take the journey of toward peace, forgiveness and love. If your interested in that path you can start your journey by reading the following links:

Overcoming Bitterness

5 Steps For Healing Hurt

What To Do When Bitterness Won't Go Away

Draining Bitterness From Your Marriage


Eph 4:31
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice (NKJV)