Monday, September 28, 2015

Cancer & Family Milestones

A milestone is an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. I'm sure I wasn't the only one diagnosed with prostate cancer who wondered whether the diagnosis of cancer would cause me to miss some important milestones like becoming a grandfather, walking my daughter down the isle, or retirement.

Happily, I lived long enough to become a grandfather. This week, one of my son's is  moving from our home in CA to WV for a job he's wanted for years. Because cancer has changed my perspective on what's important in life, I made arrangements to take off from work for a month. (More accurately, I'm working from the road.) My wife &  I are driving with him on a 2,700 mile road trip across the country to help him move into his new apt.

On the way to WV we are stopping in Illinois to visit our oldest son &  his wife. After we spend some time helping our son move in, my wife & I are flying to Florida to enjoy a two week romantic vacation.

I wish I could say with certainty these are things I would have done before I was diagnosed with cancer, but I can't. As a cancer survivor, every milestone I live long enough to see has a new importance and meaning to me. So as I share in this journey across the country my heart breaks to be so far away from my son. I also experience a heart filed with gratitude that  I lived long enough to celebrate a family milestone. What important life lesson you've learned from cancer?
Rick Redner and his wife Brenda are the authors of an awarding winning book written to help men and couples cope with life without a prostate. I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Spiritual & Sexual Aspects of  Prostate Cancer
 can  be previewed and purchased at

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Day The Laughter Died Coping With Prostate Cancer

When I received the news I had prostate cancer, laughter was the furthest thing from my mind. As a Medical Social Worker, I witnessed many people die from cancer. This was before the Hospice Movement and the emphasis on pain control. In those days, powerful pain relieving drugs were withheld from terminally ill patients. The reasoning behind this decision was to prevent a terminally ill patient from becoming addicted to pain killing drugs. There was no way I was going to "laugh my way through cancer."

Three words with vivid images came to my mind after hearing I had prostate cancer. The three words were:
1. Pain
2. Suffering
3. Death

All three of these words brought multiple images of the people I'd known who died from cancer. Each and every one of those images brought waves of terror into my life.The prospect of surviving prostate cancer wasn't something I entertained as a possibility.

I believed I'd been handed a death sentence.  As a Christian, a  familiar Bible verse offered me some immediate comfort.
2 Cor 5:7-8
 For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

I knew in the instant of the death of my body, I'd be with the Lord. My problem was that I wasn't ready to be with the Lord. I wanted to live long enough to walk my daughter down the isle. I wanted to live long enough to become a grandfather. I wanted to live long enough to retire and spend time with my wife traveling together.

After I received the diagnosis of  cancer I was convinced I'd lost all of those opportunities. The only question for me was how many pain free months did I have left  before I'd beg to die from cancer. To say I was terrified would be an understatement. I'd never experienced such fear in my lifetime.

Oddly enough, on the day I was diagnosed I knew I had to break the grip of fear that had over taken me. The only way I could think of to do this was to find a way to laugh at cancer. I went on line in search for prostate cancer jokes. These were my two favorite jokes that brought on hearty laughter:

Doctor: I've got your test results and some bad news. You have cancer and Alzheimer's.
Man: Boy, am I lucky! I was afraid I had cancer!

Doctor: (After performing a digital rectal exam tells his patient) I’ve got bad news for you. I felt a suspicious lump and I am ordering a biopsy.
Patient: I’d like you to repeat the exam using a different finger.
Doctor: Why should I do that?
Patient: Because I’d like a second opinion.

I wish I could say that I effectively used humor throughout my entire journey coping with cancer. I can't. The song American Pie speaks of  "the day the music died" I vividly remember the day when laughter died. I'd been coping with the loss of urinary control and erectile functioning for a few weeks and I'd had enough. I'd been leaking through my diapers on a regular basis. The embarrassment and shame was so great I refused to leave the house or have any visitors. I wanted to be left alone in my misery. I hated my life. I hated cancer. I regretted my decision to have my prostate removed. I came to the conclusion my life was ruined forever. There I was, cured of cancer. I'd received a reprieve from a death sentence, yet  I was sorry to be alive. That was the day my laughter died. Nothing was funny or humorous. I had no desire to laugh or even crack a smile. I hated my life. I regretted my decision to treat prostate cancer.

It was a comic strip that brought laughter back into my life. My wife described it to me. It was a picture of Charley Brown coming to the decision to hate one day at a time. As I heard my wife say that I burst out laughing. That line of reasoning may not sound funny to everyone, but for me it was a stroke of genius, an amazingly healthy perspective.

At the time,  I was projecting my hatred of my life years and decades into the future. Just the idea of learning to hate one day at time was a very humorous challenge to me. It brought both laughter and gratitude back into my life.

I don't know what it will take for you to bring humor into your life as you cope with cancer, but I can heartily recommend a minimum of one good laugh a day. There is someone who has a lot more wisdom, power and authority than me, who agrees on the benefits of laughter:
Prov 17:22
A merry heart does good, like medicine,

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda are the authors of an awarding winning faith based book written to help men and couples cope with life without a prostate. I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours? Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Spiritual & Sexual Aspects of Prostate Cancer can  be previewed and purchased at

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Get Yourself Tested For Prostate Cancer

As a prostate cancer survivor it's hard for me to believe these powerful and influential organizations have come out in favor of delayed testing for prostate cancer even though prostate cancer among younger men has increased sixfold in the past 20 years. Despite this fact, all four of these organizations suggest we do less rather than more prostate cancer screening. These organizations believe men are so dumb and/or fearful, they literally can't handle the truth about prostate cancer. They conclude the majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will make a regrettable and medically unnecessary treatment decisions, therefore, the best thing we can do is keep men in the dark and ignorant about prostate cancer.

There are new tests available to help men decide whether their cancer is aggressive or whether active surveillance is the best treatment option. In light of this, I believe the following four organizations need to update their prostate cancer screening recommendations and come out in favor of testing for prostate cancer at age 40. Age 30 if prostate cancer runs in the family or if you are a black male.

Here's the list of organizations that are against early prostate cancer screening and detection:

1. The American Urological Association (AUA), the leading organization representing urologists, is recommending more moderate use of prostate cancer screening tests.The AUA recommends that men ages 55 to 69 discuss the benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening with their doctors before deciding whether to be screened. It recommends against screening for men younger than 55 who are at average risk, as well as for men 70 and older.

2. The American College of Physicians (ACP) released a similar guidance statement in April. The ACP says men between the ages of 50 and 69 should discuss the limited benefits and substantial harms of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test with their doctor before undergoing screening for prostate cancer. The guideline says only men between the ages of 50 and 69 who express a clear preference for screening should have the PSA test.

3. The American Cancer Society recommends that men discuss the possible risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their doctor before deciding whether to be screened. The discussion about screening should take place starting at age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and expect to live at least 10 more years. It should take place at age 45 for men who are at higher risk, including African-American men and men who have a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer, and at age 40 for men at even higher risk.

4. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued new recommendations against prostate cancer screening. The USPSTF now recommends that regardless of age, men without symptoms should not routinely have the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer.

I call upon all four of these organizations to change their prostate cancer screening recommendations and I urge men NOT to follow them. Get tested, even if your physician tells you it's unnecessary. It's your life not theirs.
Rick Redner and his wife Brenda are the authors of an awarding winning book written to help men and couples cope with life without a prostate. I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours? Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Spiritual & Sexual Aspects of Prostate Cancer can  be previewed and purchased at

Monday, September 7, 2015

National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month- Help Spread The Word

I didn't plan to write a letter to the Editor until I saw my local newspaper (The Modesto Bee) was preparing for Breast Cancer Awareness Month when nothing was written about National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Why is it a man's disease doesn't get the same publicity. I encourage any reading this to write a letter to your local paper. You can use the one I wrote if you like. Here it is:
Help spread the word. This week I noticed our newspaper was beginning to gear up for breast cancer awareness month but has said nothing about September and prostate cancer. So I sent the following letter to the editor. I hope men around the country will do this as well to raise awareness. Here's the letter I sent:

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately, men are receiving confusing messages about whether or not they should be concerned about this disease. In 2012, the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommended against the use of PSA screening for healthy men of all ages, stating that the harms of screening outweigh the benefits.  The message to men is this: If you find out you have prostate cancer, the odds are you’ll make a bad treatment decision, so it’s best you live in ignorance about this disease. This advice is given in spite of the fact aggressive and life threatening prostate cancer among younger men is on the rise.  Here are some facts about prostate cancer:
1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. About 1 man in 38 will die of prostate cancer. A man dies from prostate cancer every nineteen minutes. In the month of September if you are over forty, make the decision to see to see a physician for prostate cancer screening. The life you save may be your own.

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda are the authors of an awarding winning book written to help men and couples cope with life without a prostate. I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Spiritual & Sexual Aspects of  Prostate Cancer
 can  be previewed and purchased at

Monday, August 24, 2015

Men with prostate cancer least likely to treat their erectile dysfunction

I recently came across a study that researched the medical records of six million men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction. The results were alarming, 75% of the men diagnosed with ED did not seek treatment. Here's a link to a discussion of this study:
Why Men Refuse to treat their ED

What caught my eye was the dismal statistics for men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer.  
"When Helfand looked to see what bearing other health conditions might have had on treatment, he found those with prostate cancer were least likely to be treated. Only 15 percent were."

This means 85% of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer who develop ED will NOT get treatment for their erectile dysfunction.

Unfortunately the study didn't address the reasons for these dismal statistics but as a man with prostate cancer coping with ED I can make some educated guesses as to why this is so. Here are a few reasons why men resist/refuse to treat their erectile dysfunction.

1. Embarrassment- Many men are so ashamed of their ED they won't even discuss this with their                                       partner. If a man is controlled by the emotions of shame or embarrassment they
                                  won't seek treatment.

2. Anger and/or       Many men, especially those with double nerve sparing surgery expected to
    Betrayal                recover their erectile dysfunction. When that doesn't happen these men feel
                                  betrayed. They decide not to trust another physician. They make a vow they
                                  won't go within a mile of another doctor.

3. Expensive ED      This group of men go the pharmacy and receive sticker shock. They discover
   Medication            their insurance leaves them with a bill of $80 or more for 4 pills that may or.
                                  or may not work. They decide the medication is too expensive.

4. Men Don't Ask    Women are much more likely to visit a doctor than men. If you are one of those
    For Help               guys who refuse to ask for directions when you're lost how likely is it you'll go
                                   to a doctor for medical advice?  Not very likely at all.

If you are one of those men suffering from ED as a result of prostate cancer I urge you to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treating your ED. Unfortunately, neither pills or penile injections worked for me. Since I did not want to live with impotence for the rest of my life I sought out another option.

 I decided to trust another surgeon in order to have penile implant surgery. When your impotence is caused by prostate cancer or the treatment of prostate cancer most, insurance companies pay for this procedure. Both my wife and I are delighted with the results and the restoration of my erectile functioning. We couldn't be happier with this decision. Implant surgery is not the right decision for every man coping with ED. There is something I can say that applies to every man who hates living with impotence:
Do the manly thing. Make an appointment with your doctor, surgeon or urologist to discuss treatment options for your erectile dysfunction. 

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda are the authors of an awarding winning book written to help men and couples cope with life without a prostate. I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Spiritual & Sexual Aspects of  Prostate Cancer
 can  be previewed and purchased at

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Suicide is NOT The Cure For Erectile Dysfunction

Coping with the loss of erectile functioning is often a traumatic experience for men. It's also traumatic to their partner. Unfortunately men do the very worst thing possible as they cope with this trauma. They withdraw from their partner. They withdraw physically and emotionally.

This leaves a couple struggling with a highly stressful change in their relationship coping together alone.  Coping with a crisis alone rather than together is emotionally and relationally dangerous. Here's a letter I received from a wife whose husband suffered from ED after his prostate removed:

My husband had a robotic prostatectomy in 2006.  Surgery cured his cancer but left him impotent and this killed his soul. We loved each other deeply and each of us knew that, but there was nothing I could do to heal his pain. If I tried to initiate intimacy, he would become anxious and push me away. Alternately, he would initiate intimacy when he had self-medicated with alcohol, which was difficult for me and never had a good outcome. Humor didn't go far, either. He felt damaged and wasn't a group kind of guy, so he never received professional help for his emotional pain and went deeper into depression. He committed suicide on August 7th of last year. While his impotence wasn't the only issue that drove him to his decision to end his life, it was a major factor in his feeling life wasn't worth living It's heart-breaking for our family.

I don't think a week goes by in my life where I haven't thought about this tragedy. This tragedy has all the elements of the mistakes men make they cope with ED. Here's a list of those mistakes:

*Pushing your partner away when she tries to initiate intimacy.
*Pushing your partner away emotionally. 
*Self medicating with drugs or alcohol.
*Losing your ability to laugh and enjoy humor (a symptom of depression)
*Feeling  irreparably damaged as a man.
*Refusing help of any kind

These behaviors are all to common among men coping with erectile dysfunction. I wanted to do something to help men facing erectile dysfunction, so I created an on-line forum where men could visit in the privacy of their home and receive both support and information. If you or someone you love is coping with erectile dysfunction, share this blog and link with them

Erectile Dysfunction & Penile Implant Forum

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda are the authors of an awarding winning book written to help men and couples cope with life without a prostate. I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
Coping With The Emotional, Relational, Spiritual & Sexual Aspects of Prostate Cancer
can  be previewed and purchased at

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Eight Destructive Ways to Think About Erectile Dysfunctioning

It's easy to make a lot of mistakes when coping with ED. I've made my fair share. Each mistake had a devastating impact on my psychological well being and my marriage. Here's a list of common mistakes men make. Don't be surprised to find out you've made more than one mistake. These are very destructive ways to think about erectile dysfunction: 

Mistake #1 "I've lost my manhood."-This mistaken way of thinking is the fuel for most of the other mistakes men make. If you believe your manhood depends upon your erectile functioning and you lose that ability, you come to the conclusion you've lost your manhood. From this way of thinking your headed for a downhill journey in coping with erectile dysfunctioning. 

Mistake #2 "I don't deserve to be in a relationship." Once you've come to the decision you no longer have anything of value to offer in a relationship or believe a woman could never love with anyone who can't perform in the bedroom you'll do one of two things. If your single you'll decide to stop dating. If you're married you'll withdraw from your partner. You'll avoid physical contact of any kind. Kissing, hugging, holding hands, all physical forms of affection are avoided like the plague. You'll certainly avoid sex. You'll withdraw and use anger to keep your partner far away from you emotionally, physically and sexually. On some level the goal here may be to act in such a mean way you'll drive your partner away because you believe you don't deserve their love, or that they'd be better off without you.

Mistake #3 "I won't seek help" Let's face reality, it's embarrassing to talk about erectile dysfunction to anyone. If you allow embarrassment or shame to control your behavior and decision making process you won't seek help. You'll live and suffer with erectile dysfunction in silence. You'll also expect your partner to do the same or be content if they leave you. You'll believe it's better to be abandoned than face this issue head on.

Mistake #4 "I can't or I won't enjoy sex ever again." Here's where I'll make a confession of my ignorance. At age 56 I had no idea it was possible to have an orgasm without an erection. In other words, it is possible to enjoy sex without an erection. Is it different? Yes it is. Will you also feel some unwelcome emotions that are difficult to deal with before, during or after an orgasm without an erection? Probably, until you finish grieving the loss of your erectile abilities.

Mistake #5 "I'm a failure in the bedroom" Many men give up on the idea of having a mutually satisfying sexual experience once they lose their erectile abilities. For the record, there are a variety of ways to satisfy a woman without an erection. It's very possible to have mutually enjoyable and mutually exciting sex that doesn't involve an erection. 

Mistake #6 "My partner is to blame." Once you blame your partner for your ED, you may decide to seek a thrill outside of your marriage by having an affair or using pornograhpy. If your experience with erectile dysfunction is a result of psychological or relational problems, these options may produce an erection causing you to believe the solution involves getting rid of your partner.

Mistake #7 "I need drugs or alcohol to cope with ED." The majority of men who experience erectile dysfunction will also experience depression. One common way men seek to cope with depression is to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. 

Mistake #8 "I'd be better off dead." Sadly some men become so depressed and feel so helpless, miserable and worthless, they take their own lives or act in ways that are so self destructive, they are hoping their self destructive behavior will kill them. 

If I've learned anything over the years that I've coped with erectile dysfunction it's this: It is a mistake to think you can cope with this disease by yourself. ED a physically, relationally & psychologically devastating disease. Most men and couples need help and support to successfully cope with the loss of erectile functioning, especially when it's caused by the treatment of another disease, such as prostate cancer.