Monday, September 24, 2012

I Hate Waiting


I hate waiting for anything. I realize this hatred is irrational. If I were responsible to drive to my own execution, I’d be in the left lane trying to pass everyone to get there as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately for me much of life consists of waiting. It’s seems like you can’t do anything without waiting. Some examples:
1. Waiting for a computer to load up
2. Waiting for the cold water in sink to get hot
3. Buying a movie ticket
4. Waiting to check out in a department or grocery store
5. Waiting for a red light to change.

Some waits are developmental in nature:
1. Waiting to be old enough to get a learners permit
2. Waiting to be old enough to drink
3. Waiting to be old enough to vote
4. Waiting for a baby to be born

Some waits are difficult or frightening:
1. Waiting in an ER to find out if they can save a loved one’s life
2. Waiting for biopsy results
3. Waiting to find out if you got into your first choice college.
4. Waiting to find out if you got your dream job
5. Lying in bed waiting to fall asleep
6. Waiting for test results (Like PSA tests)
6. Waiting for an answer to a prayer

I’m an equal opportunity waiter. I hate them all. God has a different view on waiting. He says:
(Isa 40:31 NKJ)
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Some day when I grow up, and I hope that comes soon, because I’m 60, I want to learn how to wait like that.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Reactions to the Call

                                   

Often a tragic event leads a person in a direction and ministry that given a choice, they’d decline the call to ministry. Two examples are: Candy Lightner who founded MADD in 1980 after her daughter, Cari, was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender and John Walsh who started America’s Most Wanted, after his son Adam Walsh was murdered.

 For me, three of the most interesting calls to service are found in the bible. First there’s Moses. He received a call to go Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Moses immediate response was to make excuses why he couldn't do what God was asking of him.. He expressed concern the people wouldn’t believe him or listen to his message. After Moses witnessed God perform two miracles, he was not impressed. He said he was not eloquent, and that he was slow in speech. He concluded he was the wrong man for the job, then he asked God to send someone else.

Second, was Jonah, who received a call to go to Nineveh to warn them of God’s judgement. Jonah didn’t want anything to do with Nineveh. He decided he’d refuse the call. He hopped aboard a ship to Tarshish, which was in the opposite direction of where God wanted him to be.

Third was Gideon, whose call came from an angel of the Lord. His first response was to call himself the runt of liter and disqualify himself from the task of saving Israel from the hand of their enemies the Medianites. Though he was speaking to angel of the Lord, he asked for not one, but two signs before he'd have enough faith  respond to his call to service, which was to defeat the Medianites in battle.
Each of these great men of faith received a call from the Lord and initially rejected the call to service.

I discovered there’s a little of Moses, Jonah, and Gideon in me. When I experienced the call to write a book I was horrified. The Jonah in me flat out responded by saying “I’m not writing a book” I’ll write a diary instead. The Moses in me gave many excuses ranging from my lack of time, skills and talent to complete the task. When I discovered the average self published book sells between 100-150 people, which consisted mostly friends and family, the Gideon in me asked for a sign. I wanted my on line diary to have some measure of success before I began writing a book.

Ironically, as that began to happen, I kept moving the line forward. Once my the diary had a few hundred hits, I began writing, the book. However, as I looked at the book as a business investment I realized a few hundred books wouldn’t cover the cost of publication. So I moved the target to 1,000 hits before I’d seriously begin writing again.  After the diary had a thousand hits, I moved it to 2,000, then 5,000 hits. When the diary received 5,000 hits I wasn’t happy, but I resumed work on the book. When my diary reached 10,000 hits I stopped making excuses. After 15,000 hits I began experiencing excitement. After my diary reached 20,000 hits I decided (Mark 10:27)… for with God all things are possible.

In order to bring this book to the market place, a few things had to happen:
1. I needed to take time to live out and experience many of the challenges of post surgery life. It was necessary for me to make many mistakes and unhealthy choices. I'd need to find my way back to health, so  I could write about those topics with the voice of experience.
2. I had to earn enough money to invest a minimum of $5,000 for professional editing
3. I needed my wife to write about her experiences, so a woman’s perspective would be included
4. I had to find Christian publishing company to edit and produce the book
5. I had to accept the fact I make so many errors,  that paying for professional editing was a necessary cost I
     could not avoid.
6. I had to change my definition of success. My model was a business model. With that model in place, the
    book would be a success if  I made a good return on the investment. From God’s perspective the book
    would be a success if I was  faithful with the project. This meant if the book didn't sell a single copy, but I
    was faithful with the project, then from a heavenly perspective, the project was a success. The return on
    investment was not a Godly criterion for success.
7. I needed to learn prayer would play a vital role in this project from beginning to the end.
8. It is necessary to conquer my fears. There is no doubt in my mind that after publication, my book will
    provide opportunities to speak to large groups of people. The Moses, Jonah and Gideon in me are
    unanimous in their objection to this call.
9. Like Moses, Jonah, and Gideon, after expressing doubts, objections and fears, it’s necessary to accept
    the call, accept the challenges, and do exactly what God wants me to do.

At this point in time, the book is in the hands of the editorial staff of Westbow Press. In a few months, I Left My Prostate In San Francisco-Where’s Yours? will be published.  Then the next phase of the journey will begin.








Thursday, September 20, 2012

Manhood Vs Prostate Cancer


                                                    Manhood vs Prostate Cancer

A man’s sense of being a man takes a major hit once his catheter is removed following surgery.
Based on my experiences following surgery I discovered how just how fragile my sense of manhood was.

After my catheter was removed, I became a leaking faucet. I was constantly dripping urine. I vividly remember staring at myself in the mirror the first night I wore a diaper. I saw myself in the bathroom mirror. Staring back at me was a balding man with gray sideburns. I remember staying to myself “You are one big baby” and that’s exactly how I felt. Within a few days I gave myself a contemptuous baby name. In my mind I referred to myself as “The Squirter” It was difficult to think of myself as an adult. As I saw myself in diapers, I looked and felt infantile. Even in public, where no one could possibly know I was in diapers, I felt like a fraud. I was so self-conscious, It felt as though I huge sign on my back saying “I can’t control my bladder, so I’m wearing diapers.”

Adding to my humiliation, was the fact it took me a long time to figure out how frequently to change my diaper. Many public outings ended prematurely, because I’d leaked through my diaper and soaked my pants with urine. This added additional shame and humiliation. I felt like a man-sized baby. It would take 25 diaper changes a day for me to keep my clothing urine free. My whole life revolved around staying dry and changing diapers. To say I hated my life and what I’d become, “the squirter” would be an understatement.

Once I achieved some level of urinary control, I was faced with the reality that erections and spontaneous sex was no longer possible. For me, erectile dysfunction was going to be a long term issue post surgical issue. I gave up my baby name and baby identity. I assumed a new name and identity. I became “Rick the eunuch”. Not only was I incapable of having sex, I decided I wanted avoid it at all costs. Sadly as Rick the eunuch I gave up all forms of affection. Holding hands, kissing, back rubs, everything associated with physical pleasure were bitter reminders of the fact I had erectile dysfunction. I became physically isolated from my wife.

Once I learned about the possibility of developing a venous leak, which would lead to life long erectile dysfunction, I decided to learn how to perform penile injections. Penile injections worked, but gone was the need for some type of mental or physical stimulation to get an erection. I now became “Rick the mechanical man”. Penetration was only possible with an injection. I was now injection dependent in order to maintain our sex life.

When injections stopped working, I resumed my identity as “Rick the eunuch” A few months later I began responding to ED medication, and took on a new identity as “Rick the Drug Dependent man.” With this identity both physical and mental stimulation was necessary. With both present, I still was unsuccessful more than half the time. My sense of confidence and manhood plunged to zero.

Very recently, 16 months post surgery my wife and I had our first successful experience with intercourse without needles, or medication. I hadn’t realized how heavy a burden I was carrying until it was taken off my shoulders. The bible says in Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (KJV)

My heart was sick, and my sense of manhood went out the window the long ago. I’d lost all hope of experiencing spontaneous sex ever again. Then the unexpected happened. My sense of hope was restored.

Looking back, I wish I’d had a different perspective from the start of this journey. Losing urinary control, having to wear diapers, and suffering from ED did not cause me to lose my sense of manhood. I gave that away.

If I had re-do, I’d think of myself as a soldier in the battle against prostate cancer. Each of those issues, losing urinary control, wearing diapers, and erectile dysfunction would be seen as war injuries, requiring rehabilitation. As a soldier, I had successfully accomplished my mission. I went through surgery and was cured of prostate cancer. The war injuries along the way were a necessary price to pay to win the war.  Viewing my situation from that perspective would have allowed me to maintain my sense of manhood throughout this long ordeal. I hope others traveling this path will learn from my mistakes.





                                                                                     

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sex vs Prostate Surgery

                                                Sex Vs Prostate Surgery

On my website, whereisyourprostate.com I asked men what's the worst life change brought about by surgery. While my sample is still small, I believe I'll have the same results when a thousand men respond. The majority of men list erectile dysfunction as the worst life change.

It will take determination and persistence to treat ED during the 18-24 months it will take for the nerve bundles to heal. Unfortunately many men are so embarrassed by this problem, so they refuse to seek medical help. Other men become so depressed regarding their inability to have an erection, they withdraw, both physically and emotionally from their spouse.  

For those of us determined to resume sexual intercourse after surgery despite erectile dysfunction, we will land in one of two groups. The first group of men will respond to ED medication. The second group consists of men who will not respond to any ED medication.

I landed in the second group of men. My experiences with penile injections are detailed in my soon to be released book, I Left My Prostate In San Francisco-Where’s Yours?
After penile injections mysteriously stopped working, I switched back a second time to ED medication hoping to find one that would work.

Finding the correct medication was a long, difficult and painful challenge. There are side effects to each medication that can make sex very unappealing, undesirable, and something to avoid.  For example, one brand gave me such a painful migraine headache, that I swore I'd give up sex forever before  I'd ever take that medication a second time. Another medication gave me such severe back pain that I couldn't walk the next day without using a cane. This was another unacceptable side effect. A third medication caused nighttime stuffiness that made it difficult to breathe at night. Antihistamines were of little or no help. Each time I'd take this medication I knew I'd be up more than once during the night struggling to breathe.  If that wasn't bad enough, success was not guaranteed.  Sometimes I'd achieve a usable erection, other times I wouldn't. There was no way to know in advance, whether the medication would work, or fail.

My confidence in the bedroom plummeted to zero. The association between sex and pleasure dissolved. The only thing I knew for certain after taking ED meds was I'd be up multiple times during the night struggling to breathe.  Rather than anticipate sexual experiences with pleasure, I wanted to avoid them like the plague.

Physically, I shut down. I purposely avoided all forms of physical affection. Holding hands, hugging, kissing, all were things of the past. I didn't want any reminders that I lost my ability to become aroused. I felt as if I'd become a eunuch. I'd lost both my desire and ability to experience sexual intercourse. I became deeply withdrawn and depressed. This had an awful effect on my sense of manhood, my self-esteem and my marriage.

Most men believe like I did, that the battle was primarily against prostate cancer. I had no idea another and just as challenging a battle was on the horizon. Finding a satisfactory and mutually enjoyable post surgical sex life was more difficult and took longer than the battle against prostate cancer.

For men and couples struggling to find a way to enjoy post surgical sex, know the path your on is difficult. Embarrassing, as this is to talk about, it’s important to find other men and couples further along the journey. I found on-line support groups vitally helpful. So much so, that I began one for men coping with post surgical issues. It’s located at:
http://whereishisprostate.freeforums.org/index.php

It's new, but up and running. You can be one of the first to join me in discussing these and other post surgical issues. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Laughter Vs Cancer


When I was younger my dad use to sing the lyrics from “Love & Marriage” which the lyrist wrote “go together like a horse and carriage”. The word cancer is rarely paired with laughter or humor. When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, I knew humor would play a vital role in my healing. So I made it a point to go on-line and find prostate cancer jokes.
Two of my favorite jokes were
Doctor: I've got your test results and some bad news. You have prostate cancer and Alzheimer's.
Man:  That’s great news! I was afraid I had prostate 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.

These jokes had the desired effect. Staring cancer in the face (or my case my backside) I laughed. I knew I’d cope with prostate cancer much better if I could find things that were funny along this journey. When it was time to find a title for my book I wanted it to be humorous.

Coming up with a humorous title was too challenging a task for me to accomplish alone, so I asked for help through prayer.  The title “I Left My Prostate In San Francisco-Where’s Yours? was an answer to my prayer. When I tested this title on men with prostate cancer, their first reaction was to laugh. It’s my belief if a man newly diagnosed with prostate cancer can laugh at the title of my book, the first step toward emotional healing began before the first page was read.      

Unfortunately, a few weeks after surgery, I had an experience which I refer to as the day the laughter died.  After my catheter was pulled, I found myself without any urinary control. I was doing very poorly with learning how to live in adult diapers. More than once I’d go some place only to find a short time later I’d leaked through my diaper and wet my pants.

One day my wife and I were at the mall. I felt my legs feeling wet. I looked down at my shoes. I stared down in horror when I realized they were wet with drops. It looked like I’d been walking in the rain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t raindrops soaking my sneakers. It was urine. I told Brenda “It’s time to go home.” I left the mall humiliated. I decided that was the end of my leaving the house. For the next month I stayed at home. I refused to go anywhere. I didn’t want visitors. I didn’t want to talk with any one. I wanted to be left alone.

In self-imposed isolation, I began sinking deeper and deeper into a major depression. Nothing was funny. I’d lost my ability to laugh. I hated my life, which consisted of changing my diaper twenty five times a day. I thought choosing surgery was the worst decision I’d made in my lifetime. I closed my mind to the possibility of ever enjoying my life again.

It took a Charley Brown comic to bring a smile to my face. Brenda told me about a comic where Charley Brown talked about learning to hate one day at a time. My own hatred of my life spanned decades into the future. The idea of hating one day at a time represented a healthy shift in my thinking. In fact the comic reminded me of this bible verse:
Matt 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (NKJ).

Even though I stopped projecting my despair decades into my future, my depression would continue for many more months. Even though the dark times continued on, I experienced a lightening of the load as I learned to hate one day at time. An important additional blessing occurred. I began to laugh again.
My recommendation to anyone facing cancer is find as many things as you can to laugh about. Rent funny movies, tell jokes, invite your humorous friends to a party. Take time to surround yourself with people you can laugh with.

Prov 17:22 says: A merry heart does good, like medicine. (NKJV) As a bible believing Christian I’m gratified to say thousands of years before science proved this to be true, God told us it was.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Faith vs Cancer


                                                 

What I’m about to say might sound like blasphemy, yet I believe it’s true. Sometimes we can lose access to our faith. When the twins terror and fear came to live with me after I received the news I had prostate cancer, my faith made little or no difference in helping me manage these intense feelings.  I wondered when, if, and how my faith would manifest itself. A bible verse that came to my mind fueled my sense of discouragement and disappointment with my level of faith. The verse was from Phil 4:6-7:
 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.

In the initial few weeks I wished I could feel anxiety.  I went way past anxiety when my Urologist told me I had a “moderately aggressive cancer”. Feeling anxiety would have taken the intensity of my feelings down quite a few notches. In those early weeks, I experienced no comfort, nor any lessening of my terror and fear. I didn’t have a microscopic drop of the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. Instead, I was beside myself, unable to sleep, eat, or think much about anything or anyone else.

I believe every person of faith will experience some degree of suffering, pain, tragedy, illness, betrayal, or some other life event where you painfully discover your faith doesn’t make a difference in how you are coping. Unfortunately, in those moments in time, your faith can make you feel worse, rather than better.

You may begin doubt God’s goodness or His love for you.  I was never disappointed or doubted God. I became profoundly disappointed in my level of spiritual maturity. I thought if I was more spiritual mature, the fruits of my faith would be evidenced at the beginning of this journey.

How and what you think about God in a challenging or painful life crisis will determine whether you continue on in your faith or whether you turn your on both your faith & God. Decades ago as a Medial Social Worker I met a terminally woman. As I listened to her life story, she told me she was convinced that God sent her a terminal illness as punishment for her sins. This belief added another layer to her suffering. I wondered if what she said was true, and if other people held this belief. So whenever I was called in to speak with a terminally ill patient, I make it a point to ask if they believed their illness was result of God punishing them for a past sin. I was very surprised how many terminally ill people held that belief.

In that season of my life, I didn’t believe God existed. After hearing many people tell me about a God who sends painful terminal illness as a punishment for sin, I was glad I didn’t know or worship that God. I knew I wouldn't last a single day with a God who punishes sinful people with a terminal illness. If that’s who God was, I wanted to stay as far from away from Him as possible. Years later, no one was more surprised than I, when I came to belief that Jesus was who He said he was.

Many decades later, after I received the news I had a moderately aggressive cancer, I was painfully aware that I lacked both God’s comfort, and His peace. It appeared my prayers didn’t matter or change the way I felt. I wondered if, how, and when I’d hear from God in a way that made a difference. Since I’d walked with Jesus for more than 30 years, I expected more. I was terribly disappointed in myself and with my level of spiritually maturity. For a time, this added to my suffering. The gift in this season, was the compassion I have for anyone struggling with their faith in a time of crisis.

Over the course of time, I was pleasantly surprised the way in which our prayers were answered. I have no idea how Brenda & I came across two songs which brought us a great deal of encouragement and comfort. The first was a song by Michael W. Smith. It wasn’t only the song that struck me, it was what he said prior to singing that caught my attention. If you’d like to hear the song, stop reading, and use this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcjjT-8Zc3U

Two verses from this song became a life raft to me. I’d listen to this song multiple times and sing it over and over. “Hold on, help is on the way”, or “stay strong help is on the way”. These verses changed the focus of my attention. It helped to rise above my circumstances and wait expectantly for the God of this universe to make His presence known and send us meaningful and powerful help. Hearing the song enabled me to wait expectantly because I was certain help was on the way.

In the very same week, Brenda found a song by Laura Story titled “Blessings” Once again a song touched both of us. This was not a coincidence. Our first experience with God’s comfort came to both of us through songs we’d never heard before. If you’ve never heard Laura Story’s song Blessings, take time to listen now:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOOFAaUGfRE

After listening to this song dozens of times, I hoped it wouldn’t take me “a thousand sleepless nights” to know that God is near. Yet it was good to know I wasn’t alone struggling with my faith. Laura Story wrote an amazing song that could only be written in the furnace of affliction. Her song was a reminder “what if your blessings come through raindrops and healing comes through tears what if trials in this life are your mercies in disguise.”

Help was on the way from so many different, unexpected and amazing places.  First it came through song, then it came from others praying for us, it came from putting together a team to help us fight this disease. Part of that team can from on-line support groups where I had access to men further along in the journey. Help came from the amazing ways God brought people into our lives. A devotional written by Charles Spurgeon titled “Beside Still Waters Words of Comfort for The Soul” spoke directly to me. It was as though God Himself wrote this book for my circumstances. Eventually, I experienced God’s peace. While the idea and possibility I might not live enough to walk my daughter Kate down the isle filled me with sadness, I accepted this possibility as a fulfilling God’s will and purpose in my life. It was His right as my Lord and Savior to call me home whenever and however that call would come.

I’m not sure why this is true, but often it’s much easier to see how God was working things out in your life looking back with hindsight as opposed to being aware of this when you are in the middle of a storm. God doesn’t promise us happily ever after endings on this side of heaven. His promise that He will never leave or forsake us is one of many promises we can rely on in the mists of whatever storms come your way.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How Fear Affects Your Choice of Treatment




After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was up to me to decide how to treat and defeat prostate cancer. Looking back, I wish I knew back then what I know today before I made the decision to have surgery.

 I discovered how you view your cancer has greatly impacts your choice of treatment. What I’m about to share isn’t true, but it’s what I believed at the time. It explains why I chose the surgical option. I envisioned microscopic cancer cells as little Pac-Men with razor sharp teeth on speed, chomping on the lining of my prostate. I envisioned these Pac-Men working silently, stealthily,  and ruthlessly, 24/7 with one mindless goal. They wanted to kill me. Nighttime was the worst time for me. Each and every night, I had difficulty falling asleep. Sleep became a bitter reminder that I was facing a superior enemy who had no need to sleep.

For many men Active Surveillance is the right choice to make. Given my imagery, the idea Active Surveillance was ludicrous and laughable. There was no way I was going to allow Pac-Men on speed, unfettered access to my prostate.

With my inaccurate vision in place I thought about radiation as a potential treatment option. I knew it would be impossible for a radiologist to kill every single cancer cell in my prostate. So I envisioned all that radiation could do was to kill a percentage of the invading army of Pac-Men in my prostate. I was convinced that legions of Pac-Men cancer cells would survive radiation remaining alive, well, and continue in their 24/7 battle to kill me.

With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize my picture was totally and completely inaccurate. In my situation my cancer cells could be pictured more like slow moving turtles that took a tiny step, then rested equally long. There are many men who have prostate cancer who live for decades without treating their disease, it’s possible I could have been one of those men.

Unfortunately, there is another reality. According to the American Cancer Society 1 in 36 men will die from prostate cancer. I did not want to be one of those men.

With my very active imagination and my Ph.D in worry I thought of my prostate as an organ that no longer functioned for my benefit. I believed my prostate was invaded and taken over by the enemy. In my mind, my prostate was an organ that no longer functioning for my benefit. Instead it was housing, hosting and feeding an enemy whose goal was to kill me. There was only one way to defeat this enemy and win this war. I wanted the enemy’s base of operations, my prostate removed as soon as possible.

With one hundred percent of my attention focused on achieving a victory, I did not pay much attention to the collateral damage and consequences of this treatment choice. Sadly, there is so much hype to promote surgery I wonder how may men make the decision for surgery based on their fear of cancer, without a compete understanding of how that treatment choice will permanently impact their lives.

My advice to anyone facing this decision is twofold. First, before you choose surgery find out more about your surgeon. How many surgeries has he performed? (You want someone with a few hundred surgeries) Also ask what percent of his patients regain urinary control and sexual functioning. Asking about the time frame of those recoveries is also important. With robotic surgery, results will vary based on the skill level of the surgeon. Given what is at stake, you want an experienced surgeon on your team.

Second, talk to many men who’ve had surgery. Ask them about the quality of their lives. Find out how long it took for them to regain urinary control and erectile functioning. I found that men on the internet in support forums for men prostate cancer were more than willing to talk about issues I’d never ask a man face to face. For example, you could ask how has surgery impacted the intensity and enjoyment of your orgasms. Nothing is too personal on the forums. Since most men are on line with pen names, they feel free to share the imitate parts of this journey that are difficult to talk about face to face.

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, take time to research the various treatment options.  Make sure to the best of your ability, the decision you make for treatment is based on facts rather than fear. I believe that’s what motivated me to develop a web page for men facing this decision.
The address is http://whereisyourprostate.com

It’s a brand new website. There’s a survey about surgery worth looking at on: http://whereisyourprostate.com/Forums.html  Since the forum is so new I’m the only one who has posted right now. It’s my goal, and mission to reach thousands of men before and after they make a decision to have surgery. Making a treatment decision for prostate cancer (or any other disease) based on fear, rather than facts, increases the likelihood of making the wrong treatment choice.


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Meaning of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month


                   
September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness month. I must confess, this event had very little meaning in my life.  So did the statistics on prostate cancer. One in six men will receive this diagnosis in their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society 241,740 men will receive this diagnosis this year and more than 28,000 men will die of prostate cancer this year. Even though prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in men, I’ve rarely met a man concerned about this disease, or who was worried about the possibility of receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

As with other dangers we face, we live our lives thinking this will happen to other men, but not us. We cope in this way until unthinkable happens to us.

My journey with prostate cancer began in a very unexpected way. I went to my Urologist to get a prescription re-fill. I was feeling quite healthy, so I thought this would be one the best and easiest doctor’s visits in my lifetime.  My expectations were shattered when the doctor said “Before I refill your prescription, I’d like to examine your prostate.” Alarm bells went off in my head. I wasn’t due for a prostate exam for 4 months. Since a digital rectal exam is my least favorite exam, I declined his offer.
He calmly said “No exam, no prescription re-fill.”

All I needed was a prescription re-fill. In order to get it I was forced into exam I didn’t want or need. I was ticked off, but could I do? I needed that prescription, so I agreed to the exam. Little did I know that in the next few seconds my life would change forever. While the DRE is unpleasant, it is also an exam that at ends quickly. The urologist performed the exam and said to me “I felt a suspicious lump so you’ll need a biopsy” In the time it took you to read that sentence, my life was forever changed. I couldn’t believe the news I’d just received.

I’ve worked as a medical social worker. I knew that “suspicious lump” and a “biopsy” meant one thing. My urologist suspected I had prostate cancer. Two powerful emotions instantly became my close companions for the next few weeks. They were terror and fear.

As I drove home from my appointment I knew my wife Brenda would ask “So, how did your doctor’s visit go?” I had no clue how I was going to break the news to my wife that my appointment for a prescription re-fill ended with the possibility I had prostate cancer. I knew this news would hit her very hard.

A few weeks later I had my biopsy, which confirmed I had prostate cancer.  Prostate cancer is a uniquely confusing disease. When I had sharp pain on my right side I went to the Doctor. I was immediately sent to an emergency room and had my appendix removed.  With prostate cancer it is up to the patient to decide what type of treatment to choose. You are expected to figure out the best way to treat a potentially life threatening disease you know nothing about, at time when you are  emotionally shell-shocked. I took a few very stressful weeks to research the various treatment options.  I chose surgery.

A few weeks after surgery I received my pathology report. The cancer was contained within my prostate and I received the news that surgery healed me from prostate cancer. I expected I’d feel grateful forever. Little did I know, I was heading down a path for the most serious depression I’d faced in my lifetime.
There is so much more to heal from in addition to the physical healing from surgery. As I’ve walked this path it’s become a life mission to make sure men and their partners are more prepared for their journey than we were.

If you are over 40, I hope you will pay attention to National Prostate Cancer Awareness month. I know the exam is unpleasant, but do it any way. Prostate cancer, when caught in the early stages is curable. Do yourself and those who love you a favor, make the commitment to get yearly prostate exams. My commitment to do this saved my life, it could save yours.