Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Getting Better Without Getting Better

This week a man with an advanced case of prostate cancer visited my Facebook titled I Left My Prostate In San Francisco Where's Yours? and said this:

"I've still got mine and it's going to kill me. Have some consideration for those of us who can't have surgery."

Based on what he wrote, I assume his cancer must have spread outside this prostate making surgery impossible. The fact this site offers help to men in  a situation that doesn't include him ticked him off. Sometimes, explaining why you do what you do makes the situation worse rather than better. When I  explained that hundreds of men who've had surgery find this site a useful place to receive information and support, he's anger increased.

Rather than respond to me as one individual to another he appointed himself the spokesperson for millions of men suffering from an advanced case of PC. He said:

Over a quarter of a million men die worldwide every year from prostate cancer and millions suffer every day from the side effects of the drugs given to them to postpone the inevitable. The title of this page is an insult to those men and your we're alright attitude is sickening.

In his eyes, I'm not only guilty of offending him, I'm also guilty of offending millions of men!
To dig his insult a little deeper he goes on to let me know that my attitude of thinking that I'm helping other people is "sickening" to him.

There's an important lesson to be learned from this event. There is a psychological defense mechanism called displacement. This occurs when an impulse or emotion usually anger or aggression is redirected onto another person or  an object that serves as a symbolic substitute. This man became highly offended when no offense was intended. He freely vented his inappropriate anger at me, at the title of my book and at my Facebook page

I don't know about you, but I went though a phase of wondering "why me?"  I was also angry that PC might take take my life before I had the chance to walk my daughter down the aisle, become a grandparent or retire and travel with my lovely wife. I dealt with my anger directly rather than seek out places to dump my anger.  Displacement prevents you from owning and dealing with powerful feelings you need to come to grips with. As long as you displace them you won't own them. This guy is in danger of developing a mile long chip on his shoulder. 

While don't have control over how or whether prostate cancer will or will not invade other parts of our body, but we do have control over how we will react. We can become bitter or better. This poem says it all:
Cancer is so limited. . .It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot eat away peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot destroy confidence,
It cannot shut out memories,
It cannot quench the spirit,
(Here's the spiritual side of the rest of this poem)
It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.
Though the physical body may be destroyed by disease, the spirit can remain triumphant. If disease has invaded your body, refuse to let it touch your spirit. Your body can be severely afflicted, and you may have a struggle, But if you keep trusting God's love, your spirit will remain strong.
Why must I bear this pain? I cannot tell;
I only know my Lord does 
all things well.
And so I trust in God, my all in all.
For He will bring me through, whatever befall.
We have a choice how we will allow our diagnosis of PC to effect every area of our lives. I like to be periodically  reminded of all the places cancer cannot go, cannot affect, or cannot destroy. 

All of us coping with cancer can use our experiences to appreciate life, love, nature, our faith, relationships, family and friends more than we did prior to our diagnosis of cancer. That's how you can get better without getting better (from cancer).