Monday, December 22, 2014

Fearful or Soul Refreshing Waiting-The Choice is Yours

Waiting is often period of pause or unwanted delay. I recently heard from a man diagnosed with prostate cancer. His surgery is scheduled ten days after Christmas. He wrote that he couldn't even think about the Holiday Season much less enjoy it because his thoughts are focused on his up and coming surgery.

I'd be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time I missed the opportunity to enjoy the present because my mind was focused on some worry, concern, task, or an event imaginary or real that I anticipated would occur at some point in the future.

As I write this blog, I originally planned to have a surgery for a penile implant in early January. Unfortunately,  my surgeon was involved in an accident that required his hospitalization. As a result, my surgery could be pushed back until March. This is an unwanted delay that  increases the amount of time I'll be living with erectile dysfunction, a chapter in my life I'd like to close as quickly as possible.

The challenge before me is: How will I wait?  My temptation and habit  is do exactly what the man who's waiting for his surgery is doing. His mind, his relationships, his capacity to experience love, joy, and excitement have all been placed on hold. He's checked out of living in the present, therefore he can't experience the joys that each moment can bring.  His attention is focused on his surgery date. Therefore his feelings and attention are locked into all the anxiety and fear associated with his surgery. It would take no effort on my part to wait in a similar fashion.

Waiting associated with the diagnosis and treatment for cancer has the potential to become a never ending journey into the future. I've been there. First you wait for your biopsy results, then your surgery date. After that wait for your post-surgery biopsy results. Then you wait for the day your catheter is pulled. The next journey into the future is living for the day you no longer need diapers, then comes your first post-surgery PSA test, Three months later there's another one. Then you've got a year, two or three to wait to see whether or not your erectile abilities return. Four years later, I find myself waiting for another prostate cancer related surgery

There will always be something cancer related that can  propel you into the future, thus robbing you of all the potential happiness, joy and love available to you in the present moment..
There's one important stop gap for me. It's the Advent Season. It's the time I spend focusing on my spiritual life and the joy of  the coming birth of my Lord and Savior-Jesus. I don't want to miss out on  the joy of the Christmas. I don't want to be so focused on my up and coming surgery, that my mind is else where when I'm  in the presence of all my kids and their wives. Thankfully, I've discovered a healthy alternative to losing the present by living in the future with anxious anticipation.

It involves trusting God and experiencing one day at a time, with the knowledge and belief all things will happen according to God's plan. If you wait believing that you are waiting for future events to occur in God's timing, your time spent waiting can become a time for refreshment for your soul.  This process is described in   Isa 40:28-31
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
 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.

Learning to wait on the Lord requires, first and foremost a belief that He exists. It also involves developing a sense of trust in His timing rather than your own. If it were up to me, I would have had my surgery yesterday or tomorrow.  I'd prefer to end the era of  coping with ED yesterday, rather than waiting for an unknown date in the future.

This unwanted and unanticipated wait  for my implant surgery give me the opportunity to practice this new skill of waiting on the Lord. Sometimes I catch myself spending too much thinking about the surgery. Learning to wait in a new way doesn't happen over night. It takes practice, time, discipline, faith and trust.

 It's a worthy goal to change the way I wait. I'm enjoying the fruit of this process during the Advent Season. If you're like me and have a history of waiting in such a way that takes away your joy of  living in the moment, use your next experience with waiting to learn a new skill, Learn how to wait on the Lord.

Rick Redner is the author of I Left My Prostate In San Francisco-Where's Yours?
He's written more than one hundred blogs about prostate cancer.
You can visit his Pre & Post Prostate Surgery Forums at: Forums

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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