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). 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Things to Say & Do for Men & Couples Coping With Prostate Cancer

Before you say anything to someone coping with cancer it's important you ask yourself a few important questions. Here's a few:
1. What do I want to happen after I share my reaction?
2. Who is it that needs to feel better, me,  the person coping with cancer, or both of us?
3. Do I want to hear more of what's going on or am I so uncomfortable I want to say something and leave?

To those who fall into the category of needing to feel better yourself, or wanting to say something to make the person coping with cancer feel better the chances are whatever your going to say will have the opposite effect on those coping with cancer. For example, if you said "My brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he did just fine." That comment might reassure you, but it offers next to nothing of reassurance to a man diagnosed with prostate cancer.

As I was informing friends and family that I had cancer, I didn't want to hear a story about someone else who had cancer, I needed people to listen to my situation. The bottom line for those who need feel better or who feel obligated to make the person with cancer feel better, say as little as possible and avoid open ended questions. You have a high risk of saying things that will do the opposite of what you intend.  In your effort to make things better, you'll probably make things worse. Here are some suggestions of things you might say:
1. I'm sorry to hear that.
2. Bummer
3. That sinks
4. How awful

To those who posses good listening skills and have a genuine interest in hearing how someone is doing, open ended questions will accomplish this goal:
1. How are you doing?
2. How are you feeling?
3. What was it like for you to receive the news?
4. Is there something I can do that would be helpful to you?
5. How's your partner taking the news?
6. Would you be interested in hearing about my experiences with prostate cancer?

Here's a suggestion I think would benefit anyone who is serious about wanting to say and/or do the right things. Take time and read about this topic. If you google things to say to someone with cancer, you'll get many great articles which discuss this issue. Here's a few to get you started. If you are willing to take the time to read and to learn about what to say and do when someone is coping with cancer, it's highly likely the things you'll say and do will be remembered for a very long time and greatly appreciated

There are articles you can read which will help you to be helpful:
Useful Things to Say & To Do
Ways to respond
Supporting Someone With Cancer
Ten Things You Can Do
Please share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions as well.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Seven Reasons Why Men With Prostate Cancer & Their Partners Suffer In Silence

Suffer-To experience a physical and/or emotionally unpleasant experience such as a loss, injury, illness, accident defeat or setback.

Many men experience unpleasant side effects and loss following prostate surgery. Here's a list of some of those changes and loss:
1. The loss of Urinary control
2. The need to wear diapers or pads for an extended period of time
3. Climacturia- Leaking urine before, during or after climax
4. The loss of ejaculation
5. The loss of spontaneous erections
6. The loss of libido (sexual desire)
7. Either total or partial loss of erectile abilities
8. The loss of confidence in bed
9. The reduction of intensity of orgasms
10. A reduction in the size of the penis

Very few men will suffer all ten of these unpleasant side effects of living without a prostate. Experiencing one of these ten changes is unpleasant, involves suffering, and can lead to depression and/or have a negative effect on a relationship. Most men and couples deal with two or more of these losses.

Why is it men and couples choose to struggle alone even though the level of suffering is high?
1. Men are less likely to share their struggles than women are, so men are more likely to choose to suffer alone.

2. Embarrassment-The losses following surgery involve subjects that are not usually shared with others. Talking about losing urinary control, erectile functioning, the loss of desire, or intensity of orgasms are not part of the daily discourse among friends or family. There are many couples who find it difficult to talk with their partners about these issues. Therefore it's highly unlikely both partners will agree to seek out professional help.

3. Shame-is different from embarrassment. Shame involves feeling  hopelessly defective in such a way that requires you to hide and keep these defects hidden.  A man might feel ashamed of losing his erectile functioning and woman may experience shame that she's lost the ability to arouse her husband. There are many issues where shame could make an appearance. The natural reaction to shame is to hide.

4. Receiving unhelpful responses-Men or women may shut down and refuse to talk to anyone else after one bad experience sharing an intimate experience. I'll never forget being told "You have nothing to be depressed about, you were cured of cancer." I stopped talking about my post-surgery depression with healthy people after  receiving that response. There are very few people who know how to respond in helpful ways to the kinds of suffering prostate cancer brings to a men and his partner.

5. It's difficult to find and/or afford competent help-Often the issues that are involved requires a team approach between experts in mental health to deal with depression, and/or relational issues. Then there is a need for expertise in penile rehabilitation, erectile dysfunction, and sexuality. There are not that many places where a team approach is available. It's also possible many of those services are not covered by insurance.

6. Cultural Norms-Many men and/or women were brought up to believe there are certain issues that should remain unspoken. It is difficult for anyone to defy strongly held cultural norms.

7. A desire to protect your public persona-Everyone has a public image they want to project and protect. Couples maintain a public persona as well. Sharing how prostate cancer has affected you as individual and you as a partner in a relationship means giving up your individual and couple persona. Many couples prefer to break up and blame their partner rather than give up their public persona.

If you are suffering alone, you are experiencing the unnecessary additional pain of being isolated. I urge you to find a safe place to share your suffering. You can't control and you may not be in a position to influence your partner if they have chosen to suffer alone.  However you can control your own behavior. It's time to join the brotherhood or sisterhood of those who are suffering as they adjust to living and loving without a prostate.

If you are ready to join us, visit my website at: Links For Support. There you will find a pre and post surgery forum as well as a host of other places to receive help and support. What are you waiting for?