Friday, July 28, 2017

Coping With Cancer Gracefully-Lessons Learned From My Aging Dog

My last year with Cheri, a 16-year-old black Labrador retriever, was a difficult year. Her deafness progressed to the point where she couldn’t hear or respond to my voice. I began screaming at her, hoping my volume would penetrate her level of deafness. I came to the realization that screaming at Cheri contained elements of anger and frustration, which was inappropriate to the circumstances.
At first, I thought my reactions were due to the frustration and difficulty of trying to communicate with a dog that couldn’t hear me. It took almost a year to realize I didn’t like the changes that occurred in Cheri. I was equally unhappy, frustrated and angry about the changes that occurred in my own life post-surgery.
It became very clear to me that unless I learned how to treat Cheri kindly, there was no chance I’d learn to treat myself kindly. Therefore I became highly motivated to find a different way to communicate with Cheri. I needed to communicate in a way that involved kindness. Because her sense of smell was intact, I paired a gentle nudge with a piece of cheese by her nose.
When she’d get up to follow the scent she was rewarded with a piece of cheese. Eventually, Cheri would get up with a gentle nudge. We’d found a way to communicate!
Toby, our King Charles spaniel, found his own way to communicate with Cheri. If he wanted Cheri to come outside with him, he’d go to where she was lying down, sniff her and circle around her until she got up and followed him. I paired Toby’s behavior with a command and a treat. Eventually, I could tell Toby “Get Cheri,” and that’s exactly what he’d do. Finding one kind way to communicate, led to another.
In the process of learning to communicate with my deaf and partially blind dog, I discovered it’s a colossal waste of time, effort, and energy to rage against the inevitable changes that aging brought to Cheri — and that a prostatectomy brought to me. Making peace with the changes in Cheri’s life was the first step in making peace with the unwanted changes I experienced after prostate surgery.
If you’ve been treated for cancer, or you are the partner to someone treated for cancer, the odds are you’ve experienced more than one unwanted or unpleasant change.
Have you found kind, graceful and loving ways to cope with those unwanted changes? If so, would you share how you’ve done that? If you are stuck in negativity, I hope you’ll reach out to someone further along in the journey to find new ways to cope.
I never expected an aging dog would be my teacher.

Why Waiting for Test Results Gets More Difficult

I went to my doctor a few weeks ago complaining of pain on my right side. He thought it was a hematoma. He told me to use a heating pad twice a day. He wrote out a prescription for me to have a sonogram, which he said he’d place in my file. I was to call his office for the referral in two months if the pain didn’t go away.
Because of a mistake in his office, I received my referral for a sonogram in two weeks rather than two months. You have to have faith to understand what I’m about to share.
Before I could tell them the referral was a mistake, I heard from the Holy Spirit. It was made clear to me this was God’s way of overruling the delay and that I needed to get a sonogram now. So, I made the appointment for a sonogram.
My sonogram was on a Monday. I was told my doctor would receive the results by Wednesday. I expected to hear from him by Friday.
As I waited for the results, I asked my wife about an issue I found troubling. With all the waiting for test results we’ve been through over the past six years, I asked her if waiting for test results became easier or more difficult over time?
Without hesitation, she said, “Much more difficult.” I breathed a sigh of relief because I wasn’t alone. Waiting for test results is significantly more stressful for me now than it was before I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
It’s obvious to both of us that we are not getting better at waiting as we gain more experience. I’m certain the reason for this has to do with our experiences with prostate cancer.
It took no effort on my part to imagine I had colon cancer or some other type of cancer. When you worry about receiving news of a reoccurrence, a spread of cancer, or any other life-threatening possibilities, waiting for your test results becomes highly stressful.
Losing sleep, becoming preoccupied and irritable, withdrawing from people or the world, and using drugs or alcohol are some of the things people experience or do as they wait for test results.
The morning after my sonogram, my phone rang. I wasn’t able to answer the call so it went to voice mail. At noon, I listened to the message. It was from a surgeon’s office asking me to call for an appointment!
Hearing that message sent me into a full-blown panic. A day after taking a sonogram, my first phone call came from a surgeon’s office rather than from my doctor. When you receive a referral to a surgeon one day after a test, there’s good reason to be concerned.
I imagined the news was so awful that my doctor wanted a surgeon to discuss the test results with me. I immediately called the surgeon’s office. They were closed for lunch.
It would be 90 minutes before they returned. My wife and I tried to come up with any positive possibilities, but the suddenness of a referral to a surgeon frightened us both. Waiting 90 minutes seemed like an eternity.
At 1:30, I called the surgeon’s office to make my appointment. After we set a date, I asked the person I was speaking with if she’d mind looking at the referral and tell me what type of surgery I’d be discussing with the surgeon. She put me on hold, checked the notes, and told me I was coming in to discuss gallbladder surgery.
My gallbladder is the third organ-removal surgery for me. First was my appendix, then my prostate, and now my gallbladder.
I decided to throw myself a pity party. I called to invite a friend. When I shared the news about my surgery, he said; “God is bringing you home one organ at a time.” His comment caused me to be abruptly evicted from my own pity party.
Guests who laugh are not allowed at pity parties, even if you’re the guest of honor. His comment was a great reminder of the power of laughter and humor as we cope with health issues or unwanted change.
His comment also reminded me of my faith. How I got in for a sonogram was a “God thing.” God wasn’t calling me home right now — He’d intervened in a way to hasten my healing. That’s a call to gratitude. Laughter and gratitude are two powerful ways to get through any unwanted changes.
A few questions to consider:
1. Has waiting for test results gotten easier or more difficult over time?
2. Whatever your answer was, what are you doing that makes it easier or more difficult to wait?
3. What, if any, role does your faith have as you wait?
4. Have you ever brought humor or gratitude into your time waiting? If you have, did it make a difference? If you haven’t, will you try to the next time you wait for test results?
I hope you’ll share whether waiting for tests results is easier or more difficult as you’ve gained experience with waiting.
Originally published by Prostate Cancer News Today 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Don't Let Erectile Dysfunction Steal Your Manhood

“Erectile dysfunction is a thief. ED takes away physical and emotional intimacy. ED steals your confidence in the bedroom. ED robs you of your manhood. ED walks off with your self-esteem. Left untreated, ED has the power and potential to destroy lives and end relationships.”
I never realized the powerful association between my ability to maintain an erection and my sense of manhood, until I lost that ability. From that point on, I was trapped in a cycle of negative thinking that opened the door for ED to steal my manhood.
Here are some destructive thoughts brought about by ED:
• I’m worthless as a man.
• I’ll never be able to sexually satisfy my partner.
• My partner would be better off without me.
• There’s no point to maintaining any type of sexual relationship.
• I’m a total failure.
• I’ll never enjoy sexual pleasure again. (At age 58, I had no idea a man could have an orgasm with a flaccid penis.)
Any one of these thoughts has devastating effects on a man’s sense of self-esteem, his confidence, his sexuality, and his relationship with his partner.
In an effort to avoid thinking any of these painful thoughts and corresponding emotions, men typically withdraw from their partner emotionally, physically and sexually. All forms of physical affection disappear. Verbal expressions of love and tenderness also vanish.
As his partner become increasingly unhappy as a result of being abandoned, a man with ED mistakenly views this as proof that the’s lost his ability to please his partner. Men use anger or stonewalling to shut down any and all discussions about erectile dysfunction. Shame and embarrassment fuel their resistance to seek outside help.
It’s important for men to understand that ED is powerless to steal your manhood without your permission. Like me, most men open the door for this thief as a result of getting trapped in a cycle of negative thinking that comes from coping with ED.
Breaking that cycle and reclaiming your manhood involves overcoming your shame and embarrassment in order to seek help. Here are places to go to receive that help:
Your doctor or urologist is the first stop. After that, here are some other resources:
I’ve discovered it’s possible to develop a healthy and mutually satisfying sex life without erections. You can, too, if you are ready to challenge your shame and embarrassment in order to seek help. It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I never knew a man could achieve an orgasm with a flaccid penis.
There’s much to learn in order to reestablish an enjoyable sex life when you are impotent.
Wherever you are in your journey coping with ED, your thoughts and comments are welcome.

This was reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today.

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda Redner wrote two award winning books. The first:
provides men and couples with information and support before, during and after prostate surgery.

Their second book was written for couples living with!erectile dysfunction. After living with erectile dysfunction for four years, Rick chose penile implant surgery. The couple share how implant surgery changed their lives and relationship.
The title of their book is:

Together in Sickness and in Health

On June 7, my wife and I celebrated our 37th anniversary. For six of those years, we’ve been coping with the quality of life issues associated with my prostatectomy. For many years, these issues had a negative impact on my self-esteem and our marriage. In order to preserve our marriage, we sought professional counseling. 

Every year since my prostate surgery, it seems I’ve had a new health crisis or surgery. Here’s a few of those medical challenges. I suffered lots of wrist pain for a long time.

 Finally, I went in for an exam. I was told that I needed surgery for carpel tunnel syndrome.

Sometime after that surgery, I tripped over my dog, fell, and injured my shoulder. I was in constant pain and unable to sleep well. It took almost a year to get a diagnosis and finally have a rotator cuff repair. After surgery, I spent almost two months in a sling, then three months in physical therapy.
Each year, a new health crisis has a negative impact on the quality of my life and the ability to enjoy time with my wife. For these reasons, I wrote my wife the following on her anniversary card:
“Today we celebrate our 37th anniversary. I’m not sure whether our best days are behind us or whether our best days are yet to come. Either way, I’m blessed to journey through life with you.” 
Shortly after I wrote that note, I received the unexpected news I need surgery to have my gall bladder removed. My wife and I stopped counting the number of surgeries I’ve had after I reached my tenth surgery.
All of these storms, unwanted changes, sleepless nights, months of chronic pain, multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and illness have taken a huge toll on me, my capacity to function, my ability to enjoy life, my energy level, and my capacity to love my wife.
I have no idea whether we will get a break from health challenges or whether this is the new normal for me and for us as a couple.
If this is our new reality, I believe the best is behind us, rather than yet to come. This is certainly not how I hoped to spend my “golden years.” There’s one thing that has been a blessing through all of these trials.
Thirty-seven years ago, my wife and I made a vow to each other before our friends, family, and God. We promised to stay together in “sickness and in health.” In our youth, and in good health, we had no idea how difficult and challenging keeping that vow would be.
For many years after my prostate surgery, I was convinced  my wife would be better off without me, rather than with me. I’m blessed beyond measure to be married to a woman who is committed to keeping her wedding vows.
How you treat your partner as they recover from an illness or surgery can affect how quickly they heal. A recent study found that patients whose partners displayed empathetic behaviors like emotional support, affection, and attention showed improved physical function over time.

There’s a reason your marriage vows included the promise to stay together in sickness and in health. We need each other, and we are more likely to successfully navigate through the storms of life as a team.
I pray those couples tempted to break that promise will reconsider and get help in order to preserve your marriage and keep the marriage vows you made to one another.
It’s my prayer that couples facing the challenges of coping with the unwanted changes brought about by cancer and/or the quality of life issues couples face after treatment, will enable you to grow closer together, rather than further apart.
If your partner made a difference (positive or negative) in the way you coped with cancer, I hope you’ll share your story so other couples can learn from your experiences. 
Rick Redner and his wife Brenda Redner wrote two award winning books. The first:
provides men and couples with information and support before, during and after prostate surgery.

Their second book was written for couples living with!erectile dysfunction. After living with erectile dysfunction for four years, Rick chose penile implant surgery. The couple share how implant surgery changed their lives and relationship.
The title of their book is:

This was reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today 

Redeeming Unwanted Change

In my younger days, driving an RV 600 miles in a day wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but I had the energy and ability to do so.
As my wife and I drove to Yellowstone National Park, we planned to arrive at our campground in three days. This meant we needed to drive approximately 350 miles a day. I expected this to be an easy task to accomplish.
I’m not a fan of unwanted change. Whether those unwanted changes come naturally as a result of getting older or from my prostatectomy, I tend to react with frustration and anger. The first things I do are born from desperation and a futile attempt to get back what I’ve lost.
On our first day, we had to drive 375 miles to our campsite. I became seriously fatigued before we drove 250 miles. With the help of three cups of coffee, we made it. Since I don’t like drinking coffee, I purchased caffeine pills for day two.
Day two was a 325–mile drive. I thought it would be easier for me. I was wrong. I was exhausted before we drove 200 miles.
When it took two caffeine pills and coffee to get to the next campground, it became very clear to me something had permanently changed. I was no longer capable of driving 600 miles; in fact, 300 miles was a push.
I have a family history of high blood pressure and strokes. I’ve had high blood pressure for decades. It’s only a matter of time before I experience a stroke. Overdosing myself with caffeine — not once, but on multiple days — will hasten the day I’ll experience a stroke, which is why my first thought was to quit RVing.
After talking to my wife, my perspective was radically changed. We came to the conclusion of slowing down our pace in order to have time to enjoy God’s creation, our campgrounds, our day, and each other. It’s taken me 65 years to figure this out. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
I believe successfully coping with this unwanted change due to aging set the stage for me to successfully cope with a change brought about by prostate surgery.
Years after regaining urinary control, I’ll still leak. A cough, bending down, lifting something, an unexpected sneeze, all can cause me (and most men living without their prostate) to leak urine.
I’ve experienced another issue I haven’t found discussed in the literature. After I’m finished urinating, I can experience a delayed leak of a significant amount of urine. When this happens I wet through my pants.
While on a tour of Yellowstone, that’s exactly what happened to me. My shame and embarrassment went through the roof. Not only was I with strangers, but also my oldest son and daughter–in–law were on this tour with me.
As I examined the noticeable wet spot, I thought about my options. My preferred option wasn’t possible. If I had a private restroom I would have removed my pants and put the wet spot under the electric hand dryer. Since there were others in the restroom, that option was closed. Option two was to towel dry the spot and hope that I didn’t end up smelling like urine. Option three was to wash the spot off, towel dry my pants, and walk back to the tour van with a much larger and noticeable wet spot on my pants.
I was surprised that the decision was easy. There was no way I wanted to risk smelling up the tour van with urine. I took soap and water, washed the urine spot, then towel dried my pants. My wet spot was significantly larger and more noticeable as I left the restroom, but I didn’t care.
I realized I’d put the welfare of others ahead of any potential shame or embarrassment I might feel. If anyone asked me how my pants got wet, I was prepared to say, “I spilled water on my pants,” which is exactly what I did. There was no need to add that I spilled water on my pants because I’d leaked urine on my jeans.
Just as I’d come to accept my limitations on driving my RV, I came to accept the reality of occasionally leaking urine on my pants. I’d come a long way since surgery. When I leaked through my diaper and wet my pants in public, I refused to have friends visit and I refused to leave home for an entire month.
What unwanted change has your treatment of prostate cancer brought into your life? Are you still unhappy or at war with those unwanted changes, or have you made peace with them?
This was reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today 

The Blessings of a Redo

Two days after my disastrous Florida vacation (read my last blog), I had a second vacation scheduled. My wife and I planned to meet our eldest son and his wife on a 10–day RV trip to Yellowstone. They were flying in, while we drove our RV.
Unfortunately, I returned home from Florida so sick that we had to cancel the trip. I was devastated. My illness ruined not one, but two vacations. Since our daughter–in–law is expecting in October, this was our first and last opportunity to camp together without children.
Sometimes life gives us a redo. To our delightful surprise, my son was able to change their flight reservations without penalty, and my daughter–in–law was able to reschedule her vacation.
My wife and I are meeting them in Yellowstone in two days! I’m on the road to Yellowstone as I write this blog. My heart is brimming with gratitude for this opportunity for a redo.
Sometimes life does not allow for redos. When that occurs, we are stuck with the negative, sometimes tragic consequences. A dear friend of mine was taking a shower when her phone rang. Rather than allow her answering machine to pick up the message, she decided to answer.
On her way out of the shower, she fell and broke her hip. She experienced multiple complications following surgery, which led to her death. She died because she hurried out of the shower to answer a phone call that didn’t need to be answered. She might still be here today had she allowed her answering machine to pick up the message.
In the last six years, I’ve heard from many widows whose husbands never bothered to have their prostate checked until they were experiencing symptoms of advanced prostate cancer. According to this survey, nearly seven in 10 men ignore these symptoms and further delay treatment.
There is an ongoing controversy whether prostate cancer screening does more harm than good.
As I drive my RV to Yellowstone to camp with my eldest son and daughter–in–law, we plan to create memories that will last a lifetime. In October, we plan to see them again to meet their first child.
Ironically, my diagnosis of prostate cancer is the reason this trip was possible. After recovering from my prostatectomy, I decided there were things I wanted to do that couldn’t wait until I retire. Buying an RV and traveling were two things on my bucket list I wanted to do while I was blessed with restored good health.
In June, we are scheduled to celebrate the first birthday of our second granddaughter with our youngest son and his wife. They asked us if we could host a swim party at our home.
I believe I owe my survival and opportunity to enjoy these blessings to my yearly prostate cancer screening. With early detection and treatment of my prostate cancer six years ago, I received the biggest and best redo of my lifetime.
When it comes to prostate cancer, the path for a redo involves early detection. I get a lot of flack whenever I advocate for prostate cancer screening, but it’s the only way I know for men with prostate cancer to get a redo.
So men, if you are over 30, I urge you to get tested for prostate cancer. I know this may sound crazy, out of touch, or paranoid, but the incidence of aggressive prostate cancer in younger men is on the rise.
There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain when you can rule out or treat aggressive cancer earlier, rather than later. Find me a widow who would disagree. They’d give anything to experience a redo. I wake up every morning feeling grateful for my redo.
If you’ve experienced the opportunity for a redo due to early detection and treatment of prostate cancer, I’d like you to share your story here. Perhaps with enough encouragement, we can motivate those men who’ve resisted prostate cancer screening to make an appointment for this potentially life-saving exam.

This was reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today 

How a Relaxing Way to Wait for PSA Results Failed

Living & Loving with Prostate Cancer
Six years post-surgery, I wanted to wait for the test results of my ultra sensitive PSA test differently. Rather than waiting at home with anxious expectations, months prior to my scheduled test, I asked my wife if she’d like to go for a romantic vacation. I was overjoyed when she said yes. We flew to Cocoa Beach in Florida.
After a few days, my wife and I came down with serious cases of bronchitis. Both of us went to an urgent care center together. We received medication, and we thought that was the end of that.
Within the next 24 hours, I was coughing so hard I felt a painful and agonizing pull or rip. The pain didn’t go away. I felt as though someone stuck a knife in my ribcage when I’d cough, sneeze, or take a normal breath. A foot-long black-and-blue mark appeared on my left side. A few days later, I felt the same thing occur on my right side. Once again, a foot-long black-and-blue area appeared on my right side.
During the 19 days we spent in Florida, I went to an urgent care center four times and to an emergency room six times. Most of those visits involved the same issues: stabbing pain in my side and my inability to breathe normally. It was truly frightening to be painfully gasping to breathe, unable to take in the necessary oxygen I needed.
I took my wife to Florida so we could relax, have fun, enjoy our time together, be romantic, take long walks on the beach, and totally forget we were waiting for my PSA results. Once my breathing issues began, trips to the ER and then to a pharmacy dominated most of our time. I think the only goal I met during our vacation was forgetting about my PSA test results. We had more immediate and pressing medical issues to deal with.
As I boarded the plane to return home, I came to the sad conclusion that we spent more money on our healthcare than we did on the entire vacation in Florida. I decided that the first time you spend more money on healthcare than on your vacation, you’ve entered what I call “Senior Citizen Zone.” It’s not a destination you want to reach.
As we traveled home, I didn’t know I’d be heading to an ER one more time. A nurse in CA received permission to inject me with a medication that was the first effective treatment to bring me to a place of healing rather than temporary symptom relief.
When I finally met with my primary physician for follow-up and treatment. I asked for my PSA test results. – It was 007. We breathed a collective sigh of relief. For the rest of the day I preferred my drinks “Shaken not stired” because I was 007.
Sometimes with the best intentions, life goes awry. At a time when I was looking to get away from the reality that our good health is a fragile state of affairs, I was reminded not once, but 11 times that we can lose our status of good health in an instant.
Next week, my wife and I have an opportunity for a re-do. We are taking our RV and heading to Yellowstone to camp with our eldest son and our daughter-in-law. We leave grateful to know my PSA is undetectable. I hope we can stay as far away as possible from the “Senior Citizen Zone” on this getaway.
How do you wait for your PSA test results?

Sometimes Going Backwards is The Way Forward

Sometimes going backward is the path forward. After a prostatectomy, most men live with urinary incontinence. After regaining urinary control, I still leaked if I had to bend, sneeze, laugh, cough or lift anything heavy.
I’ll never forget how happy I was when I graduated from diapers to pads. At the time, I believed I’d easily adjust to using a single pad for the entire day. It wasn’t the first or last time I’ve said things to myself that turned out to be wrong.
With the benefit of hindsight, I never believed I’d be living with a pad for the rest of my life. I thought pads were one more temporary phase leading me toward regaining total control and a pad-free life. I spent 18 months living with pads, and I experienced my share of discouraging days.
The first day I ventured to work without a pad was a memorable one. I went to the bathroom before leaving the house, as I didn’t want anything to go wrong during my five-minute commute to work. I made it to the parking lot, opened my door, and stepped out of my car. Then I suddenly sneezed. Immediately I felt a surge of moisture in my underwear.
I walked directly from the parking lot to the bathroom to inspect the damage. Sure enough, there was a wet spot in my underwear. I’d just received the results of my experiment.
When I left for work that day, I wanted to see how long I could go without leaking. I discovered I couldn’t stay dry long enough to make into the building where I worked. That certainly was not the answer I hoped for.
As I processed the results of my experiment and their implications for my life, I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction. In the bathroom, looking at the wet spot on my underwear, I began to laugh out loud. The idea that I couldn’t stay dry long enough to take one step into the building struck me as outrageously hilarious. Then I experienced a wave of relief.
This was the first time in my life, I’d laughed about losing urinary control and wetting my underwear. My ability to laugh at this circumstance brought about an amazing psychological healing.
Ironically, as I wrote this last paragraph I experienced déjà vu. Currently, I’m dealing with bronchitis, which means  I’m coughing a lot. While writing the last paragraph, I coughed and leaked urine on my pajamas.
Since I wasn’t wearing a pad, there is a familiar wet spot in my pajamas. I did it again! Once again, I laughed. This time it was a double laugh: I laughed at the memory of being in the bathroom, and I laughed that I’d done it again.
When I began my vacation in Florida, I didn’t pack pads because I haven’t needed them in a long time. After I came down with bronchitis, my wet pants made it clear that I needed them again. So, my wife and I headed to a drugstore to buy a box of pads.
During the drive, I was struck by the difference in my attitude and behavior. I used to be so ashamed to buy diapers or pads that I avoided stores. I would order them online in the privacy of my own home. Not anymore.
This time my wife went with me. Once there, we picked up boxes and, in the aisle, discussed the best prices and effectiveness of each brand.
At the register, I was proud to present a 25% discount coupon. But the clerk refused to apply the discount, claiming the offer was valid only for feminine hygiene products. The coupon made no such distinction, so I complained. It’s still difficult for me to believe that a guy who used to be too ashamed to buy pads in public was now complaining to a store manager about a discount.
I’ve come a long way. I’m proud to be a cancer survivor. I consider these temporary setbacks as war injuries from my battle with cancer. My journey back in time, when laughter eliminated the power of shame, enabled me to move forward with humor and courage.
Have you ever taken a trip backward in order to move forward?

This was reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today 

Conquering Relentless Regret

Conquering Relentless Regret: Ditch the ‘If Onlys’

Conquering Relentless Regret: Ditch the ‘If Onlys’
Living & Loving with Prostate CancerThis is reprinted with permission from Prostate Cancer News Today 

Regret involves a trip back in time to an action, an event, or a decision that had life-altering and unwanted consequences. Each of us has our share of regrets. How we think about our individual regrets will either condemn or redeem us. What I’m about to share was a regret that I allowed to torture me for years.
After my biopsy, there was a six-week waiting time to heal before my prostate surgery. I spent most of those six weeks wondering whether I was going to live long enough to see the beginning of a new year. I went on a prostate cancer forum and posed the following: “To Vacation or Not to Vacation, that is the question.” I considered taking time off from work in order to enjoy a romantic vacation with my wife.
A man wrote back suggesting that I’d be too anxious to enjoy my vacation. He suggested I postpone the romantic vacation until after my surgery. This made perfect sense, so I followed his advice.
The trip we took after my surgery was awful. I was suffering from urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. I was leaking urine so badly that I was changing my diaper 15 times a day. I was so depressed about the quality of my life, I spent the majority our “romantic vacation” wishing I’d died during surgery. I didn’t have a single romantic thought, or deed, occur during our entire time away.
I began experiencing a profound loss and regret that I missed the opportunity to enjoy a romantic vacation with my wife when all of my body parts were functioning properly. Those days were gone forever.
For the next four years, I kicked myself at least once a day, sometimes more. The phrase “if only” became my mantra. The phrase “if only” bound me to the past in a destructive way. There was no opportunity for a re-do. My sexlife as I knew it was gone, and it wasn’t coming back.
There was no way to redeem what I’d lost. I made a stupid, foolish, selfish, decision that I’d have to live with for the rest of my life. I tortured myself day after day, week after week, and year after year. This type of condemning and harsh look backward is the kind of unhealthy regret that can rob you of your capacity to enjoy life in the moment.
In the movie Oliver, a thief named Fagin sings a song entitled “Reviewing the Situation,” in which he reviews his life. Here are few verses from that song:
Can a fellow be a villain all his life?
All the trials and tribulations!
Better settle down and get myself a wife.
As the song goes on, he humorously reviews the consequences of his past, present and future decisions. Asking yourself healthy questions is the starting point to redeem your regret. In my situation, I asked myself what type of romantic trips, experiences and memories do I want to create now.
I came to realize that now is the only time we can redeem our “if onlys.” Getting stuck in the past, or wishing for a different future, is a total waste of time and energy.
My wife and I created many positive romantic memories before and after my penile implant surgery. Today I’m living without regrets; so can you.
If you’ve conquered one of your “if onlys” please share how you did it.

The Futility of Worrying About Cancer

The Futility of Worrying About Cancer

The Futility of Worrying About Cancer

Living & Loving with Prostate Cancer
This is reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today 
This was my sixth year of post-surgery PSA testing. Usually I take the test and have no problem waiting for my test results. For the past five years it was a peaceful, easy time. And for five years, my test results showed undetectable levels of PSA.
For the first time since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I experienced an unwelcome encounter with resistance this year. I wanted to skip my PSA test. There was no rational reason for my strong desire to throw out my lab slip and let a year or more go by before taking an ultra-sensitive PSA test.
I suspect my resistance reflected my desire to return to my pre-cancer life. I wanted to pretend there was no reason to live under the cloud of possible relapse. I discussed my resistance with my wife and the men who follow me on Facebook. It didn’t take me long to realize that nothing good would come from skipping my yearly PSA test. So last week I took my lab slip and had my blood drawn.
After the test, as I was walking to my car, I had an unwelcome encounter with worry. Here was the conversation:
Worry: Over the years you’ve celebrated your undetectable PSA lab results, but there’s really nothing to celebrate.
Me: Why is that?
Worry: Your PSA test is a look back, not forward. All you’ll know is that your PSA was undetectable in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. There’s plenty of time for your PSA to rise in 2017. So skip the celebrating, the joy, and the relief. You’ve got three-quarters of 2017 to worry about.
Me: I don’t like the way you think. I’ve got to find a different way of looking at my situation.
The most intelligent discourse I’ve read about worry comes from Jesus, who said in Matthew 6:25-26:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I asked myself two important questions. The first was: Who do I want to believe about worrying,  my worrying self, or Jesus? The second question was: What good would worry do for me, other than make me miserable? After answering these questions, I decided I needed to take a different tack.
I’m going to celebrate no matter what my results show. If my PSA is undetectable, I’ll celebrate another year without the return of prostate cancer. If my PSA rises to a level that suggests the cancer has returned, I’ll celebrate the fact that I live in an era where early detection and treatment is available.
If you habitually worry, you become a time traveler. You leave your present-day reality to travel into the future, where your worst fears are realized. I’ve spent too much time living as a time traveler.
I’m glad I decided to wait for my test results with a willingness to celebrate whatever they are. In fact, I’m going on a vacation as I wait for the results. In the past, I would have postponed my vacation until I received them. I’ve learned it’s never too late to change the way you think as you cope with being a cancer survivor.
If worry is a constant companion, or you’ve found ways to defeat worry, I’d like to hear from you.