It won't take too long in your journey with prostate cancer before you'll hear someone say, "You have the good cancer." I understand the person saying that means well. There's some basis in survival rates to think that prostate cancer is the "good cancer."
The five-year survival rate for most men with local or regional prostate cancer is almost 100 percent. Ninety-eight percent are alive after 10 years, and 96 percent live for at least 15 years. For men whose cancer is confined to their prostate, those survival rates are good news, but there are many sides to living with prostate cancer.
According to Cancer.net, for men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate is 29 percent. Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States.
Ask a widow or a family member who lost their dad or son to prostate cancer if they think prostate cancer is "the good cancer."
A large percentage of men who choose to treat their cancer aggressively face lifelong quality-of-life issues such as the loss of urinary control, climacturia, erectile dysfunction, and bladder or bowel irritation, to name a few unwanted quality-of-life issues after treatment. Additionally, living with the possibility of a recurrence or a spreading of the cancer takes a toll, every day.
Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of calling prostate cancer "the good cancer" is that the comment convinces those coping with cancer that you are either ignorant or inconsiderate. I can't imagine a cancer survivor saying something so thoughtless to another cancer survivor. It demonstrates such a lack of understanding, that it's a relationship-damaging remark.
I asked men who follow my Facebook Prostate Surgery Support Group for their reactions when someone tells them they have "the good cancer." Here are a few answers I received:
"Yes... I heard that from one of my sisters. Honestly, I was stunned."
"Yes many times from the VA employees."
"Last week a social worker told me well your lucky because it is a slow cancer and I started yelling at her on the phone."
"Used to piss me off now I just chalk it up to ignorance."
"I get that all the time. I tell them that my dad died from it and I got it at the age of 42."
"Many times. Used to piss me off but now I just make a snarky remark like 'trade you.'"
I wonder if healthy people expect that a prostate cancer patient will change his perspective suddenly and feel grateful or lucky after hearing he's diagnosed with "the good cancer."
If you are a cancer survivor, or the healthy partner of a cancer survivor, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no such thing as a "good cancer." So, for heaven's sake, don't ever say this to anyone diagnosed with prostate, or any type of cancer.
If you're a healthcare professional and you've said this to any of your patients, I hope you'll realize that you've made an error in judgment. If you think it's appropriate, apologize to any of your current patients who've heard this from you.
Expect any patient who's heard you say this to feel angry or resentful. It's possible they may change their mind and entertain the possibility that you are no longer clueless.
If you are a family member or friend and you've told someone who is diagnosed and living with cancer that they are lucky or have a "good cancer," you've probably damaged that relationship, even though you meant well. I suggest you apologize. If you are willing to listen and learn, you can confess your lack of knowledge about coping with cancer and ask what it's really like to be a cancer survivor.
If you're a prostate cancer survivor who has heard all about your "good cancer" and you'd like healthy friends, family, or healthcare professionals in your life to understand there's no such thing as a "good cancer," share this column with them.
If you're holding a grudge or you've ended a relationship because you were hurt, I hope you'll consider forgiving anyone who couldn't understand the difficulties of living with cancer. Cancer taught me that life's too short to hold grudges.
If there's someone you've held a grudge against for not supporting you in a meaningful way, will you take the first step of forgiving them? Once you've decided to forgive someone, will you take the initiative to restore your relationship?
Living with cancer brings more than enough destruction and loss. There's no need to allow your experiences as a cancer survivor to destroy important relationships.
Allow your experiences as a cancer survivor to mold you into a compassionate, kind, forgiving, and loving individual. Those are qualities cancer cannot take away.
Note: This article appeared in 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: