Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Futility of Worrying About Cancer

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.
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:

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