Early in my journey with prostate cancer, I believed there would come a time when I’d stop thinking about prostate cancer. Seven years into this journey, I still think about prostate cancer every day.
I’ve asked groups of men and caregivers how many times they think about prostate cancer in a day. Their answers amazed me. Those on the low side said 5-10. Those on the higher side said 15-20. Only a few said hardly ever.
There are specific events in the life of a prostate cancer patient that increases the likelihood men or their partners will think about prostate cancer frequently in the course of a day. Some of those events are:
- Waiting for biopsy results
- Waiting for PSA testing results
- Waiting for bone scan or other test results
- The days before, during, or after treatment, of any kind
- While coping with any side effects of prostate cancer treatment
- Days before, during, or after receiving an update on the progression of your cancer
These events predictably cause an increase in the number of times a patient or caregiver will think about prostate cancer. Most of us with prostate cancer also deal with everyday reminders. For example, in order for me to stay dry and avoid leaking urine, I have to monitor my bladder every hour. If it gets too full, a cough, bending, or sneezing will cause me to leak urine. Dealing with this issue is a constant reminder I’m living without my prostate because of cancer.
Another reminder occurs in my bedroom. Each time my wife and I have sex, it's necessary for me to inflate my penile implant. Using an implant is a reminder that prostate surgery was the reason I ended up impotent in the first place. It’s difficult to get away from the daily reminders that I’m a prostate cancer survivor.
How we talk to ourselves during our reminders makes all the difference in how we cope as a prostate cancer survivor. It’s possible to make intentional changes in the ways in which we talk to ourselves in order to boost your optimism, confidence, humor and sense of well being. Here are two examples:
First, during those times when I leak urine, I can get embarrassed, angry, or shake my fists in despair regarding this unwanted side effect of surgery. Or I can recall what it was like to live in diapers, needing to change myself 15 times a day. I can appreciate how far I’ve come from those early days. I'm able to experience gratitude I'm wearing underwear rather than a diaper.
Second, as I inflate my penile implant, I can reflect on the four years I spent coping with erectile dysfunction and the misery of those of those four years. Or I can feel grateful I live in a era and country where implant surgery is possible. I did not expect I’d need an implant, but I’m delighted to have one.
As we face our daily reminders, if we talk to ourselves in ways that heighten our anger, anxiety or fear, we will become angry, bitter, fearful, or anxious. When we actively discover ways to speak to ourselves and others, using words that provide comfort, optimism, humor, or gratitude, we will change the way we react to our daily reminders that we have prostate cancer.
What thoughts do you have as you think about prostate cancer in the course of your day?
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: