Thursday, June 21, 2018

Together in Sickness and in Health

On June 7 2017, 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 that I'm 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 your wedding vows 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:
I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours? 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 article was reprinted with the permission of Prostate Cancer News Today 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Fathers Day Thoughts From a Prostate Cancer Survivor

As a prostate cancer survivor of seven years, I don’t take reaching any milestone or holiday for granted.Therefore, my first thought and feeling is a profound sense of gratitude that I’m alive to celebrate another Father's Day. Prior to my diagnosis of prostate cancer, I never considered living to celebrate another Father's Day was an achievement to celebrate.

As a dad, whether I like it or not, I've influenced my children in both positive and negative ways. From my perspective, one of the worst things I've passed on to my sons is a greater likelihood they'll one day hear the awful news they have prostate cancer.

I don't know why, but on Father's Day this reality becomes a heavier burden:
"Family history is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. A man with one close relative with prostate cancer – for example, a father or a brother – is twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as a man with no family history of the disease."

No father wants his son(s) diagnosed with prostate cancer. I deal with my greatest fear with useless worry. I worry whether my sons will insist on prostate cancer screening on a regular basis. I worry whether their physicians will take their increased risk seriously enough to insist on regular screening. I could write pages about the futility of worry, but thousands of articles are available to address this issue. 

When I get stuck in the worry muck, I turn to two Bible Verses. In the first Bible verse Jesus asks:
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Luke 12:25)

It's a powerful question and a good reminder that all my time spent worrying is a waste of time. So if worry is a waste of time what do I do with the very real concerns I have? The second Bible verse gives me a positive alternative to worry:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippines 4:6-7)

An important aspect of my Father's Day is spending time praying for each of my four children, their wives, and my grandchildren.

Prayer is a wonderful reminder I'm not the only Father involved in the life of my children. They have a Heavenly Father who loves them more than me! As I grab hold of that reality, my worry fades away. This enables me to enjoy the day with a heart filled with gratitude that I'm alive to celebrate another Father's Day.

There's one more prayer that's easily neglected or forgotten. I pray that my wife and I, two broken and imperfect parents, receive wisdom from above to become the best parents we can be. We rely on this amazing promise:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)
I shutter to think of my parenting without wisdom from above.

There's one more important Father's Day reflection. I think back to my dad. I sort out the positive memories and experiencs and the negative ones as well. There are valuable life lessons contained in these memoires. Joyful things to do and share, as well as very negative, careless and abusive things I want to avoid, rather than pass on to my family.

If there's conflict and divisiveness, Father's Day is a reminder to do everything possible to be a peacemaker in order to resolve family tensions. The Bible says this about those efforts:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.(Mathew 5:9)

I wish everyone who is a father, or who had a father, a Happy Father's Day. Whether  your father was absent or present, kind and loving, or abusive, alive or dead, there are important life lessons for you to know and grow.

For those who long for a Father's love, you have a Heavenly Father who promises never to forget, leave, or forsake you. It's my prayer you'll experience your Heavenly Father's love for you this Father's Day weekend.

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: