The day one learns one has cancer, everything changes. That’s my sense three months into my battle with prostate cancer.
The notion that I have a serious illness is always with me, but I fight hard against the disease taking over my mood. The odd thing is that I have no pain or sickness from the disease. I feel perfectly healthy and am in peak condition from all the cycling I do – or did for the time being.
Perhaps by default, I seem to make sure that I do not get too low…or high. My emotional state has been stable and I have yet to melt down or fail to deal with my disease rationally. If I felt lousy, I am fully aware my mood would take a sharp turn for the worse. You’ll know: my posts will read something like “don’t feel much like blogging right now…”
For now, blogging about my experience helps me cope. Add in a good dose of rationalizing – hey, something’s going to get me – and my head clears pretty fast.
But it’s not always easy.
The lowest moments have been in the doctor’s office. My prognosis has steadily gone downhill after a urologist gave me the initial news on June 15 that cancer has been detected in the prostate biopsy. He was confident I had a 95% or higher chance of cure with surgery. Well, I had surgery Aug. 28 and it looks as if I will require radiation to zap cancer the sawbones could not get – or missed. I’ll have much more on the docs and our medical system in future posts.
I have gotten used to the idea that I have cancer and no longer struggle with using the word. I even added ‘cancer’ to my blog categories and tags! I may as well stare it down.
I walk, eat right and do the things I need to do to heal from the surgery and to regain continence, which took a major hit in the prostatectomy. I set goals such as playing tennis and golf again by mid-October. Biking will have wait the full three months as my parts heal. In a week, I plan to move from Depends to pads and to wear regular belted trousers instead of sweat pants with a draw string in deference to the incision’s rawness. After all, I am only 16 days off surgery.
Today, I set up a firewood pallet on the porch and loaded it with nine sticks of firewood, carrying in three at time from my wood crib. My normal load is 7-8 sticks. I’ll do nine more tomorrow. While it’s important to modulate activities relative to one’s capability to safely carry them out, it’s worse not to do them at all even if on a drastically reduced tempo and scale.
Doing the things I did pre-cancer helps make life seem normal. After all, the last thing I want to do is sit around and dwell about what’s going on in my body. One thing I’ve learned through all of this is how complex the body is and how many things can go wrong! The systems in the body now seem like disasters waiting to happen. Why? Because they are.
As one who has hardly ever been sick (I just turned 63), I have to wrap my head around my condition very day. And I do.
One thing that affects me is people’s reaction to my disease, which is all over the map. Prostate cancer is no walk in the park even though it’s one of the most curable cancers. The surgery is major, requiring a 5-6 inch vertical incision (18 metal staples in my case) that cuts deeply tissue and muscle (can you say C section?). Using a Foley catheter for nine days was not much fun, either. The condom-esque alternative was a Texas catheter, whose name alone scares the bejeezus out of me.
And, well, you know….cancer really sucks.
But at the same time, people who are startled by my news or who react in a negative way bring me down. For instance, “you must be freaked out” or “that’s scary” is not what I want to hear. “You’re going to beat this” or “keep fighting” are much better. As someone gazes at me with empathy, I try to change the conversation by asking how they are doing. “Better than you,” one noted with irony. That response didn’t exactly make me feel better.
Encouragement is critical and helps me or any patient maintain a positive attitude. The startled or negative comments don’t throw me much, but a little cheerleading goes a long way.
Anyhow, this how I cope and I would hope those around me will confirm I am doing a pretty good job of it.
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