Having cancer is not what I thought it would be. On television or in other forms of media having such a diagnosis is full of drama and emotional turmoil. The reality is different. While there has been emotional drama, for the most part that remains internal. In many ways having cancer is just plain, well, ordinary. Life goes on. I have for the most part followed mu usual of life for most of my journey. The world in general and the little world of mine carries on as before. Having said that there has been a lot of internal change. About my priorities, my way of viewing the world, and my goals for the future. Even though my prostate has been removed and the pathologist report indicated no spread of cancer beyond the prostate, my journey continues. I have learnt a lot and continue to learn. There has been a great sense of loss, but also of gain in this experience. Some were obvious and expected but others unexpected and even surprizing.
The first belief to go out of the window was the belief of immortality. While intellectually we know that we all die, we maintain for the most part, a belief that it won’t happen to us. Similary with cancer we know it exists, but belief underneath that it happens to others and the very old, but not to us. My getting cancer at a relatively young age shattered the illogical belief of being special in someway in that I am just like everyone else, equally susceptible to anything that can go wrong with the human body.
A second belief that has been destroyed is that my body is strong and I can count on it not to let me down. That somehow my body is invulnerable. My body will do what it does, regardless of what my mind may tell it. I am not in control of my body as much as I thought I was. I n ow realize that it is my responsibility to lok after my body and not the responsibility of the body to be what I want it to be.
Fourth there is the loss of sexuality. At first I thought that without a prostate and ability to perform sexually I would somehow be less of a man. Since my surgery I have not felt that. However, my conscious mind has no interest in sex currently. I was prodded and poked and examined down there so much in recent months I don’t want anyone near there! However there is a sense of loss of what I once had and what was once a big part of my life. However, this may affect a lot of men, based on aging as much as having prostate cancer.My urologist told me that when men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and are told a possible side effect of prostate cancer is impotence most say they don’t care, they just want to get rid of the cancer. He added that six months later many men return to see him at the insistence of their wives to deal with any impotence! My understanding is that men can still have an orgasm after, but it feels different. In a telephone conversation with a close female friend, we both agreed that at least sex would be less messy! After delicately being asked if I could still climax I promised her that I would leave my phone beside the bed and put her on top of the speed dial list to let her know if and when it happens! Earlier I mentioned that consciously I have no interest in sex, which is true, but in the past week I’ve had more sexually-oriented dreams than I have in a very long time. Obviously my conscious and subconscious minds are not of the same mind.
Fifth, is a loss of feeling I am in control of my life and my destiny. The realization is that I’m a lot more vulnerable than I thought I was – to changes in my body and to changes in my environment.
One noticeable difference is that I am now a lot more patient than I used to be. I think this comes from the realization that there are many things I cannot control or create, leaving waiting for something to happen or to see what happens the only option. No point in getting upset when I don’t get what I want because it changes nothing.
I notice that I and appreciating even even small, everyday things in my life – things that before I just took for granted. For example sleeping in my own bed after four days in hospital felt blissful. I appreciate that I no longer have to rely on a catheter and have come a long way to regaining bladder control.
I have also learnt the importance of social support. Historically I have been a very independent person and have hated relying on anyone else for anything. The truth is that I could have not got through the whole experience of prostate cancer without the support and caring of others. It has also taught me how caring people can be in the right circumstances.
I have also learnt not to sweat the small stuff. Yesterday, for example, it cost $250 to see a movie. Watching the movie itself cost only $12. The rest of the cost arose from the realization on arriving home that we were totally locked out and had to break a garage door window to avoid spending the night in the car. Of course that resulted in substantial repair costs! Previously I would have become very upset about such an occurrence, but this time I was just grateful to get into the house and get things repaired. I’ve also learnt how to break in a house, a skill I hope I never need to apply again!
To be continued…