Living Well

January 30, 2010

Prostate Cancer: My Story Guided by Personal Mission

Life is about choices.  My personal mission guides me all the time.  It guides my thoughts and how I make decisions.  Because I want to “invite people to abundant life by choosing God’s best” I am writing this particular blog on the area of my prostate cancer surgery and future.  This is my experience.  I want to weave through it how my personal mission helped me (and continues to help me) make decisions 1 ½ years after my cancer surgery.  I write it as an encouragement to men who are facing the reality of prostate cancer and potential surgery or other treatments.

I am writing, too, because when it was determined that I had prostate cancer; I joined a ‘secret club.’  I use this phrase because of encounters I have had with men concerning their own potential of cancer.  I have often had men come and talk close up to me about ‘their situation.’  This is a private matter for men, but I want to break that silence and talk frankly and authentically about prostate cancer, its treatment, and the life journey.  In the end, it is my hope by sharing my story; other men will find abundant life by how they make choices in their own prostate cancer situation.

After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I began researching about this disease.  While I found a lot of good medical advice, I didn’t always find how men actually worked through this emotionally.  As I stated in a previous blog, the outcome of prostate cancer always revolves around three ongoing concerns: impotence (the inability to have an erection or sustain an erection during intercourse); incontinence (the inability to hold one’s urine and thus a man leaks, often forcing them to wear absorbent underwear), and; cancer management.   I have this discussion every time I see my surgeon.  But I did not find any reflection about these topics in my internet search.

I don’t take these lightly because for men they are important issues.  Plus I think it important not to just deal with these three areas of concern, but with the emotions that go with them.  I will deal specifically with impotency in another blog, because it is the one that I did not find a good deal of information on.  Since this deals with sexuality, I will deal with that later.

There is a billboard near our house that says, “You wouldn’t tell a person with cancer to just get over it.”  The billboard is about how we sometimes respond to people about depression.  It is an apropos statement because a person getting a diagnosis of cancer does not get over it, but this diagnosis also can lead to depression.  In my own case, I realized that I was a victim of a drama not of my own creation.  There were ‘actors’ coming in and out of my life that I did not create, but had to acknowledge and work with in this journey.  For me, I would have moments of heavy sighing….just a ‘soul sigh’ because I had cancer in me that I could not control.  It was growing and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I was moving to the instructions of a lot of people simply following their directions and making decisions on the advice they gave me. 

This is where my personal mission came into play.  In these moments, I kept asking myself what was important in life. What had I determined was important for living well?  How would I honor God in how I lived my life and made choices about this cancer journey?  How would I set an example for my children and other men I came in contact with?  My personal mission served as a foundation for the choices I would have to make.

The first choice was to accept that I had prostate cancer and would have to do something about it.  At 53, there are not a lot of options.  Older men have more options related to prostate cancer, but younger men have to be intentional in seeking consultation that will help them win over this disease; to find a cure.  If one is in their 70s, wait and see can be an option; but at 53 waiting is not in one’s favor.  So the first choice was, “Who should I listen to?”

I had a plethora (dozens actually) of people ‘telling’ me how to proceed.  Everyone had their own story, their own advice.  I had a number of people point me to experimental drugs, herbs, new techniques, and a host of other ways to deal with prostate cancer.  But, each man has to deal with this journey how they view as the right path.  After a lot of reading, I intentionally chose a well respected surgeon (plus a dear friend put me in touch with him).  This was and has been a key for me.

As I close today, my mission guided me to choose a good doctor.  In today’s health environment, YOU are responsible for your own health care.  The Ad Council has a good commercial.  A person is asking all kinds of questions of a waiter about what is in a particular menu item at a restaurant before they order it.  But in the next scene, they are sitting on a table in a doctor’s office.  The doctor says, “Do you have any questions?” To which the patient says—“no.”  We would rather know how many calories are in a plate of food than what is happening in our bodies!  Men, in particular, are more likely not to ask questions. 

Thus the desire to live well allowed me to make a good choice—I have things that I believe I am to do in this world; a table of opportunity set before me.  So I chose a good doctor and took control of my health care at that moment.  I had some depression along the way as well, yet my personal mission, faith, and life of prayer helped me work through these moments of ‘soul sigh.’ 

A personal mission and future hopes guided me in this initial endeavor.  It can guide you, too.

Blessings, grace and peace.

David Neidert

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