After I had my initial surgery I had family members express their excitement about my remission (no detectable PSA). Those who actually knew the statistical risk of having a recurrence sometimes said that they wish that I knew I was cured. I immediately replied, NO, I don’t want to know! They would look at me like as if I was a nut.
There are only two ways to know if you are cured. If you have a recurrence you were not cured, or if you die from something else many years later you can consider yourself cured (actually, since you are dead I guess you wouldn’t really know).
When I first had surgery I was looking for the cure, nothing less. That was all I was concerned about. I elected the surgery route because I was convinced it offered the best possibility of obtaining my goal, to be cured. Being cured offered the release from having to worry all the time, of having all of my time and effort focused on worrying. Waiting for a recurrence meant that everyday was a day I was at risk.
My doctors could only tell me that I had a two thirds chance of being cured. None of them ever said, Joel, you have a one third chance of having a relapse. Of course, intellectually I knew this, but I also knew that recurrences were for other people, not me. Yet, in the back of my mind I always had that voice whispering to me that I might still have cancer.
I have discovered that not knowing is worse then knowing, even if knowing means I had a reoccurrence. I know it is strange, but there is a level of relief knowing. I no longer worry if I still have cancer because I know that I do. I have found the cure for the fear of having a recurrence, have one. Once you have a recurrence you stop worrying about it. A sick joke, but a reality.
Now, I am able to live each day differently. I know prostate cancer will not kill me today tomorrow or next week. As a matter of fact it will not kill me in the next year or the year after it, but it very well may kill me in four, five or six years. For me today this no longer matters, I just want to enjoy myself, spend time with my family and work to make our world a better place for our children and their children.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW
Don’t forget to sign Malecare’s petition to make prostate cancer a national priority, go to www.prostatecancerpetition.org
Joel,I admire your bravery.
If you havent done this already type in Google cancer and vitamin b17 you may find it interesting.
I agree with Joel Nowak’s implication that owning up to a reality, no matter harsh, is the only way to contend with that reality. Burying a possibility, however remote, that your prostate cancer or mine might recur after effective treatment is not wise. It’s like denying you might have a festering sore until you become so feverish you have to admit the truth.
Like Joel says, early acknowledgment can help us set aside our worry about real possibilities. To that I’d add that early acknowledgment can get us to remain relaxed but still vigilant and act sooner if and when trouble arrives. Worrying about the “what if’s” in life is stressful. Frankly there’s enough stress when you first learn you have prostate cancer and after you’ve endured adverse outcomes like impotence and incontinence, no matter which treatment option you choose.
I see it as counter-intuitive but true that we need to own up we’re not necessarily “home free”, no matter how good our doctors are or how medically advanced was the approach used to rid ourselves of prostate cancer. Allowing yourself to yield to that thought and then dismiss it as a present concern is the better way to go.
In my case and those of others who took the route of robotic radical prostatectomy, it’s likely we can take the “sting” away from knowing that at best there’s only a 10% to 30 % chance our cancer could come back (if there’s no metastasis). Even if advanced cancer patients are told there’s a 10% to 20% possibility they’ll survive another five to ten years, needs underscoring by the patient. Just writing this down on a notepad or saying it aloud at a support group meeting can unburden any one of us from continued, suppressed tension. Anyhow such tension, if not expressed overtly, will come out in other, unhealthy ways should we not give the reality a nod and get on with our lives.
To be sure, whether we’ve been treated for localized or metastasized prostate cancer, we’re best off not to dwell excessively that our cancer, even if removed through surgery, might recur. But totally denying that anything is possible is hardly in our best interests.
Rabbi Edgar Weinsberg, Ed.D., D.D. (aka Rabbi Ed)