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