You have been treated for prostate cancer and you find out that your PSA is rising. You are diagnosed with prostate cancer and the doctors tell you that the cancer has escaped the gland and moved on to other places in your body. You have advanced prostate cancer and there is no cure for you!

When we are faced with advanced prostate cancer most of us do ask the famous question, how long will I have to live? When I asked that question my doctors initially responded that they had no idea. When I pushed further for a more satisfying answer I did get some additional feedback. One of my doctors said something like “you will be a patient of mine in five years, but in ten I can not say for sure.”

Well, here it is closing in on four years and I am happy to report that I feel fine and my PSA is still under control. I am very sure that I will pass that five-year mark and yes, as he predicted, I am still a patient of his. I do remain hopeful about making that 10-year mark, I guess only time will tell.

Why is this universal question, how long do I have left, such an important question? For me, it was and is important because it helps me to think about my tomorrows. It allows me to think about and plan some of aspects of my tomorrows. More importantly, it helps me to plan and appreciate the much more important today’s.

Doctors hate the question because they don’t have a crystal ball, each of us will experience our disease progression differently. Some of us, even with the same disease patterns, will outlive the other. Many of us will not die from prostate cancer, but will die from some other disease or from some accident.

We do not really know what the future holds or doesn’t hold for us. That is the very nature of life and death, but for me knowing that I have cancer allows me to also know that I do have today.

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW