Real Fear Or...Imagined?
My cell phone rang as I was driving back from a business meeting in New York City. While I was anticipating a call to learn the results of a recent prostate biopsy, I was comfortable knowing that no one in my family had ever been diagnosed with prostate cancer. By the way, if you have not had the pleasure of undergoing a 12-core needle biopsy of your prostate let me say it is a real eyeopener.
The news hit me like a ton of bricks
When I answered, the staff voice on the other end of the phone was very impartial and clinical. The voice announced that the results were in and...my test showed the presence of prostate cancer. When you are sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the East River Drive in the middle of New York City, the impact of those words “You have cancer” hit like a ton of bricks. An immediate wave of fear overwhelmed me.
The voice went on to suggest that making an appointment with my urologist would be a good idea and to bring my spouse as the detected cancer was very aggressive. The 3 hour drive home gave me time to gather some composure. Fear immediately gripped me once again after I looked up the implications of Gleason scoring. A score of 9 was not encouraging.
Initial meeting with my urologist
A few days later we met with the urologist and went over the results (4-5) and (5-4) He said it appeared to be Stage 2. The low PSA score hinted at the possibility that it may have been caught early. The next step was to undergo a series of body scans to determine if the cancer had spread.
The fear comes in waves
At every stage, my increasing fear took center stage. As it turned out, the scans suggested that the cancer might be contained. My fear subsided for a short time until learning that no one would know for sure until surgery. Only then could he and the pathologist determine what they were dealing with. Again, and again fear took over. What if this? What if that? Would I survive? Was I dying? My mind continued to race. Every negative thought and outcome I could imagine took center stage.
Fear is a common experience for all animals. A herd of horses might stampede at the smell of smoke or upon sensing an approaching cougar. Even a family pet will drawback or run at the sight of another dog or cat. Why was my fear so intense and so overwhelming? Over time I began to realize that animals only know how to respond to present danger. They do not anticipate possible future dangers. Only humans have that ability. I was the one making it worse by creating imagined fears of future events that were yet to unfold. I was creating a personal world based on my imagination.
Reality of aggressive cancer
Yes...I was dealing with an aggressive disease. That said it was something that could be treated. The real cause of my distress was letting my emotional side run wild. It was time to stop -- and decide how to treat the cancer. Over the past 6 years, I have spoken with hundreds of men and their partners who, like me are facing the uncertainty of prostate cancer.
Today the various treatments for this disease, especially when caught early, allow men to continue to enjoy full and long lives. I hope this article will offer some comfort as you continue your own personal journey.
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?