Not Feeling So Jolly?
Perhaps it is because you were recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Perhaps you are in treatment or just finished. Then again you could be someone following an active surveillance or watchful waiting protocol and thinking – or should I say worrying – about that next PSA test. You may be wondering or asking yourself, "Will it come back, will it spread, or is it gone forever?"
Safe to say, your prostate cancer may have you a bit on edge, and you may not be feeling up and cheerful. And if that weren't enough, daylight hours are shorter, the nights are longer and colder, and without much warning along come the holidays.
This is supposed to be that special time of the year when you gather with loved ones and friends. It is supposed to be a time of jubilation and a time of joy and gift giving.
But lingering in the back of your mind is a growing reminder that silently jogs your memory about the possibility of a returning prostate cancer. It is no wonder that during this time of the year, many members of the cancer alumni can experience deep feelings of anxiety or depression.
Trying to put on a happy face
As a member of what many call the “Reluctant Brotherhood,” we know that putting on a happy face during stressful times can be a real challenge. Once heard, the words you have prostate cancer stay with you. At times and for no apparent reason, you suddenly recall that things are different now.
When you focus on the trauma of a past diagnosis, it becomes more challenging to put on that happy face at family gatherings. How many of us have silently asked ourselves, “Am I going to be here next year?”
Dealing with dread
Cancer treatments can change your body in many ways. Perhaps your energy and enthusiasm levels are not what they use to be. Perhaps you are feeling irritable or angry. Perhaps you are not sleeping well. During the holidays, it can be very tempting to find additional comfort with an extra adult-beverage, or recreational drugs, or just a few extra servings of those rich holiday foods.
If you are dreading the holidays, my first bit of advice is to avoid watching any of the classic holiday films. You know, the ones that present an idealized view of how wonderful life should be. And while it is fun to watch “A Christmas Story,” do we really need that wonderful leg lamp in our window, or do we need to recall the joys of our first Christmas BB gun?
The same recommendation holds true for the never-ending line up of TV specials that offer an idealized version of happiness for the holidays. No matter how you slice it, real life seldom if ever comes close to joys offered on TV.
Focusing on the moment
During the holidays, I think it is especially important to step back and be mindful of the joys that surround you every day. Why fuss and fret over what happiness should be like, when all you must do is take in the joyfulness of the moment?
If you do, I bet you will not be disappointed this holiday season.
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?