Lessons Learned From Prostate Cancer

For most of my life I lived in states that offered residents a fair share of challenging winter events. Those experiences ranged from New York City slush, snow, and ice to Wisconsin winters where windchill temps easily reached 30 below zero plus a driveway often filled with 5-foot snow drifts.

Along the way my career path, like many, often had a mind of its own, from a professional fundraiser to public relations vice president, to a motivational speaker. Somewhere along the way I managed to get married, raise two children, and put them through college. Some 80 years of various life challenges and involvements over time allowed me to build an experience library which I often called upon when faced with a new life challenge.

Fear after prostate cancer surgery

Nothing, however, prepared me for the fear I faced laying in a hospital bed recovering from 5 hours of prostate cancer surgery. Mentally it was a bit of a touch-and-go situation.

While the cancer was caught early, it was classified as highly aggressive with indications pointing to a possible return along with the need for additional treatments. While my unwelcomed visitor was on hold for a while, I could not help but think, “what will the rest of my life look like?”

Thinking I needed to change my life

A pen and some paper had been left in the hospital nightstand, and for some reason I began assembling a list of things my future self might want to do. The list included what to say to friends, family, and business associates about my cancer. The list grew to include resolutions on living life better and the need to get more exercise.

For some reason a decision was made then and there that it was time to learn about kayaking and buy one. Kayaking appeared to be a cool idea, along with picking up a trail bike to get even more physical exercise. After returning home, reality hit when the wisdom of lifting a kayak up over my head to the top of an SUV would present several challenges after surgery. With that dawning also came a recognition that just perhaps ordinary living was ok, as there were many things I could say and do.

Adjusting to life after treatment

The key for me in adjusting to life after prostate cancer treatment was to ask: just why am I trying to make drastic changes in my life? Did I really want to stress over planning a world trip, for example? Was the imagined kayak adventure a good idea? Slowly I began to realize my life and my many experiences were enough to build on.

While changes could be made in time, there was no immediate need to do so. It was far better to let life evolve and take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves every day vs trying to make things happen. The important lesson prostate cancer taught me was to roll with the punches that life and living present. Today early in 2024, more than 11 years have passed since my initial diagnosis.

Taking it day by day

My prostate cancer returned 2 times since my initial diagnosis. Rather than stressing out at every turn, I try to remember to take life a day at a time. Do I get stressed? You bet. But when those feelings begin to overcome me, I ask why and look for stress-free things to do, from riding that bike I picked up to taking a walk, or just enjoying some relaxing music.

When under pressure no longer do I make lists, nor make plans to travel the world or bungee jump off one of the highest bridges in the United States. If you are one who is inclined to "jump" into new adventures, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge also known as “Gorge Bridge,” stands out at 650 feet over the river and is calling all who seek excitement in their lives.

In the meantime, I am enjoying golf near my new home in beautiful Virginia and far away from the snow and ice of New England.

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