Has Cancer Changed You?
A lot of folks ask me: “Has prostate cancer changed you?” The best answer I have found is to say: No matter how I look at it, everyone appears to experience some changes.
While surgery can show immediate physical changes to your body from scars and the removal of your prostate, it can take radiation longer to impact various parts of the body.
If you are undergoing chemo or hormone therapy or both, I can tell you candidly these treatments brought me a wide range of changes, including physically and emotionally. Some changes can be short-lived and end once the treatment ends. Others can be long-lasting.
Facing a new reality
I hold that it is not about how prostate cancer changes you; rather, it is all about how you choose to deal with a new reality.
Are you willing to adjust, or do you choose to fight? Are you willing to view all of your relationships differently, including with your spouse, friends, and business associates? Along my journey some folks offered support, while others moved to the edges of our friendship and eventually dropped from view.
Controlling what you can
The questions folks ask are interesting. People want to know if I changed my diet. The short answer is yes. I now look carefully at what I am eating, especially when it comes to consuming sugar in any form. While you can substitute sugar with natural products like honey and maple syrup, I find it important to remember – it is still sugar.
While I cannot reverse any long-term damage that may have occurred from eating too much red meat or having that extra scoop of ice cream, a few small changes today may help me at least psychologically. In the end, I believe you control what you can and learn to accept what you cannot.
Another change I have noticed is that, following a cancer diagnosis, many men reevaluate their relationship with religion. And it goes both ways. Some find that religion is a comfort, while others become angry that they “got” the disease and move away from spirituality. It is up to you to figure out what path to take, and which one offers you the most comfort.
Following a prostate cancer diagnosis, I also personally found it helpful to move away from toxic relationships and situations. Rather than becoming frustrated with someone who laughs when I order a salad vs a burger, or asks why I am not having that extra glass of wine, I let it go without comment.
After years of serving on a local volunteer board and dealing with a range of challenging personalities, I decided it was time to do more biking and fishing. It has been a wonderful decision, and I do not regret the “loss.” Better still, the fish love the idea of catch and release.
One of the biggest changes
One of the biggest changes with a prostate cancer diagnosis is the realization that you are not invincible. When you are in your 20s, 30s, or 40s it’s easy to believe that you will live forever and are indestructible. After a diagnosis, I have noticed that men often begin to ask, “What is the best use of the time I have left?”
So, when someone asks if prostate cancer changed me, the short answer is YES. And then I add … some of it is going to be good, while some may not be not so good.
The real key is to figure out how you want to travel your journey.
Tell us in the comments: how has prostate cancer changed you?
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?