The Can’t’s of Cancer
Prostate cancer has challenged me with many new can't's in my life. Most are unfortunate, but some ultimately turned out well.
Changes with my body
I can't look in the mirror without getting depressed. Where is that spry middle-aged man I used to know? I can’t believe it is me inside that tired, old, puffy body.
I can’t remember the last time I had a full night's sleep. I can't go through a night without getting up every hour or so. I can't remember what it is like to wake up refreshed. I can't go through the day without fatigue.
I can't regulate my temperature anymore; it swings up and down. Many times I can't warm up in the winter and can't cool off in the summer. Last winter, my body temperature regularly went down to 95.5°F, and once it reached 94.3°F. I can't judge what the ambient temperature is anymore and have to ask my wife if it is hot or cold.
I can't get into my old clothes. It is amazing how much they have shrunk since I started my prostate cancer treatment. I can’t wear socks, lest my ankles puff up because of ADT-induced edema. I can’t keep my feet warm in the winter.
Changes to my diet
I can't drink wine anymore. Thanks to cardiac AFib (possibly due to ADT), alcohol is off the table…forever. I used to be a wine writer; now I just whine about it. I get a pang of nostalgia every time I walk by the wine cellar in my basement. Those wine-dark bottles sing to me, but it seems that I am tied to a mast like Ulysses and can't answer the Sirens' call.
I can't eat whatever I want anymore. Anything with caffeine is taboo, and all those delicious chocolate treats I used to enjoy are off the table. Carbohydrates are something I also try to avoid now; I can't ever enjoy beer and pizza again.
Changes at work
I can't work at my job anymore. I can’t deal with hot flashes; AFib made worse by a high-stress work environment. I am being pushed into retirement. My job's deadlines, meetings, reports, projects, micro-management, and the never-ending crisis du jour's are losing their hold over me. I can’t believe that I did not retire a long time ago.
Changes with passions
I can't be bothered with things I cannot control. I can't get too worked up by those issues that young people are so passionate about.
I can't do extended traveling anymore. I can't be strapped into an airline's seat for more than a few hours. I cannot go on extreme, all-day fishing or driving trips like I used to. I can’t even go on short trips now without my wife at my side to assist me.
Changes to sexual intimacy
I can't believe that my wife still finds me attractive, but she does. Thank God for that. One of these days she will get new glasses, and I will be in trouble.
I can't take sexual intimacy for granted anymore. What used to be natural and spontaneous, is now infrequent, but maybe more special. And I can't ejaculate again, ever.
Changes to each day
I can't take any small pleasures for granted. I am grateful each morning when I open my eyes to another day, even if I have to muck out the chicken coop, or fill out medical insurance forms, or any other distasteful activity that day. At this point, it is all good.
The most important can't of them all
Here is the most important can't of them all: I can't believe I am so lucky. I can't believe that I am married to a wonderful woman, and I can't believe that I am still alive.
I take each day as a blessing and try to help other people. That is why I decided to accept a position as an advocate for ProstateCancer.net, and that is why I am writing this column.
Do you feel heard and understood by your doctor?