The Little Things
Isn’t the saying "don’t sweat the little things?" I think this is very relevant to living with and beyond cancer. We really should try to avoid worrying about the small, inconsequential things that we can’t control.
However, it’s just not that easy to do!
Feeling drained from fatigue
Fatigue has been a massive blight on my life since my stage 4 diagnosis in May 2017. Five years on and five years of being on two forms of hormone therapy has taken its toll. I can usually deal with fatigue by exercising, but it’s a really fine line. You need to exercise to cope with fatigue, but if you overdo it it can feel like getting hit by a train.
Every time I have a busy few days, I then suffer fatigue. This might feel like one of those small things that you shouldn’t sweat, but regrettably, it has a knock on impact. When I get hit by that wall of fatigue, it leaves me feeling low, and that in turn leads to the mind wandering to places that you really don’t want to go to.
The emotional toll
An example is a very busy weekend that I had, and it left me feeling absolutely shattered. By the time Sunday evening came along, I was feeling really down so an early night was needed. But as I lay there trying to get off to sleep, my mind wandered and for once I couldn’t pull it back from the darkness. I had this vision of my 8-year-old grandson, who I dote on, visiting me to say goodbye as I lay dying in the final throes of this horrible illness.
Having seen my sister die of breast cancer, I know exactly what this looked like. It was a truly awful vision and an example of one of the little things that cancer can magnify into something far greater, if circumstances don’t allow you to pull back from the darkness.
Within 18 months of my diagnosis, I had learned how to cope with the mental side of this illness. But every now and then I find it a major challenge, especially when I’m massively fatigued, to avoid dark thoughts. Thankfully it isn’t a regular occurrence. But when people say "if you’re feeling fatigued, just have a lie down," there’s a lot more to it than that.
On a less serious note, there are a few little things that are irritants that other people not living with cancer just wouldn’t understand.
Loss of body hair means that I really feel the cold which, when you add in hot sweats, gives you this bizarre ritual of constantly adding/removing layers in order to cope. It’s hugely annoying! My hairless legs and arms make me look like I’ve deliberately shaved them!
Then the man boobs. I look at photographs of me now and think I should be wearing a trainer bra. It might only seem a little thing, but I absolutely hate it!
Then there’s the “little thing” that they don’t always warn you about: penile shrinkage! As many men experience, after a long spell on hormone therapy, loss of libido coupled with erectile dysfunction and penile shrinkage have a significant effect on you. And it's both physically and mentally, as I wrote about in my recent article about body image.
Let me ask other men in the prostate cancer community: what little things have had the most impact on you, and do you have any coping mechanisms to help deal with them?
Do you have ways of managing your mindset for big decisions?