Mental Challenges Of Dealing With Comorbidity

Comorbidity. I only became aware of this unpleasant word a couple of years ago. It is defined as “the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient.” I have prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

My recent revelation

While talking to a member of the Health Union team about Parkinson’s, I felt something akin to a light bulb moment about my prostate cancer. Have I been in denial, apathetic, or just ignoring it as I dealt with Parkinson’s?

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s just over five years ago and prostate cancer three years ago. For the last three years, I have been very active in the Parkinson’s community. I have done little for myself and nothing for the prostate cancer community in the last three years. The thing that is probably going to get me I have ignored. What is that about? I have cancer. Shouldn’t I be doing something about it besides just the meds?

Explaining my denial

My denial explanation goes something like this. I feel good. My radiation treatments were 1 and 3 years ago with no side effects. I have no side effects from my meds and a 0.00 PSA for 14 months. When you feel good the hidden creep inside your body is not so scary. That being said I accept the fact that the creepy thing is still there.

I don’t think I am apathetic about the prostate cancer.

Maybe it is a form of denial, but I live an intensely active life with Parkinson’s self-care and community activities. I wonder, does my activity with Parkinson’s help with the emotional strain of prostate cancer. I am physically, mentally, and socially busy. I think I have become so immersed in one chronic situation that I have put the other on hold.

Diving into exercise

There is increasing evidence in the Parkinson’s community that daily and intense exercise will slow the progression. I have bought into the exercise program as I exercise two to three hours every day. Could this program help the body fight cancer and help the drugs work more efficiently. My oncologist (whose brother has Parkinson’s) says, “exercise has a positive effect. You look as stable as anybody could in your condition.”

I believe the exercise program helps keep the emotional stress at bay. Right now about the only time I have any anxiety is that monthly 24 hour period when blood is drawn until I get the PSA result.

Who knows the value of exercise? What I do know is this. It hasn’t done any harm. I suggest that everybody in the boat exercise to the end of their capabilities.

What I've learned so far

I have been told I have had horrible luck.  Hell, I think I have had good luck. I see what others with prostate cancer and Parkinson’s are going through. I am one of the lucky ones.

I have to take what has been handed to me and try to convert it into something good. At the very least I must push what is wrong out of the spotlight and refocus on the positive. I live in the real world and I’m keenly aware of how I could end up. I find that no pain, the slow progression of Parkinson’s, exercise, socialization, and a low PSA are my mind’s great stay against a possible awful ending. The goodness of time passing enables me to be comfortable. It is a kind of optimistic realism.

I am strongly aware of my cancer and have started to immerse myself as I have done with Parkinson’s. There is more. What do they call it when one has more than two chronic conditions? Multimorbidity. I have more but that’s another story.

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