a man standing in the desert with a storm coming on the horizon

The New Normal?

Lao Tzu wrote that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - but what if we don’t want to make that journey in the first place? A cancer diagnosis is often described as the start of a journey, but it’s a journey into the unknown, thrusting those who make it into painful knowledge that strikes right into our desire to be seen as a person with the power to define our life’s direction. Now that diagnosis is taking away that control and often making us feel us that we are just an object for the medical professionals on which to practice their skills.

How do we retain a sense of control over our destiny and become an equal partner in navigating treatment and so retain a sense of dignity during what can be both mentally and physically most undignified?

Embracing a new phase of life

A prostate cancer diagnosis typically comes as we men are already facing up to the fact that we are not the lithe, agile, and virile young men that we had once been. Many of us are already in mourning for the times when we had boundless energy, speed, and physical resilience so the sudden news that a component is now not only faulty but potentially threatening our life isn’t tough, it’s brutal.

My perspective is that we have first to accept the end of the chapter that was our early middle age. Identify the successes that came in that period and recognize and celebrate them, but don’t dwell on the mistakes - we are all human. A new era isn’t automatically a bad one, it’s just a different one, even if it opens with a bad piece of news. As younger men, we often met a new challenge with brute force - that nut that wouldn’t turn - use a longer wrench, that girl that wouldn’t notice us, be even bolder and daring.

We must find ways to support each other

As we’ve matured we’ve probably found ways of working smarter, not harder - achieving the same result or even better but with less sweat. At a time of great difficulty, we can draw on that greater insight and thus apply ourselves to the many issues that cancer poses to us. Much of what we need to do is gather data about our surroundings, our allies, and our possible routes. At a time when many would rather go into denial, we need to be at our most communicative. We must seek out information from people we can trust, cross-check it and build a map to guide us on this new journey.

The hard moments will pass

With the map in place, we can hope that while we will still have fears we do now have information and with luck people who can support us on the route, we have already started to take. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find it tough, there will be moments of huge challenge, massive self-doubt, and great worry. But they will pass. The journey can be made. Be ready to take that first step. Let’s hope the journey is less than a thousand miles.

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