You Have Been Diagnosed – Now What?
As survivors, we often spend time talking about how we might deal with the reality of...or the potential for...developing advancing prostate cancer after initial treatment.
That got me thinking that it might be helpful for the newly diagnosed guys visiting this site if we took some time to think back to when we were first diagnosed.
There is no training manual for cancer
According to national statistics, about 40% of Americans will face some form of cancer during their lifetime.1 While lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men, prostate cancer is no slouch and comes in at a strong #2.2
When you are initially told you have prostate cancer, a feeling of complete shock comes over you and can last many hours. In my case, the impact lasted a few days. And while I wanted to crawl under a rock or never get out of bed again, life was still happening around me and needed my attention. My dog needed to be walked, I had a job and meals needed to be made. There is no training manual to follow with a prostate cancer diagnosis. The only option left to me was to calm the many voices in my head.
Accepting this roller coaster ride
First, I had to realize this was going to be a roller coaster ride and I would experience many reactions from anger and disbelief to fear and more. Second, I learned not to hold back my feelings. Doing so created more stress. Stress causes inflammation and that does not help when you're trying to fight this disease. Third, I had to accept my past good health status was now history. I needed to adjust to a new reality.
Take control of your treatment plan
After receiving an initial diagnosis, the stress you face messes up your memory and your concentration. For that reason, I always suggest that guys write down a list of questions before discussing possible treatment options with your MD. If possible, bring someone with you. Some doctors will let you record notes or the meeting with your cell phone.
It is important to remember that your new cancer treatment specialist does not know you. For the best outcome, your office visit should be a two-way street. He will explain treatment options then you need to tell him your concerns including asking about quality of life issues following treatment.
Remember...ask for a second opinion
Prostate cancer can be a slow-moving cancer, so you have time to ask for a second opinion. If your physician does not feel comfortable with that, find a new doctor. During this entire process, it is critical to keep and organized all your records. Always make sure that you have all the results of your tests along with any notes taken during your face to face meeting.
Depending upon the extent of your treatments you may want to speak with a financial counselor or even a social worker at your doctor's office. It is quite possible you may see some high costs. My radiation treatment was well over $125,000. Ask as there may be programs you qualify for.
Surround yourself with those who support you
Next, figure out who you want to confide in and how much you want to share. In addition to family members, I surrounded myself with close friends. It is also good for me to get involved with a local education and support group and to be online with ProstateCancer.net.
Personally, I meet with prostate cancer survivors monthly to discuss the latest developments in prostate cancer research and treatments. We invite surgeons and researchers to come in and tell us about what they are seeing for future prostate cancer treatments. Anyone can attend our meetings and attendees range from survivors and newly diagnosed to the partners of men who may just need to ask questions.
Be kind to yourself
If you have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer -- give yourself a break. Stop trying to figure out what you did wrong or how you got this disease. Better to establish some routines in your life. Eat healthily, get sleep, and do whatever exercise you can do even if it is just walking around the block.
Stay focused and informed
A cancer diagnosis is not a one-time event. It is likely your life will be changed. That said I have met many prostate cancer survivors who say that many of the changes have been positive. Often a diagnosis can open eyes to new possibilities and new ways of looking at life. Prostate cancer can be slow-moving and treated. It's important to realize that you can live with this or even beat it with proper care and treatment. Keep yourself informed, get checked on a regular basis.
So, if you have been recently diagnosed take a deep breath...hang in there...you will get through this.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?