What Would I Say to My Newly-Diagnosed Self?
In 2018 when I was diagnosed with stage IIIC prostate cancer, it was a shock to my system. My life trajectory and plans were instantly derailed. After my urologist gave me the bad news, I walked out of his office in a fog. I was certain that the end was near at hand, and my life began to unravel.
In the weeks following the diagnosis, I became depressed, unmotivated at work, and not attentive to my family. I also began to drink too much, and my self-esteem plummeted. I was a detriment to myself, to my family, and to society at large.
How I wish I could go back in time to the many crossroads in my life and give myself some advice. What if I could go back to when I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer? What would I say to myself?
What I would tell myself
The first thing I would have told myself is to calm down, and pull yourself together. In most cases, prostate cancer is slow growing and you still have plenty of time left.
Would I have listened? Maybe not, but there are lot of other things I would have had to say.
Don’t make rash decisions
The next thing I would have said to myself is not to panic, and don’t make hasty decisions about your treatment options.
There are many factors to think about when considering treatments for prostate cancer. Some treatments are new, some may not be appropriate for your condition, some may not be covered by your medical insurance, etc. While the efficacy of these treatments is of prime importance, also carefully consider the side effects and recovery procedures of each treatment. Learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
Before you make a treatment decision, I think it is important to investigate how others fared with each type of treatment. The archives of ProstateCancer.net are full of firsthand accounts of how these treatment options played out. I found these accounts much more detailed and revealing than what I heard from the doctors. Most of the stories on ProstateCancer.net about treatments and recovery were encouraging, while a few were not. So I would have recommended that I review the experiences of others before making a treatment decision.
You are not alone
After my cancer diagnosis, I felt I was on a lonely road to oblivion. Had I the opportunity, I would have encouraged myself to reach out to others in the same predicament. I would have discovered an existing support network of other men living with prostate cancer.
If you are facing a similar dilemma, your oncologist or counselor may be able to point you to support groups for men with cancer. For me the most important group, by far, was the cadre of people I met on a fly fishing retreat I went to for men with cancer; it was run by Reel Recovery, and this retreat changed my life for the better.
Adjust your priorities and make a difference
I would have urged myself to take care of myself, regain my self-respect, stop drinking, start appreciating this gift of life, and treat your family with reverence (they were my rock during my treatment). Adjust your priorities, I would have urged myself; work and career are less important than your family and your health.
It is not clear how much time I have left, but now I treat every day as a blessing. I greet the sun every morning with a thank you for giving me another day of this precious life.
Do you have ways of managing your mindset for big decisions?