My Prostate Cancer Journey: Newbie to Advocate

Now that I consider myself as a prostate cancer veteran, I find joy in offering support to others who have fears about their disease and death.

When I was a newbie to prostate cancer, I was taken under the wing of a group of veterans who shared the ins and outs of the disease and listened compassionately to my rants fueled by fear and anxiety.

I joined this support group in the late fall of 2014, a few weeks before my prostatectomy, and I learned a lot from men who had been living with the disease for many years. They provided me with information, insight, and, most importantly, confidence that many effective treatments were available for my stage 3 prostate cancer.

I attended these monthly meetings for around eight months and looked forward to seeing these guys and hearing their voices of reassurance and support. When a new member arrived, they were given the floor for most of our hour-long meeting. We took care to listen carefully to this newcomer who sought accurate, scientific information and moral support as he told his unique story.

One new member introduced himself as a three-year prostate cancer survivor who shared his diagnosis and treatment history. He seemed rather matter-of-fact in relaying all these intimate details to us, until he reached the part of the story where the doctors had given him just months to live. They had tried every available treatment and, unfortunately, the cancer had spread much too far for too long and now he faced the end of life.

“They told me to just go on home,” he said. “They said I should get my final affairs together. Thing is, I don’t feel that ill. I don’t feel like a terminal patient.”

He then let out a big sigh and the room was filled with intense silence. All eyes and hearts were directed toward this fellow patient who had tried everything, but now faced a brutal truth. It seemed so impossible that a man who looked to be in the pique of good health could, in reality, be dying.

I was thunderstruck by this gentle man whose life would soon be over. I began to see myself in his place in the not-too-distant future, since my disease was stage 3 and worried incessantly that I would move to the final stage of the disease.

I worried that the radiation and hormone treatment therapies that I was then undergoing would prove to be inadequate. I wondered, “Would I also be told to go home and put my affairs in order?”

Hearing him speak that night caused me to recoil in horror, and I obsessed about the worst-case scenarios of being a cancer patient.

After the meeting, I left feeling distraught and depressed, barely remembering how I even got home. I then decided to drop out of the group so that I would neveragain be forced to hear another story so grim and devastating as his.

As the years flew by, thankfully my treatments were effective, and I was not told that my days were numbered. I am grateful for my providers and the treatments they chose for me. I know that I could have been that very same man, if my disease had not been caught in time or that my treatments had not hit the mark.

I was humbled by the experience and have since rejoined the support group, which was a joyful homecoming indeed.

Now, I am one of those voices of experience, with reassuring words and a compassionate heart,who listens to a man who is freshly diagnosed and talking non-stop about his fears of sickness and death.

I am one of those who helps and supports the newcomers leaning on the veterans.

I am one of those who finds joy and fulfillment in paying it forward.

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