have a confession to make. I’m not the same person I was a year ago.
In some ways I’m more.
In some ways I’m less.
Cancer does that to you.
For those who have followed my progress since the beginning, an update probably is appropriate.
Physically, I feel fine. People say I look great. I recovered fully from surgery and have been back at work full time for quite a while.
Currently, I’m going through radiation therapy to kill the enemy for good. But with cancer, it’s never that simple.
There are so many aspects to this disease that doctors can’t write down on a chart.
There are no boxes to check for things like hope, fear, melancholy, hate, courage, despair, panic, guilt or rage.
These are some of the ethereal emotions cancer patients deal with daily. Things they keep hidden under bandages and wigs. Things they see in other patients’ eyes when passing in the hospital hallways.
Fortunately, I tend to be positive.
The more you lay on me, the strong-er I get. I’ve dealt with things like alcoholism, bankruptcy and divorce, and survived. Somehow.
Prostate cancer is a Johnny-come-lately in this journey called life. But it’s the only one that’s threatened to kill me.
There’s something unnerving about a disease you didn’t do anything to deserve. If you’d eaten a poison apple or gone swimming in a polluted river or lived next to a toxic dump, you might understand the consequences.
But cancer is so indiscriminate, so irrational, so irreverent when it comes to the who and the where and the when.
The struggle, therefore, is maintaining a tough mental attitude. Some do it with prayer. Others with positive thinking.
Both methods keep a smile on your face and hope in your heart.
But behind the smiles and happy faces, cancer complicates things by creating some real life-changing issues.
My fellow man
The dirty, rotten aftereffects from prostate surgery are incontinence and impotence.
Every man who has been down this road knows what I’m talking about. But they don’t talk about it.
I was among the lucky ones. I had no problem with incontinence. I never had to wear a diaper. I feel completely confident.
Other men are not so fortunate. Persistent problems are frustrating. They withdraw. They hide. They fume.
While incontinence is not a problem for me, impotence might be.
They say it can take a year (or two) if the nerves are going to recover. “If” is the big word in that sentence. I’ve been through the medication therapies (Viagra and Levitra). My doctor says to be patient. Nerves take time.
But he’s not the one lying in bed at night, rolling over and hoping tomorrow will be the day.
I’m pleased, however, to tell my fellow man (and the woman who loves him) that there’s hope.
I’ve experimented with what I call the “injection erection” and it works. A tiny shot can create a positive reaction. While it’s not what you knew as a young man, it’s better than nothing until something better comes along.
That said, if cancer doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger, better.
Personally, I think I’m more tolerant, more patient, more giving and more understanding than a year ago.
I’ve learned to recognize the pain behind a smiling face. I’ve learned to appreciate the depth of human kindness. I’ve come to know humility on a personal level.
I now understand the need to stop and visit. The value of a kiss on the cheek. The importance of holding someone’s hand. Even if they’re asleep.
More or less.
Next week: The caregivers.