I have decided to write this follow-up post in order to talk about a choice that prostatectomy survivors face every day. I am talking about the choice to merely survive feeling less than a man, or the choice to live life to the fullest after a prostate cancer surgery (Prostatectomy). In my opinion surviving can mean that you did not die on the operating table, or it can mean that you have stopped living life to its fullest and are only doing enough to survive. I think that at one time or another after prostate surgery every man chooses the latter and some men never recovery from that choice.
I learned the hard way about the mental game that the prostate cancer survivor must fight and win if he is to overcome what is supposed to be a couple of temporary malfunctions to what used to be his normal daily functioning. There is no way any one could have prepared me for what I would be facing emotionally due to urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, because both problems really got in the way of what I felt made me attractive to my significant other and kept her from going elsewhere for sexual pleasure. Urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction are not just physical problems; overtime they will both bring a man’s self-esteem, confidence and sexual desire to an all time low and if the survivor is not careful, he will simply give up and begin to survive. I was no different from other survivors and for a while I also gave into the fears of possible failure and allowed the pressure to perform adequately stop me from even trying. Eventually I did decide that choosing to live my life to the fullest could mean accepting that things might not get back to where they were before the prostatectomy and so learning to make the most out of life with what remains could be the only way not to slip into the dark and frightening world of the terrified, self-pitying prostatectomy survivor.
I know that after being diagnosed with prostate cancer I thought that all I had to do to beat the disease was to:
- Survive it, to somehow stop it from killing me.
- To strengthen the only sphincter that would be left me after surgery enough to regain control of the go, hold and stop mechanics of my bladder, making it unnecessary for me to have to wear depends, or any other type of protective pads for too long.
- To get my penis hard enough and for long enough to allow for penetration, so that I could satisfy myself and my significant other sexually .
I am here three years later to tell you from personal experience that cheating death, regaining control of my bladder and being able to get and maintain an erection were only the first step on my long road to recovery. The 2nd step was choosing to live life to its fullest no matter what, rather than just surviving; this is what I call winning the mental battle.
As I live and breath, I can testify that choosing to live life to its fullest and do the things that it takes to get yourself in the best possible shape for you and your significant other will not be easy, but to choose survival could cost you your future happiness and leave you trapped in a world of anger, hurt and fear; a world where self-pity stunts any chance getting better, pushes those who would seek to help away and denies any chance at real happiness.
I realised to live life to its fullest and to do what is required to achieve that goal required me to:
- Be honest with myself, my significant other and with my doctors, because if you begin to lie to yourself, it will not be long before you will be lying to your significant other and once you do that they can not possibly be expected to support you in the manner that you need, because they will be encouraging the lie that you told instead. Lying to one’s doctor about your rate of progress will result in either getting the wrong advice and treatment, or delaying the best course of actions for what is really going on, because he/she will take you at your word and be busy patting you on the back for all of your good progress instead of taking alternative steps to help you recover your continence and the sex life that you have lost .
Neither choice is easy, but only one choice leads to happiness and a sense of normalcy, closure as well as peace of mind.
I would also like to share this information with you in the hope that I can help anyone reading this who has survived prostate cancer to understand that being impatient with one’s progress to a point where one tries to force results can do more damage then good and can put unnecessary and unwanted stress that will actually hurt and slow down the healing progress. I am a survivor of prostate cancer and I can tell you that I really began to see progress when I learned to be patient, stop fooling myself into thinking that I was doing better than I was doing and followed my doctors advise.
Things I did wrong:
- After my prostatectomy I stopped wearing protective padding too soon. Although I did not have any major accidents I did leak sometimes and on occasion it got embarrassing, stained my clothing and did nothing to boost my confidence and desire to have sex.
- After my prostatectomy I stopped talking about what I was feeling and what I was going through as though I and I alone was affected by what was going on in my head. No one could support me, because I had shut everyone out. Imagine what must go through your wife’s head when after a year you are still not having sex with your her, because you have fears of having an accident, or because you fear of not being able to deliver and she has no idea, because you have closed up.
I am no doctor, I am just a survivor of prostate cancer who has had a prostatectomy and who has decided to live life to the fullest rather than just survive. I do acknowledge that everyone is not the same and we all handle these things differently. This is in no way meant to tell anyone what they must do, or how they should do it. This is simply me telling you my personal experiences and holding them up to you as a choice about what to do next on the road to getting your live back on track. I am a firm believer in what does not kill us should make us stronger and the Lord never gives us more than we can handle; so it is in this spirit that I share my ongoing fight to be a normal guy after my prostatectomy with you.