“Your biopsy results came back positive.” The news you feared is now out in the open. You can’t turn back the clock. You can’t deny it. You can’t wish it away. YOU HAVE PROSTATE CANCER. That surely seems like the bad news. If there’s good news, it’s that your cancer is still confined to the gland, with the highest probability of a cure.
After your mind stops racing from the initial shock, what comes next? If you’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, the road ahead morphs into a cloudy unknown. You’ll need the problem-solving skills you’ve used all your life, but a health crisis happening in your own body is surreal and disorienting.
Who can give the best advice?
As alone as you might feel, you have millions of prostate cancer brothers who have walked this walk—and survived. They know what you’re experiencing, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation has already done the work of assembling their wisdom. The Foundation reached out to members of their survivors’ group and polled them on what advice they would give to newly diagnosed patients. Once all the responses were in, they organized them into the following points, which I consider true pearls of wisdom. I have paraphrased them and added a few comments of my own in italics:
- Don’t panic! I agree that this is first and foremost. Take a deep breath and believe that time is on your side. Most prostate cancer is slow-growing and treatable, with survival rates of 98% at 10 years and 96% at 15 years. As the saying goes, most men die WITH prostate cancer, not FROM it.
- Continue to stay strong. This is a corollary of number 1. If you remain calm, you can recognize that between yourself and your loved ones, you have all the strength and resources you need.
- Use the best and most up-to-date prostate cancer research and information available to educate yourself. National prostate cancer education and awareness sites like Us Too and the American Urological Association’s patient education site Urology Health stay current. If you’re research-minded, find all the latest published study abstracts (summaries) for recent peer-reviewed clinical statistics at the National Institutes of Health’s site, pubmed, where you can enter search terms for what you’re looking for and see results from most newest to oldest. Large academic centers and universities also present easy-to-understand patient information. Our own patient blog was chosen as one of the top 10 prostate cancer blogs in the U.S., and we believe presenting research is a key element of patient education.
- Find the right prostate cancer doctor(s). This is not as obvious as it might seem. Many factors go into the “right” choice. While words like “expert” and “experienced” come to mind, less tangible traits like compassion and personality style also influence who’s right for YOU. Accessibility may also be important; traveling to the doctor and keeping appointments, plus treatment if needed can be stressful if you lack time and financial resources. It may be a balancing act to settle on the right doctor(s).
- Find the right treatments. It is essential to match the treatment to the nature of your individual prostate cancer. Today’s toolkit for developing an accurate “portrait” of your cancer may include any or all of the following: biopsy results, multiparametric MRI, biomarkers and genomic testing, and special scans to rule out metastatic activity. Again, do your research so you know the range of choices for localized cancer, from Active Surveillance to whole-gland treatment to partial gland treatment to focal treatment.
- Your journey with prostate cancer is unique to you. Yes, everyone’s road to recovery is different from everyone else’s not just because of biology. Personality, lifestyle, personal resources, psychological and emotional make-up and so much more. As you progress along the decision-making, treatment and recovery process, you will rule out what won’t work for you, and learn from others what will that you hadn’t discovered on your own. Honor your own journey.
- Join a support group or online peer discussion forum. Even if being a group member is not your style, you may be amazed how good it feels to find others who are in the midst of or have recovered from prostate cancer. It’s about identification and hope. They help you identify what’s right (or not) for you, and inspire you with hope because you can see they have transcended the issues and problems—and lived to tell the tale.
- Live your life to the fullest. Great advice!
To all of this I would add what patients have shared with me after their Focal Laser Ablation. Many have shared that their diagnosis turned out to be a gift, a wake-up call, even a blessing. Why? For them, it was a turning point toward greater health (diet, exercise), intimacy with loved ones (life is too precious to withhold love), better stress management (learning to meditate, reviewing priorities and values), getting in touch with their purpose in this life, and following their dreams.
No one wishes for prostate cancer. But if you start with number 1 (don’t panic) and stay present to the journey, it may turn out to that the cloudy unknown has a silver lining you can’t yet imagine.
NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.