When life goes along smoothly, it is easy to take for granted things like material comfort, physical and mental health, and the safety of our loved ones and ourselves. However, life has a way of surprising us with unforeseen unpleasantness. Illness, especially cancer, shakes us out of our comfort zone and thrusts us into unfamiliar territory.
As I see it, problem solving occurs over five phases:
- Immediate situation (crisis phase)
- Gathering information an resources (fact finding phase)
- Making a plan (decision phase)
- Putting the plan into action (implementation phase)
- Living with the outcome (accommodation phase)
I remember reading an article about how well patients adjust to the side effects of whole gland treatments for prostate cancer (radical prostatectomy and external beam radiation). It seems that most patients who choose one of these treatments do so because they believe it gives them the greatest chance of “getting the cancer out of my body.” They understand that both forms come with a risk of short term, longer term, or permanent side effects that can lessen their quality of life, and they implicitly or explicitly agree to these risks. If or when side effects occur, they essentially become philosophical or stoical about the situation. This allows them to sublimate any anger, disappointment or betrayal they may experience. Thus, they find ways to cope, with or without medical intervention, and life goes on differently than before treatment. This is the accommodation phase, and those who have a positive attitude may even find ways to make lemonade out of lemons. For example, couples who are affected by post-treatment impotence may find that facing the challenge of exploring new ways to be intimate may experience improved communication and closeness.
Not everyone, however, bounces back. Many books and articles address the fact of lowered self esteem, depression, discouragement, embarrassment, shame and poor self image that can afflict men facing weeks, months, or possibly years of reduced activities because of incontinence. Many men or their partners avoid sex because erectile dysfunction imposes too many obstacles. It is tragic that men would face these risks as a result of their honest desire to “get the cancer out of my body.” It is very difficult to accommodate to the reality of the life style consequences, even when the patient intellectually acknowledged they could happen.
At the Sperling Prostate Center, we continually strive to improve our protocols of detection (3T multiparametric MRI), diagnosis (MRI-targeted biopsy) and focal treatment with the goal of eradicating cancer without sacrificing lifestyle. A man’s lifestyle reflects how he sees and feels about himself. Freedom, spontaneity, passion, confidence, self expression—these and more should not be tradeoffs for dealing with prostate cancer, a disease that affects 1 out of 6 men. When detected early, the disease is curable and lifestyle is preservable. If you or a loved one is at risk for prostate cancer, learn more about the options we offer by visiting sperlingprostatecenter.com. We know the importance of keeping the lifestyle you value most.