I’ve got cancer.
People don't often say, "I've got cancer" do they?
Some feel it’s information better kept to close friends and family.
Sometimes they're not ready to talk about it.
Or they're afraid that other people will act different towards them.
They think other people may not want to be near them.
Saying the words out loud makes the cancer feel more "real."
They don't want others to feel sorry for them or change how they treat them.
For many of you, we have had a connection that in some cases goes back 15 years or more. So, I could see real benefits to you (hang in there - I'll get back to this) if I levelled with you:
OK, you ready? . . . . I've got cancer.
There, I've said it.
Now, I know this is a touchy subject. Some folk have lost close friends and family members to cancer. So, it's pretty raw.
I completely understand if you quit reading now, delete this message or get off this post.
To most of us, cancer reminds us that every one of us is mortal. We link the word ‘cancer’ to the word ‘terminal’ and think about the end of life.
My cancer journey (so far).
Half (yes half) of all men in their 60's have prostate enlargement or BPH.
Symptoms of BPH are, more frequent bathroom trips during the night or restricted flow. In my case, urine backing up to damage the kidneys - not good.
So, it's a partial plumbing blockage that needs to be fixed. (I put that comment in for all my plumber mates who are familiar with 'blockages'.)
The urologist I went to, is a busy man. He might do 15 're-bores' in his day's surgery each week. (At $3,500 each - it's not a bad day’s earnings is it?)
The TURP procedure is a common operation. (Google it – For those of you with a strong stomach, there's even a YouTube video of it!
It's also invasive and I took all the 4-6 weeks to 'have things back to normal' (well, almost).
Every TURP procedure involves a sample being sent to pathology to check for any 'nasties'.
At the end of my follow up appointment a week later, with his questionable bedside manner, the surgeon said,
"Oh, by the way, we found cancer."
Now, to him it was 'all in a day's work'. It was almost a 'throwaway line'.
To me, those three words were life changing -
"We found cancer" .
He continued . . . "It's graded as Gleeson Stage 6, so I recommend 'watching and waiting'. Come back in 6 months with a new PSA blood test and we'll do a biopsy.
See my receptionist on the way out to book your appointment. Bye. "
He may as well have spoken to me in a foreign language for all that meant to me.
Sure, I knew every man over 45 should have his prostate function (PSA) checked every year as part of an annual check-up.
Fact: In the most recent annual survey, 2600 women died of breast cancer, but 3300 men died of prostate cancer (yes, it's higher than breast cancer) - but nobody talks about it.
I also knew that, with a history of prostate cancer in my family, I had a higher than average chance of getting PC.
I still hadn't connected the dots and had not considered that my healthy body could be under attack.
Why am I telling you all this?
Do I want to scare you? No. (Well, to be honest, I want to scare you enough to get your PSA checked every year. Is that OK?)
Do I want to get your sympathy? No, I don't need that either.
I'm telling you this, so that you might sit up and take notice.
Some of what I am about to say may offend you. I'm sorry for the offence, but not if it makes you take stock of the rest of your life (and the life to come).
Sometimes we all need a wakeup call.
We need something or somebody to nudge us . . . to 'stop and think'.
How did I feel when told I had cancer?
Coming out of the surgeon's room I felt numb. I felt fragile. My mortality was pressing in on me. I . . . could . . . die.
Of course, my first thought could have been "I'm going to fight this thing"
"I should rid myself of this threat."
My wonderful wife's first reaction was to say, "Why don't you just have your prostate out and move on?" i.e. Get rid of the problem.
A fair suggestion, wouldn't you think?
On the surface it seemed reasonable.
What could go wrong?
Well, after some research, it seems a lot could go wrong down the track.
The potential impact of life changing side effects made me pause. I stopped and considered what my life might feel like for the next 30 years (I still consider myself a young man ;-) .
Shameless Plug: I am now a big supporter of Prostate Support Groups. Contact with other men with Prostate Cancer has been invaluable to me. (Now don't forget their wives - this is a journey for them too)
Did I panic when I got 'the bad news'?
No. I didn't.
You may ask, "Why not".
Well, those who have known me for any length of time know that I know I am guaranteed a place in Heaven.
That sounds presumptuous doesn't it?
How could I say that? How could anybody say that?
Well, it's not because I've been good (Heaven knows I haven't).
Heaven is no place for 'good' people.
Heaven is a place for forgiven, bad people. They're forgiven by the one person who came back from the dead to tell us about it - Jesus Christ.
No doubt you've seen the signs at football games with 'John 3:16' on them. Well, this is what it says:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
Yes, I have had a fresh start. You can too.
Back to my journey:
Then all the 'What ifs' jumped up to grab my attention:
How might my work or business carry on without me?
1. Have I written down the steps I take to get each of the mundane parts of my job done?
2. Have I written down the things to do with marketing successfully, cash flow policies and how I handle new business inquires . . . all those things that are currently in my head only?
3. How much money must stay in the business for it to handle usual the ups and downs of the business world?
4. What principles and practices might somebody else need to know, if I am taken off to hospital. (If they're written down, they can form the backbone of your Policy and Procedures manuals. )
Now, the biggy . . .
What would I miss out on in my family, if I died earlier than expected?
Depending on the age of your children and the dreams you and your wife have. Your answers might be different to mine.
In my case, seeing my eleven grandchildren (yes, eleven) grow up and make wise life decisions, is important to me.
The main thing is to keep to the main thing!
I never to put my head on my pillow at night without having told my wife "I love you". Why?
Well, the day will surely come when I won't be around to say it.
When informed that I have cancer, another of the things that went through my mind was 'Who should I apologise to?'
We hurt people around us (sometimes without knowing it). If I am forgiven all my past (given a clean slate), then who should I ask forgiveness from and say sorry to?
As males, we sometimes feel uncomfortable about talking.
What things have we as a men, failed to say to those we love the most? What do we not want left 'unfinished', were we not to be around any more?
We men are often the last ones to tell people how we appreciate them. We need to take courage from realising that we are mortal and 'just say it!'
For me, I want to write to a few people I love and tell them why. As you can see from this message, I prefer to write than speak.
If I were not here, have I left my wife well provided for?
With some awkwardness, I had to say to my wonderful wife recently, "Do you feel that I have provided well enough for you in the event of me dying before you?"
Her answer gave me a window into how she felt about a subject we never had discussed.
I'm glad I asked.
I know you usually expect me to make something funny to make it stick in your memory. But this subject is no laughing matter.
If you have stayed with me to this point, thank you for hearing me out.
Please take to heart what I've said.
You may never get another person you trust to tell you these things.
I'm sure you'll agree - they matter.
Yes I have cancer. I have no idea what lies in the future, but I'm so glad I know the One who does.
Till next time (and there will be a next time),
I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.