As a patient, I feel for anyone who is given a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Hearing the “Big-C” word can be upsetting enough. But the complexity of the disease—diagnosing it, trying to characterize it and selecting the appropriate treatment—can feel like insult upon injury. We need to talk about prostate cancers. With 24 known sub-types of this cancer—from non-life-threatening to very aggressive—it’s no wonder so much time is expended on debating PSA screening and the potential for overtreatment.
While debates continue, more than 32,000 American men die from this disease each year, placing it on par with breast cancer in incidence and mortality.
Oddly, I still contend that when I was diagnosed last year, I was “lucky” enough to have clear diagnostic and prognostic data to inform my decision to have a radical prostatectomy, despite potential side effects . My PSA had nearly doubled in a year’s time. As my urologist reviewed my biopsy results, the extent of the cancer’s involvement in my walnut-sized gland and my Gleason scores, I knew where I was headed. He dutifully began sketching out all treatment options currently available to patients when I told him to stop and move to the top two options. He gave me a dubious look before I shared with him that I had learned much about the disease in two years of working at the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
I was lucky once again when my surgeon’s professional instincts prompted him to remove some of my lower lymph nodes during my robotic procedure, something that’s not always done. The post-surgical pathology report upgraded my diagnosis to Stage 4 metastatic disease with single Gleason 5 cells discovered in the nodes. (Not exactly the kind of upgrades I am accustomed to in my life…) As a result, I headed into seven weeks of radiation therapy and three years of androgen deprivation therapy—a palliative treatment that drastically cuts my production of testosterone, a fuel for prostate cancer growth and proliferation. Today, I have a 60 percent chance that I will have to live with recurrent disease. I look forward without second guessing.
Not all patients have such clarity. Through My New York Minute, I meet many readers who are confused by the complexity of this disease. As a fellow patient who also works for world’s leading private accelerator of prostate cancer research, I remind them:
Science will someday, sooner than later, enable us to identify which prostate cancer a patient has and prescribe highly personalized treatments that will work best for their case. Until then, an in-depth understanding of the disease and the advice of a trusted healthcare professional remain the best tools for making treatment decisions with confidence.From: http://mynewyorkminute.org/?p=1242&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MyNewYorkMinute+%28My+New+York+Minute%29
Those who have been touched by cancer–patient or family member–are compelled to do a lot of thinking. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know I’ve done a fair share of my own during the past six months. Recently, while navigating to and from my daily radiation sessions, I have had time to make a mental inventory of what I have learned as a cancer patient.
Here are my personal lessons:
1. No matter where you stand in your diagnosis, Stage 4 or Stage 1, living with prostate cancer can sometimes suck…, but, it certainly beats the alternative. No one invited this unwanted guest to our party, but we’ll deal with it. I’d rather enjoy the celebration with a few challenges than to have missed the party.
2. I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of missing those I love and being there for them. No, I am not being morbid. This is a simple realization and important distinction I plan to carry with me for the rest of my life. I suppose my faith and spiritual foundation are stronger than I might have guessed. If I am wrong on what might come next, the only downside I can see is a nice long sleep. However, it’s the idea of not being with those I know and love and sharing with them that gives me pause. The solution to this quandary is to at least try and do my best for them everyday of my life. Simple, yes. However, I would never have seen it with such clarity otherwise.
3. While cancer shouldn’t define me, it remains an undeniable part of who I have become. This disease has imparted an influence that will forever be a part of my existence. (Heck, some marriages don’t last six months…) I won’t annul myself from this part of my life. I will continue to acknowledge it and talk about it whenever I feel the need. I will also listen to any fellow patient or family member when they need an ear.
4. People aren’t comfortable with cancer until you are. They can’t offer compassion when you need it until you ask for it–if that’s what you need. If the “C” word paralyzes patients, I believe the effect on others can be ten-fold. Some stutter or stammer. Others fall into awkward silence. Worse yet, some may choose to deny there is anything wrong with you. As the central player in the film, a cancer patient needs to let others know what he or she is going through and how much or little discussion they need. To not do so risks isolation by default.
5. Women in menopause deserve a medal of honor. New to this whole man-o-pause thing, I don’t know how our sisters in humanity have dealt so admirably with this phenomenon throughout the ages. Add it to the whole “Super-mom” set of expectations that our generation has imposed on many women and it’s a mystery millions haven’t already combusted instantaneously–hot flashes or not.
6. Using the term “survivor” is a personal choice. I have met some former cancer patients who refuse to assume this distinction. It’s often applied to any patient who is currently battling the disease. That’s okay too. In my mind I do not yet qualify for the title. In five years, when I hear the words “cancer-free” applied to me, I will gladly accept it. I will have earned it. As I said, it’s a personal thing.
7. Silver linings and lemonade from lemons do exist. This might sound hackneyed, but I have certainly found my share of linings and enjoyed a great many glasses of refreshing lemonade along the way. I think having cancer just has a way of letting you see things differently and you can find these blessings more easily.
8. The world is a better place than the evening news leads you to believe. Working with compassionate care givers, feeling the love and hearing the concern of friends and family, and meeting so many others in the same position as me has reminded me that there are more good and wonderful people in this world than not. It’s easy to forget when we live life in status quo mode.
9. LST (Laughter Stimulation Therapy) should be standard for all patients regardless of their ailment. I love to laugh. I always knew this about myself, but the upside of hormone therapy is when the mood swing defaults to the hysterical. I have had several wonderfully out-of-control laughing jags in the past few weeks. I hope to never lose these and appreciate the endorphins they release.
10. Modesty and privacy are highly overrated. In the past six months I have had my private parts poked, prodded, tugged, removed, sliced, swabbed, injected, inserted with things–even clamped…YES, CLAMPED, all in view of numerous medical professionals. Yes, it takes some getting used to, but if giving up some privacy will allow me to grow old and someday share some golden retirement days with my wife and family, have at it. Groping for a cure–I’m all for it.
From the blog “My New York Minute” – http://mynewyorkminute.org/?p=743
Recommended by the American Cancer Society to bring comfort and to improve the quality of life for cancer patients, massage therapy has been added to integrative oncology programs at many cancer treatment centers. To enable cancer patients to minimize the negative effects of cancer treatment, massage therapy can help relax and soothe the body. Physicians and trained massage therapists provide patients with the facts about the potential advantages of massage therapy, which include:
A variety of massage techniques are used, from therapeutic touch to neuromuscular massage.
A light, subtle form of touch therapy designed to completely relax the body and mind. Therapeutic touch involves work with the hands on or off the body depending on the goal of the session. Typically admired for its centering properties, this modality has also been to shown to reduce many negative side effects that are associated with treatment and improve overall sense of well-being.
Methods can be performed either seated or lying down and can include breathing exercises, light joint movements and visualization techniques. Loose, comfortable clothing is encouraged. Treatments times range from fifteen to an hour and a half depending on your specific treatment plan.
A passive form of therapy, Gentle Stretching (light joint movements), can incorporate the necessary techniques to improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, chronic pain and stress relief.
Performed either seated or lying down, clients are encouraged to completely relax while specific areas of the body are stretched lightly. Each session can include passive stretching and gentle yoga modalities combined with deep breathing exercises, positive visualization and helpful relaxation tools to carry into everyday life.
Based on ancient techniques, Reflexology is a system of trigger points on the feet that are individually correlated to other areas of the body. Treatments provide relaxing effects for enhanced periods of time and are gentle in nature. This form of therapy is often mistaken for a foot massage but, Reflexology is genuinely designed to detoxify individual areas of the body, cleanse the lymphatic system and calm the mind.
Each session can be performed in twenty to forty five minute intervals with patients either seated or in a reclining position.
Swedish massage is one of the most gentle forms of therapeutic touch. It involves light manipulation of the superficial muscle layers that provides an overall state of relaxation to the mind and body. Using gentle pressure, in long, fluid strokes it allows for muscle tension to be released and generates improved health and well-being.
This massage technique is the most common and special considerations are taken to ensure that your therapy session is not only safe but structured in conjunction with your physician’s current treatment plan. Treatments are offered in increments of five minutes to an hour and a half depending on your realistic and desired goals.
Lymphatic Massage is a subtle form of touch that is designed to aid the Lymphatic System and boost immunity. It is performed using fingertip pressure in slow, soft circular movements. Based on the flow of the lymph system, lymphatic massage can have peaceful, relaxing benefits that enhance the healing process.
Closely adhering to your physician’s and personal guidelines, your Oncology Massage Therapist is dedicated to providing a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere. This technique is a natural compliment to current conventional treatment, turning release into positive experience.
Sessions are fifteen to sixty minutes, performed on separate segments of the body individually and applied in a systematic series.
Based on Trigger Point Therapy, NMT is designed specifically for pain relief and releasing areas of chronic muscle tension. The therapist uses thumb pressure to actively relax and reset muscles therefore improving overall posture and enhanced self awareness.
Often mistaken for Deep Tissue Massage, NMT is a more effective, less intense and has the ability to reduce many systems associated with treatment.
Hand in hand with your doctor, you NMT Oncology therapist can provide sessions of fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. Specific areas of the body are treated individually each session or as a whole depending on your treatment goals.
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Also known as RC Cancer Centers.