The Futility of Worrying About Cancer

The Futility of Worrying About Cancer

Living & Loving with Prostate Cancer
This was my sixth year of post-surgery PSA testing. Usually I take the test and have no problem waiting for my test results. For the past five years it was a peaceful, easy time. And for five years, my test results showed undetectable levels of PSA.

For the first time since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I experienced an unwelcome encounter with resistance this year. I wanted to skip my PSA test. There was no rational reason for my strong desire to throw out my lab slip and let a year or more go by before taking an ultra-sensitive PSA test.

I suspect my resistance reflected my desire to return to my pre-cancer life. I wanted to pretend there was no reason to live under the cloud of possible relapse. I discussed my resistance with my wife and the men who follow me on Facebook. It didn’t take me long to realize that nothing good would come from skipping my yearly PSA test. So last week I took my lab slip and had my blood drawn.

After the test, as I was walking to my car, I had an unwelcome encounter with worry. Here was the conversation:

Worry: Over the years you’ve celebrated your undetectable PSA lab results, but there’s really nothing to celebrate.
Me: Why is that?
Worry: Your PSA test is a look back, not forward. All you’ll know is that your PSA was undetectable in 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. There’s plenty of time for your PSA to rise in 2017. So skip the celebrating, the joy, and the relief. You’ve got three-quarters of 2017 to worry about.
Me: I don’t like the way you think. I’ve got to find a different way of looking at my situation.

The most intelligent discourse I’ve read about worry comes from Jesus, who said in Matthew 6:25-26:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I asked myself two important questions. The first was: Who do I want to believe about worrying,  my worrying self, or Jesus? The second question was: What good would worry do for me, other than make me miserable? After answering these questions, I decided I needed to take a different tack.

I’m going to celebrate no matter what my results show. If my PSA is undetectable, I’ll celebrate another year without the return of prostate cancer. If my PSA rises to a level that suggests the cancer has returned, I’ll celebrate the fact that I live in an era where early detection and treatment is available.

If you habitually worry, you become a time traveler. You leave your present-day reality to travel into the future, where your worst fears are realized. I’ve spent too much time living as a time traveler.

I’m glad I decided to wait for my test results with a willingness to celebrate whatever they are. In fact, I’m going on a vacation as I wait for the results. In the past, I would have postponed my vacation until I received them. I’ve learned it’s never too late to change the way you think as you cope with being a cancer survivor.

If worry is a constant companion, or you’ve found ways to defeat worry, I’d like to hear from you.


Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Prostate Cancer News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to prostate cancer.

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Rick Redner received his master’s degree in social work from Michigan State University. He has spent many years working as a medical and psychiatric social worker He is the author of the award winning book I Left My Prostate in San Francisco-Where's Yours? His second book Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Erectile Dysfunction and Penile Implants won the Beverly Hills International Book Awards in Men's Health in 2016. Additionally, the book was a winner in the 2017 IAN Book of the Year Awards.


  1. Richard says:

    Good for you. As you know from my updates that I’ve had PSA numbers ever since my prostatectomy 14 years ago. 12 of those years Lupron would knock them back down to almost zero. Late last year after a hip replacement and new areas of concern in my neck/lower vertebrae and new pain in pelvis where hip was done a lot of new pain. Original lesion on that femur found in 2012 probably cause of new metastasis in femur and pelvis and PSA shot up! A little disappointed, but I’ve stayed up on latest treatments and my oncologist felt I’d respond to Xtandi. Very first dose took away almost all pain and am back to living as usual. I know this too will fail at some time, but have faith and believe I can beat this with all the new treatments soon to be available. Yes, get your yearly PSA’s and know if they change you now have an arsenal at your disposal. Again, thank you and your wife for being a voice for us.

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