Conquering Relentless Regret: Ditch the ‘If Onlys’

Conquering Relentless Regret: Ditch the ‘If Onlys’

Living & Loving with Prostate Cancer
Regret involves a trip back in time to an action, an event, or a decision that had life-altering and unwanted consequences. Each of us has our share of regrets. How we think about our individual regrets will either condemn or redeem us. What I’m about to share was a regret that I allowed to torture me for years.

After my biopsy, there was a six-week waiting time to heal before my prostate surgery. I spent most of those six weeks wondering whether I was going to live long enough to see the beginning of a new year. I went on a prostate cancer forum and posed the following: “To Vacation or Not to Vacation, that is the question.” I considered taking time off from work in order to enjoy a romantic vacation with my wife.

A man wrote back suggesting that I’d be too anxious to enjoy my vacation. He suggested I postpone the romantic vacation until after my surgery. This made perfect sense, so I followed his advice.

The trip we took after my surgery was awful. I was suffering from urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. I was leaking urine so badly that I was changing my diaper 15 times a day. I was so depressed about the quality of my life, I spent the majority our “romantic vacation” wishing I’d died during surgery. I didn’t have a single romantic thought, or deed, occur during our entire time away.

I began experiencing a profound loss and regret that I missed the opportunity to enjoy a romantic vacation with my wife when all of my body parts were functioning properly. Those days were gone forever.

For the next four years, I kicked myself at least once a day, sometimes more. The phrase “if only” became my mantra. The phrase “if only” bound me to the past in a destructive way. There was no opportunity for a re-do. My sex life as I knew it was gone, and it wasn’t coming back.

There was no way to redeem what I’d lost. I made a stupid, foolish, selfish, decision that I’d have to live with for the rest of my life. I tortured myself day after day, week after week, and year after year. This type of condemning and harsh look backward is the kind of unhealthy regret that can rob you of your capacity to enjoy life in the moment.

In the movie Oliver, a thief named Fagin sings a song entitled “Reviewing the Situation,” in which he reviews his life. Here are few verses from that song:

Can a fellow be a villain all his life?
All the trials and tribulations!
Better settle down and get myself a wife.

As the song goes on, he humorously reviews the consequences of his past, present and future decisions. Asking yourself healthy questions is the starting point to redeem your regret. In my situation, I asked myself what type of romantic trips, experiences and memories do I want to create now.

I came to realize that now is the only time we can redeem our “if onlys.” Getting stuck in the past, or wishing for a different future, is a total waste of time and energy.

My wife and I created many positive romantic memories before and after my penile implant surgery. Today I’m living without regrets; so can you.

If you’ve conquered one of your “if onlys” please share how you did it.


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.

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