To Cope with Cancer, a Journey Back Can Help You Move Forward

To Cope with Cancer, a Journey Back Can Help You Move Forward

Living & Loving with Prostate Cancer

Sometimes going backward is the path forward. After a prostatectomy, most men live with urinary incontinence. After regaining urinary control, I still leaked if I had to bend, sneeze, laugh, cough or lift anything heavy.

I’ll never forget how happy I was when I graduated from diapers to pads. At the time, I believed I’d easily adjust to using a single pad for the entire day. It wasn’t the first or last time I’ve said things to myself that turned out to be wrong.

With the benefit of hindsight, I never believed I’d be living with a pad for the rest of my life. I thought pads were one more temporary phase leading me toward regaining total control and a pad-free life. I spent 18 months living with pads, and I experienced my share of discouraging days.

The first day I ventured to work without a pad was a memorable one. I went to the bathroom before leaving the house, as I didn’t want anything to go wrong during my five-minute commute to work. I made it to the parking lot, opened my door, and stepped out of my car. Then I suddenly sneezed. Immediately I felt a surge of moisture in my underwear.

I walked directly from the parking lot to the bathroom to inspect the damage. Sure enough, there was a wet spot in my underwear. I’d just received the results of my experiment.

When I left for work that day, I wanted to see how long I could go without leaking. I discovered I couldn’t stay dry long enough to make into the building where I worked. That certainly was not the answer I hoped for.

As I processed the results of my experiment and their implications for my life, I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction. In the bathroom, looking at the wet spot on my underwear, I began to laugh out loud. The idea that I couldn’t stay dry long enough to take one step into the building struck me as outrageously hilarious. Then I experienced a wave of relief.

This was the first time in my life, I’d laughed about losing urinary control and wetting my underwear. My ability to laugh at this circumstance brought about an amazing psychological healing.

Ironically, as I wrote this last paragraph I experienced déjà vu. Currently, I’m dealing with bronchitis, which means  I’m coughing a lot. While writing the last paragraph, I coughed and leaked urine on my pajamas.

Since I wasn’t wearing a pad, there is a familiar wet spot in my pajamas. I did it again! Once again, I laughed. This time it was a double laugh: I laughed at the memory of being in the bathroom, and I laughed that I’d done it again.

When I began my vacation in Florida, I didn’t pack pads because I haven’t needed them in a long time. After I came down with bronchitis, my wet pants made it clear that I needed them again. So, my wife and I headed to a drugstore to buy a box of pads.

During the drive, I was struck by the difference in my attitude and behavior. I used to be so ashamed to buy diapers or pads that I avoided stores. I would order them online in the privacy of my own home. Not anymore.

This time my wife went with me. Once there, we picked up boxes and, in the aisle, discussed the best prices and effectiveness of each brand.

At the register, I was proud to present a 25% discount coupon. But the clerk refused to apply the discount, claiming the offer was valid only for feminine hygiene products. The coupon made no such distinction, so I complained. It’s still difficult for me to believe that a guy who used to be too ashamed to buy pads in public was now complaining to a store manager about a discount.

I’ve come a long way. I’m proud to be a cancer survivor. I consider these temporary setbacks as war injuries from my battle with cancer. My journey back in time, when laughter eliminated the power of shame, enabled me to move forward with humor and courage.

Have you ever taken a trip backward in order to move forward?


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.

One comment

  1. Lawrence Glickman says:

    Congratulations on a great attitude and I hope permanent good health. I know that your treatment decision was most likely well thought out and based on your tests. I would like to mention however that for early stage patients there are now better options than radical surgery. There is also a new blocking gel that protects against incontinence during radiation. There are many new focal (local) therapies that offer quick recovery and few side effects.

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